It is hugely appropriate to announce on the week of nation’s Independence Day, that the State of Tamil Nadu has attained critical mass in GDMM. GDMM, as any Keynesian economist will point out, is Gross Domestic Madurai Movies.
Madurai Movies, over the last four or five years, have become a genre in themselves. So much so it is only a matter of time before Vijay TV goes ahead and announces an award for the ‘Best Actor in a Madurai Movie’ and presents it to whichever actor manages to bring out the complexity of the role by — this is an important part of method-acting — turning up for the Vijay TV Awards function
The thing is when a movie is set in Madurai, it more or less makes itself. Take the example of the recently released Jigarthanda. It was announced as a ‘Gangster Musical’, but the film turned out to be anything but that as the director chose to film it in Madurai. The only time we catch a glimpse of what the director Karthik Subburaj meant by ‘Gangster Musical’ is when he let slips the idea that the Sethu character, the arch villain, may have ended up as a cold-hearted don due to the extremely troubled and tortured childhood that is inevitable when one is a self-confessed fan of (music directors) Shankar-Ganesh (Talking of Shankar- Ganesh, the saga of Ganesh is very inspiring. He made it as a music director despite the obvious handicap of being able to wear only shirts at least five sizes smaller than the ones he could normally fit himself in).
Come to think of it, there is only one Madurai Movie, and every one is just making it in different names. Here are the constants across the movies:
Location: Madurai, as its historical tag ‘Temple City’ suggests, has malls, many theatre complexes, restaurants and other modern amenities like dusty traffic jams and garbage pile-up, none of which shows up in all these gritty, realistic Madurai Movies. What they, however, show is a time warp, peopled by men and women untouched by civilization. Seriously, looking at Madurai Movies, future historians will trash the Aryan Invasion story, but will come up with the irrefutable alternate theory that Attila’s hordes came over and eventually settled here for good.
People: As befitting a laidback, humble town, the bulk of the population is mostly gainfully employed in any of the following professions 1) Rowdy 2) Gangster 3) Dadha 4) See thesaurus for henchmen.
Madurai, it would seem, is the Sutherland of sickle-wielders (Sutherland, of course, is the company that is into recruitment, which takes almost all of its time that nobody knows whether it has any other actual business to carry out).
Madurai Movie Protagonists: The villain, a devil incarnate, with a hairstyle that is difficult to see outside of porcupine species, unleashes death and destruction at the drop of the hat. The hero, on the other hand, is virtuous and a man of principles, which is: He will kill only when there is a necessity. That, of course, rises every second scene.
If ever a movie is made on Dalai Lama with Madurai as its backdrop, it would still have to incorporate a back-story where it is revealed that he was once a dreaded Don. (Cue: Punch Dialogue looking into the camera: Annikki thalai illama aakkinavan,inninki Dalai Lama-va aayitan).
The Madurai Movie Heroine, coy and comely, but still wise enough to realise that beneath the tough exterior that the Hero has the good sense to take bath at least every six months. The villain generally looks like someone whose last wash was during the Nehru administration.
The Madurai Movie Comedian, fiercely friendly, always wears his loyalty on his sleeves and, more importantly, his lungi at the hip (revealing his bigger loyalty to patta patti).
Madurai Movie Music: Whoever is the music director, he unfailingly shows his artistic ability by coming up with that one thing that truly reflects Madurai ethos: An Ilayaraja song or two playing in the background.
With so much being non-negotiable, it is impossible to make a Madurai Movie that hasn’t already been a Madurai Movie.
It will take extraordinary skill to make a Madurai movie that is actually different. Probably somebody like Mani Ratnam can pull it off. For, he has the talent to make a Madurai movie, but actually film it in, I don’t know, Kasauli.
In Roja, if I remember right, he courageously took on the terrorist problem in Kashmir, by shooting mostly in Ooty.