Many of us, especially in these parts, began to understand love and romance through the prism of movies. This is a bit like learning paragliding through correspondence course. Essentially what it means is, many of us have a great idea of romance in theory, but in reality most are unimaginative. This is a tragedy, which is exactly the word that we were looking to segue into to the actual piece this week, which is a Valentine’s Day special dissecting five popular romantic tragedies from the Kollywood stable.
Vazhve Maayam: It is an emotional tale of love, sacrifice and tragedy that underscores the most universal of truth in Tamil films: The first symptom of debilitating cancer is a thick beard.
Kamal, playing a flamboyant Casanova kind of character, falls head over heels for the charms of Sri Devi. Kamal’s love is so deep that he turns up at Ambika’s wedding reception, and as a gift for the occasion, croons a love tribute on Sri Devi. Fair to say, if cancer hadn’t taken him out in the end, schizophrenia would have.
When she loses Kamal to cancer, in a true show of flagellant love, Sri Devi chooses an eventuality, which, on the looks of it, is far more dreadful: She gets married to Prathap Pothan.
The film, when it was released, was noted for its natural portrayal of characters, especially letting the 45-plus matronly Manorama play the role of an Indian Airlines airhostess was seen as a masterstroke in movie realism.
Kadhal Oviyam: He is a singer. She is a classical dancer. They were created for art. But he is blind. Just as well. Because her dancing footwork is actually as convincing as that of a sea otter on roller-skates.
Fate separates the two. She is married off to a rich person. He is saved by a kindly soul, who helps him to make it big as a singer and also arranges for operation for him to get his eyesight. Now he has everything, but he is still sad because his Ponni (Radha) is not with him. On the other hand, she has a doting husband, but she too is full of sorrow because her essential love is unfulfilled. The whole thing builds up to a riveting climax where two perfectly healthy young persons end up dying for no particular reason other than the fact that the film has to end.
Idhayathai Thirudathey: It is a minor classic from Mani Ratnam. The hero is diagnosed with cancer and the heroine has a pretty complicated heart problem. It is a story of two people who are dying. But what should have been a dreary, pathos-filled, tough-luck story turns out to be as a fun-tinged romp thanks in the main to the charecterisation of the two protagonists, who, if they had not been down serious ailments, would have been surely sent to a mental asylum. Never once the two behave with any kind of normalcy.
The heroine and hero run into each other for the first time, as you would expect in a young, peppy love story, in a hot and happening — why not? — cemetery. The film has no real dull moment because Mani Ratnam’s screenplay is extremely smart in the sense that it allows the hero to be afflicted by that cancer that doesn’t seem to need any treatment whatsoever.
The film is open-ended, with the viewers not being explicitly told what eventually happens to the hero and heroine, and whether they manage to overcome their respective illness or not. It is left to people’s imagination. The popular guess, however, is the duo l ends up, like any other suffering and insufferable blokes, as Amway product sellers.
Oru Thalai Ragam: Shankar (the hero) loves his college mate Roopa (the heroine). By the time she is ready to reciprocate, it is too late, because the film has already ended. No, seriously there is no other specific reason for her reluctance to accept his proposal.
The film’s final scene is particularly a poignant one: She comes mentally prepared to open her heart and mind to him. But when she starts speaking he is in no position to listen, he is dead, apparently killed by the most malignant case of —- going by the symptoms he exhibited all through the film — constipation.
The film was a runaway hit, and a forerunner to the many college campus stories underscoring the quintessential message of love, mostly through a scene involving a professor elaborating on the romance of Romeo and Juliet to a class of mechanical engineers. Love knows no boundaries. More importantly, it knows no curriculum.
Punnagai Mannan: Kamal is recovering from an attempted suicide and the loss of his lover. Because of which he is morose and testy all the time. Quite naturally, he chooses a line that allows him the quietude and solemnity to recover from his tragedy: He becomes a dance master to a gaggle of non-stop talking youth. The heroine, played by Revathy, on the other hand, is a Sinhalese by birth, and even more quite naturally, speaks vowel-perfect Tamil.
The film, when it was first released, had a tragic climax with both Kamal and Revathy perishing in an accident. However, based on audience feedback, the film’s ending was quickly changed to have a feel-good factor and the duo was shown to escape the accident. Luckily there were no overarching critics then, because the two different endings would then have been assiduously interpreted as a cerebral metaphor for the essential duality of our lives. Mind you, if it were a KB offering, you look for metaphors and symbolisms.
(Disclaimer: Happy Valentine’s Day. Stay safe. Use condom. But we are not sure how that will help you against the moral police)