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Punnagai Mannan

Screening the heart

I don’t know about you. But I, as a true Tamil, fell in love in real life after falling in love with romantic movies on screen. Yes, I am that stupid.

So for this Valentine Day I thought I will share with you the synopsis of the films that helped me to understand love and the affairs of heart much better and attempt something equally silly in my life.

Ek Duje Keliye: It’s the celluloid saga that established that love knows no language barrier, especially if it involves a ‘Tam-bram’ youth, because he will always try to show off only his English skills. The Mumbai girl, however, sticks to chaste Hindi, confirming that there is one force even bigger than that of true love —- yes, the fear of Shiv Sena goons.

One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is that of the heroine mixing the ashen remains of the hero’s photograph into her coffee and drinking it with quiet purposefulness. When in love you don’t mind what you eat and drink is the larger theme of this dramatic sequence. It was so inspirational that it has become the abiding and core business idea of the many coffee pubs in our cities. They have realised that even if they serve liquids resembling rat’s piss at exorbitant rates they can get away as long as the bulk of their clientele is young pairs.

Punnagai Mannan: Another of the patented passionate films that underscore the universal love-truth that forms the moral centre of any Tamil film: When the hero falls from a dizzying height there is bound to be a twig of a tree below somehow strong enough to save him from otherwise sure death. Of course, James Bond lands securely from even taller structures. But that is in Hollywood movies that have bigger budgets and, hence, matching lies.

A famous slice from the movie is that of the hero and heroine dancing with gusto in an auditorium that had been emptied due to a bomb threat (which proves to be a hoax). This scene was conceived as a radical statement against the forces of disruptive rumour-mongering. But alas, it didn’t set at rest the bigger rumour in Tamil tinsel town that in a song situation Kamal Haasan will compulsively dance even if he were playing a corpse.

Alaigal Oyvadhillai: What does an orthodox, vehement Christian family love to do most? Thanks to director Bharathiraja we now know a sure answer to this perplexing question: It loves to send its young girl to a traditional Brahmin household to learn Hindu religious hymns.

The film resolves another quaint human conundrum: What happens to a young girl when she is pushed into a situation, where her strong-willed brother, who despite being the richest and the most powerful individual in the entire district, continues to wear an ungainly lungi even for solemn church prayer meetings?  The honest result is that she prefers to elope with the first interested individual, even though he happens to resemble a pre-puberty Dolly Bindra.

In the film, the villainous brother character rapes the average-looking maid despite the fact his wife — and this is an important fact —- happens to be ‘Silk’ Smitha. Those who have seen the film are known to be less harsh on Shiny Ahuja.

Kadhalukku Mariyadhai: They are passionate and pious young lovers. But the girl’s family frown upon this affair. As far as I can say, they may have a good reason to hate the boy — he seems to have a congenital physical problem around his mouth. In that, when he speaks the lips don’t actually part, and all you see is a facial grimace, not perhaps unlike the one sported by those suffering from an extreme case of constipation. Needless to say, the hero character is played by actor Vijay.

The situation is the classic proverbial immovable object against the irrepressible force: Vijay’s underwhelming show against Radha Ravi’s overacting. Or Sivakumar’s spectacular hamming against coy affectedness of Shalini.   But the young lovers persevere through the difficult plight in the most natural manner — that is by singing pointless songs in strange locations. And they eventually triumph, as the girl’s family have a change of heart for no better reason than the film’s climax has been reached. So for all you lovers faced with intransigent families, the message is loud and clear: Let your life be directed by Fazil.

Alai Payuthe: Mani Ratnam is one mature director who doesn’t stop with pairs falling in love, he chooses to chronicle the predicaments after love, and then lays bare the biggest truth of the all: No matter what the situation is — pre-marriage or post-marriage —- his characters will always speak in husky, low tones.

The most impactful portion of the film is when Madhvan hugs his wife’s sister Swarnamalya while her to-be hubby watches on happily. Maddy’s wife Shalini, who is able to get only a partial view of this scene, thinks it be to some other woman and comes to the conclusion that he is having a promiscuous affair with her. She starts to mentally drift apart from him.

But, as ever, truth finally prevails and love ends victorious, as we exit the theatre clutching the most romantic truism of all time: True love means never having to say sorry for hugging your wife’s sister.

Vinnai Thandi Varuvaya: Simbu is young. Trisha is old. He is Tamil. She is Malayali. When destiny unites such a contrasting and unlikely couple you know the inevitable consequences: A romantic song, of all places, in Spain.

This is a romantic tale that seems accursed right from the start and hence only a tragic denouement awaits it. But the director Gowtham Vasudev Menon ensures you don’t walk out with a heavy heart by giving the film such a confusing ending that you are eventually happy that the film actually ended.

Like what you are feeling now.