Rajinikanth on a High

Disclaimer- Well, let me tell you very clearly, I am an atheist and hence i can’t call myself a Rajni fan.
Also, I am my own boss, so it won’t be proper if I called somebody else Thalaivar. I love Thalapathi, not because it is a Rajni film, but because it is a Santosh Sivan and Mani Ratnam film. For me, Sivaji – the Boss was satire and Enthiran was surrealistic imaginations of a person who doesn’t know anything about ceiling fans. The point is this is a totally non-serious and vella article without any intent and motivation. I hope the title will be self-sufficient to understand what my intent here is.

Continue reading “Rajinikanth on a High”

Top 15 Friendship Songs of Tamil Cinema

Friendship is one emotion that Tamil cinema has never failed to celebrate. Right from heartfelt childhood reminiscences to crazy ‘buddy’ fun, we have it all in our films. With brilliant and unconventional depictions of college ties, gangster pals, platonic intimacies and inspirational bonds, our filmmakers have never failed to surprise us with their takes on this simple yet complex emotion. Today, even after hundred years of Indian cinema, friendship remains one of the most commonly explored cinematic theme.

In this post, we take a look at the Tamil songs that have memorialized ‘friendship’ in all its glory and passion (In no particular order)

1. Mustafa Mustafa – Kadhal Desam (1996)

top-nanban-films-mp--kadhal-desam--vineeth--abbas--tabu (1)Arguably, the first song that comes to mind when you talk of friendship to anyone even remotely connected to Indian cinema. Featuring in one of the most popular romantic musicals of the nineties, this song composed, rendered by AR Rahman and written by Vaali was a raging hit of those times and continues to be the celluloid immortalisation of ‘college bonding’ forever.

‘Mustafa Mustafa‘ celebrates the blooming free-spirited relationship  between a small-town orphan and a highbrow guy born with a silver spoon. The best, ever!

2. Kaattukuyilu – Thalapathy (1991)

1a29c28c-32b0-408d-9b7b-461675b3f88fWallpAutoWallpaper2This epic number features in the ‘Godfather’ of friendship movies ‘Thalapathy’, which incidentally happens to be Mani Rathnam’s brilliant adaptation of the Karnan episode of ‘The Mahabharata’. “Kattukuyile’ skilfully penned by Vaali and brilliantly composed by Ilaiyaraja happens a day before Pongal on the occasion of Bhogi, when people discard old and derelict things and concentrate on new things causing transformation.

The early stages of the bond sprouting between Rajini and Mammooty is depicted in the background of cheery yet symbolic festivities. ‘Awesomeness’ is the word.

3. Andha naal nyabhagam – Uyarndha Manithan (1968)

Uyarndha ManidhanAn absolute delight for the senses, this song is testament to the capabilities of two legends- TM. Soundarajan and Sivaji Ganesan. Sivaji’s breezy portrayal of the helpless rich man gnawed by guilt, reminiscing about his good old school days with his childhood friend is nothing short of classic.

The transition from Sivaji panting and TMS taking over is seamless and you couldn’t tell that TMS is now singing and Sivaji is simply just going through with his emotions. Why don’t they make such songs anymore? 

4. Nanbanai paartha – Ninathaile Inikum (2009) 

Ninaithale-Inikkum_bA beautiful melody composed by Vijay Antony for the remake of the Malayalam romantic thriller ‘Classmates’. Penned by Annamalai, the song talks about the magic of college life and the sweet memories associated with it.

The song  succeeds in conveying the subtle emotions, dreams, convictions, outrage. responsibilities and distractions of the college student. Wonderful performances by Prithviraj, Sakthi and Priya Mani make this an enjoyable experience. An adorable song, that every youngster can relate with.

5. Thozha Thozha – Pandavar Bhoomi (2001)

Pandavar_Bhoomi_DVD_CoverThis song conceived by Cheran depicts the platonic friendship between a guy and a girl. The protagonist is an engineer, who comes to befriend a girl at his place of work. The girl played by Shamitha firmly believes in the existence of  an entity called ‘just friendship’ between the opposite sexes.

Drafted by Snehan and beautifully composed by Bharadwaj, the song goes on to talk about the nobility and integrity of friendship, while at the end contradicts itself with the protagonist arguing that ‘A best friend will definitely be a good lover’. An evergreen beauty!

6. Taxi Taxi – Sakkarakatti (2008)

sakarakati-jun7-2008-004AR. Rahman weaves magic in this ‘rappy’, peppy number where he indulges in plenty of extra sounds and strong rhythms. Brimming with energy and vigor, this youthful celebration of friendship is sure to strike the right chords with the Generation Y. This is more of a song that goes like ‘A good friend would come and bail you out of jail, while a true friend will be sitting next to you saying “Damn, that was fun!” 

Crooned exceptionally well by Blaaze, Benny Dayal, Javed Ali, Viviane Chaix, this track experiments a lot with a bizarre mix of English and French lyrics by Blaze and Tamil lines by Na. MuthuKumar. The ‘rockstar’ among the friendship songs!

7. Manasellam Unnidam – Kulir 100° (2009)

kulir-100-degree-1630-tamilsong-eu-imagesThe song starts with a dedication ‘‘To everyone who miss their friends. This is how it feels!” and proceeds to shock us with its profound emotions on the loss of a dear one. Fervently composed by Bobo Shashi and enchantingly sung by Simbu, the track hits right at the deepest chords of the human mind.

The track takes us through a virtual memory lane, where every single memory, good and bad, come echoing back. Leaving you with a heavy heart and with moist eyes, this one is a keeper.

8. Nanbane Enadu Uyir Nanbane – Sattam (1983)

main-31810Spiritedly sung by the veterans SP. Balasubramaniam and Malaysia Vasudevan, this famous song of the early eighties saw Kamalhaasan and Sarath Babu play the inseparable best friends who do not question each other about their careers. While one is a police officer who nabs criminals, the other is a lawyer who bails them out.

Featuring in the remake of the original “Dostana’, the song composed by Gangai Amaran speaks about how great friends are difficult to find. Harder to leave. And impossible to forget. A star-studded tribute!

9. En Frienda Pola Yaaru Machan – Nanban (2012)

nanban_13226425233Remember how back in college our friends were our lives? Through thick and thin. During those reckless years of youthful angst, nagging parents, and cramming for exams, we had our friends by our sides and that was all that mattered. Things start to change after the good old college years. We have our life to worry about, and we want to make sure we do what it takes to make it a great one.

Here, a couple of friends go in search of their long-lost friend, guide and philosopher back in college. Composed for Shankar’s remake of ‘3 idiots’ by Harris Jeyaraj, this song which talks about the indispensability of true friends, was penned by Viveka and sung by Krish and Suchith Suresan. A mellifluous eulogy!

10. Kizhakke Paarthen Vidiyalaai Irunthaai – Autograph (2004)

imagesThis song explains the rewarding friendship between two like-minded people, albeit of the opposite sexes.  Written by Snehan, the protagonist here talks of his special girl in life, a constant source of support and encouragement, a shoulder to cry on or a slap on the face when overreacting to life!

Cheran creates a very interesting female character, who doesn’t want to get romantically involved, yet challenges the protagonist who is not living up to his own standards and helps him take the big steps in life. An absolute ‘heartwarmer’!

11. Oru Nanban Irundhal – Enakku 20 Unakku 18 (2003)

689878900Yet another friendship song from AR.Rahman, this time for a movie which seemed to eulogize both friendship and love. A physically and emotionally battered protagonist returns home to the comfort of his friends, where he recuperates and comes to terms with life.

The song for the most part, talks about the goodness and virtues of friendship and insists on it being blind to the sex of the individual. Pa. Vijay’s lines were sung by SPB. Charan, Venkat Prabhu and Chinmayee. A glossy inspirational number!

12. Manasae Manasae – April Maadhathil (2002)

April_MaadhathilThis heart-touching farewell song illustrates in shocking reality, the pain of eight close friends who are in the verge of separation after graduation. The track plays out as a relay number where the friends take turns to sing their hearts out on stage.

The lines conveying the agony of an unavoidable rift, The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. We’ve gone our own ways and I know it’s for the best, but sometimes I wonder will I ever have a friend like you again?’ leave the required punch. Penned by Pa. Vijay and sung by Karthik, this one is super-emotional stuff!

13. Dosth Bada Dosth – Saroja (2008)

saroja_xlgA cheeky road song with friends, is what this track essentially is. Director Venkat Prabhu teams up with his cousin Yuvan Shankar Raja and Vaali to give us a ‘no holds barred’ fun song which follows the journey of four young men, who travel from Chennai to Hyderabad in a van to watch a cricket match.

The guys sing, dance, rejoice and relive their friendship roots as they take the road trip of their lives. Rendered with youthfulness and energy by the offbeat team of Haricharan, Naveen, Rahul Nambiar and picturised on the equally quirky gang of Shiva, Vaibhav, SPB Charan, & Premji Amaren, this one is total fun.

14. Eswara Vaanum Mannum – Kannethirey Thondrinal (1998)

kannethireythondrinalThis track featuring in Ravichandran’s romantic drama talks about two friends Prashanth and Karan from the same college. They start out as arch rivals and then proceed to become best friends. The song gained attention even before the release of the movie and went on to become an extremely popular song in college culturals of those times.

Written by Vairamuthu, this song was composed by Deva and was sung by Udit Narayanan, who is infamous for his strange Tamil diction. A not-so-serious ‘cool’ song!

 15. Yaaro (Friendship version) – Chennai 600028 (2007)

Chennai600028A real gem of a song composed by Yuvan and rearranged by Premgi Amaran for Venkat Prabhu’s debut sports drama. The film which is based on gully cricket, focuses mainly on themes of friendship and love.

Ten characters hailing from a Chennai suburb go on to become close friends and teammates, and this song reflects their closeness, their sacrifices and their way of life. Its Vaali’s words yet again, to which SPB.Charan and Venkat Prabhu do the honors. A soulful euphony!

Breaking News- Mani Ratnam's next film to feature Rajnikanth and Kamal Haasan!!!

We all know that Rajnikanth started off his career by making his debut with Apoorva Ragangal, a film made by his mentor, K.Balachander and starring Kamal Haasan in the main lead. Rajni and Kamal went on to subsequently work together in 18 films in total. Continue reading “Breaking News- Mani Ratnam's next film to feature Rajnikanth and Kamal Haasan!!!”

Thoughts on Mani Ratnam and his films

Mani Ratnam

 

Khalid Mohamed

 

Once upon a time in Mumbai, you’d have to drag me away from the Santa Cruz aiport, literally prevent me from catching another flight to Chennai. The cities were still called Bombay and Madras then. Life was cool, cinema was cooler and conversations with this brand-new boss of mainstream Indian cinema were the coolest. Dhan ta na, that was Mani Ratnam.Continue reading “Thoughts on Mani Ratnam and his films”

Son of the Solar Deity!

On sacred Jahnavi’s shore I say my prayers to the evening sun.  

Karna is my name, Son of Adhirath the charioteer, and Radha is my mother. 

That’s who I am.  Lady, who are you?” 

Karna and Kunti, Rabindranath Tagore, Spring 1900

I wanted to reply to Ratnakar’s Post … But my reply was getting longer … and i also wanted to add some pictures, videos and slideshows and it was all not possible in a reply. So here is a post about Son of The Sun God, Our Hero Surya, the Thalapathi.

Surya played by Rajni is based on Karna, which was depicted in Mahabharata as child of the Sun God. Throughout the whole film, Mani Ratnam and Cinematographer Santosh Sivan reminds us of this fact with masterly visual treatment.

At the very start of the film we see Kalyani dumping her newborn baby. And When Surya is found in the river, by his foster mother and while she picks him up; he is shown in the silhouette against the sun. Crying. Surya, Child of The Sun God.

Thalapathi 1
Surya is found by his foster mother

And in the next scene Surya and his foster mother stands against reflection of the evening sun, again in silhouette and Surya asks her “Why my mother dumped me ?”

Why My Mother Dumped Me

Santosh Sivan uses this kind of silhouette’s throughout the film, giving it an unique look and feel, which i doubt if  i have seen in any other Indian film before Thalapathi.  He employs Low key and high contrast lighting to bring those dark emotions visually. I won’t call Thalapathi dark film per say. But then it is a film about dark emotions, especially in a country where even today unwed mothers are considered a taboo. Ironically, Mahabharata always mentions such children born out of wedlock as son of the Gods.

Low Key High Contrast Lighting

And while portraying dark emotions, visual artists over the centuries preferred high contrast images and filmmakers are no different. Now, Mani Ratnam surely had few creative choices in front of him. As a filmmaker you have the option of shooting lots of night scenes, when it is relatively easy to create high contrast imagery. In day light anything against the sun is total silhouette. So there is little chance of showing facial expression of your characters. Shooting against sun is difficult because dynamic range of film stock, which is less than human eye. Even for human eyes it is difficult to see against the sun.

When Surya becomes Thalapathi,he is shown fighting against the sunlight, in silhouette along with Illyaraja’s background chanting “Thalapathi”

As Surya is a Modern day Karna, son of Solar Deity, the visual treatment demands creating high contrast situation in day light. And that’s where the challenge begins. It looks like Mani Ratnam surely made a conscious decision to creatively use the sun in conjunction with Surya’s character. Now, once that creative decision of “putting characters against the sun” is made, you are actually committing to use a peculiar style of cinematography, where back light is powerful and key light (the main source light) is low. And inherently it creates high contrast image. Hence It is called low key high contrast lighting, which we see all over in Thalapathi.

In a way, decision to use Sun to signify Surya, which was a risky one cinematically, might have easily looked ordinary.

Even during Surya and Subhalaxmi love affair, the Sun stays strong in the background
Another way of showing soft and yet strong Sunlight

Personally i would always prefer a song or two less in all of Mani’s films. Usually songs often fucks mis-en-scene on the pretext being surrealistic and/or dream like. But not here. We see again the Son of the Sun God, the Surya against the Sun!

Surya in Dream Song

The scene, where Surya breaks up with Subhalakshmi, is visually stunning. Shot against evening sun, but not in silhouette and among the old ruins of some royal palace. If you know where it is shot, let me know. I would like to go there and see how Sivan felt when he shot Subhalaxmi going away from Surya. And it is magical to compose shots like this.

Heartbroken

In this film, we mostly see the evening sun or the sun among clouds. As I said before, it is due limited dynamic range of film stock, noon is out of question. Even then it must have took special effort to creatively use the sun as a light source. You can control a light but with sunlight there is a very limited way to control it.  Yes you can fake it. But it doesn’t look authentic. It is always better to wait for the right moment. And it means while shooting you are totally at mercy of the Sun God. It also mean patience. In commercial film making industry where every second costs you, it finally means tremendous production pressure. And at the same time when it is a multi-starrer, it means your schedule is also at the mercy of stars and their busy schedules. And when everything is ready, few clouds come up and everything is ruined, stars are frustrated, producer is worried, crew is bored. And it is so easy to give up. Producer might have said ” after all it is story which important, what is the heck with low key high contrast chicken shit … Mr Mani I am losing my money, please shoot this fuck and complete the damn thing, even without lighting, after all it is just damn a film”

Had Cinema not been Mani and Sivan’s religion, we would not have seen a visual delight. Yes, it is the story but it’s also cinematography and background score which takes Thalapathi to another level. Mani and Sivan, surely waited for right moment for the Sun God.

The Solar Deity

This is the First scene of Rajni in the film, first scene of grown up Surya, the same Surya, who was deserted by his hapless mother, now a violent and angry Surya, who can’t tolerate atrocities on the poor, kills a tyrant Rammana, in heavy rains.

Surya Kills Rammanna

Above shot is actually a night shot. But it  features a powerful back light again reminding us of the Sun, and it’s where it becomes Thalapathi’s Mise en scène. There is very less light on both the characters (low key) and hence create high contrast lighting, which Sivan employs to heighten the emotions of the scene. To visually match the evening Sun, Sivan uses very very strong back lights during night time.

Again there is another night scene in heavy rain ,which is again shot amazingly, portrays Surya against strong back light, when he confronts Deva.

                             Surya Confronts Deva!

This is a scene which simply takes you to another level purely with cinematographic techniques. Imagine had it had same content and same actors and same dialogues and without such kind of visual. Had it been equally effective? A weak confrontation here would have paved the way of great friendship later?  This Surya never sets whether its day or night. Mind It. Literally. Cinematically. And this film was made 1991, seven years before Satya, a film which I till date had wrongly assumed as a game changer for modern day Indian filmmaking. Any way lets not compare them. Both of them are great films. I just want to say that i can’t believe that this film was made in 1991, it was way ahead, in its vision and it’s execution.

When Deva is lying seriously hurt and Surya opens the door of the hideout, we see him again against a strong backlight and again it is a night scene.

Deva … You Can’t Die!

In the next scene an angry Surya wants to take revenge. He chases and burns the culprit alive and his step father becomes a witness. Surya and others are paraded into the police station. He is asked about his father and mother, he shouts telling everything his stepfather needs to know!

What’s your Father’s Name?

Again this epic scene where for the first time Surya comes across his mother.

Ohh the Solar Deity … I am your Son! Where is my mother?

It is a breathtaking scene, no dialogues and all visuals and just a sound of a train passing by. It was the same sound Surya heard as a newborn baby when his mother dumped him into a train bogey. It was the same sound, which Kalyani last heard when she left her baby and even today she regrets. Kalyani’s husband and Surya’s Stepfather knows everything. Again Surya is lit by a strong sunlight coming from the temple window. It is also terrifically edited and as well acted especially by Srividya.

Although this post is more about the Sun as cinematographic choice, but its brilliance in almost all department which makes this film a true epic. I just feel it is only the action scenes that are a little outdated compared to present day and time.

In a scene, when his step father tells Surya about his mother. And Surya is shocked and there he is shown against an evening sun in silhouette, even though the shot doesn’t match in cuts, but it takes audience to another level. A dramatic choice in cinematography, heightening Surya’s emotions.

Any other director, except Mani, would have shot the whole scene in silhouette, simply may be because continuity issues (as CUT IN’s  doesn’t match partly due to limitation of tech and partly due to bad colour correction) or may be simply because of creative choice. A whole scene against the sunlight in a situation where Surya is told about Kalyani, is not that bad a creative choice. But that’s why Mani is Mani … he never overdoes things … he always keeps restraint as a director … that’s the difference between Ramu and Mani. Many a times Ramu goes over the top. Trying to do too much. BTW I am a fan of both the filmmakers. But in the name of direction, style and dramatic creative option you just cannot fuck your character and their emotions. When it comes to Mani, even if there are continuity issue in the scene, character’s emotions always takes precedence. No wonder he is so popular among the actors. And as IRRANAND pointed out in a previous post, the same thing gave him chance to make Mouna Ragam, despite his early failures.

Promise Me!

Anyway the scene ends with Surya asking his step father not to tell her mother about him. Again holding his hand against the sunlight, in front of his mythical father(the sun)  and his step father, he cries and decides to stay away from his mother, whom he used to hate. Dramatic !!!  I don’t know tamil and I read only subs … but if I can feel power in reading subs … I can imagine what it would have sounded in one’s mother tongue. It is an epic scene … because of its position in the film, its content, its creative and tech choices, cinematography, direction, dialogues and acting. Watch it.

Few more shots which again and again reminds us of Surya, the Solar Deity.

Surya Meets Subhalaxmi and Arjun
Surya secretly watching his Mother!

And finally the scene where Surya meets his mother. I ideally wanted to put a video link , but i couldn’t find one online. So i decided to embed an animated GIF, if it doesn’t play here, in this window. Just open it in a separate window!

The use of movement, use of lighting and use of  composition. I think this is masterly. One of the best scene in Indian Cinema. There is also a cut away, where we see Surya’s wife and stepdaughter watching Surya and his mother. There is no need of this cutaway. But it heightens emotions once again. Actually on Deva’s insistence Surya is married to Rammanna’s widow, the man he killed. His stepdaughter loves Surya a lot. And when she innocently asks those few question, which heighten already dramatic scene. It is where editing and cinematography and acting works in tandem, creating unforgettable emotions.

The treatment of using strong back lights goes up till the climax.

Deva dies in the arms of Surya

And when Surya takes revenge. Btw Amrish Puri’s dubbed diloauges is surely turn off. But Kalivardhan does his job.

Revenge of Surya

Again Image below is an animated GIF of the last scene of the film, where Kalyani decides to stay with Surya and then dissolving into  one last tribute to the Sun God and besides it we read “Written and Directed by Mani Ratnam.” (Click and open in separate window if it doesn’t play here)

Thalapathi’s cinematography is outstanding. It has a unique trademark. A unique style. And all that style goes in sync with the story and its character and their emotions. In fact it takes those emotions to another level. But it is not only cinematography but also the excellence in almost every other department,  let it be screenplay, acting, music and editing which makes it a classic. It is also a classic because of director’s non compromising attitude and demand of perfection. Also because of the technical and creative ability of his cast and crew to execute his vision.

I would like end the post with some masterly compositions we see in Thalapathi!

Going Away
Surya with his sweet stepdaughter!
My Brother .. I can’t … because he is also my brother
The end of an Epic!

Thalapathi-Tale of a Modern Day Karna

The Mahabharat has always been one of my favorite books. It is like an ocean for me, the more you know of it , the lesser you still know about it. And one of the most fascinating characters in the Mahabharata for me has been Karna. I guess maybe due to the fact, that Karna is a character who inhabits the grey area betweeen good and evil. He is brave, generous and a person who would give his life for his friend. Yet he collaborates in the Kaurava’s unfair strategy to kill Abhimanyu in the Chakravyuha. But the story of Karna, is that of a man who was let down by destiny. Abandoned by his real mother Kunti, as a child, he grew up under the care of a charioteer. At every stage he was let down by destiny, including his final moments, when he was killed totally defenceless. He refused to part company with Duryodhan even though he knew he was not on the right side, because of his friendship and gratitude.Continue reading “Thalapathi-Tale of a Modern Day Karna”

Thalapathi : Rajini and Mani’s Classy Collaboration

Starcast : Rajinikanth, Mammootty, Shobana, Amrish Puri

Director : Mani Ratnam

A scene from Mani ratnam's Thalapathi, with Mammoty and Rajnikanth
A scene from Mani ratnam's Thalapathi, with Mammoty and Rajnikanth

Like rest of India, the Rajinikanth frenzy hit me hard with ‘Sivaji- The Boss‘.And after watching it, I developed a certain amount of appreciation and liking for Rajinikanth.Continue reading “Thalapathi : Rajini and Mani’s Classy Collaboration”