Thursday, February 25, 2010

Politics In Tamil Cinema

Since the time that Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi and Bharat Ratna M.G. Ramachandran used their movies to propagate their ideals to the masses, Tamil films have always had a intertwined relationship with the politics in Tamil Nadu.

While there has been no dearth of actors in politics and politicians in movies in Tamizh Nadu, there have been very few movies dealing with Politics in Tamizh Movies. Here is a look at few of them (not exhaustive or based on any merit - just a few of the recent ones):

Iruvar - This is, in my opinion, one of the best bio-pics made in Tamizh Cinema. Mani Ratnam does an amazing job in picking two characters best known in Tamizh Arasiyal (politics) - that of MGR and Karunanidhi and has based his movie on their lives. (To be politically correct, lets just say they were based). The best thing that Mani Ratnam did was to avoid showing one of them as the villain or a negative character. Anandan's intentions behind politics (To eradicate poverty) and Tamizhselvan's Dravidian philosophy are shown countermanding from the first scene in which Anandan and TamizhSelvan meet. The weakness and insecurity that both these giants of TN Politics go through in the movie are brilliantly portrayed by Mohan Lal who plays Anandhan and Prakash Raj who plays Tamizhselvan. The scene where Anandan comes out on the terrace of Tamizhchelvan's house and sees the crowd is a perfect scene of movie making basics, and of course A.R. Rahman's awe-inspiring BGM. For many Tamizh Cinema fans who complain that Rahman does not do justice to BGMs, please see his works with Mani and you shall know the man's genius. The others in the cast, too, perform amply within the scope - with the pick of them being Gauthami and Rajesh.

Ayitha Ezhuthu - A populist story, Mani Ratnam deals with college politics and how rowdyism has come to play a ever present role in politics. This movie literally revealed two actors to Tamizh Cinema, who have gone places after this movie. First is the best performer in this movie, R. Madhavan, who playing Inbasekar, completely overwhelms you. He is not playing a likeable character - and being recognized as Alaipaayudhey Madhavan, it must have been difficult for him to convince the audience as a out and out moral-less and unscrupulous character. The real victory for Mani and of course, Madhavan is that by the end of the movie, you really hated Inbasekar, which was an accomplishment of sorts, for the public image of Madhavan at that point of time was that of a chocolate boy. The second winner in this movie was Surya - who played a populist, slightly-left student politician, Michael Vasanth. Surya, who had matured through Nandha, grown through Kaakha Kaakha, arrived through Ayitha Ezhuthu. It is interesting to note that R. Madhavan has scaled new heights in Indian cinema with varied and versatile roles in Rang De Basanti and 3 Idiots, while Surya is now a frontline actor who, has carefully balanced mindless masala movies like Aaru and noteworthy, versatile movies like Vaaranam Aayiram. Inspired from Amerros Perros, Mani Ratnam crafted a screenplay wherein a shooting incident is the central spot of meeting for the the three characters in the movie. This movie though, was not one amongst Mani's best efforts and the third track involving Siddarth was not as well developed as one expects in a Mani movie. The other revelation in this movie was Bharathi Raja, who plays the corrupt minister, Selvanayagam who brings such realism to his character that it sometimes hurts! This was the first album where Rahman went all out with an international feel - Dol Dol, Hey Goodbye Nanba and Yakkai Thiri being new sounds for the Tamizh ears. And incidentally, Yakkai Thiri was one of those few songs in Tamizh music that does not have any verbs in it. (Trivia time?!)

Makkal-aatchchi - R.K. Selvamani's masterpiece tells about a the tale of Mamootty, who gets involved in politics purely by chance and rises to the position of a Chief Minister of a state. This movie put in solid scenes what people were till then assuming about the rich and powerful in politics then - that they had little to no ethics, no morals and would go to any lengths for money and power. The movie starts off well and the first half is as good as any other movie in Tamizh Cinema. The second half has lots of twists (some of them unneeded) and at the end of the movie you do not know whether you can believe what our leaders say in the media. Mamootty as expected, takes the honors in the acting department while the movie also boasts of some sharp editing work. The music, as can be expected of non-Ilayaraja or non-Rahman movies of those times is hardly note-worthy.

Mudhalvan - Shankar's take on current affairs and politics, this movie creates a fantasy genre in political movies. Originally supposed to have been scripted for none other than the Superstar Rajni Kanth, this movie, surprisingly has Arjun Sarja in the lead and ends up being one of Arjun's best works - apart from Gentleman and Ayudha Poojai. The movie has a very identifiable cause - that politicians are more concerned about their vote-bank and so resort to caste politics and of course Shankar's pet theme - Corruption. The screenplay is one of the best in TC - there is almost no sag in the story till the end. And the lines by Sujatha were brilliant, especially the interview scene between Pughazendhi (Arjun) and Aranganathan (Raghuvaran). The only complaint with this movie was the romantic angle, played by Manisha Koirala who pretty much comes only for duets. Coming to duets, this movie again has A.R. Rahman at the helm and he churns out delightful numbers and some terrific BGMs too - especially for the scenes when Arjun is the CM for a day.

Bharath Bandh - This was a movie I had seen when I was really young and I suspect is a Telugu dubbed movie. This movie again, is based on Political intrigue and as suggested by its title is based around a bandh organized by some politicians for their personal gains. This movie, though, not great in terms of acting or cast (the lone saviour being the national award winning actress, Archana), shows you a sample of how politicians make self centered and short sighted decisions, purely based on their and their kin's well being with little or no regard for the public who voted them to power. The movie also features some gruesome killings and violence.

The interesting thing has been that though the perceived ills of politics - namely, caste/religion based politics, pseudo-secularism, corruption, coercion and rowdyism have been graphically represented in movies like the ones listed above and many others, it is pitiable that nothing has changed. It is really disappointing to see even well educated people getting involved in caste wars and tax evasion issues, even as recently as yesterday!!

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