Reel Classics – Mullum Malarum [ 1978 ].
World cinema need not necessarily be an Iranian, Spanish, Chinese or a Japanese movie. We do have the best in Tamil. For any art, it is more essential to note the time it is shared to public. If Jayakanthan had written the story ‘Agnipravesam’ in 2009, it wouldn’t have created the same shock waves as it did in 1965 [ A modern viewer may write about i-pill to Anandha vikatan ]. Mullum Malarum had came and broke all the rules that Tamil cinema had till that time. It was the time where in most of the new directors were experimenting..Bharathiraja wtih Kizhakke pogum rayil and Sigappu rojakkal, Rudrayya with Aval appadi thaan, KB with Nizhal nijamagiradhu. Rajini was a budding hero with Bairavi, Shankar Saleem simon kind of films. It was a transition stage for tamil cinema. [அந்த மாற்றத்துல தண்ணி ஊத்தின படங்களும் வந்தது..]
MM starts with Ilayaraja’ artistic standard BGM [ Dolak ] and a beautiful number with his voice [ Maaniname – This song too has the Ganjiraa]. Those were days when none of the technician or artists had adjectives before their names – it’s nice to see such a great team with a simple title cards. The very first scene depicts the relation between Kali and Valli. The beauty is that the characters at young age don’t speak a single word. It’s shown in just few scenes [தங்கச்சி..பசிக்குதாம்மா kind of dialogues were avoided – just ‘looks’ .. Have you ever called your sister as Thangachi ]. They grow up without any transition shots like spinning wheels or running legs or any object in motion. Young Kali breaks the headlight of an ambassador car [ Title card starts here ] – That’s Mahendran actually breaking the Tamil cinema cliches.
Kali : He is introduced with his characterization. I observed his natural way of speaking Tamil with including Kannada dialects [ரீய் .. வங்களையெல்லாம்.. .., வள்ளிக்கு மாப்பிளை கேட்டேன்.. கணோ. Kano is used in Kannada – Naavu yaavudhu bidalla ]. Once the psychological reason for liking Rajini was said that his common man looks and complexion. Without make-up and seeing him in his kaakhi uniform, anyone can easily say that he is a winch mechanic. His furiousness is well depicted in the fight with the clerk – one of the best fight scenes; watch Kali’s body language. The first 30 mins take up time to establish the characters. As the story flows, his character gets built up very strongly as you slowly get into Kali’s variants of emotions. His anger, sarcasm, affection, temper, inability and what not. I like the famous scene where he meets the Engineer about losing his job. Character biography and the actir Rajinikanth were used at their best.
ரண்டு கையும் ரண்டு காலும் இல்லன்னா கூட காளிங்கறவன் பொழச்சிக்கிவான் ஸார்.. கெட்ட்ட பய்யன் ஸார் அவன்..
Valli [ Shoba] : The native face, expressions, innocence, hearty laugh and the character was so pleasing. She cries in case of any issues – this has been used in all the important scenes including the climax. She doesn’t know or have much to talk. She is so poetic and got more shots [ may be because BaluMahendra handled the camera ]. The way Mangaa [ Jayalakshmi ] and her mother gets in to the life of Kali and Valli was handled very fluidly. The Engineer has the soft characterization and tough when it comes to work. Every character gets their dialogues in ration and that helps to understand them better. Valli was innocently beautiful [ Check “adi penne” song ] and Mangaa was gorgeous [ watch வைக்கற எடமா அது 😉 ]
The other important factor is IR.. It starts with Maaniname – this is the other song where Ganjira is used apart from Nithtam nitham. For any new director, the role IR played was prolific. I never saw the effective usage of Dolak in any other film – that too it’s used in climax. The other observation is that he used a lot of Santoor music. He uses a bit music even for moving the winch. IR’s effect is also used with silence too.
Above all, it’s a director’s movie. He decides what to come and what not to. The neat depiction of even smaller characters make the story interesting [ including ve.a.murthy, samikannu etc ]. The fight sequence which shows the anger of Kali was the best I have seen with persons rolling in the road. The body language used by Kali was amazing with folding the lungi, buttoning the shirt back.. excellent. Every scene show in the first half gets repeated with the same tempo [ Kali doesn’t regret for it – the clerk insulting him, uriyadi game, his work etc., ]. The clash between Kali and Engr is well depicted; they are differentiated right from their skin tone, body language, voice, manners, dress, rich vs poor Kali’s house doesn’t even have electricity – they both are good but entirely different in expressing the same. The beauty is every minute detail is explained in the visuals mostly and more in sharp dialogues. The good example is explained here by Sudesamithran http://www.uyirmmai.com/Uyirosai/ContentDetails.aspx?cid=915
Balu Mahendra has worked as cinemtogrpaher.. with 35 mm limitation, he has worked out the best, it seems. The good thing for that period is that they used minimum make-up [ Check the powder coated face of Radhika in Kizhake pogum rayil – Saamee ]. Though there were 2 pairs, not even a single duet was formed forcibly – what a relief ! Good that they didn’t even use the usual Tamil cinema word kadhal [ except when Kali asks the Engr with doubt .. இந்த காதல் அது இதுன்னி சொல்லி வருமே.. அது….எதாவது.. ? ] – Even the engineer proposes to Valli for marriage very decently – one of the best proposals on screen !
IR played his usual role in BGM and songs. Senthazham poovil, maaniname and Adi penne are the good numbers [ others are inserted ]. I don’t see the connection of tribal people in Mahendran films [ Aasaiyai kaathula in Johny – it’s similar to MM ]. He has BGMs for every character and sequence and the best of dolak comes out in the climax. The climax looks cinematic and the compromise looks sudden. I never liked the logic of Villain turning into good. At least, kali says still he didn’t like Engr.
It ends with Kali asking
” இப்ப என்னங்கடா பண்ணப் போறீங்க.. புரிஞ்சிகிட்டீங்கல்ல…” [ எப்படி படம் எடுக்கறதுன்னு ]. Though it was not intended, I interpret that the film asked the tamil cinema world in that way.