Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Why Tamil always haunts Mollywood?

It is not unusual for a random Malayalee to go crazy listening to an Ilayaraja or an A R Rahman's Tamil number - though Rahman has scored for only one Malayalam movie so far in his 25-year career.

However, it is not just Rahman, Raja or any other Tamil musician who finds a place in the heart of Malayalees, but Mollywood has always been 'haunted' by this 'Tamil' factor ever since they started to watch 'mass appealing' movies emerging out of the shade of 'Malayala Padam'. But, when we see it the other way round, Malayalam fever was not that severe here in Tamilnadu, except for their love for Malluwood rather than Mollywood.
Nevertheless, in recent times, this Mollywood-fever is scaling some new heights in Tamilnadu. When George could not actually patch up with Malar teacher in Premam (2015), at least one out of three Tamil guys would have shed tears inside the cinema hall. In fact, Premam was a breakthrough and a revolution in Tamilnadu for Mollywood.

There has been Tamil presence in Malayalam movies for decades. Remember Chandramukhi’s (2005) original from Malayalam, Manichitrathazhu (1993), seeing a Tamil spirit? The Tamil remake imported its ghost from Andhra Pradesh.

Also, a number of Mohanlal / Mammootty yesteryear flicks have been made completely in Tamilnadu - No. 20 Madras Mail (1990), Kilukkam (1991) are among the many.

But, Premam created a magic that no other Malayalam movie before could achieve. Was it Tamil-ponnu Malar teacher who brought in hordes of moviegoers to a Malayalam movie in some B-centre cinema hall in Tamilnadu? Maybe yes, but, this formula is getting worked out in the post-Premam era in Mollywood.

At least one scene or one significant dialogue in their movies has a Tamil reference. Released last week, this Tovino Thomas' drama Theevandi, which is set in a fictional town, 'Pullinadu', has almost all of its references, in hypothetical context except for a few - Bob Marley, Edison, Rasputin and Picasso. But, there was, again, A R Rahman, who actually becomes a spark of inspiration for the chain-smoking lead character to give up the habit.

It was not the first time for Tovino, but his 2017 sports comedy Godha was a step ahead. When Aanjaneya Das (Tovino) goes to Punjab University, he finds a Tamil friend, Muthu Pandiyan, essayed by upcoming comedian Bala Saravanan from Kollywood.

Though one maybe from Madurai, Chennai or Tiruchi, Tamils have this common identity among Malayalees, 'Pandi', and this Muthu Pandiyan is naturally nicknamed 'Pandi' in the film. And, guess what this Malayalee-Tamil combo does together after their first meeting? Set out to find a beef-serving eatery in Punjab! Indeed, they end up mocking the north vs south politics.

When politics is taken a dig at even in a comedy flick, what would be its intensity in a seriously written, political screenplay? Last year, when this Dulquer Salman-starrer, Comrade in America(CIA) opened in Chennai, it should have been surprising for the audience here.

With a censor board like the one in Tamilnadu, it would have been impossible for a Tamil filmmaker to show the photo of LTTE leader Prabhakaran hanging inside a house. But, in CIA, it featured a prominent character, an ex-LTTE soldier played by John Vijay, who resides somewhere in Latin America, worshipping Prabhakaran and praising Ilayaraja. It is this Tamilian from Eelam who helps the lead male reach USA.

In a scene, when this former rebel listens to Nayagan's 'Thenpandi Seemaiyilae' and eulogises Ilayaraja. Later in the movie, when he is shot dead, we have the same song running in the background, 'Yaaradithaaro... Yaaradithaaro'.

There was also another LTTE reference in Dileep-starrer Ramaleela from the same year. When the protagonist, Ramanunni, goes into hiding, his close aide refers to him as Prabhakaran. But Ramanunni disagrees with him and says he is not as great as the LTTE leader. It will take several years to have a similar dialogue in a Tamil film - if it escapes the scissors of the CBFC.

Similarly, in Nivin Pauly-starrer Sakhavu (2017), the actor, as Sakhavu Krishnan, lands right here in Peermedu to save Tamils and a section of Malayalees being suppressed by a tea estate manager and establish the roots of the Communist Party in the hill-top hamlet.

The culture of watching one or two Malayalam films a month has become a regular for Tamil movie-goers in cities like Chennai and Coimbatore. As the movies are being made with better visuals, audio quality and content, at this rate, Mollywood in the near future could possibly overtake Tamil industry - unless the number of good films goes up.

- Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, September 19, 2018.

A part or complete version of this article by Santhosh Mathevan has appeared in This note is completely based on the perceptions of Santhosh Mathevan alone. This does not reflect the views of two or more people or a community. Queries and criticism shall be addressed to the writer only.