Thursday, December 01, 2005

An Introduction to Black Comedy

These were early days, when to a Malayali teenager of 1997, a movie was either an 'action-thriller' or a Priyadarshan-ishtyle comedy caper. Exposure to Tamil cinema was minimal, probably limited to the honourable efforts of Kamal Hassan and the machismo of the self-styled 'superstar' Rajnikanth. Little did we know of the treat that was in store for us.

'Simha...NARA-Simha !!!' - thus roared this ferocious-looking hero, trying hard to make up in volume what he could not in voice-modulation. Dressed in an 'inconspicuous' black pants, yellow shirt and red blazer, this not-so-young angry man literally had a huge screen-presence; when he was on screen, there was not much room left for anybody else ! His introductory scene itself had him striding alarmingly towards the disconcerted audience, coat all ablaze in a huge gale that seemed to have suddenly popped up. Then the hero paused for dramatic effect, and laid his pudgy fingers on something that strongly resembled a TV remote.

PRESS, and dozens of bombs detonated all over the place.

The title of the movie flashed across the screen:

in and as

The audience broke out into rapturous applause.

Subsequently, the hero is caught by a gang that looked like villains to me, though they were dressed in military fatigues. Duh ! 'This seems to be fairly a novel approach' , thought I. Or maybe they would show a flashback sequence. Not to be - I had seriously underestmated the ingenuity of the director and screenplay writer. The villain proceed to remove the shirt of the hero (probably to satisfy the lusty female audience as well), and then tied him down on a slab of ice. Now for the grand finale - they decide to have some fun by electrocuting him. After combing through his manly chest-hair a couple of times (Vijaykanth squirmed uncomfortably a couple of times - tickled pink?), they managed to locate his nipples, and promptly put a couple of dangerous looking clamps on them. These clamps were connected to some red wires, leading to a ... a goddamn TRANSFORMER. One of the villainous-looking characters growls menacingly, while proceeding to a giant switch with a huge board labeled 'DANGER' on top of it. Our hero is unpertrurbed, though - he even has a beatific Buddha-like smile on his grey face.

CLACK - the switch is turned on ! A few dials are shown, needles suitably accelerating.

I don't believe it - the friggin' transformer explodes !! The villains appear as astonished as the shell-shocked audience (like in Memento, this must have been the director's intention all along - have the audience empathise with the villains), and look at Vijaykanth in dumbfounded silence. He calmly breaks open all the ropes that were hitherto binding him, and winks at the audience, saying 'No electric current can harm this', with an admiring glance toward his naked torso, 'body of mine'. And for good riddance, he adds that he is 'Simha...NARA-Simha', and walks out of the clutches of the flummoxed villains.

By now, the audience has realized that they are experiencing something truly special - a novel approach to filmmaking that would irrevocably alter South Indian cinema forever.

Enter the heroine: a nubile-looking Isha Kopikar. She is dressed in really tight clothes, covering less than 10% of her anatomy (perhaps she wanted to get a tan in the famous Chennai sun). There are a couple of dumb comedians with her. Some sicko astrolger pronounces importantly that Isha will meet 'her man' in the sky, and she is suitably impressed. The audience begins to get restless. Not to worry, our man is soon back, with some more bombs. He flashes his detonator again, and some more bombs explode. Oh no - our heroine is on one of the buildings where some of the bombs are set.

Vijaykanth races upstairs, grabs Isha, proceeds to the rooftop and jumps down in the nick of time, just as the entire building explodes in a ball of flame. While falling down, Isha remembers THE prophesy, and glances lovingly at the hero's chiseled face. She does a couple of flips, and somehow arranges both of them into a Kamasutra-like pose while hurtling down at 9.8 m/s2.

The screen dissolves into a song, with Isha managing to wear even skimpier clothes. Vijaykanth is dressed completely in gold, and wears a pair of sunglasses with golden rims.

I can probably write a complete thesis on this movie; it is one of those unsung gems that get better on repeated viewing. Those of you who haven't seen this masterpiece yet, I commiserate: get a copy from somewhere and enjoy puratchi-thalaivan Vijaykanth at his best.

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