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Flashback: Mouna Ragam

'Mr.Chandramouli! Mr.Chandramouli!!'
To me, and possibly many others, this is the first thing that comes to mind, when we think of the movie Mouna Ragam. That name and Karthik's actions are embedded in my mind and are totally unforgettable. Arguably, one of Mani Ratnam's best efforts, Mouna Ragam is a classic example of Mani's work, a simple tale, well told. The lead actors do a fantastic job of it (I never thought I'd say this about po-faced Mohan) and it is, in my opinion, one of the best movies of my generation.

Revathy is a regular, young middle-class who's quite content to maintain the status quo of her life. But when her parents decide to get her married off to someone they deem as a 'good boy', she rebels by staying out all evening on the day the 'boy's visiting her house to 'see' her. After a spot of singing and dancing in the rain, she finally saunters in quite late, full of glee of having outwitted her parents. She gets the shock of her life when she finds the 'boy', Mohan, still sitting there, patiently awaiting her arrival.

Furious with herself, she decides to go for broke and confesses to Mohan her aversion to the whole arranged set-up, even passing some disparaging comments about herself to help him along. When he hears the same words he was rehearsing, Mohan changes his mind and his feeling about arranged marriage and agrees to marry her. Off they go to Delhi, a stone-faced Revathy determined to get away from her marriage as soon as possible. She shuns Mohan and his attempts to get to know her. To celebrate their first month together, he buys her some beautiful anklets. But she prefers an annulment and off they go to a lawyer to start the proceedings. The shocked lawyer tells them that they have to give their marriage a shot at least for a year before the courts can call it off.

Thus starts Revathy's sentence - or so she thinks. When asked why she hates him so, she tells Mohan of the boy she loved. The happy-go-lucky, rowdy Karthik, with a zest for life and a hair trigger temper, which frequently results in local fights and altercations with the police. But slowly and surely, the love of a good woman decides his fate for him and he makes his mind to turn over a new life. Knowing her parents would not allow their union, Revathy and Karthik decide to get married in secret. As she's waiting in front of the Registrar's office, Karthik runs up the steps later than he promised - but is shot dead by mistake, by the police.

When it becomes clear to Mohan that it is the ghost of a past boyfriend that is standing in between them, he decides to step back and lets his wife have her head. They lead separate lives within the four walls of their house, counting the days till the year runs out and they can be legally separated. But slowly, Revathy starts to understand her husband and unbeknown to her, falls in love with him, little by little. How they sort their feelings for each other and end up together is a story beautifully woven by the director.

There are some really funny bits in the movie. Revathy's attempts to teach her Punjabi neighbour Tamil is one of the most hilarious and memorable funny scenes from the annals of Tamil cinema. Showing her impish, naughty side, Revathy teaches her poor neighbour what he assumes to be polite words to impress his Tamil boss. When the boss visits the Sardar and says 'namaste, he is told poda dai, much to his amazement. He is then not-too-politely to sit down (okkaru da somberi). The eagerness on the Sardar's face as he utters the words, imagining him to be the epitome of hospitality, made me nearly wet myself in glee, the first time I saw the film.

The music for the movie is by none other than the Maestro himself, Ilaiyaraja. It has been so long since I actually listened to the songs but I still remember the tunes of every single one of them. My favourite of all of them is the slow Manram Vandha, where the haunting quality of the music seems somehow echoed in the movement of the car, as Mohan and Revathy drive on. The melodious Nilave Vaa is another good number, sung beautifully by SPB. All the songs in the movie are hummable and even after more than a decade; I can still remember the words and the tunes of the songs. You cannot ask for more, can you?

This is Karthik's best performance ever, I think. Under Mani's skilful guidance, he curbs his tendency to overact and turns out a beautiful rendition of a rowdyish young man, who turns over a new leaf willy-nilly after falling in love. Revathy, as always, plays her role to perfection. She is such a fantastic artiste, with the most expressive eyes and one immediately empathises with her, first with her aversion to the arranged marriage, then her feelings for the boy she loved and lost, her initial anti feelings towards the husband foisted on her, her impish nature as she teaches her neighbour Tamil and finally, the growing love in her, for the man she married. A superb portrayal by a consummate actress. Mohan has never been a favourite of mine - I never felt this was a man who could act but this once, he proved me wrong by playing the role of a patient husband beautifully.

The movie tackles a subject that, funnily enough, still holds our culture and society in sway - that of arranged vs. love marriages. In a deeper level, the movie also deals with the difficulties involved in sustaining any relationship and the gentle strands of love that slowly bind people together; even without them realising it. It is an utterly romantic story and Mani has told it superbly. A must-see movie for any good movie buff.

Posted by DesiGirl 7:12 PM  

2 Comments:

  1. CuriousCat said...
    cool post desigirl! Filled with nostalgia for the movie now...
    Ramesh said...
    Great Blog.
    Can you post links to your articles on http://www.bestofindya.com

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