Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I watched Alaipayuthey after many many years over the weekend and was simply blown swept away & taken in, well and truly. I don't know why I am so intensely affected by this movie especially now, after so many years, when I, despite liking the movie a lot when it was released & also not missing it every time it was shown on TV, was never crazy about it. But I guess it's got something to do with my falling flat for Minnale a few weeks ago, again another movie I just "liked" before, but was nowhere in awe of it as I am now, after this most recent viewing. It probably also has something to do with Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya's release, a movie I'm looking forward to for many reasons - foremost of them being Trisha's ravishing looks followed by Simbu's remarkably different (& refreshing, if I might add) screen-presence, their exciting chemistry, Gautam Menon (obviously) and to top it, a wonderful sound-track by Rahman. It's also probably a (good?) sign that I'm rediscovering the romantic streak I once had, now at 25, which is rather nice in a sense, since I've been fretting about growing "older" ever since I turned 25 in November. That I can feel pattaam-poochi's parandhufy in my stomach & relate to the romantic overtures of a Chennai youngster like me (though much better-looking obviously :P) without my now-customary romance-associated cynicism & nakkal, is heartening for me. I am actually tempted to add my singularity as another probable reason for going sa-sa ri-ri ga-ga, but I don't think it is as relevant as the others, considering the fact that barring an amazing-yet-immature 5-6 months back in the beginning of last decade, I've been pretty much single all my life.

While my awe of Minnale was probably 75% Maddy, 5% Reema, 10% each Harris & Gautham, Alaipayuthey was more Shalini and simply the relatability of the amazing romance between the two. It also helped that I've grown up around trains all my life (thanks to my mom working in S.Rlys) and the fact that the Chennai electric train is one of the most identifiable & middle-classly-enchanting hang-outs for the Chennai youngster. But the primary factor, I think, was Shalini, who was simply outstanding as Shakti. Before I forget him, let me credit the genius of Mani Ratnam for the way he scripted the roles & brought out the best from everyone for their resp. roles, most notably, of course, Maddy & Shalini. Shalini's role is probably now my favourite female character, just pipping Jo's Maya & Laila's Ramya. And what do I say about her expressions... truly floored only. :D The best thing about her was that she is not this stunning or drop-dead-gorgeous girl, but a decent-looking girl, who, with a touch of simple-yet-elegant middle-class make-up (I simply loved the eye-liner when she speaks to Maddy in her college) and some terrific emotions & dialogues, with the right amount of reticence, interest & impishness, sent my heart into a spin. And that one scene where the girls search for Karthik from inside the train, and finally see him standing in that God-level-stud pose on the opposite platform, leaning on his friend's shoulders, coolers, et al, and the girls shout, and Shalini coyly smiles, and Rahman's "Sakhiyeee..." precisely starts, My God, that one scene is enough for me to live out any "romance" for the rest of my life. Not to mention the half-smile which she gives when Maddy calls her and waves bye after she cutely "admonishes" him in her college. And the way she looks at Maddy while singing Alaipayuthey Kanna song, sheer brilliance (of Shalini, Mani, Sreeram, Rahman). And then the first time Karthik calls her up, she responds "Aduppula Rasam vechirkken, amma vera ippo dhan vandhaanga, semester practicals irukku... irundhalum nee solradha porumaiya kekkaren," hayyo mudiyala ennaala. :) :)

Maddy was good without being great (which Shalini was). The thing with Maddy was - he has oodles of Iyengar khalai on him, and that "punnagai" which pretty much did most of what he was required to perform. Which is exactly where Shalini scores. Watching her act made me feel bad about such a brilliant talent being cut short abruptly, but then, the nice thing's that I will always remember Shalini as "Shakti", and not any other better/nonsensical role, which is bound to have come her way, had she continued acting.

Ok, not that the movie didn't have one or two flaws though - the 2nd half was quite melodramatic, especially the ending, but I wonder how else it could've been. For a second, you wonder if Mani intended to go somewhere else after the 1st half, seeing the drop in brilliance-level towards the end, but it's ok. Also, the September Madham song & Sophiya Haque's gyrations were quite unnecessary - for this "bit" alone, Mani disappointingly comes across as a director who feels the need to have one titillating song in his movie.

No discussion about Alaipayuthey would be complete without a mention of one of the most perfect songs in Tamil cinema. A spontaneous reaction entails falling flat for Maddy & Shalini, but on second thoughts, I guess it's quite possible the genius of AR Rahman+PC Sreeram+Mani Ratnam+Hariharan would've made the song just as stunningly exotic with any couple in it. That Maddy & Shalini are quite good-looking & had some incredible chemistry just enhanced the awesomeness of the song by a couple of notches.
For whatever reasons may qualify/disqualify Alaipayuthey as a classic, the movie surely is a classic for the singular reason of how endearingly (post-1990) urban middle-class romance has been portrayed.
And for this reason, it will always continue to make waves in the heart of any even half-romantic middle-class Chennaite. :-)
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