Tuesday, September 29

Punnagai Mannan - A not so happy love story..

Movie - Punnagai Mannan (Tamil)
Director - K Balachander
Producer - Rajam Balachander, Pushpa Kandhaswamy
Cast - Kamal Haasan, Revathy, Srividya, Rekha, Delhi Ganesh
Music - Ilaiyaraja
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - K Balachander
Cinematography - Raghunatha Reddy
Editing - Ganesh Kumar
Year - 1986

I watched this movie 23 years after its release. I had heard lots about this movie which was a huge hit in the 80s and is one of the most famous movies of Kamal Haasan. And I hadnt watched many movies of the legendary director K Balachander (The only film I've seen of his is the very poor Parthalae Paravasam). I loved each and every song from the movie composed by Ilaiyaraja. So, because of all this, I had a lot of expectations before watching this movie. But to be frank, it disappointed me. It is considered a classic, but somehow, I didnt like the movie. 

The movie is the story of Sethu (Kamal) who attempts suicide with his lover Ranjini (Rekha) since Ranjini's parents are against their love and were not letting them unite. But during the attempt, Ranjini dies and Sethu survives. This is the opening of the movie, which was very interesting. Especially the placement of the evergreen song 'Enna Satham Intha Neram' right at the beginning of the movie was great. Sethu is then taken to court by Ranjini's father where he is sentenced for one year imprisonment for attempting suicide. Yet another wonderful song, 'Ethetho Ennam' comes here and the title credits appear, half an hour after the movie started. Sethu joins Padmini (Srividya)'s dance classes as a dance master, since he cannot live with his drunkard father and his numerous wives (a subplot).  Sethu meets Malini (Revathy), a young girl who is about to suicide at the same falls where he and Ranjini once tried the same thing. He discourages her from suiciding saying that it is not the only solution to problems. Malini develops an immediate liking for him and starts following him. She even joins the dance classes to spend more time. How Sethu's second life gets affected due to Malini's presence and the development of their relationship forms the rest of the story. There is also a comedy track weaved in, by none other than Kamal himself playing another character, Chaplin Chellappa, Sethu's uncle. 

Though the beginning was interesting, the developments that happened later were not quite appealing to me. And most of the scenes were looking incomplete to me. Either it is due to bad editing, or maybe because most scenes are cut in the DVD I watched. (It was an original DVD, yet it had so many cuts). So I couldnt enjoy the movie on a wholesome level. There have been so many films which have taken inspiration from this movie and made later on, that watching this movie freshly wont create any impact on you. 

Kamal's performance had nothing much to boast about. (Maybe because I'm seeing it now, when I have seen so many amazing performances from him which came after this movie).  The thing that irritated me most was his fake beard. Even a small child can notice that the beard is fake.  I understand that stars like Kamal used to do more than one film at a time in those years and that wouldnt let them experiment with their looks. But the fake beard was looking so odd in this film. But his dancing, was brilliant in the film. And his performance during the sequence where he proposes to Revathy, was truly amazing. That is the kind of acting we expect from Kamal Haasan. The other Kamal, Chaplin Chellappa's track was quite unnecessary in the film. Tamil films usually have a mandatory comedy track, even now. In this film, the hero himself has done the comedy track, in a different role aping Charlie Chaplin's mannerisms. Though the jokes dont appear funny now, Kamal's imitation of Chaplin was endearing. Kamal shows what was about to come in Apoorva Sahodarargal through a short scene in this movie where Chellappa acts as a dwarf. That was a great scene. 

Revathy gave a spirited performance. She brought in all the spirit and charm required for a bubbly girl like Malini. She looked really beautiful and performed well in the tough dance sequences as well. Srividya gave able support and was part of a nice subplot connecting her and Chaplin Chellappa. Delhi Ganesh as Sethu's father who keeps on marrying was okay. Rekha in a short role as Ranjini, was good. The other characters and actors were not impressive. 

The movie had very nice cinematography by Raghunatha Reddy. A lot of shadows and backlight were used (like in Mani Ratnam's Agni Natchathiram which came later). The editing was pretty bad. (I still dont know if it appeared bad because the film was like that or because the DVD was badly cut). But the major factor which makes this movie interesting is Ilaiyaraja's fantastic music and background score. All the songs from the movie are superhits even now. Enna Satham, Ethetho Ennam, Singalathu Chinnakkuyile, Mamavukku, Vaanmegam and Kaalakaalamaga are amazing tracks. The theme piece where Kamal and Revathy dance before Kamal proposes to her, is absolutely brilliant. I have heard that it was AR Rahman, who played the keyboard for Ilaiyaraja in that particular theme track. The music was the most appealing part of the movie. 

I didnt quite like the way the story moved forward and the sad ending really put me down. What was the point of the whole movie if the ending had to be like this? The movie is just one full circle. It reaches the same place where it started by the time it ends. The villain track didnt work at all. All was going well till the deliberate sad ending came out of the blue, which was totally unnecessary. People may have different views on it. But I did not like this tragedy for the sake of tragedy thing. 

The thing about really famous old superhits/classics is that they are copied so much that when you see the actual film for the first time, it looks really cliched. I think that was what happened when I watched this movie. Everything looked cliched to me. Yet I liked some aspects of the movie. Firstly, the amazing music by Ilaiyaraja. Secondly, Revathy's spirited performance. Next is Kamal's brilliance in the dance sequence and the following scene where he proposes to Revathy. He makes up for a not so special performance in the whole film with that single scene. The cinematography was also impressive. And lastly, Kamal's Chaplin act was endearing. I couldnt clearly get the Balachander touch in this movie. Maybe I should watch more movies of his to understand that (which I am obviously going to). 

Rating - 3/5 
(Just for the factors I liked, which I have mentioned in the last paragraph).


  1. Like this movie just because of Raja sir's songs.

    Vivek, did u see it on a Ayngaran DVD, I didnt feel like there were many scenes cut from it....

    Expecting your PR Music review soon, I felt it is just average...

  2. i saw it on a raj video vision dvd.. i dunno if its cut or the actual movie is like that.. it was pretty bad.. i just got the cd of Pazhassiraja.. beautiful songs.. review coming up soon..

  3. yeah...may be some parts were cut. Ayngaran has released this movie too...it wasnt that bad.