Thursday, December 11, 2008

Goundamani: The Dark Superhero.

Warning: Strictly for Tamizh Film fans, especially of comedies.

Its phenomenal. About a decade ago, Tamizh film comedian Goundamani (or Kaundamani, or Koundermani) was dismissed by many has crude, crass and rude by many. He can only be enjoyed by those who don’t use their noodle all that much and enjoys slapstick.

Goundamani’s slapstick consist of only one thing – beating up his Hardy-esque partner. Senthil. If anyone really earns the literal meaning of sidekick, Senthil gets the honour.

Why phenomenal? Because of the growing interest as recently seen by the appreciative crowd, most of whom are in their early twenties here

Why, I myself have not been a great fan of his till of recent. Why the change of heart?

First and foremost, amidst all that kicking, and shouting on top of the lung, we missed to see the depth of his dialogues, the messages, and the not-so-subtle stab at the ridiculous aspect of the society and culture.

We neglected to appreciate Goundamani’s own original (he hardly mimics or spoofs other actor, strange for a contemporary comedian) brand of performance. His clear dialogue delivery, the modulation, the facial expression (the more he shows pain, the louder we laugh), body language, was there and I missed it first time around.

His graceless dancing, tone-deaf singing and terrible grasp of English language were supposed to be source of comedy (he is known to catch most of the Hollywood releases and recommends it to his colleagues). I didn’t laugh then, but now I am laughing my rear off.

I met a fellow member of the Tamizh film forum I visit, Prabhu Ram, who said, “To look at the slapstick element alone, you are missing the point,”. Truer words never spoken…at least it applies to Goundamani.

What astounded me, especially after revisiting those comedies is the amount of social commentary Goundamani included…also missed the first time around. So much so that the thread for his in the forum is named, “Philosopher Dr. Goundamani”, partly in jest, partly because, well, with all those satiric remarks that he tosses off without actually being smug about it (a crime Vivek sometimes commit).

Of late, something else occurred to me. That Goundamani could be the dark superhero for some of us. Yes, we all have good heart, we want to help the poor, the distressed, and we get thousands of super hero incarnation on screen. They are making millions out there in the box office.

But what about a fantasy creation that relates with the darker side of you. You know, the day to day annoyances, irritations that you have to deal with. Particularly people with the mental capacity of a hamster and is as annoying as that one immortal mosquito.

People like the characters Senthil played!

Watch those films again and figure out who was the annoyed one and who is the “annoyee”. Who was the provoked ones and who does the provoking? In Nattamai, why did Goundamani called his dad, played by Senthil, Dey Thagappa…extreme rudeness that had many fans of that time, even the faithful ones, put off? Watch that film again and you will realise what a rotten, womanising in a pathetic way Senthil’s character was. His action demanded no respect at all.

And how often we were subjected to the action of addressing someone with respect when we know that this person is rotten to the core. We had to do it, coz we have personal PR issue. Goundamani will do the name calling for you.

Admit it, there is a right-winger in even the most liberal of us. We want to dish out some painful insults to many annoying, irritating creatures that are teeming in this wonderful place call earth. Yes, especially the ones on the road.

Within the limits of given strict code of censorship, Gounder insults these bothersome creatures, kicks their butts (literally, instead of our whining of “I wish I could kick his butt), gets them in trouble. In one case, in indirect reference to what the bad guys did to a girl in the James Bond classic Goldfinger, Goundamani paints a less than beautiful male co-star with what I would call barrel belly with hot melting Silver! That’s for completely misinforming Goundamani the businessman and building his expectation sky high.

Most of Goundamani characters (mostly in the nineties) are remorseless, ruthless and relentlessly in pursuit of something and will not hesitate to insult and kick his way to achieve it. Witness the unconventional tricks he resorted to when he is determined to cancel the wedding in Ullathai Allithaa…and we get the heartiest laugh, especially when the plans fail. The “sotthulaa kallu” scene is boldly unconventional and elicits laughter from me anytime they show it again.

Tell me, can we be that insistent? Or consistent? We back out at early given embarrassment, but Goundamani hurls himself forward. We love him for it, plus he makes us laugh as a bonus point.

One forum member (Bala@crrajkumar) reminded me of one aspect of Goundamani’s character, “irreverence”. I’d add “total irreverence”, whether he is in a side comedy track or is next to the leading performers.

Speaking of which, I have yet to see any other comedians as bold as Goundamani when it comes criticising characters played by the biggest heroes. Witness Goundamani in Mannan and how easily he disses Rajini. Or how he teases Kamal in Singaravelan for his “latchiyam” or looking for “manastan” in Indian. Of course, the long “suffering” hero who has the best chemistry with Goundamani is Sathyaraj. The duos performance in riot-fest, Maaman Magal and Thai Maaman should have been given awards.

A rebel, an angry old man, a social critic, and now, a dark superhero, Goundamani is now set to make another round in the Tamizh film industry. Like or hate him, he has made his mark in the industry. He made all the other comedians that followed him dull after they run out of tricks. He is the ultimate superstar of the comedians.


Raikkonen said...

Really good post. Gounder is the most under appreciated performers ever. I don't want to talk about his humor sense and timing because everybody knows he is the king in that.

msp said...

Nice post groucho and thanks for the nod !

As I said when we met, that is an interesting theory. He lives and does what we won't dare to and so we love him for it.

And philosopher he is, because now we all see the world at an angle thanks to him.

As equanimus said, he is also notorious for going against the grain of the film. What could be more central to a Tamil film than the stylish looks of a hero. Completely off-bounds for ridicule. Arjun in VEdam appears with a vertical moustache a la Aamir Khan of Dil Chahta Hai. GM looks at the strip hair between the chin and lip and says: "enna saar avasaram, muzhusA saeving paNNittu varakkoodAdhu".

Imagine the macho hero with his cool image- the bane of Tamil Films - being dismissed thus.

Apparently Bernard Shaw said about GK Chesterton: " The world is not thankful enough for Chesterton". I would say the same about Goundamani. Even beyond his long successful stint, his gifts are significantly under-appreciated.
Hail we shall !

Prabhu Ram

PS: sOththula kallu is from unakkAga ellAm unakkAga where he introduces himself as "I am kundalakEsi, second standard avvaiyAr aaramba paada saalai" :-)

Rakesh Kumar said...

Thanks, Raikkonen, and PR. Yes, its UEU, not Ullathai Allitaa…I tend to confuse between Karthik movies of that time.

ஜோ / Joe said...

நல்ல பதிவு,
நீங்கள் சொன்னது போல தமிழ் சினிமாவில் காமெடியன் என்பவன் எப்போதும் எள்ளி நகையாடப்படுபவனாகவும் கதாநாயகனின் அடிதாங்கியாகவுமே இருந்த வந்த நிலையில் , கதாநாயகனுடனே இருந்து கொண்டு அவனை எள்ளி நகையாடும் எல்லை வரை சென்றது கவுண்ட மணி தான் .

Rakesh Kumar said...

Thanks Joe. First comment to my posting in Tamizh, nevertheless. Am very proud.

HonestRaj said...

Groucho.. as I said there. .nice write up & esp. the Nattamai senthil character analysis :clap:
Though, I am a fan of Gounder for long time, I too missed a lot of humour in his scenes. After the discussions from our Mayyam, I am enjoying more of Gounder.. even on repeated views of same scenes.
What else I can say, - GOUNDAMANI THE GREAT -

vigneshwaran aka vivasaayi said...

Inspite of being the most dominant comedian in the recent times - he is not given his due respect.

u r damn right abt "deii...thagapaaa" "sollunga son"..

Littlemaster said...

Excellent writeup Groucho :) If anyone sings the same old pallavi "Gounder is offensive", now I know where to redirect them :P

Rakesh Kumar said...

HR, Vignes, Littlemaster...thanks. It's fans like you and others who commented above who made me to rethink Goundamani has more than a comedian. Thanks.

Shubash JB said...

Gounder still remain my favourite. Who can forget Mannan, Indian, Maman Magal, Ullathai Allitha, Unakaage Ellam Unakaage, it..He stands equally to the heroes. Brilliant comedian.Long Live Gounder! I am still waiting for his new movies..

Yoganathan.N said...

Awesome article Groucho bro...
// “sotthulaa kallu” scene //
One of my favourite comedy scenes of Annan... Haha...
Nice writeup :)

Thalafanz (Hub)

Rakesh Kumar said...

Thanks for reading Yoga. I am rereading the article after a long time and felt that I didn't do enough justice. No writeup can do justice to what he had done on screen :)

வெங்கிராஜா said...

Didn't notice this till now. Awesome post!

The roles which GM has played cover a very wide range and his word play and timing is undisputably the cleverest in town.

Even in costumes, he never tried to copy anyone. He was unique in his one-liners, dialogue delivery and even swearing!

Dinesh said...

Nice write up Grouch :) all hail the undisputed king of comedy, the one and only The Great Goundamani.