Friday, September 23, 2011

RetroReview: Bhairavi (1978).

If there is one constant mistake celluloid god is doing is to provide Rajini with endless stream of soon to be dead sisters. Well, three* to be exact, as far as I know. Bhairavi should be Rajini’s first dead on-screen sister (the fact that an actress who played his sister in another film died off-screen should add to the eerie factor).

Sometimes revisiting these old films, you discover a bizarre moment or two. Or in the 1978 movie, Bhairavi's case, a total WTF gem that I shall reveal later. Alongside some scientific revelation as to why Rajini switches his costume from lungi and singlet to pants and unbuttened shirts halfway through the movie. Read on to find out more…

Considering its weekend and I am lazy, here’s the synopsis I purloined from IMDB (the normal font is my addition):

Mookaiyah (Rajini) and his sister Bhairavi (Geetha) are children of a drunkard who are left to fend for themselves. After Bhairavi is lost in an accident, Mookaiyah becomes a manservant at the home of a local landlord, and grows to become the landlord's faithful crony, taking unquestioning orders from his boss. The boss, Rajalingam (Srikanth), gets Mookaiyah to abduct a young girl from a neighboring village - Bhagyam, who he proceeds to rape. Manikkam, Bhagyam's brother (Some dude), swears vengeance on Mookaiyah who gets the blame for the incident. Meanwhile a revelation is in store for Mookaiyah. Written by Joyojeet Pal (Do they make “friend” pun jokes on you, Pal?).

But first things first, does anyone use the word purloin anymore? I know it sounds like cat’s groin or something, but that’s a nice word I picked up long time ago from Poe.

Well, the synopsis end with “a revelation is in store”, and before you guys go, “what store?”, I have actually gave out the spoilers. Yes, the Bagyam in question is non other than Bhairavi, Mookaiyah’s long lost sister (In a Oedipal/Fruedian twist, Geetha would appear as Rajini’s secret admirer in his dream in Ninaittale Inikkum). So, indirectly our friend, this Mookaiyan, was responsible for her rape, and later, her death.

Now, here’s something that bugged me. Obviously Rajini is the hero, but he got second billing here after Srikanth. Probably seniority, and Srikanth himself takes a break from playing betraying sibling/son of Sivaji Ganesan and plays betraying landlord of the other Sivaji, Rajini, who plays the Mookaiyan in question here.

Aside: V.C Ganesan, who was christened Sivaji Ganesan by Periyaar, also played a Mookaiyan several years earlier in PattikAda Pattanamaa. If that is not enough to confuse you, how about the great actor playing Rajinikanth in Gouvaram, a name later adopted by budding actor Sivaji Rao Gaekwod. That’s right, go and snivel elsewhere. End of aside.

The point is Srikanth was born to betray one Sivaji or another.

Back to the film. The first part of the film is a bit dreary, with Rajini doing “yes massa” to Srikanth’s whims and fancy, and romancing Sri Priya, portions of which are quiet funny. There are comedy tracks which you can safely forward away with your remote (Surulirajan, Manorama and the always welcomed V.K. Ramasamy). Then the tragedy takes place and Rajini goes apeshit insane with vengeance.

Equally insane was Ilayaraja’s background score, literally blasting off hundreds of trumpets everytime Rajini goes on rampage (very Bond-eque, compare the track with Thunderball’s). But seriously, it gets your pulse racing and I wonder if Rajini heard the soundtrack before pummelling the bad guys. Such motivation.

Speaking of pummelling, here’s the WTF part. One fight scene ends up with lungi wearing Rajini and another lungi wearing bad guy in a fenced goat pen. Needless to say, a bunch of goats broke their bones (Sup Tulang yumm...) with Rajini and the bad guy falling on them. But then, the fight gets so intense that - and I don’t think this was scripted - Rajini grabbed one of the goats and starts to beat the shit out of the bad guy.

It was unbelievable, I had to rewind to see the spectacle again. No guess on what’s for dinner for the film crew that night.

Of course, accused of murder and rape, Mookayan is on the run, a fugitive, and this was the part where he switches his costume from Lungi and Singlet to pants and unbuttoned shirt. Unbuttoned.

I shouldn’t worry about it, but I did ponder about the reason costume switch, besides providing the costumer a second meal. And then! Holy Harrison Ford, it struck me the practicality of it all.

Now, here’s the scientific explanation. Obviously with lungi on, you can’t make long strides when running away from cops. Pants can enable you to take those lengthy strides when running away from long arms of the law. Besides, a lungi has broader per-square foot of target for police dogs to pounce on than a pair of pants.

As for the unbuttoned shirt. To quote Mr. T, I pity you fools. Imagine the same long arms of the law (does that make them a gorilla or orang-utan?), grabbing your singlet when you are on the run. But unbuttoned shirt! Not only you get to show your awesomely flat ab, but if the collar is grabbed by cop, you can let it go easily. A technique clearly borrowed from domestic lizards**.

All in all, it’s a thoroughly revisit-able film, but the downside to the film has to be the use of wrong singer for Rajini. TMS, by now, has voice thicker than Sivaji’s wigs and was totally unsuitable for Rajini. It’s like listening to Michael Jackson voiced by Elvis Presley.

As usual as with Rajini films, it’s his show. Oozing with infant version of his powerful charisma, he gets to flex his acting chops here. If only he had pursued that direction he’d be up there with Kamal as brilliant actors. Emoting his way to the climax, he showed raw energy and emotion that make us feel his pain. The best scene has to be the sad song when he visits his sister at the graveyard (Nandooruthu Nariyuruthu).

But of course, at that moment you feel like saying, “Like, dude, you were responsible for her dead?” You better not. He might grab anything he could get, and beat the crap out of you. Like a Barn Owl.

*Bhairavi, Dharma Yutham & Naan Sigappu Manithan. If I have missed others, please get them to register in Rajini’s Dead On-Screen Sisters Registry, not Rajini’s Betraying Brothers Registry or Rajini’s Betraying Landlords Registry.

**Come on, you know this. The lizards let go of the tail when is caught. And leaves the dead wiggling tail to horrify us.

Pix: Rajini in Bhairavi, with the weapon of choice, when there're no goats available.

1 comment:

hattori_hanzo said...

More dead sisters - The very first scene in Payum Puli. And I think in Naan Mahan Alla also he loses his sister.