Monday, October 17, 2011

RetroReview: Pudhu Kavidhai (1982)

The movie wastes no time in introducing the hero of this film, played by Rajini (going to be a regular in RetroReview, I guess). It’s motorbike racing. Assembled are bikes that looked like they came straight from All-In-All-Azhaguraja (AIAA) workshop.

Rajini arrives in one wearing what looks like a swimming cap. Or was it his helmet. Then the race begins. The announcer narrates the entire proceeding as if he was telling the Mahabaratha story over the radio.

It would hardly be justifying calling it a race. It was more like a stroll in the park. The racers looks more like rallying for some cause, maybe for better quality bikes.

Rajini himself has to go through some turbulence like the bike not starting (where’s AIAA when you need him). But the filmmaker, sensing that we would dismiss the race as non-race, had the racing bikers to overtake bullock carts. Those speed demons!

Anyway, Rajini wins of course, and receives the price from the films heroine, Jyothi an actress who’s achne spots are more than the number of films she did.

Okay, here’s the thing I disliked about this film. The bike racing and the bike riding was what between a good film that this is and a great film which it could have been. I mean, it could have been okay if the bike was Harley Davidson or the chopper thingy Raghuvaran was bumming about with in Siva. The AIAA bike already looked too old and clumsy when the film first came out.

Back to the movie.

There’s a bit of formula that you know. Girl dislikes boy, boy teachers her lesson, girl likes boy, boy likes girl, and the girl’s mother gets henchmen to beat the living daylights out of the boy’s uncle.

Yeah, played by Tenggai Sreenivasan, he’s the girl’s family driver, and he overhears the part where the girl and her friends discuss how disgustingly black Rajini was (at the beginning, later she embraces black, literally). Angered, he stopped the car he was ferrying them with, gets out, scolds them, and throws in the key, the cap, uniform and…

…thank god he doesn’t remove his pants. If there are still many guys out there in their thirties or forties, still scarred by something that happened in their childhood/youth, to the point that they became homophobic, I got two words: Topless Tenggai (TT).

Anyway, thanks to TT, a sight that also would horrify any decent acne -scarred girls,  TT was punished with whipping to the point that he still got almost topless again due to torn shirt. Hah! You know what happens next, Rajini, after finding out, tears into the rich lady’s bungalow in the AIAA bike, and gives the henchmen who whipped TT, his share of lashing (Rajini usually don’t lash whip, he goes apeshit insane with it).

So, the girl’s mother, played by veteran “please hate me” mother/mother-in-law, Sukumari, harbours hatred towards him. You know, he’s dark-skinned, low-wage earning, AAIA bike riding bloke who has more hair than the all of the Three Stooges combined*.

Aside: Sukumari was shown as evil by the filmmaker by focussing on her fierce looking face, then on the stuffed tiger head in the background, back to her, back to tiger, back to her, back to tiger, back to her, back to….arrrr, I got it Mr. Director, she’s evil! End of aside.

In the meantime, romance developed between Rajini and “scarface” Jyothi. They greet each other with yellow flag, and yell off a mountain to echo “I love you”, kinda 80s version of text messaging and Facebook wall status. And off we go to a beautiful song, “Vellai Pura Ondru”.

Then, the song finishes and usually it’s Rajini back whopping some bad guys’ ass. Nooo…he was still romancing her. Involuntarily I yelled, “hey, the duet finished already-lah”. And voluntarily, with some domestic violence included, my wife yelled, “Let them-lah. What’s your bloody problem?” To those who are new to this blog, my wife is a hardcore fanatic terrorist fan of Rajini and refers to him as “appa” (dad).

And the romance goes on and on and on and on…and I bet the bad guys and henchmen were frustrated and retreated to the nearest tea stall.

Of course the mother being evil, this time she stands next to a full taxidermy tiger, gets to know about this relationship. To summarise the plot at this point, she opposes, then she relents and of course you know she’ll be up to something. You know this not because we have a bit of thinking capability. No, it’s because she was looking fierce besides a stuffed Tiger. Thanks director.

Blah, blah, blah, Rajini gets tied up literally in a chair, and elsewhere Jyothi was getting married. And this henchman, who was supposed to guard the tied up Rajini, wanted something to read. I mean, what else can there be in that room? Bagavad Geetha? Wall Street journal. No, Rajini’s diary of course. He reads it, becomes saddened by Rajini’s plight, and actually releases him.

Imagine if all the heroes carry diaries with them. In fact, Vijayakanth’s films would be quarter its length.

Scene: some goddown, Captain Vijayakanth confronts a Pakistani terrorist
Vijayakanth: Before we indulge in overlong fights, and do unrealistic stunts. Would you like to read my diary?
Pakistani Terrorist: Sure dude. Wait let me hang this AK47. (reads the diary and tears flows free from his eyes) Oh my god, what have I done. Can I be an Indian citizen? Pretty please?

Anyway, Rajini’s too late (it’s that bloody AAIA bike, I tell you. He would have reached faster with a mountain bike) and some junior artist ties Thali around Jyothi’s neck. Too late, dude. As per the norm since the Nageswararao days, he hits the bottle which immediately provides enough testosterone to give him beard overnight.

Cut to present day. He is sulking, and he apparently has a kid, a girl, and wife. And some dude played by Delhi Ganesh fixing things in the house. By chance, Jyothi would be in the same town as he is, working as a teacher. He’s married, she’s married. But he still yearns for her, and what happens?

Well, readers, this is the part where this review will get boring. Not that the scenes are terrible, I have quoted the terrible ones. This is the part where the movie gets awesome. This is the part where you Rajini fans can thump your chest and be proud to call yourselves his fan.

He is simply fantastic. There are long, quiet scenes later in the movie that would have made a hack actor awkward. But Rajini pulls it off professionally; the subtle change of expressions has to be seen to be believed. Especially when both Rajini and Jyothi meet again after the AAIA bike denied Rajini of last minute ass kicking and eloping.

And the ones that catch me off-guard each time I revisit the film is the romance. You would never have seen or would probably never see Rajini this romantic. Wife suggested that he probably did homework by hanging out long hours with Kamal. And the strength of this performance that convinces us on how he could not let her go even after she was married. The last half an hour will really tug your heart, thanks to his and her performance. Yes, all my insults apart, she’s a pretty good actress. Too bad she didn’t have the look to last longer in the industry.

Add that to some nice songs, the sad version of the duet mentioned, Ada Vare Vaa, where Rajini and the girl demonstrates various yoga moves in fast forward, and the beautiful, Vaa Vaa Vasanthame, this is a highly revisitable movie. And close your kids eyes when TT scenes occur.

*currently he has as much as only one of them.
Rajini, Jyothi and one of the many useless vehicles 
in Pudhu Kavithai.

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