Monday, November 14, 2011

RetroReview: Ayiram Jenmanggal (1978)

The title refers to “thousand reincarnation”. It’s a line by the films supposed protagonist, future nAttamai, Vijaya Kumar, to his lover, saying that it doesn’t matter how many reincarnation they take, he will continue to love her. I’d say, this, provided they are born again in the same specie. What if Vijaya Kumar was born again as a platypus and the girl a Mongolian giraffe? Not a nice thought, but you know, love makes one a bad scriptwriter.

Despite getting third billing in the credit, the real star of this film is Rajinikanth. Yes, the same man who appeared in all my previous RetroReviews. For newer Rajini fans, this film is kinda pre-cursor to Chandramukhi - that insipid, manipulative film that was even insulting to semi-literates like me, which proved that given an opportunity, a director as vacuous as P. Vasu can make Rajini and Prabhu combination useless.

So, this film is about spiritual possession or soul taking over another body. Whatever. No, nobody gets to do 360 degrees head swirl, or puke out pea-soup. The subject of the possession is Vijaya Kumar’s wife, played by second billed Latha, and the one occupying her body is the spirit of the abovementioned lover who apparently died. We later find out that she was almost raped, died exposing her bra.

Rajini plays Singapore return brother of Latha. Or was it US? But he got back from somewhere to spent time with his sister and brother-in-law. The director, perhaps not knowing that Rajini is a goddamn good actor, got him to wear a pair of glasses, which Rajini takes off and puts it back on to show that he’s thinking. It’s not any ordinary glasses by the way. It was the kind worn in the 70s, where not only the lens provides excellent vision to the eyes, but also the eyebrows. The extra-vision eyebrows was the one probably highlighted Rajini that the sister was no longer the sister. It was the girl who died with exposed bra (GWDWEB).

Rajini does some serious investigation with his glasses off and on, and doing lots of cloak and dagger type of movement within the bungalow of his sister/brother-n-law. You would have seen this when Tom the cat was stalking silently to capture Jerry the mouse. He gets hold of a cassette apparently of Vijaya Kumar talking lovingly to GWDWEB. He confronts Vijaya Kumar and we are promptly given a flashback for us to finally use the fast-forward button.

In what one might refer to, pseudo-scientifically as, occupational hazard, by occupying Latha’s body, the GWDWEB had basically checked out Latha’s soul. The latter would appear right before the climax in front of the GWDWEB’s mother. It’s like days after Latha was possessed, and we, viewers, have no idea where her soul was. Maybe hanging out at Souled out café. Haha. Okay, only Malaysians will get that crack.

So, GWDWEB has plan to make love to the future nAttamai so she can go on living, but she got to do it in five days, failing which she plans to also kill the Vijaya Kumar so that they can happily live in the afterlife. Rajini got to know that and he proceeds to stop both of them from consuming their love. Awesome brother. To the point he resorts to arson! Nothing like a good burning house to keep the couples apart.

Like any good rent-avoiding spirit, the GWDWEB outtricks Rajini by putting, what looks like two big undisolvable aspirins in Rajini’s tea and his visually enhanced eyebrows failed to notice that. Rajini promptly goes to sleep while the couple proceeds to consummate their love. It was the family dog, which turned up from nowhere, that came to the rescue by barking to  awaken Rajini. No effect, Rajini’s sound asleep. But one tug at his bell bottom pant, the man sprang to action. It was not called “bell” bottom for no reason. Suddenly the dog is turned into Rajini’s sidekick, as he throttled his bike on to prevent the couple, and the faithful dog running by his side. Poor dog, his master didn’t even give him a ride.

I won’t spoil it for you, but you will kinda figure out how the story is resolves as in the climax we learn that the GWDWEB spirit is afraid of both God and doG. Waitaminute….Anyway, in between tense episodes, you get bunch of comedy scenes involving Surulirajan, Manorama and V.K. Ramasamy. Only VKR is effective…as usual. MSV did the music, and as he was during that era, it was loud mostly. The haunting Venmegame song stands out, the rest are forgettable.

The movie isn’t dated badly. The visual effects for the apparitions are quite good, though most of the time the hovering spirits looked like spilled milk. Vijaya Kumar sulks a lot, and already proves that he’s never going to be a cinema big wig, despite the fact that he wore a big wig. Latha’s as good as any actress of that era proved, preparing for matronly roles.

Rajini, when not doing the glasses thing, does make us curious as to how he’s going to resolve the whole GWDWEB issue. But he does look out of his place though, a good example is one folk dance song routine where he was just a spectator, and towards the end of the song he joins in the dance. While the rest were following the rhythm, in the groove, he looked like he’s swatting a fly, brushing off a mosquito and avoiding a bee.  

Aside: Wife said Rajini looks really good here, and even has nice costume. I disagree. Not with that bell bottoms. Any bell bottoms. End of aside.

A good lazy Sunday afternoon watch. It would be nice if Rajini and the sidekick dog went on to make a sequel, where the dog gets possessed instead. 

Tamil caption didn't say, "where's the goddam dog?"

1 comment:

V_S said...

Excellent review Rakesh bhai! Your adjectives are too good. Thoroughly enjoyed it.