all the rubble, amidst all the cacophony, amidst all the humdrum,
amidst all the chaos, lies the truth buried deep somewhere.
Pragmatism, which doubles for pessimism once in while, dictates
that there never is any absolute truth, but only versions
of it. One usually associates with whatever suits his persuasion.
There never is a right version, there never is a wrong one,
either. It entirely depends on who has control over the mouthpiece.
First, it was the linear way of recounting an incident - point
A to point B. The events that led up to B entirely depending
on whatever happened in A - the cause and effect way. Then
came along the non-linear way. The sequencing of the events
is played around with in this version and only at the end,
can one figure out the intent by rearranging the pieces of
the puzzle. The next in line was important, interesting and
the powerful of three - the perspective way. Hereunder, the
subjects remain the same, the sequences remain the same, but
the looking glass changes hands. One man's food becomes the
other's poison, one man's right becomes the other's blunder.
What is interesting in this type of narration is that the
lack of trust factor in the various versions put forth. Even
when all the versions are put forth causing a clear picture
to emerge, one cannot take a hard stance as to the real truth
of the event, because it might be completely lost, or it might
not even exist, under the burden of changing perspectives
and shifting loyalties.
interesting way of presenting a narration, the "He said,
she said" way, has been tackled before many a time in
international cinema for great effect, but has remained an
untouchable entity in commercial Indian medium. The reasons
are quite clear, for no real hero would emerge at the end
of it all and all his actions stands to scrutiny not allowing
the audience to associate with one version of the truth. In
print medium, specially in telugu, Yandamuri ventured into
this arena in the recent past, with his "vennellO gOdaari",
in which a murder that was committed at the beginning of the
story was recounted through 5 different sets of eyes, and
at the end of it all, nothing was what it seemed and nothing
was what was led to be believed. Kamal Hassan takes up this
deglamorized way of illustration and emerges quite victorious
with "Virumaandi". The interesting aspect of this
sort of illustration is the detached perspective of the maker
and his non-judgmental view of the material. He cannot take
sides or choose sides and make one perspective better than
the other or pack one version with over-powering evidence
and leave the other with no logic, no reason to fall back
upon. The character of Virumandi, alternating between street
thug and a care-free land-owner, the background for the story,
village politics rife with senseless violence, and the lack
of any guilt on the part of ALL the characters involved, in
regard to their actions, makes the perfect mix for Kamal to
experiment with the narration.
is quite normal that court-room proceedings offer a glimpse
of what had really happened and what the witnesses think might
have happened, given a context, circumstance and a perspective.
B.R.Chopra's "Kanoon" played up to this point. Extending
this thought even more, and lending it enough credibility
with motivations, actions, words and thoughts, "Virumandi"
makes an excellent case about the non-existence of the actual
and absolute truth. Sympathy or understanding, which stands
as the only emotion that the audience would relate to the
lead character, in such movies of mindless violence and excessive
gore, is completely done away with and instead replaced with
a heartless alternative - reason. Kamal Hassan, the director,
is not in the least bit sympathetic to Kamal Hassan (playing
the title role of Virumaandi), the actor, when he strips away
Virumandi of civility and culture, making him loud, boorish
and sometimes plain obnoxious. That throws the audience off
the scent and the judge'mentality' that it usually takes comfort
in, painting the characters in black and white, judging their
actions right and wrong, is thrown in a tizzy. Add to that
the heroine Annalakshmi (portrayed with utmost sincerity by
Abhirami), the usual pegging point of sentimentality and over-indulgence
of emotions, is every bit as loud and every bit as cold as
there are no characters to root for, no situations no take
solace in and no one perspective to take sides with, the playing
field is rightly balanced for the hero(?) as it is for the
villain(?) with the only thing that is separating them - who
is helming the mouthpiece.
this situation - hero's grand mother is dead for reasons unknown.
Hero is wailing in a corner. The reasons for her death murmured
in the crowd. Now, imagine the music playing around the scene.
Play the shehnaayi, the usual instrument for ritualistic dirge/obligatory
death scene, and subconsciously the audience showering sympathy
over the hero. Replace the shehnaayi with some violins and
percussions, playing some ominous and suspenseful notes, the
audience prepares itself for some foul-play. Leave the scene
completely without any background score and allow the audience
to make up their own minds whether to sympathize with the
hero for his misfortune or to vilify him for his excess -
Illayaraja, plays along with the director, refraining himself
from commenting on each and every scene, thus forcing the
viewer to see it from his viewpoint. Virumandi is probably
the most difficult movie that Illayaraja, in his career, had
to try really hard deciding between silence and music, for
each musical cue would become a give-away to the viewer, something
the director purposefully avoided. Keshav Prakash, handling
the lens, observes the proceedings in the same dispassionate
way with no extra movements to enhance hero's (?) character/image
or to cut down the villain's (?). Particular mention and praise
to ALL the actors, who sincerely believe their motivations
in both the perspectives and remain true to emotions. "Virumandi"
is an elegant piece of movie making by a director who is right
in his element with the set pieces and in supreme command
of the material.
Ramblings on films
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Srinivas Kanchibhotla how you liked the article