After watching Mounaguru, one feels that all the good things about Tamil cinema in 2011 have been summed up aptly in one movie. It is great to see that a movie which released so late in the year feature in almost everyone’s favorite list. This means that unlike previous years, the recognition of movies is readily expressed. We had times when small movies took a really long time to get noticed, by which time they were already out of theatres. What is it about Mounaguru that makes it an apt summary of Tamil cinema’s growth in 2011?
1. The casting
This is one aspect where Tamil cinema has gone leaps and bounds across in the last couple of years. There were times when some roles were almost automatically given to certain actors! Like, a strong villain character always went to Prakash Raj, village ‘periya manushan’ role always went to Vijayakumar and so on. Now, we are looking at surprising casting decisions throughout, debutants are getting wonderful chances. Yudham Sei gave a pivotal antagonist role to Selva (the cop who kidnaps Cheran’s sister) and set up Manickavinayagam as a lecherous old man. Vettrimaran’s casting of Jayabalan as Pettaikaran has been talked about a lot already. Azhagar Samiyin Kudhirai was another casting delight with roles picking the actors rather than the other way. It is in the same train that Mounaguru also travels; the casting is absolutely spot-on. John Vijay’s performance is something you have to watch. Not only him, every cop in the movie, the jealous college student, the principal, the mental asylum inmates; everyone is the perfect fit for their roles. And, very few of them are familiar faces. This shows that the director has given utmost care in picking every single person in frame.
2. Economy of songs!
Well, we hope that we are past the days of 5 mandatory songs in Tamil cinema. Yudham Sei just had the ‘kannitheevu ponnu’ (some thought even that could have been avoided). We also heard the fascinating story of Suseendiran allowing Ilaiyaraja to decide where songs were necessary in Azhagar Samiyin Kudhirai; it had two in the end. Nadunissi Naaygal had none, in fact, it did not even bother with the re-recording. Mounaguru joins the list with one title song, one montage and little else in the form of music.
3. Action! Not ‘Overaction’!
For years, we have watched heroes launch villains into orbit with one punch; we still do sit through such affairs with a habituated tolerance. But, a few movies this year have sought to somehow make fights look a bit more real. Yudham Sei surprisingly loses out on this aspect with an embarrassingly obvious choreographed stunt atop a foot over-bridge. Aadukalam, however, gave us some absolutely raw stunts showing us that Vettrimaaran had grown as a film-maker since Polladhavan, which had a few fancy slow-motion moves in its climax fight. Mounaguru is on this list too with fights that looked every bit real. Of course, the hero does handle 3-4 guys at a time, but it never looks like ‘Superman vs. Mere Mortals’ stuff.
4. The sugar-coated climax!
Does the hero have to win all the time? No, it is the movie which has to win. Tamil cinema took up this sentiment wholeheartedly this year. You saw Dhanush’s character running away without proving his innocence in Aadukalam; though it was partly his choice. You saw Cheran’s character being suspended and reprimanded at the end of Yudham Sei, even though he succeeded in getting part of his mission done. You also saw STR’s character in Vaanam. Mounaguru is on this list too with a climax that shows how the system acts to protect certain interests.
5. The role of women!
Women have got a pretty good deal this year. We had Lakshmi Ramakrishnan’s absolutely gripping character in Yudham Sei; Dipa Shah also made a mark in the movie. Mounaguru gave Uma Riyaz Khan a cracker of a role in the form of an investigating officer which she took with open arms. Easily one of the best characters offered to an actress this year. One only wonders why director Shantha Kumar chose to have the lady cop pregnant throughout the film; the best guess is that he used her pregnancy as a kind of a time-scale indicator for the story, or that he wanted to show that a cop need not be aggressive and have a taut body language. Other reasons are difficult to find.
With so many things going for it, Mounaguru should be on your must watch list. It carries all the things that were good about Tamil cinema in 2011.
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