Thamizh Talkies: A downpour of emotion
The writer is a film producer and an art curator
Watching the grey Chennai sky this morning, I couldn’t help but reminisce about how and when rain became a ‘character’ in our movies. As far as my memory goes, I remember only two ‘rain songs’ from the black and white era that stood out. One is MGR, with a bunch of kids, in Chandrodhayam singing the politically loaded ‘Buddhan Yesu Gandhi pirandhadhu bhoomiyil yedharkaaga’, and the other is Sivaji Ganesan in the wonderful duet where TMS does NOT sing for Sivaji. I am talking about ‘Kaanaa inbam kanindhadheyno’ (Sabaash Meena) that is sung by TG Lingappa.
Songs and sequences with rain are tough to shoot. From costumes to light to the artificial rain and the atmosphere, everything will have to be in perfect sync during the ‘take’, or else a repeat of it all can happen only when set and costumes are dry again! Perhaps this is why we don’t really notice rain as an element of an effective scene, up until one director stormed into the movie marquee with his rain songs and rain fights and rain sequences. I am talking about Mani Ratnam, of course.
Think about it. When did the visual of a girl singing and dancing in the rain, garner applause? ‘Oh ho megam vandhadho’ in Mouna Raagam is a precursor to ‘Aathaadi ammaadi thenmottuthaan’ from Geethanjali (Idhayathai Thirudaathey). We see a rather in-character Velu Nayakar (Kamal Haasan) in the most effective Holi song of all-time, set in the pouring rain in ‘Andhimazhai megam’ in Nayagan. And a few years later, we see Surya (Rajinikanth), being introduced to us in a fight sequence set in pouring rain in Thalapathy. Rain adds drama, effect and helps a certain inner feeling come to the fore. It all depends on how useful rain is to enhance that particular moment or story-point for the character. Many years later, Mani Ratnam’s heroine of three films, Aishwarya Rai, also got one rain song each in Iruvar (Kannaikatti kollaathey), Raavanan (Usurey poguthey), and Guru (Nannaarey).
While on women, it can be seen that the main women characters inside a Mani Ratnam universe all have one thing in common: freedom. Rain then is a welcome ally to that freedom. Perhaps that’s what today’s rain will also bring? One can hope.