I was born in 1964 and so were many of my childhood mates. How do friends and our families, near and dear of all ages and sizes, celebrate the golden jubilee, which of course is a gift of God and by no means ‘our’ achievement? There has to be fun and fellowship; ‘kick’ and kummalam; heady stuff and heartfelt solace; tears from nostalgia and naughty jokes alike; leg-pulling and back-slapping.
Well, I can think of just one recipe that has all these ingredients. A delicious dish which too is fifty-years-old, yet fresh as if it was made now and very fulfilling to a famished soul: Kaadhalikka Neramillai, the immortal Romcom, to use current jargon! Its uniqueness is that it has nary a detractor, a rarity in a cinema-crazed State polarised by heroes. The masses and classes, critic and connoisseur are all so smitten there is hardly any inclination to find fault. Its universal and timeless appeal has made it a celluloid monument for fun.
By ‘64 young C.V.Sridhar was already a veteran of many super hits. He had launched and nurtured many successful stars. A man with a distinct taste and technique and a penchant for experiment, Sridhar is the author of many innovations that defy lisiting. But Kaadhalikka Neramillai remains his highpoint, a signature film that also stands out as a watershed in the nation’s tinsel history. The full-length laugh riot is a permanent template and benchmark for comedy. Canopied cars, trendy costumes, resplendent colours, exotic locales, slick camerawork, unusual script and screenplay, breezy dialogues – KN is replete with novelties unknown to that era and marked Sridhar as a true ‘Pudhumai Iyakkunar’, way ahead of his times.
But the highlight is the daring self-spoof, a first of its kind. Nagesh’s character and comments as a half-witted, wannabe director, his search for that elusive story, his multiple ‘duties’ and all of his antics are the ultimate mockery of movie-making. But Sridhar and the gutsy Gopu pulled off this satirical inside job with gay abandon and absolute relish. Nagesh’s rollicking role is now the stuff of lore. While we are familiar with virtually all of the minutiae and nuances, still every viewing reveals something new: a subtle movement we had missed, a modulation that went unnoticed, a rendering that got lost in the ocean of jokes and jibes. To name one: Nagesh’s quip just before Sachu’s sizzling item dance: ‘old men will like such things’ delivered with mischievous nonchalance! None like Nagesh!
Balaiah revels at his hilarious best. An actor who could never be cloned, he is the pivot of KN. And he carries the movie on his experienced shoulders with casual aplomb. His on-screen chemistry with Nagesh, the facial gestures and body shiftings and spontaneous displays of irritation, anger and concern at the very sight of his movie-manic son will evoke laughter even in sleep. ‘Financier alias father’ Visvanathan and ‘Chalabba’ are unlikely to fade away. And Muthuraman! A top-notch performance on par with the above two. The ease with which he moves between a young groom and an old widower accompanied by the appropriate voice and demeanour change cannot simply be called acting: It is a true to life double-life. These three actors were really on rampage.
KN is a musical fest and feast with the original maestros Visvanathan and Ramamurthy in full flow. The flood of songs and BGS capture the jest and zest that the movie exudes. Kannadasan lets out a volley of lilting lyrics in both chaste and common-place lingo to suit situations. My favourite is the theme song, Kaadhalikka Neramillai, in which he scales new poetic peaks. In the first two stanzas he makes out a case for aged suitors, their piques and pluses. And then as Muthuraman sheds his garb, Kannadasan breaks into an energetic, joyous mood with the metaphor of visiting the other world and drinking the nectar of youth. Seerkazhi Govindarajan, PB Srinivas, Yesudas, Susheela and LR Easwari still croon in our ears.
This team work of titans is an all time treat, nay, therapy. If laughter is the best medicine KN is the best pill. On a bad day even a small dose of this feel-good film on You Tube is sure to make mind and body lighter and livelier. And there is message too. When Nagesh says ‘movie is what I make and viewers have no choice but to see it’, that humour hides a high truth, the irony of human hubris and helplessness. Do we all have a choice other than just watching the happenings on the big screen called world? What, Mr Visvanathan?
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