Where do I begin? Do I begin at the where?
Do I begin at the “Vaer (வேர்)”?
You know what I mean.
There was an audio cassette at home in the early 80s. It was titled “Crazy Thieves in Palavakkam”. And the only thing I remember from the audio recording of that stage play was the lead actor S.Ve.Shekher. It took a few years for me to learn more about the person behind the story of that stage play.
Rangachari Mohan, who went onto become “Crazy” Mohan.
Even though S. Ve. Shekher introduced me to Mr. Crazy Mohan, I moved onto Mr. Mohan for my Tamil humor soon after.
Many seeds of my humor were sown by Crazy Mohan. Even before I learned that there are specific terms called “wordplay” and “pun” for the kind of humor that came naturally to him, I was digging his humor, both knowingly and unknowingly. Crazy Mohan was original, authentic, and there was something childishly naughty about his humor, like he was always exploring. His humor was sometimes silly and sometimes profound. But always exploring. That made his humor work instantly as well as in a repetitive manner.
It was 1989, when Apoorva Sagodharargal was about to be released and I may have gone out for a game of cricket with my local friends. On our way back home, we walked past the theater where the movie was going to be screened in the next few days. A friend in our group, stopped us in front of a ‘wall poster’ of the movie and started talking about the crew behind this movie. Not actors or actresses. But the crew. He said how much he, an ardent Kamal Haasan fan was looking forward to his screenplay in this movie, how great a director Singeetam Srinvasa Rao was and why it was a big deal that he was part of the project. Then, he went onto talk about “Crazy” Mohan, and how this could be an interesting combination as he was new to the film industry (he had worked briefly on a K Balachander movie before that — “Poikkaal Kudhirai”). I certainly was familiar with Mohan through his plays, but had no idea what to expect from him through this movie. Somehow, this friend eloquently waxing about the crew of Apoorva Sagodharargal that day made a huge and a lasting impact on me.
So, right from that first big “Kamal Haasan – Crazy Mohan” combination, I was drawn to his style of writing, his genius wordplays, and his amazing chemistry with Kamal.
I do not intend to go on and on to talk about all the rib-tickling one-liners, and the mad rides he took us through in each film he did with Kamal Haasan in this post, but as I process the tragic news of his passing away today, I can’t but think of how much I owe him for all my laughter.
The only way one can pay tribute to the legend of a comedy genius like Crazy Mohan is by celebrating the abundance of humor that he has gifted us with.
So, I decided to start the day with the “Munnadi-Pinnadi” scene from Panchathanthiram and I probably will end the day with the “Mean/Fish (மீன்)” comedy from MMKR.
I mean..Is there a better way?
There has been no one who effortlessly made me laugh harder and louder through movies like Mr. Crazy Mohan did and for that I will always be grateful.
So long, and thanks for all the fish, Mr. ‘Crazy’ Mohan!!
“Life is a beautiful story, your story, and the best part of that story is when it changes.”
And who better knows how to write good stories than Kamal Haasan?
Six months ago, if someone had asked me if I would be writing a blog post on Kamal Haasan’s politics and his political entry in February 2018, I would have not only laughed it off, but also ridiculed the person for fabricating such a scenario.
Looking back, to be specific, looking back at the past two to three years of Kamal’s life, both on screen and off screen, mostly off screen (since he hasn’t been doing much work on screen anyways), I am not surprised that we are at this transition point on February 21, 2018, the day he officially starts his political journey as a ‘practicing politician’. As I string together the missing pages & connect the missing links, it is clear that after all, this is not such an emotional, sudden, and a path breaking transition for him. If you notice the transition now for the first time, you realize that the change has been going on for a while. Like the breaking of sunlight in the morning or boiling of water on a stove.
There have been enough hints in the past six months or so about his eventual political entry. But like many, I had chosen not to take them seriously or perhaps was blinded by my primary pinhole through which I have always been used to viewing Kamal Haasan, the influential movie star, the actor, the director, the literary connoisseur, the poet, the rationalist, the social commentator, and the passionate humanist. When it became very clear that the transition is for real, the rooted Kamal Haasan movie fan in me was very disappointed.
I was worried for the man and his eventual failure in politics.
True. I didn’t want someone I consider as a pragmatic intellectual and someone I have lot of respect for, being dragged into the kind of political dialogues and tricks that I am familiar with as the norm in Tamil Nadu. I wanted to protect the man from the operational rules of the political game and in general, how things work in Tamil Nadu politics.
Then I decided to give up on my selfish possessiveness as a fan. I didn’t quite accept the transition yet. But I was hoping that this would be more of a political commentary & social critic avatar that he would take, but in a structured way, much like the Voltaires of the world. All the while, keeping his cinematic connections very much alive. A bit more political than a hardcore activist, but a little less bounded by the rules of the game than an electoral politician. I was fascinated by the thought of how he could pull off social vigilantism using simple tools, effecting micro changes which all could add up. I was dreaming and I even imagined a few mechanisms using which he could pull that off.
That dream bubble burst in November 2017, when it seemed very clear that he was actually serious about a more direct political route. One that involved building a party ground up and eventually contesting in elections. The exact kind of politics that I didn’t want him to get into.
Fast Forward to January, 2018.
I began to feel that may be my uncertainty around embracing Kamal Haasan’s political entry was completely uncalled for. It had become abundantly clear to me that Kamal has in fact been chalking out this path for a while. All the signs of him merging with mainstream politics were always there. But I just didn’t want to look at them. These signs were in fact all the more evident in the past two-three years or so, when I try to look at his life closely.
The man is 62 now. He has gone through a very challenging and an absolutely tragic two-three years. Separating from a partner, losing his professional mentor, losing his personal mentor & brother, surviving an almost life paralyzing injury, battling with the government politically for the release of his movie, etc.
These are enough to drain a man out or enough to make a man analyze his life.
“What have I achieved till now?”
“What is left that I want to achieve?”
“And what in it is possible to achieve in my lifetime?”
It makes complete sense to me that for a man like Kamal Haasan, someone who has never been shy of voicing his opinion on societal issues, what those questions may have meant when he asked these to himself during the past 2-3 years.
Fast Forward to February 21, 2018.
Even though I am leaning towards Kamal Haasan picking February 21, 2018 purely as a matter of convenience considering all other logistical details, knowing the kind of writer & movie maker who likes to play with metaphors and symbols, that he is, I can’t help but wonder, why choose February 21 for the launch?
February 21, 1953 – It was on this day that Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA-molecule. The Watson-Crick model is the basis for understanding human genome. (They went ahead with sharing this information officially in a public manner only on Feb 28).
February 21, 1848 – It was on this day that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published “The Communist Manifesto” in London.
These are the two historic events that may symbolize Kamal Haasan choosing this day for his launch. Kamal being a staunch rationalist, and a strong proponent of science, there is every reason to believe that the DNA structure has a significant evolutionary symbolism as far as he forming a party & giving it a structure goes. And as for the communist manifesto, it’s quite obvious to correlate the significance.
But beyond the symbolism that the day brings, for me what is truly refreshing is to see his distinct approach to the launch of his political journey thus far. I can list many things to differentiate his approach thus far, but the one thing that has been acting as a huge inspiration and the one thing that has brought Kamal Haasan’s political journey closer to my heart, is his attempt to adopt villages and model them for future. I am sure I will have many things to say about that attempt, as that concept evolves into action.
For now, the very fact that a Tamil Nadu politician has dared himself to show results of his social consciousness and concern, without contesting in an election is reason enough for me to wish him well. Not as a fan. But as a keen political observer & as a social justice seeker.
And yes, I am no longer worried for the man and the man’s eventual failure in politics. Because I now understand that he wants to rewrite the definition of “failure” in politics.
One has to listen to Kamal Haasan’s birthday celebration speeches at these events organized by his socially conscious welfare associations to get to read the real man, his angst for society (not just local but global), his quest for knowledge, his rationalism, etc. Because these speeches are delivered for an audience who almost in a self-questioningly silly & an ironic way, idolize him. So he delivers these speeches not in a “preachy lectorial” manner, not in a rousing demagoguery manner to stir up emotions, not in a “Holier than Thou Spiritual Guru” sermonic manner..but in a “good friend who takes liberty to admonish you and advise you” kind of manner. So you could feel the anger, disappointment, embarrassment and guilt, all with a heavy dose of optimism for future.
This year’s speech was no exception.
From politics to Dawkins to the beef controversy to the science behind eating insects to the ‘in vougue tolerance’ debate (and of course a sly dig at the AwardWapsi movement and the silliness of it all), he covers it all with an underlying powerful rationalistic theme – delivered in a simplistic way, so his audience could get the core message. His mastery of the language ensures that if you don’t follow the speech careful enough, you would miss several gems (some hidden).