Sargam is a delicate and highly musical story told using a subdued emotional palette and a wonderful backdrop of Carnatic music. The story revolves around two characters, Hari and Kuttan Thamburan, who have grown up very closely right through childhood. One forms a close bond with the lead female character, Thangamani. Kuttan Thamburan, however, has a recurring problem of fits, and eventually it is advised that he marry Thangamani. Although the elders are aware of Hari’s love for her, they make their decision and he defers to them out of respect and leaves the village. Soon after, Kuttan Thamburan learns that he has unintentionally betrayed his friend and commits suicide. The sight of his body sends Thangamani into a state of trauma for the next several years, after which Hari returns to visit his home and comes to terms with what has happened.
Archive for the ‘Misc Posts’ Category
Came across this interview of Suresh on Indiaglitz (Link), and was interested to see him discuss his ideas on the strength of the 80s film industry and the reason for the successes of actors like him: namely, a consistent and dependable musical backbone (Ilaiyaraja), and a strong batch of local heroines. Both are increasingly absent today (with ARR having expanded outside of Tamil Nadu, and as for heroines…let’s not even discuss it). While I would add a few more things to that list myself, he earns points from me for the humble acknowledgement.
I’m going to talk a little today about the strange phenomenon of Muthu being successful in Japan. Through a combination of marketing and large word-of-mouth, it became a fad in the couple of cities it was shown in cinemas- “If you don’t see Muthu, you’ll regret it”, people would tell each other (so I hear, anyways). So why did Muthu appeal to the Japanese enough to make a splash? I’ve read Japanese reviews of the movie (with my minimum Japanese reading ability), and it seems like a mix of escapism and culture shock. Consider that the modern Japanese lifestyle is very stressful and fast-paced, and Japanese society has become increasingly consumerist and generally very concerned with status. So you can see why the story of Muthu, with Rajini roaming around on his carriage singing the optimistic praises of a simple life untainted by money would appeal to a certain tired, stressed generation of Japanese. Of course, all the singing and dancing provides a sort of nonsensical, exotic fun to them. Meena’s “charm” also earned her a minor Japanese fanbase as well. There are, of course, zealous fans of Rajini who believe that he has become a celebrity in Japan and that Japan thinks Muthu is an amazing film. That is mostly exaggeration.
Here’s a brief quote by Takashi Miyamoto, a Japanese school teacher: “There is so much of humour in it (Muthu). One never finds this in Japanese cinema”. Japanese cinema trends towards artistic realism. For this reason, when more dramatic Tamil films like Bombay were later marketed in Japan, they weren’t nearly as successful as Muthu. That’s because the Japanese already have dramatic films, and they’re among the best in the world, so why do they need Indian dramatic films? Muthu, on the other hand, provided a certain fairy-tale-ish heartwarming positivity. Japanese viewers don’t think it’s amazing filmmaking – I’ve read over some reviews on Amazon Japan, and they usually go like this: “it’s a simple movie, kind of weird and silly, but I had fun watching it.” A simple fun story with clear-cut morals and an optimistic view of life – that’s basically what appeals to them that they can’t find in Japanese movies, just like they turn to Hollywood for excessive big budget movies that the Japanese don’t care to make much of on their own. In fact, I heard it once described as “Like a Disney movie, but for adults”.
As for my thoughts on Muthu, there’s not much point in reviewing it. There is a brand of film called a “Rajini” film which has been established for the past 20 years. When I was a little kid, I probably watched Muthu a million times. Now that I’m older, that kind of obsession is long gone, but I guess I will always have a soft spot for it in terms of nostalgia.