Kalavara Kangal, Karuppu Nira Idhayam; Nimirnthu Paar… Ennai Therigiratha!

Decoding the sensational interval block of Karthik Subbaraj’s “Iraivi”…

-Mani Prabhu

Continue reading “Kalavara Kangal, Karuppu Nira Idhayam; Nimirnthu Paar… Ennai Therigiratha!”

Pulp Fiction: A dance-duet, Quentin Tarantino Style!

Celebrating the rambunctious diner that “Jack Rabbit Slim’s” from ‘Pulp Fiction’ is

-Mani Prabhu

How can someone dance badly, hilariously and brilliantly at the same time?

Look no further than Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace (played explosively with a mesmerizing charm by John Travolta and Uma Thurman) in Pulp Fiction.

Every single detail about the fifties-styled restaurant “Jack Rabbit Slim’s” including dining booths fashioned out of classic vintage cars, in-house race tracks, waiting staff dressed up as popular stars, and the club’s customary couple dance contest are in essence, everything Quentin’s highly-stylized masterpiece stands for – self reflexive back humour steeped in meta and littered with inside jokes, a postmodern quirkiness that reeks of a callous irreverence, and most importantly, a genius blend of uber-cool vibrancy and a queasy discomfort of an imminent misadventure.

But before we discuss the actual bomb of a scene, let’s first take a look at how Quentin describes the setting/space that leads up to the drama, in jaw-dropping detail.


In the past six years, 50’s diners have sprung up all over L.A. giving Thai restaurants a run for their money. They are all basically the same. Decor out of an “Archie” comic book, Golden Oldies constantly emanating from a bubbly Wurlitzer (piano), Saucy Waitresses in bobby socks, Menus with items like the Fats Domino Cheeseburger or the Wolfman Jack Omelette, and over-prices that pay for all these bullshit.

But then, there is JACKRABBIT SLIM’S, the big mama of the 50’s diners. Either the best or the worst, depending on your point of view.

A big sign with neon-light figure of a cartoon surly cool cat jackrabbit in a red windbreaker towers over the establishment. Underneath the cartoon is the name, “JACKRABBIT SLIM’S”. Underneath that is the slogan, “Next best thing to a time machine.”

Now, see the amount of detailing that has gone into establishing the backdrop of the brewing outburst. You haven’t gotten a single word about the diner’s interior yet, but even before that, a vivid mental picture flashes, right? A detailed description about the restaurant’s ambiance along with the eventualities will happen later, but this is the level of brilliance being unleashed on us.

Moving on, we get a charming conversation featuring self-referential bursts of genius and the now-sensational 5 dollar shake.

Somewhere in the middle of the discussion, Vincent looks around and calls the place “A wax museum with a pulse rate”. He is not making random small talk. He is speaking your mind now. You are being lead into an idea.

More delightful talk about manufacturing bull-crap just for the sake of ‘etiquette’ or establishing closeness follow. The characters get defined with every spoken dialogue. And it keeps coming. On the way to the showdown, you stumble upon flecks of gold like these… “That’s when you know you’ve found somebody special: when you can just shut the fuck up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence!”

Both the characters get real-stoned, with Mia in particular, powdering her nose with a big line of coke, off the washroom sink.  Quentin grips us tight with a strangely-palpable tension regarding the multi-fold repercussions.

But after all this scene building, what Travolta and Thurman unleash on the unsuspecting audience, at that particular intersection of the narrative, by subverting every possible convention of a star stage performance, is nothing short of outrageous! We expect pounding action and thrills. But what we get instead is a bizarre, unimaginable piece of movie-magic.

Yes, agreed, its indeed a ‘twist’ contest. But, the actors go about the jig with an indisputable air of OD’ed hotheadedness and a body-language screaming of the “crack-rush”, making the whole thing seem like one insane cocaine trip. And it’s instantly infectious. You watch the oodles of edgy fun with a spring in your feet, a smile in your lips and despite all these, a fidgety knot in your stomach. Yes, the name is QT.

Travolta and Thurman literally go possessed, after a while. They scarcely ever touch each other or even move their feet. Every other part, however, goes sleazing. Thurman, in particular, aces the hip-thrusts and the shoulder-twirls with a super-suggestive scoff. Watch her giving those sassy glances in between, as she keeps spewing the “I don’t give a shit” look, and you’d know what I am talking about!

Just when you are grinning at the way Travolta is letting his non-existent twisting skills go on an almost-scandalous rampage, Thurman improvises akin to a true-blue crackhead, contorting her hand into an elephant’s trumpet. It makes no sense, but you gape. Travolta is least bothered. He starts off with the ambitious two-finger face mask step, as if he had spent a lifetime perfecting it. Together, they define the word ‘rambunctious’ that night.

Quentin, in his final draft, writes this piece of brilliance as Mia and Vincent dance to Chuck Berry’s “You can Never Tell”. They make hand movements as they dance. The description ends there. Yes, for real!

But, it’s more than enough for the talented actors to digest the conflict, take the baton over and own the moment. You know why? The context and the content, with all their idiosyncrasies, have been painstakingly laid out by QT to the minutest detail, even before we had gotten the first glimpse of the dance-stage.

The magic, deservingly, follows.

And, its indeed a sight to behold. And cherish. Even twenty-three years from now.

Onna Vida: Because Being Together Is Enough!

Celebrating the sensual delight that this masterpiece is…

-Mani Prabhu

The piece works best when it’s read with the track playing in the background.

It’s so quiet that all he could hear are her laboured breaths.

And then, there is this startling crackling of her necklace, caught under his neck.

They shudder for a moment, almost losing themselves to the unexpected rustle. But again, she smiles.

He responds with a sultry twinkle and pulls her closer.

Her body is now almost interlaced in his. Just like the creepers braiding themselves under water. For a moment, you imagine an invisible rope tying them down together. She seems lost… somewhere within him, only to find herself reveling in the drift.

அல்லி கொடிய காத்து அசைக்குது
அசையும் கொளத்துக்கொடம்பு கூசுது
புல்லரிச்சு பாவம் என்னை போலவே அலை பாயுது!

The union of their souls. It now seems like the inevitable.

They lay bare, eating into each other, beneath the moonlit sky, enveloped by the stars.

He slithers over her neck. She doesn’t resist. But, she swerves a wee bit.

A gasp breaks into a fiery kiss.

She can now feel his heart-beat on her chest. Does it bother her? Or is it the wet embrace?

He nibbles on her earlobes for a while, as she crumbles in passion. The sensual breeze adds to her torment.

நிலவில் காயும் வேட்டி சேலையும்
நம்மை பார்த்து சோடி சேருது
சேர்த்து வைச்ச காத்த துதி பாடுது சுதி சேருது!

What must be running in her mind, as he pauses to whisper his love in her ears, tightening his grip around her waist, all the while?

A shiver sizzling down her spine, she retracts her head a bit, and manages a half-simper.

He murmurs a little louder, letting his wet lips linger over her hair-line for an extra second, making sure that she gets the playful scorn.

It works. She instantly gives in to the charm. As the ripples get quicker, she pulls harder at his torso, letting her finger-nails run through his bare shoulders, all the way down to his palpable sacrum.

என்ன புது தாகம்…
அனல் ஆகுதே என் தேகம்!

He trembles instantly, giving out a muffled wail – a complicated series of agonized, rising vowels – and as if realizing the unintended breach of quietude, tries to hide it in a manly quiver and loosens his grasp a little.

Has she touched one of his ‘spots’ unknowingly? Had she gripped him too tight? 

And the next moment, their eyes meet briefly, begging for an explanation.

Enough of all the strokes and the tease… Her gaze screams. He didn’t hear it. But, it’s loud and clear, resounding through the shaggy ends of the tall branches.

Between the unlikely sweat in the coldness of the silvery waters, and the slippery rocks – random pieces of clothing scattered on the banks – they consume their love in the shallows, underneath a blanket of stars.

யாரு சொல்லி தந்து வந்தது…
காணா கனா வந்து கொல்லுது
இதுக்கு பேரு தான் மோட்சமா!

How would it be if none of this ever ended? The love, the passion, the overwhelming sense of completion…

As she loses herself in the sensual haze, that’s probably the only thing she could think of.

உன் கூட நான் கூடி இருந்திட
எனக்கு ஜென்மம் ஒன்னு போதுமா..
நூறு ஜென்மம் வேணும், கேட்குறேன் சாமிய!

Kodai Kaala Kaatre: A Burst of Blissful Nostalgia!

Celebrating the song that a generation, warming up to sophomore first-love, went crazy about…

-Mani Prabhu 

The piece works best when it’s read with the track playing in the background.

You remember that third-semester college trip to Kodaikanal, when you were clinging on to last row of the bus with your horde, immersed in the glorious boys’ ruckus, and she, for no particular reason, turned back, giving that piercing stare and you almost froze in the middle of that “ohhhhhhhh” that was dedicated to someone you can’t finitely recall…

Did she know then that you liked her? Was it some sort of an affectionate nudge, so that she could get the point across and also maintain a ‘decorum’ before her friends?

Thinking of it, did she mean anything at all? To you? To your teenage sentiments?

The tea-shop incident on the thirteenth hairpin-bend didn’t help, right? To make things clearer.

When you were passing the hot glasses one by one, getting each one from the sweater and monkey-cap clad master at the counter, and she standing next to you, holding every cup just for a little more, letting your fingers graze over hers for an extra split-second, all the while, holding onto a mockingly reactionless face…

What kind of “tease” was that?

That inebriated look that wouldn’t descend from your face, as you tried sipping your tea, walking up to that lonely boulder – a good two hundred hundred meters from where your bus was parked! “Dude, you got stoned?”  That confused guy’s doubt still rings in your ears, doesn’t it?

While you were staring at the mountains that seemed less mysterious compared to her that day, did she steal a moment’s gaze from the other side of the road?

How simple would it have been if it had ended there! For you. And for the world around.

But did it? Why should the rotis be over, all of a sudden, before you could finish your crazy photo-shoots and come take your plateful, on the lunch-spread in the lawns, the second day? Why should she notice that, in the hustle of all that compelling girly chit-chat… walk all the way from her gang, and offer you a couple? Why should you, despite having your favourite chicken curry already on the plate, deny at first, then take them and scurry back to your pack as fast as your legs could carry!

Were you indeed, somewhat special to her, in that bunch? Was something truly bursting out? As if, from a cocoon?

You could have known better, if only had she chosen to talk, instead of merely lifting her hands clearly in your direction, as if coaxing you to pull her on to the Dolphin’s nose, when there were at least twenty other boys around, only happy to help. But did she?

All these could have just been a loner’s romantic reverie if only… Yes, if only had she not stared into your eyes that way, straight through the flicker of the bonfire on the gardens of the youth hostel, on the third and final night of that fateful trip.

But alas!

Life had to get back to normal. Destiny had to give that sarcastic sigh.

Lectures, purely work related lab meets, gleeful hi-fis in elaborate birthday bashes, benign beach photographs with loads of feigned comfort, ridiculous doubts about the bare basics to just-pass the painful internals, all these and more.. but, if only had she told what was running in her mind, before you came to know, on a random sixth semester evening that she was going steady with the lead-singer of your college band.

Reality had to give that confusing slap. That was the “design”.

Irrespective of the kind of practical ‘so-so’ that transpires in this story from then on-wards… when after a couple of decades, you drive up Kodai in your car with this song playing in the stereo, you will look back fondly at all these images playing out in retro wave freeze-frames, and realize in a moment of gooseflesh-worthy nostalgia, why all these had to happen.

Till then, hang on. Life is good with Raja around.

Shreya Goshal’s Sun Raha Hai Na Tu: One Hell of an Unsettling Hypnosis!

 The write-up works best when it’s read with the song playing in the background…

Mani Prabhu

Continue reading “Shreya Goshal’s Sun Raha Hai Na Tu: One Hell of an Unsettling Hypnosis!”

Mozhi’s Archana: Truly, One of a Kind!

A tribute to the lead-lady of Mozhi, portrayed brilliantly by Jyothika, ten years post the film’s release…

Mani Prabhu

Yeah, the truth still stares us in the face.

The prospect of a real woman in flesh and blood – complete with all her obstinacy and insecurities – happening in our cinemas, and ending up not being judged for ‘being’ her self, continues to be slim.

But, Archana is that rare occurrence – someone you could bump into on a normal day, and be readily intrigued.

When Karthik first chances upon her, it is admiration at first sight, as he trips over her conviction to stand up for what she thinks is right.

You know that feeling when you inadvertently fall for something in someone, and you are instinctively smitten? It’s not about the appearance or the perfections. It’s something else. Many a times, it’s an indescribable aura. Well, it hits you when you are least expecting. Bulbs flicker. Bells resound. And you sort of realize that something in you yearns for their attention.

Karthik does. More so, when he learns three crucial details over the course of the week, all of which skyrockets his fascination for her. One, she happens to be deaf-mute. Two, she is averse to relationships in general, thanks to the deep scars her father’s desertion had left her with. And three, she lives in the same apartment as him.

Karthik gets introduced to her and attempts to strike up a friendship. They get along well, but as he warms up more and more to her enigmatic appeal, he just cannot stop himself from going crazy out of love.

Desperately wanting to impress her, he decides to learn sign-language out of the blue one fine day. He puts in a lot of effort to pick up the basics.

Things initially seem to fall in place. The girl is quite impressed. But Karthik’s new-found enthusiasm knows no bounds.  One day, in an emotional high, he tells Archana that it’s a beautiful feeling to be able to imagine her voice through their gestural interactions, something he had hitherto missed.  One look at his face beaming with love, and you instantly know that the man’s intentions are genuine.

Everything about the scene and the staging screams of a cutesy romantic moment. Years of cinematic experience had Pavlov-conditioned us to anticipate the heroine blushing her way into a sweet song.

But Archana is not that heroine.

She cuts him off midway. And looks daggers at him.

She is unable to come to terms with the fact that her friend had attempted to compensate for her disability by creating a rather convenient version of her persona.

“If you have to please me or some part of your self by imagining a voice every single time I speak , you might as well not talk to me at all!” she walks away.

Her belligerence almost borders on hardened rudeness. Yeah, she wants the people in her life to accept her the way she is. Fair enough, but could she have been a little patient and sensitive in explaining herself?

Why must she? She is daring and uncompromising. But she is not flawless.

Compromises and sympathy just won’t do. Not in her dictionary; in any form.

Her obstinacy and commitment issues make her a tough character to connect with. But that’s just her. One of a kind.

Kaadhal Kondein’s Ace Moment: Just Film-making Brilliance or a Dash of Meta?

A write-up on one of Selvaraghavan’s most scintillating scenes on the man’s birthday…

Mani Prabhu


When the shoddy-looking Vinoth walks into a college classroom in an early sequence of Kaadhal Kondein, Selvaraghavan, the filmmaker seemed to hint at a peculiar kind of writing – one that spoke more to the soul than the cerebral neurons – an art he had arguably perfected over the course of his career.

In this stretch in Kaadhal Kondein, where we come to know more about the introverted Vinoth, Selva effortlessly turns the tables on us by making us root for the traumatized young genius – someone we and the entire class had viewed with loathsome indifference – moments earlier.

“How do these idiots even get into college? See the kind of reservation policies we are reeling under!” The professor sighs under his breath, spewing endless venom at the ilk Vinoth vaguely represents and the skewness of our selection policies – till the unkempt youngster, unsettled by the fleet of cold-stares that relentlessly drill into his bewildered psyche, manages to find a seat in a lone corner.

Soon, in a moment of tense unease, the professor luckily stumbles upon an excuse to plough on his deep-etched aversion for the shabby-looking guy. When he finds Vinoth stealing a measly-nap during his lecture, he readily humiliates him before the whole class by labeling him ‘undeserving’, and lay bares the scruffy guy’s apparently conspicuous nitwittedness.

The chalk-duster, thanks to the Professor’s rage, lands on Vinoth’s forehead painting half of his face, absurdly white. The boy stares ahead, unable to breathe, completely overwhelmed by this unexpected barrage of slurs. Blaming dunces like Vinoth as the cause for Engineering education never finding an ultimate ‘purpose’, the Professor challenges the befuddled boy to solve a problem, which had taken him two days to make sense of.

“Have you ever seen the equation in your life? Forget it. At least, go to the board and stand like a scarecrow. You could, at least, get to see some of the symbols for the first time!”

The scorching words resound through the room. We wait with bated breath for Vinoth’s reaction, as he stands there helpless, fear slowly eating into disgrace, like a deer frozen in front the headlights in a crowded Highway, chalk-speckles splintering off his countenance.

Poor guy! It’s quite a hard sight to take in. An orphan by circumstances, who had grown up in his own personal space, suddenly pushed into the judgmental claws of reality with unapologetic force! You half-wish a Hollywood ‘feel-good drama’ moment where the professor turns all benevolent, calls him back and gives him some gooseflesh pep talk in the lines of what you truly are is what you are in the inside.  Alas!

Just as the professor continues his never-ending dressing down, faint rustles echo through the room, which slowly escalate into unmistakable murmurs.

Yuvan’s soul-stirring background score now makes an artful appearance.

As Vinoth walks back to his spot with an unruffled shrug, after nonchalantly dissecting the equation into its core pieces on the blackboard, and continues his ‘thug life’ siesta – but not before returning the piece of chalk to the professor on his way – Selva seems to be making some sort of a statement.

There is much more to diffident, self-conscious introverts, than what meets the eye.

The chef-d’œuvree punch? The meta-ness of it all.

A smaller version of this piece was first published in http://www.iflickz.com


Aayirathil Oruvan’s “The King Arrives”: A Small Step for Parthiepan; A Giant Leap For Tamil Cinema!

A tribute to a phenomenally written and staged sequence by Selvaraghavan, on his birthday…

Mani Prabhu


If you thought Pudhupettai was bold, you had to wait till Selva’s Aayirathil Oruvan to get a glimpse of the filmmaker’s bohemian sensibilities.

Exactly at the half-way mark, Aayirathil Oruvan transforms into this unimaginable monster that consumes you scene by scene, moment by moment, till you are left strangled, gasping for air.

Believe me; it’s like nothing you have seen before.

The boundless darkness that lurks the bizarre settlements.

The macabre milieu that screams of squeamishness in every blood-churning sight.

A staggering counter-evolution – over centuries of physical and mental torment – forcing the ‘near-human’ inhabitants through the opposite spectrum of the Darwin’s scale in the Palaeolithic age.

The starving savage-brutes who wouldn’t give a rat’s arse to turn cannibalistic.

Their queasy moral compasses.

Their nerve-shuddering rituals.

Their ghastly, rehashed version of celebrations.

Monstrous mob-manias that transpire at the slightest hint of the abstruse of conflicts.

De-skinned war-prisoners who double up as foot-rests and dining stools.

Primitive instincts slaying off societal niceties to start with and slowly proceeding to gorge on whatever humanity, that is left of.

The re-imagining of one of the most revered of Tamil dynasties (habitually portrayed as altruistic royals coated in blemish-less gold) as a destined, reverse nature-selected rabble of grisly, blood-curdling barbarians – killing each other for food and survival – needs the guts of someone like Selva to see the light of the day.

And what a priceless fortune that it did. More importantly what a spine-chilling spectacle, the whole thing turns out to be!

This sequence, which happens right after the interval, downright knocks our socks off with its horrifying intensity.

Even as we are lead to believe that the adventure trail would continue for another hour or so, with an escalation of Indiana-Jones troupes, mind you, we are served this… with a disturbingly unsympathetic nonchalance. It’s like a sucker-punch to the guts.

Trust me, it instantly feels dizzy.

When you first see the blood-splattered slaves pulling the royal chariot in the background of the diabolical percussions and the looming shadows of the fire lamps, you could almost feel your diaphragm collapse. The chaos is deafening.

And now it happens.

It’s akin to a sinister orgy, albeit, one that is forcibly stripped off intercourse.

Amidst psychotic cries of reverence, strange convolutions of the dance form, and howls of long-gnawing indignation, the ‘king’ makes an appearance.

The recurring fade-to-blacks and the intervening ghoulish imagery makes it look like a bad ‘speedball’ trip.

You just hold to anything ‘grabbable’’ and stare ahead, shaking off the spiraling chills.

A crater of raw-animal flesh is brought to the arena.

The ‘almost-walking-dead’ rush in like lifeless zombies, attempting to grab a mouthful.

The guard slays the creatures, one after the other, with a vacant stare on his face.

And now, the ‘king’ takes on the baton with a riotous, yet alarming fanfare.

Slaves are beheaded. Blood bathes the screen. And the man steps out on the reddish-brown wetness.

You jump out of your skin.

The ‘king’ proceeds to go on a killing spree on some more voracious commoners, who are turning hysterical in ravenous hunger.

A woman carrying a baby walks out to him, pauses a moment, and squeezes her nipple.

Blood squirts out.

You instinctively look away. Words fail.

It’s like being pulled into a whole new morbid universe against your will, and a few nails thrust down your sentience.

Sometimes, it’s unbelievably painful. At other times, you realize that it’s just one of those fevered dreams.

But, the magical parts are the times when you can’t tell the difference.

That’s Selva for you, unleashing his magic, from a pedestal far far away from mainstream Tamil Cinema.