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

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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

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If you thought Pudhupettai was bold, you had to wait till Selva’s Aayirathil Oruvan to get a glimpse of film-maker’s maverick sensibilities as a writer.

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 had 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 idea of riotous celebrations. Horrific mob-manias at the slightest hint of the abstruse of conflicts. De-skinned war-prisoners that are used as foot-rests and dining stools! Primitive instincts slaying off societal niceties to start with, 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 and silver) 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!

And more importantly what a spine-chilling spectacle, the whole thing turns out to be! This sequence, which happens right after the break, downright knocks our socks off with its horrifying intensity after the rather-formulaic first half.

Even as we are lead to beleive 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 hear some blood vessels burst and your diaphragm almost 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 ‘grabable’ and stare ahead, shaking off the rocketing 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 an 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 then goes on a brutal 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 whole new world against your will, and a few nails thrust down your heart. Sometimes, it’s unbelievably painful. At other times, you realize that it’s just one of those fevered dreams.  The best 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.

An ode to Muththazhagu – Paruthiveeran’s priceless asset!

An ode to Muththazhagu, the girl who nailed Ameer’s unapologetic visualization of a lovelorn and headstrong village-belle (two tricky traits that could go either ways in an atmosphere reeking of chauvinism), exactly a decade after the film’s release…

-Mani Prabhu

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Muththazhagu, the female lead of Ameer’s second film, is so disturbingly real that she keeps unsettling you on many levels. And that unsettling gnaw is one of the reasons, Paruthiveeran continues to fascinate, after almost a decade.

Over the course of the film, you could see her childhood fascination for her cousin (Veeran) eventually metamorphose into mad love.

And into this one hell of an impetuous ride, Priyamani breathes so much mood and texture that many a time, it’s easy to forget that she is a mere work of fiction.

This particular sequence, where she challenges her casteist father, face-to-face, over her decision to live with Veeran, is one for the ages.

It is late evening. Muththazhagu returns home after a tryst with her lover to see things a little ruffled at home. She guesses the obvious. Her dad, who had always nurtured a deep-seated hatred for Veeran and his family, must have seen them together.

As she walks past the man leaning back on his chair, making sure not to let her eyes linger anywhere near him, she instantly knows what to expect. The silence, that shatters the house, seems strangely familiar.

Feigning all the obliviousness that she could muster, she struts inside with a smug indifference. The clearly-seething man immediately summons her, and confronts her with the truth.

Muththazhagu, having known her father and his sensibilities long enough to realize the futility of any sort of reasoning, instinctively retaliates with a “Yes, so what?”

A prompt queasiness fills the moment. We gulp, half puzzled and half terrified. Why not a measly excuse, escaping the wrath of the moment?

But Muththazhagu has other ideas. She stands her ground, staring into her father’s eyes.

Acting out our worst fears, the man pours out all his pent-up anger, every blow landing on her with brutal force. “How dare you?” He literally stomps on her in a fit of rage. It’s savage, to say the least.

Between the pain in her gut and her ribs, and the sudden onslaught of unimaginable slurs, the sight of her father going insane, isn’t something she had definitely wanted to see. But before she could even manage to defend, the blows keep descending on her.

“Leave me alone!” Somehow Muththazhagu manages to scurry back on her feet. Inhuman and almost murderous by now, the man pushes her back to the ground. As she attempts to sit up, a verbal blame game between the father and the mother ensues.

We expect a squeal for mercy. At least, a heart-breaking imploration. We get none. Not even a half whimper.

She looks ahead, unfazed. Her face burns of an inexplicable grit. Of a deafening determination. Of an inscrutable lucidity. It’s terrifying. You could almost make a horror movie out of it.

“What the hell!” The man, exasperated with the girl’s silent defiance, slams her against a wall, and starts attacking her with an umbrella. The ‘father’ almost disappears. All you could see is a wild brute that gets more barbaric by the minute.

“For Christ’s sake, just say it aloud. Just say something, girl! What would you lose?”

She doesn’t budge an inch. Can such skanky unruliness be met with such clear resilience? It would take a Muthu to know. “I am going to kill you now!” Its gets almost impossible to keep watching. Nothing from her side other than piercing looks and deepening breaths! At some moment, absorbing all the trauma, she manages to get a hold on the umbrella and throws it away.

He spits at her face. Wiping it away, she gives him that cold stare. It’s shuddering.

Unable to take in the speechless resistance any more, the man walks away with a irate slap. It speaks a thousand more abuses.

Simultaneously she gets up, walks up to the dining mat, sits on the floor and serves herself the dinner vociferously. “Why are all you staring at me like that? I am still alive, and I am hungry!” Her helplessness resonates around the room. One look at Priya Mani – badly bruised but resolutely holding on to scattered bits of self-respect – even as she hysterically makes her grandma serve the whole of the meat, and you would know why she took home the National Award that year!

Nilavai Konduvaa: Some true-blue hormonal magic!

Random thoughts on one of the most tastefully done sensual songs of the nineties, Nilavai Konduvaa

– Mani Prabhu

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Now, this is a stunner that screams SJ Surya in every passing frame.

The girl holds the reigns throughout. And that’s the bloody beauty of it.

Vaali gets down to business right away. The lady, hopelessly drunk on love, suggests every possible way to stretch the night. She craves for the moments to freeze. Its the kind of sensual jabber that permeates steamy twilight hours. We feel the high.

Her bottled-up desires start exploding into assertive commands. The man simply concurs. At least to start with. The impish subversion catches on us, like a charm.

Deva is operating outside of his comfort zone here. But surprisingly, nails it with the right blend of western orchestration and our very own music.

One moment he is playing around with suggestive percussions and the next moment, he smoothly segues into classical Hindustani. If that isn’t enough to silence the doubters, he follows it up with a textured version of ‘Kaakai Siraginiley’ from nowhere. The man, for sure, lives the aura.

But then, eclipsing many of these vivid details, two women own the song completely, making it breathe the ‘mood’ like no other.

Just listen to Anuradha Sriram’s trippy responses to Unni Krishnan’s teasing propositions and you would know,

அவசரம் கூடாது அனுமதி தரும் வரையில்…

பொதுவா நான் சொன்னா, நீ சொன்னபடி கேட்கும் சாது!

Unni retorts with a wily “இது போன்ற விசயத்தில் உன் பேச்சி உதவாது!”

But, before you could snap out of this yummy repartee, Anuradha reclaims her dominance with a tone that reeks of intoxicated passion…

மெல்ல இடையினை தொடுவாயா
மெல்ல உடையினை களைவாயா
நான் துடிக்கையில் வெடிக்கையில் முத்தங்கள் தருவாயா!

And boy, Simran! The actress plays this moment with such a bullish, sensual grace that you almost forget to blink. The kind of hormonal magic that lives up to the involuntary gape.

 

Poonnkuyil Paadinaal: Celebrating the Music called ‘Life’

A heartfelt tribute to the insanely talented, late Mr. Mahesh Mahadevan…

I would urge you to watch the song first if you are totally unfamiliar with it. The write-up works best when it’s read with the song playing in the background. But do remember to revisit the song again, after you are done with this.

-Mani Prabhu

What happens when a couple of brilliant actors battle it out with their respective, legendary vocalists over an absolute peach of a lyrical sequence?

Poonnkuyil Paadinaal kind of magic unfolds.

Two very different persons, struggling to shroud their apparent attraction to each other, loosen up over an eventful night, moving from moments of awkward closeness to those of delightful intimacy.

The beauty of it all? They bond over music.

He invites her over for a stint at the key-board. The lady starts off with a simple jingle. He takes it further with a smug improvisation. A palpable gawkiness hangs in the air.

She proceeds for a charm of a tune. He sneaks in with a couple of complementary keys. They are almost rubbing shoulders now. She responds with a brilliant refrain. He bends over to nurture the spell.

You get the drift. It’s almost like a twin ballad, her chords beautifully segueing into his, setting up the stage for something magical. It rounds off into a bewitching melody. They can’t stop smiling. Neither can you.

You have to hand it over to Mahesh Mahadevan here.  What an unprecedented grip over the fabric of the synergy! Very rarely does a prelude to a song turn out so endearingly spontaneous that it pulls the actors into the moment and lets them steer the happenings by simply being themselves on-screen.

And Haasan and Gautami effortlessly make the most of the setting. It’s one thing to share a great relationship with a co-star. But bringing alive the tricky warmth of an evolving attraction, complete to the minutest detail, is beyond histrionics.

Believe me… it entails much more than mere competency of the craft. Combined with the music, the hint at the chemistry bomb that is about to explode has to be seen to be believed! The timer has been set with aplomb.

With one hell of an intrigue that Vairamuthu pitches in style. What makes music ‘music’ and not just a jumble of sounds or noises? The duo eases into a lovely jam over the apparently intangible conflict.

And Chitra and SPB smoothly take over the reins here.

From the organised rhythm of a birdsong to an infant’s cry, the extempore musings are plain irresistible. Why does this formless ‘thing’ — at its core, a mere figment of the senses — hold such unthinkable intrinsic value in controlling the human mind?

The actors, and the singers, are literally competing with each other now. Is music in the notes, or the lingering silence in between? If ‘sound’ is required for music to exist, what form did it take in Beethoven’s mind? The vibes are alarmingly infectious.

பூங்குயில் பாடினால் நல்ல சங்கீதம்
குழந்தையின் அழுகையும் நல்ல சங்கீதம்

ஓசை எல்லாம் தீர்ந்து போனால் ஏது சங்கீதம்?
சத்தங்கள் இல்லாத மௌனங்கள் சங்கீதம்!

Especially, when Gauthami times the pepper-spray retrieval from her pouch with “சண்டையும் சங்கீதம்!”, sporting a superbly feigned nonchalance, you can’t help but grin.

But, if you think you are sold, remember that the show has just started.

Mahesh stages a strategic power shut-down to unleash one of the most fascinating musical interludes in the history of Tamil cinema.

Kamal’s ripostes continue to draw out the character from his somber mask every passing second. There is a deceptive rustle, followed by a stretch of dramatic silence. Haasan now strolls into the frame holding a lighted candle and a guitar. The picture instantly imbues the moment with an abstract sort of charm. Dramatic shoe-stomps resonate with anticipatory excitement. As he walks towards the lady’s silhouette, the lingering darkness dissolves into a muted glimmer on Gauthami’s face. She breaks into a radiant beam.

A breath-taking pause. And the heavenly guitar makes a sensational debut. Haasan’s stringing beautifully segues into SPB’s mesmerizing whistle, as the couple walk to the lawns. Everything about the setting is so freaking trippy that you could be excused for letting the high in Gauthami’s eyes slide.

The ‘stoned’ feel is understandably too much to handle. But Mahesh is in no mood for mercy. Once in the backyard, Chitra breaks into this ravishing hum, which along with the wizardry of the lead-guitar, is your straight-ticket to nadaville. Dare you resist the offer?

And before you could make complete sense of the ongoing narcosis, Vairamuthu takes over. The lyrical jugalpandi starts writing itself by the second charanam.

If relating to sounds is music, isn’t the whole idea a subjective pleasure?  If music is about structured repetition of sounds, isn’t it all encompassing -always present with us – as life goes on in the background? Is ‘intention’ a criterion for distinguishing music from noise? But again, isn’t it all about perspective?

The singers are almost on autopilot now. Everything flows.

ஸ்ருதியில் சேரும் ராகம் என்றும் கற்கண்டு…

பூவில் பாடும் வண்டு என்ன ஸ்ருதி கொண்டு!

Between accepted forms of organised intonations and free-spirited interpretations like that pollination and rains, the poetic swing ride is a delight to the senses.

With the singers settling into a cosy groove, and the misty moonlit-night nailing the mood, it’s a field day for Kamal and Gautami at work. Watch the way the man, close on the heels of Gautami, acknowledges her with a wry salute when she goes “நாங்கள் போடும் சந்தம் இன்பம் ஆனந்தம்” and then counters her with “மழையின் சந்தம் ஒன்றே என்றும் சுய சந்தம்”, springing a modest hand-fold.

But the best is yet to come. When he follows it up with an emphatic crossing of the arms, the self-assured aura it evokes easily escapes the confines of our limited language-comprehension skills. The moment is aced, Haasan style.

நேசமாக நீங்கள் கேட்பதென்ன பாட்டு?
மூங்கில் மீது காற்று மோதிய பழ பாட்டு.

The electricity is back. They amble inside. The lady’s curiosity about this man is at its peak. And so is the brilliance of the bass guitar in the background. A bookshelf that spills over into the bed and the carpet. Randomly scattered underwear on the couch. What an compelling personality this guy is turning out to be!

Vairamuthu takes it upon himself to elevate the sequence to the next level here. As Gauthami instinctively touches Haasan’s feet for her footwear accidentally brushing on him, she has absolutely no clue what she has gotten herself into. The man chides back casually.

The interplay of ideologies quickly escalates to clash on the ‘divine’. The lady revels at the way a certain kind of ethereal music establishes the omnipresence of the Almighty. Gauthami is in her element here. The pride and assertion of a strong theist shimmers in her eyes.

எங்கும் கடவுள் தேடும் தேவ சங்கீதம்…

SPB, on his part, edges up the drama with a retort that if music could be seen as spiritual nirvana, why can’t it be a quest for the elusive humanity? If music is a science, why shouldn’t it have been a time-worn expression of rationalism?

One look at Haasan holding a book on Periyar in one hand, while he goes “எதிலும் மனிதன் தேடும் எங்கள் சங்கீதம்!” and you could instantly feel the shiver. The goosebumps are for real.

Doesn’t the music of all life flow from the earth to the heavens and back? She knows she can speak her mind. The intimacy – the growing conviction that you would be understood no matter what – shows. He retaliates pronto by calling music as the art-form of the ‘equals’, and not only the select privileged.

தேவலொகம் கேட்கும் ஜீவ சங்கீதம்…

ஏழை குடிசை கேட்கும் எங்கள் சங்கீதம்!

The lady is not going down without a resilient brush. Picking up from where she left, she perseveres. At the end of the day, aren’t rewards the purpose of all art?

With a vehement nod, Haasan strikes back, almost nailing the true labour of love in a single line. The reflexive spurt of moisture in the beholder’s eyes! That’s the thing. It doesn’t come that easy. It needs to be earned. Every single speckle of it. And when it is, nothing in the world would come close to what the artist feels, that priceless moment. After all, it’s not without reason, this piece exists.

காசு மாலை தானே கலையின் சன்மானம்…

கண்ணின் துளிகள் தானே கலைகளின் வெகுமானம்!

FootnoteThe lyricist for this piece is Vairamuthu and not Pulamaipithan as mentioned earlier. The appropriate corrections have been made, and any inconveniences caused, regretted. 

Aasaiya Kaathula Thoothu Vittu: One Hell of a Sensual Trip

Do you know that you could go insane by continually pondering on the circumstances under which Raja comes up with tunes like Aasaiya Kaathula Thoodu Vittu

How does it work? Is it about a mysterious muse?

Is he truly and hopelessly inebriated on lust? Or is he just pretending to be?

Is he acing the moment by teleporting himself into the carnal nooks of the human psyche?

Or is he just playing God, by conjuring up emotions with a mere flutter of his fingers over the keys?

How can someone, in the real world, hit upon the idea of using this otherworldly ‘violin-bit’ for opening a supposed item-song, which in turn leads up to the such kinky percussions?

Even as you accede to Raja’s inborn knack of defying artistic rationale, Shailaja’s mesmerizing rendition builds up on a weird kind of erotic rhythm, which intertwines your reality with that of a raunchy dream.

You could almost sense the hedonic arousal now. Its a magician toying with your sensuality. As if that isn’t enough to detonate your already charged-up synapses, the simultaneous kindling of the soul and the hormones also makes you question your own amorous sensibilities. Its befuddling.

The scintillating flute, the provocative strings, and all the orgasmic-humming grace the magnificent interludes with an unparalleled fizz, further edging up the muddled libido.

It slowly starts to inch beyond the confines of ‘words’. Like being pulled into a lavish whorehouse and offered the option of bailing out, in return for a specific-something. Its a trap. An insanely brilliant one at that.

But two aspects underline the track’s uniqueness, even under the unapologetic shadow of Raja’s super-sensual orchestration. The first is the visuals that never at any moment, border on ribaldry. And the second is the delightfully minimalist choreography that lends a whole new dimension to eroticism.

When a gifted seductress like Subashini is involved, rhythmic heel-taps, subtle shoulder-jabs and piercing stares are all that are needed to bump the spectator’s hormone levels to hazardous heights

Lesson well learnt.

 

Kannum Kannum Kalandhu: The Tale of a Legendary Face Off

-Mani Prabhu

Can a ‘song-and-dance-sequence’ hold you in speechless raptures for a whole of eight minutes, forcing the casual blink to seem like the most arduous of efforts?

This delightful confrontation between two of the most exquisite danseuses of the era is one such sight to behold.

Padmini starts off with a stunning spree of Tavils and Naadhaswarams. The aura she evokes quickly transcends the tedium of technique. Nimble, graceful and fluid, she brings alive the character’s complicated romantic feelings by transfiguring every bit of the mundane into the sublime, with magnificent calm.  And suddenly, it all feels so transcendental.

கண்ணும் கண்ணும் கலந்து
சொந்தம் கொண்டாடுதே…
எண்ணும் போதே
உள்ளம் பந்தாடுதே!

Leela’s celestial voice, and the way Padmini carries it with the most mysterious of smiles, add an ineffable ‘something’ to the magic unfolding on screen.  The moment is almost impossible to capture in words, but in it, music and dance meet in blissful harmony.

கன்னி என்றேனடி கைகளை பிடித்தார்…
காதலி என்றென்னை கொஞ்சியே அழைத்தார்!

It’s a master dancer and a gifted vocalist nailing the portrayal of female agency like nothing the audience had seen before.

But then, in a moment of pure genius, the tables are flamboyantly turned on us.

As Vyjayanthimala joins the party, the track becomes insanely delicious with an unbelievable shift from poetic reverence to indulgent fun.  What started off as a classical purist melody suddenly explodes into this ravishing sensual delight! The audacity of the metamorphosis has to be seen to be believed.

PS Veerapa, in all excitement, goes “சபாஷ் சரியான போட்டி!” In fact he needn’t have. We instinctively hear it inside our heads.

Ramchandra’s orchestration is on a roll here. It’s almost like the song got doped on its way to the charanam. The unbolted vivacity is there to be felt.  In the foot-tapping beats. In the spirited rhythm. In every inch of the animated atmosphere.

ஜிலு ஜிலு ஜிலு ஜிலு வென்று நானே…
ஜெகத்தை மயக்கிடுவேனே!
கல கல கல கல வென்று ஜோராய்…
கையில் வளை பேசும் பாராய்!

And Vyjayanthi, on her part, is on some serious payback mode. With each sway of her head, each twist of her torso, each semi-classical gesture, each movement of her eyes, she weaves a captivating picture of deserving envy. It’s not about unadulterated art anymore. With an unprecedented mastery over the tightrope walk between classical and cinematic facets of the dance form, an unbelievable plasticity, and a unique follow-up crackling with energy from head to toe, she makes sure that her dancing breathes as one with her singer (Jikki)’s exuberant rendering of the showdown.

ஆடுவேன் பாரடி… பாடுவேன் கேளடி…
ஆடுவேன் பாரடி… இனி அனைவரும் மயங்கிட

ஜிலு ஜிலு ஜிலு ஜிலு வென்று நானே
ஜெகத்தை மயக்கிடுவேனே!

The ‘nerve’ had been touched. The game is on.

Padmini gets back with a recital that spills of precision and elegance. Effortlessly combining art with its aesthetic articulation, she breathes, feels and walks the dance. And Leela, singing for her, continues to nail the character’s knack of feigning an air of unmistakable repose.

ஆறு பெருகி வரின் அணை கட்டலாகும்
அன்பின் பாதையில் அணை இடலாமா?

With refined gestures, ethereal foot-work and a dainty flitter of her fingers, Padmini now seems like Bharathanatyam personified. It can’t get any more monumental.

பேதமையாலே மாது இப்போதே
காதலை வென்றிட கனவு காணாதே!

Giving you no time to revel in the shrewd riposte, Vyjayanthimala stages a thandava that erupts out from somewhere deep within. Myriad emotions of prejudice, jealousy and malice reflect in her steps, as she flits across the stage. Its breathtaking, to say the least.

சாதுர்யம் பேசாதடி…
என் சலங்கைக்கு பதில் சொல்லடி!

The tasteful stomp of a heel, the charming shuttle of an eyelid, the way she stretches her arms into space… in Vyjayanthi’s every manoeuvre, a new vocabulary takes birth – a language of form that breaks every single rule of classical dance.

நடுவிலே வந்து நில்லடி…
நடையிலே சொல்லடி!

When you are competing with one of the Travancore sisters, you can never really boast of a sustained advantage. And as awaited, Padmini bounces back in her inimitable style that relentlessly bolsters the aesthetic grammar of Bharatanatyam. But mind you, the first signs of resentment now start creeping up on the lady’s hitherto composed demeanour.

ஆடும் மயில் எந்தன் முன்னே
எந்த ஆணவத்தில் வந்தாயோடி?
பாடும் குயில் கீதத்திலே…
பொறாமை கொண்டு ஆடாதேடி

Even as the bite in her retorts start to sink in, Vyjayanthi takes the game to the next level by bringing in an element of mime to it. The steps start breathing the burning conflict now. Has it become less of a battle of expertise than an unruly ego-trip now? Jikki’s rendering of her narcissistic lines reek of a confidence, almost bordering on arrogance.

இன்னொருத்தி நிகராகுமோ…
எனக்கின்னொருத்தி நிகராகுமோ
இடி இடித்தால் மழை ஆகுமோ!

What follows for the next 120 seconds is an unearthly face-off between one of the best-trained classical dancers of the time, and the one who introduced semi-classical dance to Indian cinema!

Battling out on a complex platform of dramatics and narratives, they enthrall the initiated and the uninitiated alike – by infusing art with their own unique magic – by giving the dance form a whole new delightful dimension.

It’s not without reason that it is regarded as the best dance sequence in Indian cinema, more than six decades hence. Some cite professional rivalry between the leads. I choose to go with sheer passion for the craft.

Here is the Hindi version: