Rajnikanth is an inevitable part of life in Tamizh Nadu. As a kid, his giant hoardings, towering over life, trees and advertisement billboards, became indelible in the mental map of Madras and its geographical identity. Words like ‘Super Star’ are rarely prefixed to someone’s name, and Rajnikanth is one of those unlikely characters who has his own fiefdom in the Tamizh Movie Industry.
When Chandramukhi (CM) was slated for release in 2004, and people found out it was a paranormal story, there was the initial fear. You see, another recent release of his, Baba had been a strange concoction of budding politician turned spiritual healer turned superman without tights. Baba assaulted every sense. Aesthetically it was a painful movie to watch, but even more painful was the absolute lack of point. Chandramukhi on the other hand seemed more promising. It was to be a remake of a hugely successful Malayalam movie Manichitrathazu(MT). MT was a psychological thriller, and had an amazing cast – including Shobana, Mohanlal, who seemed to be perfect fits for the roles. In its own way it was a shout-out against superstition, and dealt with an easy pop-psychology, without trivializing psychological processes. The music, Shobana’s absolute grace as a Classical Dancer, a brilliant and understated performance by Mohanlal make the movie a delight even today.
Cut to CM. The movie was released and as expected, was a major hit. The story line was distorted beyond belief. CM not only had a girl-turns-schizophrenic storyline, but additionally, decided to add an enraged ghost to it! The spirit of a wronged dancer, who insisted on speaking only in Telugu in a Tamizh movie. Jyothika starts off on a decent note, but the concept of subtle statements is lost on her. And Rajnikanth’s idea of a psychologist is worth shredding to bits and burying deep. He is a psychologist who can READ people’s minds (which means he can hear what you think!). The concept of treatment doesn’t exist. And who has heard of medication anyway?
So you have a couple who goes to a village. (Prabhu and Jyothika) They have a super friend who seems to be morally incharge of their wellbeing, and makes an entry into the movie through a fightscene in the first five minutes. (Superstar Rajnikanth) The couple buys a palance and decides to live in it. Since Jyothika has had a troubled childhood, she is vulnerable to psychological disorders (and as this story would have it..) and ghosts inhabiting her body and being!
Well, I suppose more impossible stories have been made into films. But while watching the movie, some bits really pissed me off. Even now in rural India, we have instances of beating up women when they are assumed to be possessed. And now you have a movie that advocates that psychological treatment is crap, and the only thing that works is well.. exorcisim. While it is a free country, it angers me no end when one manipulates psychology to suit a masala movie. Movies influence us. Go ahead, motivate more people to seek a tantrik instead of a doctor when they are mentally ill!
Crossposted at NaachGaana.