It was well past midnight. I was searching for this old classic, Swathi Muthyam as I heard highly of the film and its director K.Vishwanath. I have been hearing about three of his films particularly, out of which I have already seen Salangai oli. Of the other two Sankarabharanam and Swathi Muthyam, I found the plot of Swathi Muthyam interesting and found it in YouTube. But damn, there were no subtitles. So I had to postpone my plans until I find this movie with subtitle elsewhere. I was about to close the window and go to bed but another movie caught my attention which I have already seen it in school days,Guna. I was not particularly impressed and had a vague memory of the story. And with the string of Hollywood psychological thriller movies and movies about deranged minds I acquainted myself in the recent past, some part of my mind asked why not I try this movie to see how our own counterparts had done.
I had not been a big fan of kamal movies until my early twenties where I liked Hey Ram. And obviously knowing the tragic plot of Guna I did not want to see it fully. So there I was, an insane guy in the midst of the usual-manic-movie-watching-spree well past midnight wanting to just check out a movie to get a feel of it.
I turned the movie on. Time elapsed and when I was 30 minutes into the movie I found it odd that I had not skipped any scenes. Usually if I check out a movie I just skip and see only the most interesting or engaging scenes.An hour elapsed and until then there was only one scene that could tickle my part of the mind that wants it to be marveled, inspired and stupefied while watching a movie.
After the initial set up of the story part it got better, those marveling, mildly stupefying elements in the scenes could be seen often. For the next 45 minutes or so it made me laugh, wonder, empathize and appreciate. I thought it wasn’t that bad an idea to catch up the movie giving up sleep. When I was thinking on those lines being glad, there came a blinder. A blinder of 20 minutes, an awe-striking twenty minutes of pure awesomeness, complete brilliance after which I knew a tragic climax is brewing.
Tragedies, as they say, are not my cup of tea when it comes to movies and books. Though I could appreciate movies of any genre as long as there is element in it, I am just another guy who grew up liking all-is-well-at-the-end type of movies. So I thought of turning it off and I almost did. By then I was reminded of such a movie, a movie of sorts that has a tragic ending. The movie’s name was American History-X which taught something about the right interpretation of movies sometime ago. The lesson was tragedy could sometimes be poetic and profoundly beautiful if presented well.
I wondered whether I could apply what I learnt there and decode Guna in the right sense. Eventually I got back and completed the rest of the movie that ends with the vividly-remembered-image of kamal jumping from the hill. It was not all poetic as expected. But when I thought more deeply from a creator’s perspective I realized there couldn’t be any other better way of ending it.
When I said about lesson learnt from American History-X I forgot to add couple of other points. The poetic element of such tragedies, I referred earlier, is not readily visible. They hide behind the cloak of fate, co-incidence which we give as reasons for the tragic endings. They remain hidden until we uncover the cloak, until we interpret the reasons for such endings in a different angle or the right perspective may be.
In American history-X, Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) is a neo-Nazi racist who is sent to prison for killing two Black guys who try to steal his car. In prison he becomes an outcast because of his white superiority theory and everyone awaits their chance to strike. Derek is subjected to a brutal incident; a black man whom he got acquainted in prison helps him out of it. Change of beliefs happen and Derek realizes his mistake of racism. He is released from prison and to his dismay finds that his younger brother is following his own footsteps that could end up in a disaster. He explains him about what he thinks now and his brother sees the point.
Seeing this one would think that there is an all-is-well kind of climax on the cards. But to one’s surprise his younger brother is killed by a black kid next day in school. Derek finds his body and he breaks into a cry. The movie ends.
The screenplay, plot, the philosophies and the entire movie proved brilliant except for the climax. It seemed artificial in the otherwise well thought out script. The protagonist’s character arc was complete, and he was no more a racist. He is a changed man; he has succeeded in stopping his brother from treading a wrong path. All was fine, everything had been answered and what is the point of killing the brother? I pondered over this and it stuck to me in a while. When I dissected it in terms of a story and its ending it did not make sense but when I did think in terms of the journey of the character (i.e. of protagonist's) it made all the sense. I realized that there could not have been any better climax.
The climax actually was the real testimonial to Derek’s change. With his brother’s corpse in his lap he is presented with two choices. Either, he could give himself to anger and go on a killing spree as he did earlier or he can be the changed soul who knows violence and hatred doesn't solve anything. Derek chooses the second and that decision completes his character arc truly. After that I began to see the importance of moving the story in relevance to the protagonist's journey, protagonist's objective.
And the 20 minutes of awesomeness of Guna comes into picture right there. To continue on the same lines, the awesomeness that I referred was not because of any regular mass movie elements such as best dialogues, adrenalin pumping actions, on the top flashy performances et al but it is in terms of the authentic, well thought out characterization. As I said for American History-X, the awesomeness of these 20 minutes could only be seen if it is interpreted in terms of character’s journey.
Guna is some one of a deranged mind who thinks he has a lady love called Abirami loathes his life. His abusive father had abandoned his wife after which Guna’s mother had to involve in the flesh trade. Guna doesn’t like his mother or the brothel she has in which Guna has grown up. While treatment he says to the doctor that people are nasty, the world is nasty and he himself is ugly with the features of his father’s face and that he is impure. He says his only saving grace is Abirami, a nonexistent, imaginary divine lover who can cleanse his mind, soul and body. He calls others as “Humans” suggesting he is not one of them and comments that the world is disgusting. Thus the character’s objective is to escape the humans, escape the world they dwell in and live with Abirami.
Rohini is a daughter of a rich father who had just died in a plane crash. She is almost left alone with her mother gone when she was 8. Being a motherless child with her business obsessed father she had grown up in hostel without any shade of love falling on her. Now all she has is 20 crores of her father’s business with nobody to care even a bit about her.
One day, Guna comes across Rohini and sees his Abirami in her. Their fates intertwine and Guna ends up taking hostage of Rohini. He takes her to a mountain where human interference is on the very minimum. After her foiled attempts to escape, Rohini gets the better of Guna when he risks his life while saving her. She refuses to lift Guna who is hanging at the tip of a cliff. Guna falls off. By then Rohini’s caretaker comes with Gunda’s asking her to sign a blank document. Rohini finds the evil design of taking possession of her property. She denies. But S.K, the caretaker threatens her with rape by Gundas after which Rohini signs. S.K says she could not live even after she had signed the document. He aims the gun at her. She closes her eye getting ready for the bullet to pierce through her. Fortunately Guna comes and saves her only after S.K breaks her leg. Guna kills one of the Gundas. Rohini is left unconscious.
Guna takes her to a remote cave. He tends to her while she is unconscious. What lies there in the cave is not Rohini’s unconscious form but a reincarnate of Rohini. Rohini has experienced death,physically when she closed her eyes awaiting her death when S.K prepared to shoot and emotionally when S.K threatened her with rape thus destructing her emotions, destructing the belief she had on people. Now she is a new person with new beliefs and new hopes surrounding her. She is the Abirami of Guna’s dreams who had ceased to be just a figment of imagination, who had been given life by Guna himself; she is the Abirami who could give to Guna salvation and who wants herself a salvation.
After a while Rohini wakes up and finds Guna bandaging her broken leg. She is overwhelmed seeing Guna taking such good care of her despite her betrayal. A conversation ensues. Each of the words that they spell shows how their inner search is answered. She asks him whether he is not angry and asks why he is so good to her despite her leaving him to a possible death. He says the reason is he loves her. “What kind of love is this when you don’t even know my name”, she asks. He says that her name is Abirami and that is how it is for him always. “Abirami”, she whispers. Good than Rohini she says. Who is Rohini asks Guna, for whom the girl who is sitting opposite had always been Abirami as far as he could remember. For that she says,” She was a girl I knew” rechristening herself as Abirami, reaffirming her transformation into Abirami.
She understands that love showering Guna is better than the money-lust souls she had been living with. She says, to be Abirami who is loved beyond limits is better than being a loveless loner Rohini. Though her partly enlightened human mind cannot still understand the feel Guna has for her. She asks whether he wants her mistaking sexual motivation in Guna’s love. She thinks he had saved her honor and life and deserves her. Guna denies and says he wants to marry her saying implicity that his is not a love as perceived by humans but something beyond human understanding and something purer than human love. She asks him to marry her then and there for which he says he wants to marry her on the full moon day.
Part of the 20-minutes-of-awesomeness
Then Rohini fever struck, bedridden. Out of a sudden whim, may be laying there protected by the shoulders of a man who genuinely care for her had ignited something in Rohini's mind, she asks Guna to marry her. He says full moon is due by only next day for which she says her heart is filled that day and it is the full moon day for her. She feels real happiness perhaps the one she had never felt in her whole life and she wants to multiply it. He ties the sacred thread. Thus Rohini’s longing for love has been answered. The loveless attains pure love and happiness completing the character arc. Guna’s objective of escaping the people, finding his Abirami who can cleanse his heart, body and soul, is also fulfilled.
As the movie ended initially I thought the poor souls could have been allowed few more days of life. But the verbalization that my heart is filled by Rohini clears that as well. Rohini of the old could have lived 100 years and never see happiness. But this reincarnate of her’s, Abirami had seen a day of sublime happiness. Rohini would have traded a day’s happiness and death than 100 years of loneliness. Guna was the catalyst she needed all her life to see the world as it is and life as it is. And as far I know nothing could be any poetic than that. And the song "Kanmani anbodu" damn its an piece of art especially for the lyrical transformation of ordinary lines into a song, Vairamuthu's best.
People always bring up Kamal Hassan’s name when Guna is discussed. True that the man has lived the character and at certain points you won’t find his acting brilliant as you tend to believe Guna was not a brilliantly orchestrated performance of the skillful actor kamal Hassan bu someone real who had been mad all his life. Even I thought Roshni as Rohini has done splendidly well that too for a debutant she was brillaint. Generally she looks attractive, cute with her expressions, dialogue delivery and a tad hot sometimes but I felt her to be strikingly beautiful and irresistible in those cave sequence. May be it is after all true that beauty is not skin deep and it has to do with the person one is. Back to the point, I think the true hero of the movie is script than Kamal Hassan.
Thought I speak highly of those twenty minutes, though to me the movie starts only after an hour of actual movie starts and it ends before twenty minutes of the actual ending I think the other parts are also necessary to build towards that good part. Over all it is one of the best movies I have seen in the recent past, may be the one I would ever see all my life. Damn this deserves rewatch(already seen it 5 to 6 times in 48 hours :P) and it belongs in my collection of all time great movies undoubtedly. A classic or at least a cult classic as accepted by many.
Hell I have lots to say but I think it is enough for now. May be after watching the movie for another round of 10 times I would write a better version, a part 2 may be. ;)