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RR
28th October 2005, 12:11 PM
The Screen-Turners: 47 Naatkal - Part 2

(contd from Part - 1 (http://tfmmagazine.mayyam.com/sep05/?t=4578))

47 Days & 23 Nightmares

By Naaz


Vishali is all of sixteen when she is married to Kumar who is all of twenty-nine. He seems like a good enough chap charming, affable, easy on the wallet and his modesty and self-effacing demeanor is soon the talk of the towns that side of Vizhupuram. Kumars parents have put the word out for jathakams, and the agraharams all the way to Aadhichapuram are abuzz with feelers. Kumar, the American success-story, is looking for a very, very Indian bride.
Sivasankaris novel, 47 Naatkal, begins with a wedding in rural Tamil Naadu and ends with a FBI rescue operation in suburban Chicago. What lies between (pun intended) is a pool of innocence lost and violence found; an allegorical Alice in Wonderland gone way, way bad.

[html:85d9c4a8c9]<img src=http://static.flickr.com/7/10371614_de06655082.jpg?v=0 align=right>[/html:85d9c4a8c9]
The Kumar Vishali wedding is indeed the talk of Aadhichapuram. For a high-school drop out like Vishali, with nothing but looks to bring in her wedding trousseau, to marry Kumar, a prince of riches, good manners and handsome looks, is everything plus a miracle. Vishalis sister Gnaanam, and her older brother, Chandru, cant believe the youngest ones good luck. The marriage consummated, Kumar makes plans to fly back to Chicago with Vishali, who, just a few days into the marriage, has discovered that her husband smokes, drinks, and will very soon eat meat on their flight to Frankfurt, and from thereon to New York and Chicago.

We, the readers, soon realize that what you see is not what you get with a guy like Kumar. Kumar is your classic gold-digger - with brahminical good features. Already married to Lucia, a millionaire doctor back in the USA, Kumars hasty wedding to Vishali is one of convenience. Lucia is pregnant and has threatened to quit practice once the baby is born, and Kumar cant bear to think of the loss of all those easy medical dollars. By now, married for a few years, he has become accustomed to the soft life of being just and only good enough to chill. Lucias home-stay with the baby will also signal an end to all those easy daytime sexual encounters with other women; an abrupt goodbye to those afternoons of wild hedonism that are an indispensable part of his maerkaththiya lifestyle. Kumar decides on a trip to India, back home, with the hope of finding a quiet, pliant and illiterate girl to marry. To Lucia, back in Chicago, he will present her as his heartbroken sister who would love to nanny their child when Lucia returns to work; and to the girl he marries he will have to explain nothing, only say that the white woman is his close friend and benefactor, and that kissing your benefactor on her lips whenever you greet her is customary for the average American. The language barrier, one would speak no English and the other no Tamil, will be the great divider, and his translator manipulations would ensure that the game never gets out of hand. There is nothing he couldnt make up, he reckons, to keep Lucia happy and the Indian girl guessing.

On the third day of her arrival in Chicago, Vishali discovers Kumars nightclothes in Lucias bedroom and confronts him. In an attempt to convert her with the truth by making her party to it, he confesses that Lucia is indeed his wife, and that he plans on staying with her for a few more years that is, until he has made sure he has put away enough money to return to India and spend his life farming with Vishali in a Vizhupuram village! Divorce is common in America, he offers, and Vishali would reap the sweet rewards of the settlement if she only played along for a year or two. Vishali turns him down flat. And thus begins a game of bondage and control, mastery and subjugation.

Writing is not merely a political act for an author like Sivasankari. It is also an act of disseminating awareness, of floodlighting the spots of ignorance in the dark corners of the readers mind. What sets Sivasankari apart from her contemporaries is essentially this one quality the author as fully conscious of her writing as a catalyst for change (www.sivasankari.com). Hence, it wouldnt be a stretch to say that in her novels the Issue is the Hero. If her meticulous descriptions of bank procedures in Amma, Please, Enakkaaga, her nuanced exploration of the ravages of cancer in Nandu, her compassionate understanding of alcohol addiction in Oru Manithanin Kathai, and her historically and culturally detailed edifice, Paalagal -- if any and all the novels not mentioned above share one thing in common, that one unmistakable stamp of identification, it has got to be the authors daring, her success at making the unfamiliar both familiar and comprehensive. 47 Naatkal is no exception.

Through Vishalis eyes we see both the bewilderment and the dangers of alie(nation). Her character provides a dual critique: she lives and symbolizes the cold isolation of NRI brides while allowing the author to implicitly debunk the institution of arranged marriages, particularly those involving girls who have no power in the decision-making. Vishalis underexposure is a conduit, a tabula rasa, and Sivasankari fills in the thoughts and insights with a simple naturalness.
Kumar, on the other hand, is painted in some clichd broad strokes. His villainy is presaged by the introduction of cigarettes and alcohol, and subsequently to his being a carnivore and a womanizer. The reader does not share the astonishment of Vishali at these revelations precisely because the reader can read and Vishali cant, or not really. The stock stereotype is immediately apparent, and hence rendered ineffective. Kumar is a bad boy, we get it, and we think its a tad facile even for the late seventies. Such obviousness, when put beside the bare-bone contextual information in the development of Kumar, makes him into a caricature of a smooth-operator on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Similarly, his quick descent into sadomasochism (stubbing cigarette butts on Vishali, holding her hand under the hot water tap, forcing her to have sex with him at different locations in the house when Lucia is away, and taking her to a pornography cinema) is more sensational than studied. When the novel was serialized, it afforded the reader a distance to imagine and vicariously live the lives of Kumar and Vishali and Lucia - a break of seven days - before the next installment came along. The readers own imaginings, turned up to distressing levels of anxiety once Vishalis humiliations began, a week between one day (as published) and another, also provided the thrill of having ones own predictions and scenarios validated or alluded to in the latest chapter. Those accumulative rewards all but vanish when one reads the novel as a published book, making it seem curiously rushed, disaffecting and incomplete.

The film takes the seeming away.
[html:85d9c4a8c9]http://www.mayyam.com/tfmmagazine/nov05/47-naatkal.jpg[/html:85d9c4a8c9]
If its indeed true that Sivasankari wears her social liberal heart on her writing sleeve, it is also equally true that K.Balachander lets his bleed all over the camera lens. An auteur meets an author. And when they decided to collaborate creatively on the film version of the book, it was a marriage made in leftie heaven. The timing was also rather serendipitous - the book came along right around the same time that Indian cinema was beginning to carve out anti-heroes, - and K. Balachander himself had made such characters acceptable and popular in Avargal and Moondru Mudichhu. What went wrong with 47 Naatkal? Was it just bad luck and an impatient audience? Perhaps. Or it could be Rajnikanth, but wed never know. However, lucks not the only reason why the film sank into lukewarm oblivion. Its problems are unique, and they all come from outside of the book.

The film is structured as a mise en abime a story within a story. Saritha (playing herself) meets Vishali for a tete-a-tete. As such, we, the viewers of the film, we all become surrogate Sarithas, listening to Vishalis story as it unfolds in a flashback with appropriately inserted present day interjections (not to spur the story, only to prolong it.) A well-worn narrative device of literary merit (Wuthering Heights, anybody?), the only problem it presents here, in this particular case, is that it works directly against the momentum of the novel: While the reader turns the page with a pounding heart to find out about Vishalis eventual fate, the viewer of the film begins with the full knowledge that Vishali is free and safe. The Does She Get Away? question is conjugated in this transformation as, How Did She Get Away? The formulation renders the film as completely antithetical to the foreshadowing impulses and pay-offs of the novel.

[html:85d9c4a8c9]<img src=http://megafans.com/plugins/coppermine_menu/albums/userpics/10416/chiranj1.jpg align=right width=200>[/html:85d9c4a8c9]
Anonymity is absolutely criticall for Kumar and Vishali to be identifiable as every day people, for it is only then can the novel resonate with the every day reader. The characters have to be unknown even when they are known - the reader has to constantly build their imaginary faces in an effort to keep the story personal and close to home (arguably not the faces sketched by C. Jeyaraj for sure -see book cover above!), for only then does the possibility that what happens to Vishali could just as easily happen to the girl who lives down the street become frighteningly real. And it did, too, when the novel was serialized. But we know Jaya Prada doesnt live down the street, nor for that matter does Chiranjeevi. How, one wonders, did the makers of the film conclude that brand name stars would provide that bridge, a conveyor to the urgency of newspaper reports on NRI-bride scandals? The universality that would have emerged with unknown names instantly evaporates in the heat of star-power glitz. It becomes impossible to see Kumar and Vishali as people down the street, or even as characters in the book. The marquee dazzle that gets you in also becomes the one big barrier between you and the topical impetus of the novel filmed. It is a tellingly well-lit irony.

Ramaprabha and Sarat Babu have no corresponding characters in the book, and thats just as well. Their grifter / drifter routine wears thin, and their machinations to whisk Vishali away makes one want to be more considerate in ones estimation of the novels ending which is bizarrely high-handed. (Okay, RP and SB are just bizarre.)
Back to that disaffecting feeling - in its own words:

[tscii:85d9c4a8c9]" .. Ţ, ɢ Ģ ..? FBI , 慢 Ţš ⨠ġ â 𼨾 ؾ ţ ŢŢ.

ɡ, Ģ 츢..

¢ ¢ ŢĢ¢ š쨸¢ ¢ . ¢Ȣ 򾨾 慢¢ ŢԼ ơ Ǣ . , ɢ ܼ šм ɡ ¸ ơ Ǣ ..."[/tscii:85d9c4a8c9]

Heres the implosion: The novels sudden turn into first person didacticism finds a perfect corollary in the Ramaprabha / Sarat Babu sideshow. Both are clumsy and irksome cop-outs that blow in from the outside and make you feel cheated, of what youre not sure yet, but you have an inkling that it might be something resembling human intelligence.

Links

Thread on 47 Naatkal (old) - Page 1 (http://tfmpage.com/forum/10731.3112.01.19.00.html), Page 2 (http://tfmpage.com/forum/3112.01.19.00.html)


[html:85d9c4a8c9]&copy;[/html:85d9c4a8c9] Author 2005

vengayam
15th November 2005, 03:22 PM
Naaz,
As always you have come out with your viewpoint with the force of a sledge hammer.
But 47 naatkal is not worth writing about.what KB saw in it to make it into a movie I do not know.
I disagree with you on two counts
Chiranjeevi was not the super star at the time of filming of the movie. He could pass of as the normal guy. Jayapradha was not your ordinary girl next door but in the story too it is very clear that she was pretty girl next door.
The mood of the film brooding, morose was befitting the mood when i read snatches of it when the story appeared in A V?
I wish you had started your series with Mogha mull.

Naaz
15th November 2005, 10:59 PM
Vengayam -

You are alive! Praise be! :)

Let me also disagree:

Chiranjeevi was a stellar and noteworthy introduction to Telugu films. He was a known name. He may not have been a familiar face in TF (except for those who watched the wretched Raanuva Veeran), but bear in mind that the film was made in Telugu AND Tamil. Would you say that Rajnikanth was a passable introduction to Tamil filmdom? Ponder?

Click on the link below for a list Chiranjeevi's Telugu films BEFORE 47 Rojulu -

http://megafans.com/content.php?article.159

Jaya Prada was miscast. If KB had wanted to find a "pretty girl next door" he could have done so without casting his net too far. JP was a household name after Siri Siri Muvva (even in TN) and she "pretty much" erased any memory of Vishali.

The novel was serialised in Idhayam Pesugirathu.

Alas, Moga Mul is not on my list. However, the next novel/author will/may/should fare better with you... Watch this space in January 2006.

And, yeah, nice to see you around here again!

rajeshkrv
15th November 2005, 11:41 PM
i cannot completely agree that jayapradha was a miscast..

She was a pretty actress and for that character who is b'ful at the same time innocent - shw showed many reactions in her face

Naaz
16th November 2005, 03:33 AM
rajeshkrv -

Thank you for your comment.

The paragraph in which the names of Jaya Prada and Chiranjeevi appear begins thus:

"Anonymity is absolutely critical for Kumar and Vishali to be identifiable as "every day" people..."

The topic phrase/sentence in that paragraph is the first line. Anonymity is the operative word. I proceed to explain the WHYs of the statement in the same paragraph. My intention is not to diss JP or Chiranjeevi. Rather, it is my contention that a "fiction" that addresses "factual" headline issues is undercut by "star" or "known" faces in this visualisation. This is not to say that JP and Chiranjeevi don't acquit themselves adequately in their chosen roles. They are NOT the problem.

"How, one wonders, did the makers of the film conclude that brand name stars would provide that bridge, a conveyor to the urgency of newspaper reports on NRI-bride scandals?"


Vishali and Kumar are "composites" of "real-life" people (cf.interview with Sivasankari in Part 1)
Please read the "miscast" rejoinder within context.

vengayam
16th November 2005, 08:43 AM
Naaz,
Having had the pleasure/experience of being in A P from 79-83 and seeing the rise of Chiranjeevi as it were you have got to believe me that when 47 days was released Chiranjeevi was no where near the Mega Star status . The ruling trinity were Nata Ratna, Nata Samrat, and Nata Sekara viz NTR, ANR and Krishna.
Yes i saw the list of films given in the link - barring ithi katha kaathu -which is Avargal remade Chiru never had a good role till Punnami Naagu came along- which was Vijaykanth's Powrnami Iravil remade (By AVM !!-who made a tentative comeback to film making after Baktha prahalada?) The list does not seem very accurate chronologically as i distinctly remember seeing Kothapet Rowdy after Punnami Nagu. I was rooting for chiru as a welcome break from all the pot bellied 50+ heroes who were ruling the roost.
In short Chiru at that stage was l somewhere between Srikanth and Prasanna. An actor with potential and promise....QED

Naaz
16th November 2005, 11:59 AM
Vengayam -

I did not have the pleasure of living in AP, so I missed out on the up close and personal rise of Chiranjeevi. Lucky you? :-)
I will take your word for it.
I concur that the NTRs and Krishnas were still the "old guard" in Telugu films, but their star power was on the decline, and the Chandra Mohans, Mohan Babus and Balakrishnas were making their way up...
If "mega-star" means "hero" then I guess I have got it all wrong. Anti-Heroes were "hot hot" with young and nubile women in India of the late 70s. The big B got where he is via the villainy route. But let's look at the out and out baddies:
Amjad Khan, after just one film, was a mega-star. Rajnikanth after two. Shah Rukh Khan after three. Satyaraj after four. And so it goes...
I was under the impression that Manavoori Pandavulu, Ithi Kadha Kaadhu, Mosagaadu, Nakili Manishi (double role!) and Punnami Naagu were enough to afford him "marquee" status. Then came Nyaayam Kavaali. Star status confirmed.
Chiranjeevi did 15 films between Punnami N and 47 R.
Name / Face / Box- Office draw = Mega "Baddie" Star. Mega might be migai. So let's just settle for "star"?

And: What is a "good" role? One that is Affecting? Popular? Fight-Dance-Win-the-Girl? Is "bad" ever "good"?
What would Mae West say?

On a totally subjective note: Me too...always rooted, rooting for Chiru :-)

Is the Srikanth / Prasanna thing a carry over cricket analogy from the other part of the forest? :-)

vengayam
16th November 2005, 02:30 PM
Naaz,
Srikanth and Prasanna are actors. The former had a more than decent debut in Roja kootam ( good music by Baradhwaj did help!) the latter has acted in Five Star, azagiya theeye among others and is reputed to be a good actor. not "star" though srikanth thinks he has already achieved star"damn"!

Regarding the chronology of Chiru it seems muddled up but of course i am looking back after two decades.

What i was trying to hammer out unsuccessfully it would seem is that Chiranjeevi had none of the hoopla associated with stardom - anti or otherwise. there was no coin throwing that i think started post Kaidi.
Chandramohans , sohanbabus were always also rans the odd hit notwithstanding. Balki was just an NTR appendage.
Another baddie made it to the top and attained stardom - Mohanbabu -but he got a share of the seat vacated by the big two( Krishna was still going weak!) and he was on the right side of fifty or wrong side of forty by that time if you want to be charitable!
A B did not get stardom by the baddie route if you are thinking Parwana-he was pathetic he got there by default- no one else was willing to play the b(o)r(ood)ing cop in Zanjeer.

Naaz
16th November 2005, 09:42 PM
Vengayam -

"What i was trying to hammer out unsuccessfully it would seem ..."

This sort of diffidence is unnecessary.
You and I may have different criteria for what makes a "star," and that's a matter of subjectivity. The issue is not about who is right and who is wrong. If this conversation makes us amend or add to our respective criteria, I'd say that's a good thing.

In my lifetime of watching Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Haasan, Bhagyaraj, Ramarajan, Mohan starrers, I have not witnessed any hoopla of the "coin-throwing" kind. Would the above be "star-less(ers)"? Or perhaps 5-paise aradhanais are a B & C centre feature? (I've seen this largesse leak into urbanity (chennai) during the Pardha Hai Pardha sequence from AAA when AB pulls out the "rupaiya ka haar" and dances in the aisle.)

I can't vouch for the chronological veracity/accuracy of the Chiranjeevi filmography at the megafans site. Still, one (logical) thing sticks out - 15 Chiranjeevi films between PN and 47 R - in a span of less than 2 years. Box-Office is all about Bottomline. No bankability means no big cut-out outside the cinema. Was Chiranjeevi such a quiet presence (never mind the coin showers) in Telugu films even after 30 odd ventures (based on the list) ? That's a shocker. Really.

Of the recent crop, I am only familiar with Ajith, Danush, Madhavan, Surya, Vijay and Vikram. Prasanna and Srikanth are cricketers to me (and I will fill this lacuna soon! :-) )

vengayam
17th November 2005, 02:21 PM
Prasanna I can understand but srikanth I am surprised.
He made his debut in Roja kootam and since then has acted in movies like varnajalam, bose,parthiban kanavu ( remember Kana kandenadi thozi, bak bak bak bak) kana kanden.
Diffident ,me!? I am accused of being many things but diffident I'll take it as a complement ;-)

One last attempt at putting forth my point .Murali mohan completed 100 movies witha stinker called varaluabbayi which i hads the misfortune of sitting through. Surely by your argument he should have been a star so many producers having invested their time and money but he still was not a star!
Chiru during 47 days was not a star but getting there. kaidi sealed it!
Naaz don't tell me you will be taking up Priya next!In which case I'll have a lot to say -mostly unparliamentary!

S.Balaji
17th November 2005, 02:38 PM
Dear Naaz....

Nice presentation about 47 days...... keep it up....

Request ...... can you take up Sila nerangalil sila manidhargal also....and do an analysis....

You are aware...this movie also got national award ....

Best regards

Naaz
17th November 2005, 09:20 PM
Vengayam -

Yeah, you and diffident are strange bedfellows, and I wanted you to see how strange it really was! One person's complaint is another's compliment? The things one learns around here! :roll:

No, Priya is not the next one! And that's no compliment to me (and my tastes! :-) )

Wasn't Muralimohan the guy in Muthyaala Muggu? Or am I thinking of somebody else?

To get/rent current tamizh film DVDs I have to travel to the 'burbs (about 25/30 miles) and hence my lack of interest in checking out the Prasannas and Srikanths. One of these days I might feel uncharacteristically inspired....will keep you posted.

------------

S. Balaji -

I am glad to hear that you found my piece on 47 Naatkal to be worthy. Thanks! (Did you also read the interview with Sivasankari? I think it really adds to the follow-on.)

Jeyakanthan is very much part of my list. I also did a rather long analysis of Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal in the VJ thread (about 2 years ago?)....Please look it up when you have the time.

S.Balaji
17th November 2005, 11:53 PM
Naaz...

Yes , I already went through the entire posting of yours.....

IMO...Sivashankari is one of the highly respected story writers.....and comes next to Lakshmi.... SS is a revolutionary writer....

Even a small story of hers will carry some good message...
She always used to take up social subjects and had given some memorable stories in the past....

I will also go through the VJ thread for Jayakanthan related analysis..

Thanks...

However, I too wonder what was the logic for KB to select Chiranjeevi for the hero / villain character...