Payanam – Radha Mohan’s amazing skill to
lot of people are talking about Payanam. Some
of them have absolutely liked it while others
have their reservations about the film. In all
the latter cases, the aspersions that have been
cast are not about the central plot of the film
or the performances. Both these facets have been
well and truly appreciated by all sections of
the audience. Many are especially delighted to
see the swank Nagarjuna back in Tamil after such
a long hiatus. The doubts over Payanam have been
about the sub-plots or deviations that the director
has chosen to take. To be fair, there are no sub-plots
or deviations taken by Radha Mohan. All elements
are part of the central plot itself, yet some
are finding it difficult to accept. We are talking
about the generous lacing of comedy and lighter
moments through the hijack drama. It was not something
that anyone in the audience expected while entering
theaters and they were not to be blamed. The pre-release
publicity was all about the thrills and action
that one would normally associate with a hijack
drama. And, having been accustomed to a diet of
films like Air Force One, many could just not
digest the bits of
comedy as it came through in the film. As standalone
scenes, they might look good, is what the general opinion
is! But, where is the logic in bringing in comic moments
when people’s lives are at gunpoint? The answer
is perhaps this, let us let logic rest for a while and
look at it from a pure cinema perspective.
Comedy is one of the toughest things to bring out on
screen. To make an audience laugh in an intended funny
plot is a difficult task in itself. Imagine the amount
of skill that is required to execute lighter moments
in a script that is tailor made for tension and action.
And, that is where Radha Mohan has succeeded big time.
None among the audience have pointed out to the lighter
scenes and called them distasteful or unlikeable; they
are just not able to accept the relevance of such moments
in the plot. But, the fact has been accepted that Radha
Mohan has shown his finesse at handling levity in any
kind of situation through Payanam. The Tamil film industry
has no shortage of directors who can handle comedy.
But, most of them do so within the well defined formats
of comedy and commercial cinema. Directors mix romance,
action, sentiments, music and comedy in a film, but
seldom do these overlap into each other, they are clearly
demarcated with comedy being the most distinctly marked
out segment which usually involves a separate track
and a comedy artiste who usually disappears for the
last half hour of the movie if it is not a full length
laughathon. But, Radha Mohan is of the kind who has
always believed in the fine mixing of layers. Watch
Mozhi or Abhiyum Naanum to find out.
Mozhi shows how comedy and high voltage emotions can
hold hands. Remember MS Bhaskar’s character; at
first it looked like one put into the script purely
for the occasional comic moment. But, the way the graph
was built to give the same character a very sentimental
touch shows that different elements of cinema can be
elegantly combined. Or take Abhiyum Naanum where the
otherwise emotional moment of sending one’s child
to school for the first time is shown in a way that
makes you giggle; yet not making it look ridiculous.
Radha Mohan has achieved something similar in Payanam.
One other director comes to mind who also has the same
adeptness at making layers blend together; Bala. Anyone
who has watched Naan Kadavul will understand why. To
infuse comedy into such morbid and depressing premises
and make us laugh out while still pining for the characters
is something that only a director of class can do. And,
Bala is a class apart.
Now, coming to the logic part! How could a hostage feel
comfortable enough in the presence of a band of kidnappers
to laugh? Well, it is not as unlikely or impossible
as some people have believed it to be. And, it is certainly
not just a cinematic concept. This kind of hostage behavior
where the hostage begins to feel comfortable and even
sometimes sympathizes with the problems of the hijacker
has been documented many times before in real life incidents
and has been given the term ‘Stockholm syndrome’.
What was shown in Payanam might not be the full blown
Stockholm Syndrome, but when we know that such behavior
does exist, then what was shown in Payanam cannot be
called improbable. There is also an inverse to the Stockholm
syndrome called the Lima Syndrome where the kidnapper
develops sympathy towards his victim, something that
we saw in Mani Ratnam’s Roja.
Now, the art of bringing levity into the grimmest of
situations is not one that comes easily. Only the best
of film makers have been able accomplish it. Remember
certain scenes from Saving Private Ryan or the way Nagesh
Kukunoor made Dor. Radha Mohan has traveled along the
same road and we must appreciate it.
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