Shankar’s affinity to Robin Hood

By now, the political fortunes at the center for the next five years would have become quite clear. Contrary to many expectations, the results failed to provide as much excitement with the closest competitors being separated by a lot more than just daylight. If you were looking for some excitement in the government formation, all such hopes would have been grounded by now. It looks like a fairly easy passage for the incumbents to power. So, let us look at one person who has never failed to provide us with excitement - Shankar, one of the biggest directors in India. For a highly reputed director, many say that Shankar has been very predictable with his movies. Perhaps, his greatness lies in being able to excite us even amidst the predictability. When we enter a theater to see a Shankar film we have an inkling of what to expect. Looks like he was heavily inspired by Robin Hood in his early days. His movies have at most times, barring Kadhalan, Jeans and Boys, looked at men who take from the rich and give to the poor. There is also the common trait of uncanny disregard for authority and established norms.

We have a list of such movies where one man decides to take on the entire system and pulls it off. While there is no denying the element of fantasy in such subjects, while watching a Shankar film one is briefly held in the belief that such things are indeed possible. Of course, there are also those who feel that the biggest casualty in a Shankar film is ‘logic’. There has always been a debate about the importance of logic in films. There are those who feel that logic should never go for a six and there are those who feel that movies need not necessarily worry about logic as long as the final product is entertaining. But, that’s a different debate altogether.

We are looking at Shankar and a number of movies that he has made around the ‘one man force’ concept. To be precise, there are five of them - Gentleman, Indian, Mudhalvan, Anniyan and Sivaji. My favorite of the lot is Mudhalvan. First, the movie was an excellent entertainer, all elements finely integrated to create a movie that does not give you much time to think, only experience what is on screen. Of course, this movie has all the regular factors that Shankar films are criticized for. I have heard many people question the logic behind Mudhalvan. Now, that is not uncommon for a Shankar film. But, generally, those questions or critiques are aimed at some high flying fight sequences or escapades – Sivaji got a lot of that. But, Mudhalvan was different. Everyone wondered whether an ordinary TV reporter could take up the office of the CM just because the man holding the post made some off the cuff challenge. Was the CM’s office so easy to attain? We see huge battles being fought between parties to get that coveted post and here is one man being offered the seat, even if it is for just a single day. I do not know whether the constitution has any provision that would allow such a farce to happen. Or, it would be right to say that I am not sure whether the constitution does not have any provision that can prevent such a farce from happening. Because, by not preventing something, you are allowing it to happen, at least passively.

Back to Mudhalvan. The whole one day CM concept was undeniably interesting and one can’t help thinking of what would have happened if a common man in the mould of ‘Pugazhendi’ (Arjun’s character) were to get the opportunity. Of course, the opportunity would have to be much more extended than 24 hours for any substantial change to happen. Mudhalvan has also over the years, at times, by certain people (skeptics) been jeered at for showing a rapid rate of progress in the state under the leadership of a young man. Some feel it is a fairy tale that can never come true. I would like to believe that it is possible, if we have the right man on the job and if people vote responsibly.

One of the best scenes in Mudhalvan has to be the interview. It is a delight to see the CM being taken apart so clinically by a reporter. Of course, it is not as easy to pull off such a thing in reality, as Karan Thapar will agree. His interview of the former CM Jayalalithaa is ‘in’famous for the route that it took and where it ended. Mudhalvan also hinted very subtly towards the way caste politics is played in the state.

For these reasons, I believe Mudhalvan is Shankar’s best product to date if you are willing to overlook a few liberties (like the CM of a state dancing with a girl in the fields) that were taken for the sake of entertainment.

(By Sudhakar, with inputs from Arun Gopinath.)

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