Unrivaled comedy duo of Kollywood

Unrivaled comedy duo of Kollywood

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“Forgotten” is certainly not the right word to describe the memories of Goundamani and Senthil in the hearts of Kollywood fans but they are only being temporarily eclipsed by the antics of Vadivelu and Vivek, which slowly died a slow death and more recently by Santhanam and Soori, who seem to have taken a lot of cues from Goundamani’s comedy formula of battering people and things around them. Arguably the greatest comedy duo Tamil Cinema has ever seen, these gentlemen even managed to draw parallels to the legendary Laurel & Hardy of Hollywood, whom they also seem to have drawn inspiration from. Nevertheless, they had their own unique style of providing comic relief to our stressed minds. Goundamani, being the star of the pair, also paired with some of his contemporary leading men to create the same magic as he did with Senthil in such a way that it can be a subject for another new article. Some may disagree with the thought that Senthil was at his best only when he was paired with Goundamani but it's quite obvious that the same rule didn't hold for Goundamani as he was very much capable of showing his prepossessed scornful attitude to anybody sharing the screen space with him.
This amazing pair was first spotted and acknowledged in “Vaidegi Kathirundhal” where our “all-in-all azhagu raja” gave one of the first of many to come ass-kicks to Senthil. It was their exceedingly casual mannerisms towards each other and the rest of the world that created an indelible impression of a new comedy flavor in our minds through this film, which was a serious drama otherwise. The spontaneous chemistry between them was quite evident and it was cemented when the most unforgettable movie of their career “Karagattakaran” was released. In one of the scenes while walking into the bushes for morning rituals, Senthil curiously asks “where are we going?” to which Goundamani sarcastically responds “To learn Computer”. It was a classic example of mocking the current/future trends that was way ahead of its time and it was repeated almost identically after 8 years by Manivannan and Sundarrajan in “Suryavamsham”. It would be criminal if the universally hilarious and time-tested banana joke is not mentioned in any article about this pair. It changed the notion of comedy forever by proving that slapstick can be achieved even through extremely realistic situations. This movie also started a new trend of “iterated bashing” where Goundamani would take a hit at Senthil repeatedly for the same reason. It touched a new level of hatred in “Enga ooru pattukaran” where Goundamani is naturally tempted to thrash Senthil every time he takes a glance at him.
In one of the best employer-employee relationships shown on screen in a humorous way, Goundamani and Senthil played their respective roles to perfection in “Koyil Kaalai”. From assisting people in finding the lost ones in a village fair to selling tender coconuts and trying a hand at begging with faked leprosy, the audience was taken through one hell of a comedy ride, which will go down as one of the all-time best comedy tracks. The discussion about this movie just cannot end without quoting the classic one-liner from one of Goundamani’s customers “Inda elani la thanni varalenga” (there’s no water in this coconut) to which he responds “Pipe la varudhu poi pudichi kudi” (drink it from the water pipe over there) and goes on to say “avan avan onnukku varala nnu varutha paduraan, ivanaukku elani la thanni varaliyaan” (people are worried about not being able to piss but this guy is concerned about no water in the coconut).
The atrocity of Goundamani against Senthil continued in “Cheran Pandian” and reached new heights in abusing a jobless wanderer trying to be smart. One could not ask for more worse (read: appropriate) village costumes and ineptitude from Senthil that sets up a perfect backdrop for showering extreme contempt on somebody who couldn’t care less. In of the best scenes, Goundamani vows to burn both his own hands after misunderstanding Senthil for a dignified person from the back and showing respect by joining his hands. The duo were unstoppable with their wisecracks in “Thalattu Ketkuthamma” in which Senthil, as pulipandi, sports a tiger tooth and tests Goundamani’s patience quite often and addresses him as “Sithappu” (read: Uncle), which became legendary in its own rights. Senthil was at his peak during this period and he was extremely casual in taking a dig at Goundamani whenever he got an opportunity and in a classic example, he asks Goundamani if he has had his meal when Goundamani’s is just exiting a public toilet. The audience could never tell if he was really innocent or deliberately pulling Goundamani’s legs, which was extremely refreshing for the comedy genre.
The duo retained their top position with an amazing show of their incredible talent in “Kattabomman” and pulled off an impossible task of rescuing the movie from a disaster. They were brimming with utmost confidence shooting non-stop slapsticks like “Sangoodara vayasu la Sangeetha” (modern name like Sangeetha when you’re at the brink of your death?) and “you’re selected, you’re unselected” while recruiting young and beautiful females for a warehouse job. “Jaihind” was another popular movie that catapulted their fame to the next level with a comedy track that boasts of a novel idea where Goundamani only dreams about Senthil who always puts Goundamani in a life-threatening situation by the time he wakes up. One of the best scenes has Goundamani catching Senthil red-handed for riding a bike with 3 people and exhibiting a spike haircut forcing Goundamani to ask “adenna thalaikku mela keeri pulla paduthirikidhu” (Why’s that porcupine sitting on your head?).
While Goundamani and Senthil managed to steal the show away from the mainstream heroes in many of their movies together, there was a movie from Shankar “Gentleman” that made everyone associated with it, have a cult following including them. Goundamani was forced to deal with Senthil, whose no brainers entices Goundamani to charge on Senthil every single time they bump into each other. The highlight of their comedy is the game played by Senthil called “Dikilona” that infuriates Goundamani to stage a classic butt kick. They teamed up with the same director for “Indian” few years later that pushed their popularity to reach the ultimate pinnacle in their illustrious career. Their characters were exceptionally realistic as an RTO and an agent with each racing to maximum corruption and recklessness as government servants. No one else could have abused a dignified word like “Officer” in the most amusing manner but Goundamani manages to gracefully convince the audience that he has every right to disrespect the senior-most officer.
Several other movies followed that only established them as the best bet for directors to serve comic capers as a totally independent track in their movies. Hailing from Coimbatore area renowned for their respect and hospitality, Goundamani can be safely considered as an epitome of disrespect in a rib-tickling way. He reached the height of it when he addresses his father as “Dei thagappa” effortlessly enacted by Senthil in the movie “Naattamai”. It was also the first time in Tamil cinema history where a son referring to his father as a dog for his naughty character was widely accepted as being humorous because their mere presence was so irresistible that all other facts were buried deep. It couldn’t have got bigger and more hilarious than Goundamani’s antics in “Sooriyan”, which still boasts of being one of the very few movies where almost every dialogue of the comedian is being recited as slogans by people several years after its release and probably forever. There may not a single youngster in the state of Tamil Nadu who has not used these eternal punch dialogues in their daily lives from this trend-setting movie: Start the music, who is that disturbance?, Arasiyalla idellam sadaranamappa (these are quite common in politics), inda kosu tholla thaanga mudiyala, marundhu adichi kollungadaa (just can’t bear this mosquito’s nuisance, spray the repellant and kill it), gaandha kann azhagi unakku naan ministryla edam parkkiren (magnetic-eyed beautiful lady, I’ll find a berth for you in the ministry) etc. This movie also proved that this encyclopedia of comedy called Goundamani can bring the house down with his unmatched comic timing without a need for his partner.
This naturally gifted pair continued to provide relief to the stressed minds for almost 2 decades, which by no means is an ordinary achievement. They had an unmatched chemistry and a relentless endeavor to make people laugh not just in the cinema halls but for several years to come. They single-handedly resurrected and sustained the careers of many mainstream actors during their era and kept the cash registers ringing at the same time. There was indeed a period in Tamil cinema in which people used to enquire if Goundamani and Senthil were cast in the movie even before knowing the other actors. With umpteen new diseases cropping up every day and almost everything linked to over stress, one only wishes these great comedians could get together again, at least for one last time, and help us in extending our lives by few more seconds by allowing us to laugh our heart out. Nevertheless, thanks to the information age, we have access to every single scene from their past movies with just few clicks of a button. I salute these overlooked living legends!
shyam sundar

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