Friday, June 1, 2007

"Yaathra" Vs "Athu oru Kanaa kalam"

In 1985 Balu Mahendra directed "Yaathra" a romantic-tragedy starring Mamooty and Shobhana.The film begins with a bearded Mamooty asking for a lift from a school bus .He asks if he could sit by the window.After token song and dance by the children,he tells them he is an ex convict who was just released from prison.His crime? Murder.Flashback to a clean shaved Mamooty arriving at a hill station(arunagiri) to take up a posting as the forest officer.There he is swayed by the beauty of the village belle,Shobhana and utilizes the entire first half in courting her,in the midst of green hills and tall trees.He finally decides to marry her but before that he has to go and invite his only family ( a friend and his mother).As he sets off he promises to return in 3 days.You realize then and there he wont.He lands up in jail after accidentally murdering a constable.The second half details his tribulations in jail under a strict warden and sympathetic jail mates.Cue: husky voice singing sad songs sans orchestra.The film takes on a melancholy undertone from here on.Shobhana visits him in the jail and tells him her hardships.He cant bear to see her rot away waiting for her.He writes her a letter to never come see him and to forget him.He doesn't meet her when she comes for visitation and tears away her letter without reading it.Somehow she conveys to him that she will always wait for him and always light a lamp for him at the local shrine on the day he is released.Return to the present.Its after 7 years or so that he is let out.His stop is about to arrive.Will Shobhana still be waiting for him.The children and the teachers all pray that there be a light at the shrine.He looks out the window,as does everyone.....There, in in the midst of hundreds of lamps is Shobhana standing alone,teary eyed.A haunting tune plays in the background as the lovers are reunited.the children continue the song they sang in the first half as the credits roll.

Pardon my blunt description but the film is actually quite good and nicely shot.There are several scenes that stand out ,powered by the touching background score(Illayaraja at his best).The film shows how the world of two lovers, falls apart in an instant.I don't know what it is but Balu Mahendra's film have a magical quality to them.They play out slowly but hold you captivated with the story and the performances.The scenery always plays an important role.Many of his films have been shot at hill stations.They all seem to have certain hue to them ,so that you can easily identify a Balu Mahendra film.
After 20 years,in 2005 he came out with "Athu oru Kanaa kalam" i don't know what the title means, but i am guessing" That magical age/time".It stars dhanush and priya mani.I rented the film specially because it was a BM film.But around half through you realize that this is a remake of Yaathra.Whether intentional or not,it too has two lovers separated when one accidentally commits a murder and and goes on to suffer hardships in jail.From that point i lost all interest in the film and skipped forward to see how it ends.I could cite scenes and plot points but take my word it is the same with some minor alterations.it too is told in flashback fashion.it even features the same jail as in Yaathra.There is a scene in Yaathra where Shobhana comes to visit Mamooty in jail for the first time.When he is told that he has a visitor,he runs to her.the scene is shot beautifully, and mamooty shows everyone why he became an actor in the first place.Dhanush on the other hand could not hold a candle to the master actor.you ever heard of shit on a stick?Well dhanush is the stick.It is a wonder he became a hero.Whats that ? His father is a producer.No wonder he became a hero.
To a person who has not seen yaathra and who is ready to take a film without too much of nitpicking, "Athu oru Kanaa kalam" may come of as a semi-decent flick,especially the second half which is tailored to make you weepy eyed.It hints at a sad ending but goes onto reunite the lovers.But for me the film was disappointing.I just wish BM could have made something original.If i wanted Yaathra i would go see yaathra, why watch an inferior product?