Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Crazy Mohan, Y.G. Mahendra and S.Ve. Shekhar: The Trio that cheapened and vulgarized the idea of drama

Alert: Those who like and adore Crazy Mohan, those who think Mohan, YGM and Sekar produce drama, those who consider everything is art and several others are requested to please skip this post all together. 

That drama as an art form is now confused with third rated jokes strung up together by an abysmal and pathetic story line meant to cater to the lowest common denominator in Tamil Nadu is because of the famous trio - Crazy Mohan, Y.G. Mahindra and S.Ve. Shekhar.

Comedy is serious business. Comedy can be intellectual as in 'Yes Minister' or even slapstick as in a Chaplin movie but even at its trivial form there's a difference between good comedy and mindless comedy. This trio pen comedy that is not just created by the mindless it is also created for those who are willing to be mindless at least for a duration or those who are generally mindless. 

It is pathetic to see this famous joke of Mohan being cited by several, "oh K.B. Sunderambal is such a singer that even after you switch off the radio you can hear her sing". That is a joke worth a laugh if a kid cracks it. Else it is a forgettable wise crack, not a line worth calling as a symbol of one's talent. Or maybe those who recall it do so only to highlight that that is the limit for Mohan. Maybe they're, unlike me, saying it without saying it.

It is numbing to see praises for 'Michael Madana Kama Rajan'. The only reason the movie is even watchable is to enjoy Kamal for a few minutes as the Palghat cook for how he slid into that lingo and accent. Even in that character after a few minutes Kamal becomes insufferable. The rest of the movie is Kamal's narcissism run amuck. Especially that Madan character is vintage Kamal, the arrogant 'I know all' type. It was nauseating even then to see a grown up Urvasi act like she's a kid who refused to grow up. The movie itself was pathetically like a pathetic stage drama in many places.

To call Mohan's comedy as rib tickling word play is a fraudulent characterization by those who don't know what a word play is. Mohan effortlessly catered to the lowest common denominator because that's all what he was capable. 

There was a time when Jeyamohan was known to write unsparing obituaries (Kamala Das) and biting sarcasm (Thoppi Thilakam). An aging Jemo has decided to be diplomatic and as a result the obituary is neither convincing nor is it stinging. He has lost his sting. Calling Mohan's dramas as belong to the 'Farce Drama' genre is THE farce. Mohan knew neither drama nor farce as drama. 

Now, some would argue that while Jeyamohan did not like Mohan’s drama he conceded a space for Mohan’s drama oeuvre in the wide spectrum of art. Did he? Anyway that’s a different discussion. 

Decrying Mohan’s drama is not to call for some Stalinist idea of conformity to some dogma that everyone has to adhere to. No one is calling for uniformity in art or anything intellectual. Let there be a million varieties but there cannot be a mindless variety that can be included along side a serious cognitive effort. Somehow there’s this prevalent notion in Tamil Nadu that entertainment is supposed to be so mindless that it requires a sort of cavity between the ears to enjoy it. Life needs levity and even the bawdy or trivial can provide it. But such levity is for the moment and is not looked back with fondness or pride or something worth recalling or recalling worth being associated with. To live we need bowel movements but no one recalls them as a memory.



Then there’s the completely silly, “why compare”. Human being make choices in every day life to some important moments too. From choosing a breakfast in a cafe to whom we date, who we have sex with, what car to buy, what concert to attend and much more life is driven by choice. Choice implies comparison and judgment. Judgment requires an intellectual process. We cannot escape this iron law.

The other feeble excuse is “you’re comparing apples to oranges”. Don't compare Raja Raja Chola with Akbar. Don't compare Brahadeeshwara temple with Taj Mahal. Don't compare this with that. Don't compare at all if you can. Please don't compare what I love and critique it because I love it. It is not that people hate comparisons. What people hate is the value judgment that’ll inexorably follow a comparison. Those who plead don't compare will be the first to compare two pants or sarees before they buy one. Sometimes it might even be a choice between a pant and a shorts. There’s always a denominator. Why is sculpture called frozen music? If one understood such phrases one would not plaintively complain “why compare?”

Nobel laureate S. Chandrasekhar in his book ‘Truth and Beauty’ would explore the idea of beauty and aesthetics across as unlikely a trio as Shakespeare, Newton and Beethoven. Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner would analyze creativity by looking at as varied historical figures as Stravinsky and Gandhi. ‘Apples and Oranges’. Bollocks.

‘Everything is art’. ‘This too is someone’s idea of art’. ‘Time will do the sifting’. Bollocks. A thousand years can pass and yet the notoriously pornographic Saroja Devi trash (I simply could not bring myself to call them ‘books’) will never become Kokkogam or ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’.

This abjectly unintellectual approach to art and literature is the singular biggest cause of Indian apathy towards treasures of art and history of India. When everything is equally art nothing is too valuable to be protected unless it is wrapped in religion where it is mindlessly worshipped and the mind is intentionally dumbed not to be intellectually inquisitive. This is why Indians would be seen by the scores in the Red Light area of Amsterdam but sparsely, if at all, seen at the Van Gogh Museum. This is why thousands would worship at Brihadeeshwara temple but it’d the foreign visitor craning his or her neck and peering at a carving with a binocular. This is why Indians would happily vandalize a work of art, particularly if it is not tied to worship.

Is there a proper way to conclude this blog/rant? No there isn’t. Because the situation is completely hopeless. Jeyamohan, if I remember correctly, once ridiculed the Tamil idea of comedy and today the same person is offering fig leaf excuses for Mohan. Hope died. Only resignation remains.


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