Best of ‘Crazy’ Mohan in Tamil cinema

Crazy Mohan.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Fans of Tamil cinema and theatre were left devastated on Monday as the news broke of comedic legend 'Crazy' Mohan's demise. One of Kollywood's most adored funnymen, the prodigiously talented Mohan Rangachari rose to fame with his ingeniously creative dialogues and scripts, often enchanting audiences as an actor too with some delightful cameos.

Though renowned for his plays, it was Mohan's extensive work in film — such as his constant collaborations with friend Kamal Haasan — that catapulted him to stardom. Looking back at a stellar career, here are some of his best works that truly pay tribute to his legacy.

Michael Madhana Kama Rajan (1990)

When Mohan and Kamal worked together on Apoorva Sagodharargal , which went to become a blockbuster, the former was hailed for the immersive screenplay that had the Ulaganayagan in dual roles. What was next? The duo upped the ante — and how.

An instant classic upon release, MMKR is the gold standard of scripts with parallel storylines; something every film released since 1990 in the same format has hoped to imbibe. With Kamal Haasan in peak form juggling quadruple roles, the script not only demanded dialogues that would test his acting chops, but also have the audience gasping for breath with laughter at the worldplay and punnery. That's where Mohan came in, his dialogues accentuating the multiple narratives to progress smoothly, one hilarious rebuttal after another. (Who can forget the iconic Bheem Boy running gag?)

Case in point: One of the Kamals (Kameshwaran the cook) tells Urvashi (Thirupurasundari) that he's from a 'kukgramam' or small village near Palakkad, to which the latter responds, “Gramam-um kukk, neengalum cook!"

Magalir Mattum (1994)

This comic caper stars Revathi, Urvashi and Rohini as three women who gang up to take revenge on their lecherous boss played by Nasser. The screenplay was written by Mohan based on a story penned by Kamal Haasan. In a funny twist, the trio ends up with the body of a terrorist and the sequence with them hauling the body of Nagesh and trying to remain inconspicuous elicits raucous laughter. The movie was well ahead of its time, dealing with the pervasive yet ignored theme of sexual harassment faced by women at the workplace.

Chinna Vathiyar (1995)

Maybe not as popular as the other blockbusters on the list, but this Prabhu-starrer has gained cult status for Mohan's genius in handling Goundamani's comedy track along with Senthil. Dealing with themes of science fiction, this experimental movie was inspired from Mohan's stage play Madhu +2.

Sathi Leelavathi (1995)

An eminently quotable movie, Sathi Leelavathi was directed by veteran Balu Mahendra, with memorable dialogues penned by Crazy Mohan. The film centres around a housewife's quest to win back her husband's affection after she discovers his affair. She enlists the help of her husband's best friend and her children to carry out her plan. Kamal Haasan's dedicated, almost loving use of 'kongu' Tamil and the exchanges between Kamal Haasan and Kovai Sarala in the film's climax are some of its highlights.

Avvai Shanmugi (1996)

Inspired by Robin Williams’ Mrs Doubtfire, its Tamil counterpart Avvai Shanmugi became a textbook example of slapstick comedy. Be it the scene involving Shanmugi (Kamal Haasan) and Mudaliyar (Manivanan) or the combination sequences featuring Gemini Ganesan and Kamal Haasan, Avvai Shanmugi was filled with such unintentional humour. Even after all these years, the scene where Nasser introduces himself as “” is still etched in our memory.

Arunachalam (1997)

A rare Superstar film in the list, this Sundar C directorial that featured Rajinikanth in one of his quintessential rags-to-riches roles (albeit with a twist), also made use of Thalaivar's impeccable comic timing perfectly. Pairing him up with 'Rajini regulars' like Janagaraj and Senthil, Mohan's writing tip-toed seamlessly between themes of celebration, despair, comedy and inspiration as Rajinikanth delivered his performance with proverbial elan. Who didn't feel gossebumps the first time "Andavan solran, Arunachalam seiran," was uttered?

Kadhala Kadhala (1998)

Yet another successful coming together of the creative talents of Crazy Mohan and Kamal Haasan was Kadhala Kadhala for which the duo shared screenwriting credits. Ramalingam and Sundaralingam's attempts to con the parents of their love interests, Janaki and Sundari, into believing them to be rich, results in a series of subplots that lend themselves to Mohan's style of blink-and-miss fast-paced quips. Prabhu Deva and Kamal's bromance (and dance steps in the Kaasumela song) from the movie is still one of YouTube's most popular clips!

Panchathanthiram (2002)

If someone were to prepare a list of the ten best comedies in Tamil cinema, the list would be incomplete without Panchathanthiram. So much so that the talented ensemble cast grabs our attention every time the film gets a television slot. The film, in many ways, was a momentous achievement in terms of situational comedy and drawing humour from the unlikeliest of places. Be it the scene where Reddy Garu says, “Chinna kallu bedha labbam [small stone, big profit]”, or the wordplay on “Mythili alias Maragathavalli alias Maggi”, Panchathanthiram was laced with light-hearted humour and sarcasm.

Vasool Raja MBBS (2004)

In Indian cinema, very few remakes manage to exceed the expectations from the original version. Vasool Raja MBBS was a rare film that foreshadowed the success of its Hindi counterpart Munna Bhai MBBS. Apart from writing dialogues, Crazy Mohan also played a significant role as Margabandhu or as Kamal puts it, “Margabandhu modhal sandhu... kavithai maari illa?”

Even today, the dialogues, “What’s the procedure to change the room?” and “Vechiruken unnaku appu” are quite popular among the Tamil meme nation. Vasool Raja MBBS turned out to be the last film in which Kamal and Mohan worked together.

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2021 2:22:37 AM |

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