Movies

So many trains, so many journeys

VM: The verdict is out, and like anyone could have predicted from the trailers, Thodari has derailed. I understand a lot of the film’s hype was sold as being ‘India’s First Train Movie’. But where’s the novelty in selling it like that in an industry like ours, which is already obsessed with the railways, given how a train scene is a fixture in almost every Mani Ratnam or Shankar film.

SR: For me, the romance of travelling in a train is unmatched. I took the Ooty train just to experience what Mani Ratnam showed us in ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’, arguably the most iconic train sequence in all of our cinema.

VM: So do you feel Thodari’s marketing worked? You talk about it as though it was ‘India’s first film shot entirely underwater’!

SR: It’s just a harmless tag-line, IMHO. After all, we have a never-ending love affair with the railways. So many films, so many memories. My favourite is the Alaipayuthe sequences when Maddy cheekily ‘proposes’ to Shalini on a local train. What’s yours?

VM: More than a particular scene, it has to be ‘Chikku Bukku Raile’. That song is the singular most important reason most 90’s kids learnt how to dance. That was our ‘Beat It’. The song even has its own Wikipedia page. So it began with Shankar, for sure. I was just 10 when Alaipayuthey released. Perhaps why it didn’t hit me like then like it does now.

SR: What are you saying? Have you forgotten Karthik’s ‘Raaja Raajathi’ from Agni Natchathiram? That was in the late 1980s....so, it was Ratnam for me.

VM: I feel we tend to overlook Shankar’s sequences…he has set such grand scenes on trains. Endhiran’s train fight was my favourite scene from that film. Don’t forget he got an entire train painted for Nanban’s ‘Asku Laska’. I even enjoyed the scene in which Rajini’s foot gets stuck in the railway track in Sivaji.

SR: Ahh, that scene in which Shriya stops a running train by waving her red saree. Can’t call that my favourite! I like the one in Anniyan where the whole family takes a train to Thiruvaiyaaru. While it set the characters in place, it also provided for some great humour, courtesy Vivek. We also connected well with it, since train travel is quite a messy affair. I remember my dad arguing with the catering guys during one journey to Delhi, exactly like Vikram does in the film.

VM: Who hasn’t? There’s nothing like train food to ruin the romance of travelling. It wasn’t just a train setting, it was a full-fledged issue that all of us could relate to.

SR: That’s right! It has almost become a tradition in Kollywood to include a train sequence; even Mani Ratnam’s assistants seem to have been smitten by that. His ex-assistant, Kannan, filmed a lot on a train in Kanden Kadhalai, the Tamil version of Jab We Met. And, another assistant, Susi Ganesan, filmed an entire song (‘Rayile Rayile’) in his Five Star. The hero-heroine meet on a local train and end up in a dream sequence shot abroad…again on a train!

VM: Don’t forget Sudha Kongara’s (another Mani Ratnam assistant) recent Irudhi Suttru. There’s a powerful in it scene where the heroine, travelling on sleeper coach, is called into a senior boxing official’s first class compartment so he can take advantage of her. Never before has a first-class compartment felt so claustrophobic.

In contrast, Madhavan, the good coach, is seen sitting right next to her in a sleeper seat in the song ‘Ey Sandakara’.

SR: But that was one of the few scenes that had a sombre touch to it. Usually, it’s all cheerful. Like the wonderful romance in Vaaranam Aayiram, in which Suriya sings ‘Nenjukul Peidhudum’, guitar in hand.

VM: How did we ever forget GVM? I know so many people who hope to find their Jesse on a train from Kerala to Chennai like Karthik (Simbu) in VTV.

I can’t think of any other film culture that romanticizes trains like Tamil cinema does.

SR: Oh yes. Even a film inside a film features a train here! Remember Ajith’s directorial dreams in Kandukondein Kandukondein…in which he dreamt of making an entire film set on a speeding train.

VM: I think it was called it Vegam, right? I’d watch that, for sure!

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 10:41:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/strongSo-many-trains-so-many-journeys-strong/article14650512.ece

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