A tribute to 'Crazy' Mohan

Friday Review pays tribute to ‘Crazy’ Mohan

Mohan never ceased to surprise. The latest was his ‘Ramanayanam.’ One knew that he was a poet, who had written thousands of Tamil verses, Venba style, but was not aware that he had written the story of Bhagawan Ramana on the lines of Valmiki Ramayana. Over phone, he spoke about his compositions. And he called repeatedly to share a thought. “I forgot to say this. Can you add,” he would say. Each was a nugget. Clearly this was a case of evolution — from a dramatist to film writer and an artist to a poet with a strong spiritual streak.

Well, it would be an understatement to say that Mohan redefined humour in Tamil theatre. He did it at a time radio was still in use and one didn’t go to sleep without listening to ‘Vannachudar’ of Vividh Bharati, which brought Crazy Thieves into the drawing rooms. Mohan had arrived.

Situational comedy gained accent during the 1980s with dialogue playing a big role. Mohan’s humour was quicksilver so much so that if you did not concentrate you missed it. Every line was a punch. And when he spoke, the words ran into each other. Even for veterans, it took at least one revisit to grasp the lines and... savour them for ever. That MMKR, VRMBBS, Avvai Shanmukhi, Sati Leelavathi, etc., not to mention his plays, are stress-busters is another matter. No excuse needed to go back to them again and again. Much like a P. G. Wodehouse book. Timeless.

Cheer, his middle name

Even in casual exchanges, Mohan’s wit sparkled. This writer’s regret is the conversation, which did not happen. An article about his Venba — he had written thousands of them — had been due, it was mutually acknowledged. It had become his habit to finish tête-à-têtes with a verse. Again he was so fast, one had to ask for an encore. And he obliged. Cheerfully. It was hard to miss the innocent charm too. ‘May be we’ll do it for next week’ — the idea was brutally quashed with his sudden exit. None was prepared for this punch Mohan delivered on Monday.

“My day dawns at 10 a.m.,” he apologised when he returned a call, which went unanswered. “ I start late and work into the wee hours,” he explained. His genius was quite unique, straddling several genres.

Mohan was excited to be a part of the Janmashtami Special this supplement brought out last year. “I’m a fan of Keshav and the first thing I do in the morning is pray in front of his painting and write a Venba. This has been a routine for years,” he declared. ‘Chocolate Krishna’ was staged at the Vatapatrasayee temple, Srivilliputhur, and Mohan was honoured with a heavy garland. It is therefore not a coincidence that he left on Ashtami, the day associated with Krishna.

Simple and humble, Mohan was anything but ‘crazy’ during his lifetime. Obviously, he has departed, his purpose on earth served. Friday Review Desk is thankful for the art work and the poems that he shared, which have been featured here. “It may come in handy some time,” he had guffawed. How prophetic!

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