Buzzing like crazy

Comedy and ‘Crazy' Mohan are inseparable. The popularity this veteran playwright, script and dialogue writer and actor of films and stage enjoys is immense. On hearing that S. S. Rajamouli, a very successful filmmaker in Telugu, has roped in Mohan as the dialogue writer for his first Tamil project, Naan E, I'm intrigued. The buzz is, though the film revolves around a housefly, the subject is quite serious — a revenge saga.

I decide to ask him, “When can we talk?”

“Now, if you are free,” is the reply.

Over the years, I've interacted with Mohan several times and he's always been the same warm and airs-free person. At this moment he's busy with preparations for the Crazy team's two-month tour of the U.S. for the staging of the popular play, ‘Chocolate Krishna.' “That's not an issue at all. I just have to pack my things,” he laughs. “Anyway, every time I go abroad, I get myself a whole lot of new clothes only to bring most of them back without even the price tag removed.” The troupe will be flying out of Chennai on April 11.

Naan E will be a bi-lingual in Tamil and Telugu. “When Rajamouli told me that he loved my dialogue, and wanted at least 20 puns, many witty similes and play on the Tamil word, ‘E' (housefly), I started giving him quite a few samples straightway. ‘This is the kind of stuff I want,' Rajamouli rubbed his hands in joy,” smiles Mohan.

The ‘Munnaadi Pinnaadi' (‘before and after') takes in Kamal's Panchathanthiram, the ‘mean' and ‘meen' exchanges in Michael Madana Kama Rajan that add to the confusion at the wedding, when a salted fish finds its way into the sambhar, and the comparison of a vertically challenged circus clown in Aboorva Sagodarargal to the pithy couplets of ‘Thirukkural' are proof of Crazy's adeptness at dialogue. Even today, the mere mention of these scenes evokes laughter.

Playing the role of a vet

Rajamouli then requested Mohan to play the part of a vet in Naan E. “Make him a Malayalam speaking character. The scope for witty dialogue will be more,” Mohan suggested. But isn't Naan E a serious film? Is there enough scope for his comic antics?

“I don't wish to give away too much, but I can assure you this E will be very different,” says Mohan cryptically. Possibly on the lines of the Stuart Little or Shrek franchise? “Maybe, but to me E is original. Imagine your plight when a mosquito gets into your bedcover at night, or when a housefly is bent on circling around your face endlessly. Rajamouli has woven an exciting intrigue on the creature's power to exasperate man.”

In Telugu cinema, Rajamouli is in the same league as our best directors, for example, Shankar. His Magadheera, a mega hit with Ram Charan Teja and Kajal Agarwal, exemplifies his success. And like S. S. Vasan of Gemini Studios, who made the blockbuster, Chandralekha, and followed it up with a small budget film, Mr. Sampath, after Magadheera, Rajamouli made Maryadha Ramanna, with comedian Sunil and Saloni, which again worked magic at the turnstiles. “You can't confine Rajamouli to a particular genre,” says Mohan.

Naan E has Samantha, who is making waves in Telugu and lately in Tamil as well, after Mani Ratnam made her the heroine of Kadal. And Naani returns to Tamil after a worthy debut with Veppam. “Then there's Sudeep, a popular hero from the Kannada industry, in a crucial role. After Naan E, the cast will scale greater heights,” predicts Mohan. “And Santhanam's comedy will be a major highlight. You always have him making you laugh with his non-stop humour dialogue. Here it will be less of talk and more of expressions that are sure to have you in splits. He plays a thief,” laughs Mohan.

“When Rajamouli narrated the story to me, his clarity of thought was evident. Even if he needs a 20-second violin bit in the background score at a particular point, the script makes a mention of it! In a film like this, where a housefly is the pivot, you can imagine the extent of CG involved. Rajamouli had worked out every minute detail,” Mohan commends.

Mohan took just 10 days to complete the dialogue. “It isn't surprising. The script would inspire any dialogue writer. I don't think I can create any more jokes or one-liners on the housefly. All possibilities have been exhausted in E.”

Choosy about films

Mohan is quite choosy about his film commitments, most of which have been for Kamal. After Vasool Raja MBBS in 2004, he was part of the story discussion for Dasavathaaram. Later Kola Kolaiya Mundhirika had his story and dialogue. Just three films in eight years! “That's mainly because I'm very much into Tamil theatre,” he explains. “But I found the storyline of Naan E fascinating. I had to do it.”

Is he familiar with Telugu cinema? “My entry dates back to Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari, the smash hit with Chiranjeevi and Sridevi.” Is he kidding? “Not at all! Director Raghavendra Rao had liked Aboorva Sagodarargal so much that he wanted me to don a role in his film. Though I was apprehensive I agreed. On the flight to Vizag for the shoot, Sridevi, who was on board, looked at me quizzically. ‘What is he doing here,' she must have thought. Later on the sets, I told Rao, ‘You know I don't know a word of Telugu, don't you?' ‘Don't worry. I have an assistant to coach you. By the way, you play a Kannadiga,' he said. I was at my wits' end. ‘I don't know Kannada either,' I began when the assistant whispered in my ear: ‘Sir, I have to confess that I don't know Telugu or Kannada, I'm from Kerala…' I blinked! That was my first brush with Telugu cinema.” I burst out laughing.

Soon Mohan was part of the team for films such as Madam and Indrudu Chandrudu. “It was in Telugu that I found my mentor — Singeetham Srinivasa Rao. Today, like you say family doctor, he's my family director. A part of us,” he chuckles.

Returning to Naan E, the audio is out and the film is all set to release soon. As he will be travelling then, he could miss the opening. “It's coming out worldwide. I'll catch up with it at one of the cinemas in the U.S.,” he guffaws. “I know it'll be worth it.”

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 3:15:06 AM |

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