On the 25th year anniversary of Guna, we try making sense of the orgasmic beauty, ‘Paartha Vizhi Paartha Padi’…
– Mani Prabhu
Can you fall hopelessly in love, or whatever that means, with someone at first sight? Caution… trick question! For there is no right or wrong answer. The belief that someone can give their hearts away upon a single view – or after that one fateful glance – despite sounding like one of those fevered fairy-tale dreams, oxymoronically belies this whole ‘soulmates’ theory on many levels. Come on, who will submit themselves masochistically to that sort of dangerous shit. The bells ring? Lights flash? Violins go on a crazy spree? Future flashes in bits and pieces? What if that person turns out to be a terrorist, serial-killer or something? What exactly are you falling in love with, if not the looks? The aura, you say? And what sort of aura is that? A hint of a magical familiarity? A vague sense of knowing that person for ages? Aren’t these all, in some sense or the other, just upshots of physical attraction or compatibility, in diverse sensibilities? Some kind of spark within minutes of meeting someone, yeah! But, knowing and feeling ‘togetherness’ in one glance? Sorry, I ain’t sold.
Unless you are Guna. And what you feel literally barges out of the confines of mortal language comprehension skills like a demolition truck. When love-at-first-sight becomes a cool metaphor for a long-awaited call for divine immortality. Huh? Loads of bull? Let me explain. How do you label a chance at perceived nirvana? A much sought-after deliverance. An escape from the clutches of earthly sins. A one-shot solution to the troubled human existence. Guna, an obsessive-impulsive psychoneurotic with religious and referential delusions, calls it Abirami.
Abirami, as in the almighty Mother Parvathi. No kidding. If you are fan of euphemisms, a ‘temporal avatar of the Goddess’ may make things a little more accessible. But that’s how it is. A little too ineffable for words. Yet, you want more! And so, hear me out. Taking a strong cue from a fellow asylum-inmate’s hallucinatory musings, Guna fantasizes of finding his ‘Abirami’ someday, and marrying her in the mountains on a full-moon day, which would serve to consolidate his divinity. That’s some real crazy mindfuck, right! But, don’t judge him yet, for the man is no weirdo. A born do-gooder who occasionally contradicts himself thanks to his exploding neural circuits, he effortlessly makes his ‘disconnect-from-reality’ seem super-convincing. And sometimes, even disturbingly alluring. Listen to him talk about his need to be absolved of mortal miseries, and his life-long search for Abirami – the only person in the whole mad world who could cleanse his soul – and you instantly know why it’s tough not to sympathize with this seeming lunatic, who like many of us, simply aspires to silence his inner demons.
And when he eventually gets a shot at it, what better tool than the combined geniuses of Haasan and Raja to bring the magic alive in all its mystical glory!
This stunning sequence starts off with Guna’s uncle heralding the arrival of Abirami inside a temple to momentarily evade Guna’s constant bickering. And boom. As if preordained by destiny, an almost celestial damsel appears out of the corner, and proceeds to walk towards him. Shell-shocked at this unexpected prophesy, Guna is instantaneously lost for emotions. He keeps staring at the woman, unable to believe his eyes. Raja starts off now with the deceptive Saranga Tharangini. It’s almost like reading into Guna’s mind. Misleadingly calm and peaceful, even as he fights a brutal war of elation and uncertainty inside! But nor for long, as he slumps to the ground in rapturous joy, watching the lady pass by, inches away from him. The camera arcs around – acknowledging his sudden burst of Godliness – casually pausing for a split-second to note the woman’s amusement at all this sudden attention. It’s just another day of being ogled at, for her.
But not for Guna, who has finally felt a hint of moksha within, but is not there yet. An inkling of doubt remains. “Is she my Abirami?” he pinches himself. Unable to contain his conflicting emotions, a huge grin having descended on his face nevertheless, he rushes behind the woman to get a closer look. But, how would he know?
When you want something with all your heart and soul, the whole universe conspires to make it happen, they say. Not without reason, I suppose. His head hits against the temple bell – the ring resonating as some sort of a divine concurrence. Raja is in cruise control mode now, steering the scene with tiny variations in the original Saranga Tharini. The broadening grin on Guna’s face complements it like they were yin and yang. What if she is the one after all? Would she know it too? What if she doesn’t? The camera shakily dollies back to follow him through the main mandapam. As he reaches the walkway, a string of thoughts muddling his apparent excitement, he bangs on a hand-shaped signboard, which ends up with the index finger pointing towards the woman. Bam, the melodious strings in the background segue into an eerie three second pause.
Guna stands frozen, just behind the signboard, staring ahead, unable to take in the enormous gravity of the hour. Is this the moment, after all? Huge chimes resonate within his head. The universe is done with its chipping in, we think. That second, a distant shroud on the ceiling uncovers, letting his face glow in the sun. Guna looks up towards the light and then back at the woman, approaching the stage. The fevered expression on his face says it all. He has heard the message.
And so has Raja. He smoothly shifts gear to the Pavani raga, exquisitely rubbing off the idyllic state of soul-cleansing nirvana. The tone of the composition changes in a jiffy. And simultaneously, the verses from Abirami Anthadhi begin.
That’s exactly when you are teleported into Guna’s head. You get his intoxication. And slowly, you even start feeling the detonating synapses.
The camera follows the woman from behind as she ascends the stage and flashes that angelic smile. Something crumbles within. But before you can make any sense of it, you see an ecstatic Guna trying to join the queue leading to the stage. The camera observes him from an uncomfortably close distance, and then does a wild pan-back to focus on the woman’s cherubic feet, even as the lines “ஆய கியாதி உடையாள்” (meaning ‘I surrender unto your feet’) play in the background. This tiny little piece of brilliance mounts Guna in the same pedestal as Abirami Pattar, the man who wrote Abirami Anthadhi after developing a deadly obsession for the Goddess. It’s breathtaking. Try batting an eyelid.
Someone pushes Guna into the queue, cutting off his ethereal trip. It’s a security guard. Heck, even he seems to be pointing at the woman.
Guna jumps in joy, raising his hands to the heavens in gratitude. He could feel his doubts being mercilessly crushed, one by one. We could feel his shiver in our spines.
The song begins. Soul-stirring stuff.
பார்த்த விழி பார்த்த படி பூத்து இருக்க
காத்திருந்த காட்சி இங்கு காணக் கிடைக்க
ஊன் உருக, உயிர் உருக, தேன் தரும் தடாகமே
மதி வருக வழி நெடுக ஒளி நிறைக வாழ்விலே
The queue inches forward. Can you imagine the look on the face of someone who is a few feet away from salvation and keeps moving towards it? It’s mind-blowing. You can’t close your eyes. You can’t keep them open either. You can’t stop your heart popping up to your throat. You can’t gulp it down either. Your body seem to melt in all the exhilaration. You feel like floating. You feel like breaking down in awe. It’s complicated. Haasan nails the orgasmic mood with the perfect blend of the two rasas in play – Sringara and Adbhuta.
The lyrical interlude leads up to a different verse from the Abirami Anthadhi, which references the pearl necklace adorning breasts of the Mother Goddess (முத்துவடம் கொண்ட கொங்கை). As these lines play out, with Guna waiting in a trance state for the prasadam plate to be replenished, the camera nonchalantly pauses for a moment to glance at Abirami’s bosom in profile, and casually notes the instinctive adjustment of the pallu. It then tracks back to reveal Guna trying to kiss her hands in all piety, as she hands over the laddus. He is readily pushed away. But he doesn’t care.
Why would he? He had been finally released from his evil spell. With Abirami by his side, he could now return to his abode. As he soaks in the magic of the moment, the camera again arcs around, celebrating the climaxing of his divinity. Guna ends up hallucinating about performing the Shiva Tandava, before uniting with his Abirami in divine love to give birth to the symbolic Ardhanareeswarar.
The uni-sexual formation disappears, leaving behind a towering Shivalinga in its place. The curse had been nullified. At least, inside his head.
Transcendental bliss. That’s what this sequence is.