A series of posts celebrating the various moods of love, the magician has managed to bring to celluloid screen over the three decades.

Episode 2: Amour

by Mani Prabhu


Amour: (noun) a love affair or lover, especially one that is secret.

The setting is Tamil Nadu in the 1950s.The married Tamizhselvan, a gifted wordsmith, passionate writer and an intense social activist, happens to sight a random girl who seems to be interested in him and his ideologies, while fighting for his party’s causes, lying down in front of an approaching train on the railway track. He is instantly smitten, unable to take his eyes off the mystery girl. As time passes by, his political party contests the elections and sweeps it by a huge margin.

Tamizhselvan, who had immersed himself in promoting his party, even at the expense of not being with his pregnant wife at the time of her delivery, deservingly becomes the CM. But the thoughts of the girl on the railway track continue to haunt him. Having left his wife back in the village, he learns about the girl through his party workers and writes to her, wooing her using his brilliant wordplay, asking her to come from Madurai and join him in Madras.

Soon enough, a train arrives in Madras station, and the mystery girl alights from it. A couple of men come rushing, introduce themselves as the CM’s aides and request the luggage from her. The uncertainty in her act is evident in her confused face and hesitant body language as she hands over her heavy bags. While she is still contemplating on her insane decision, a regal car takes her to the chief minister’s house.

Tamizhselvan rushes back from work in elation, having waited for several months to meet the girl whose thoughts wouldn’t stop gnawing his psyche. Once he enters his house, he excitedly looks around and subsequently catches the first glimpse of the damsel, who had nonchalantly captured his heart at first sight. He looks at her, his eyes brimming with pride over finding his girl, his piercing gaze dipped in intense passion. The girl is seated in a stair way, probably in a duel between her calling and her reasoning.

Tamizhselvan walks towards the girl, his expressions speaking volumes about his strong desire towards her, probably his lethal attraction. He calls her emphatically by her name ‘Senthamarai’ for the first time, and gives a pause to relish the moment. Just dazing at her seems to take his breath away. He doesn’t seem to be ashamed of his actions even for a moment. For him, this is the inevitable. He asks her why she had decided to abandon her own home, her parents, and her well- paying Tamil tutor job in a government school in response to his poetic letter? He wants to know what is running in her mind! He confesses that as he scoured the state for three months in search of his love, people started calling him ‘mad’. The emotional anticipation in his voice is pretty conspicuous now. He wants to know badly if his muse shared the same madness as him!

Senthamarai just stares at his self-indulgent speech wide-eyed, battling a whirlwind of emotions within, but unable to find her voice at the moment. Somehow, with quite some effort, she answers in a trembling and painful voice that his four line poem had magically pushed her into taking the insane decision of leaving her family. She had taken the decision in an impulse, but is she in doubts still? “I had come here for the love of you and your language, but who am I here?” Her tone reflects her deep-seated confusion and agony. “What exactly do we share? Is it right? How can this be explained? Who am I, for you?” she asks again, her eyes almost getting moist. Excruciating seconds of silence follow.

“My lover” Tamizhselvan looks into her eyes and says it. A poignant hush… “The apple of my eye”. Another deeper profound pause… “My close friend”, he concludes. Senthamarai keeps staring at the passion of Tamizhselvan as her lips quiver from the emotional turbulence, her mind had been subjected to. Now, a tear drop starts to make way down her cheek as she battles intense and contrasting pressures from her brain and her heart. Several moments of painful quietude ensues.

At a point, not able to take the mixed feelings of fear and guilt, she looks away. Some more seconds of unrelenting torture. Finally in a moment of realisation about the nature of the relationship, a sort of calmness descends down her, as she leans her head back on the staircase railing and cries a wee bit. She then swallows some tears with a lot of effort. And that moment, the soul-stirringbackground score makes a debut to add to the already intense atmosphere. Senthamarai turnstowards Tamizhselvan and smiles, amidst her tears; the suffering in that smile hitting us like a ton of bricks.

As the back ground score continues with an apparent hissing of bats, Tamizhselvan and Senthamarai are now lying on the floor, having consummated their relationship, her hair in tangles and their clothes in a mess, as we look upon them from above. Our point of view on the couple starts rotating, starting off in a gentle gyration. Tamizhselvan’s face reflects a sense of calm, while Senthamarai looks more disturbed. We could probably guess her thoughts and concerns at this moment.

Tamizhselvan starts a fervent recital as we gaze and gape at the frame’s brilliance.

உன்னோடு நான் இருந்த ஒவ்வொரு மணித்துளியும்

மரணப்படுக்கையிலும் மறக்காது கண்மணியே

தொண்ணூறு நிமிடங்கள் தொட்டணைத்த காலம் தான்

எண்ணூறு ஆண்டுகளாய் இதயத்தில் கலங்குதடி

Every emotional moment that I have shared with you,

Would remain in my memories even in my death bed”

Our soulful embrace lasting for a mere ninety seconds

Will resonate in my heart for eternity

The frame starts spinning a bit faster, catching us off-guard at the amount of emotions, being thrown at us. The sound of a ticking clock adds on.

பார்வையிலே சில நிமிடம்

பயத்தோடு சில நிமிடம்

கட்டி அணைத்தபடி கண்ணீரில் சில நிமிடம்

இலக்கணமே பாராமல் எல்லா இடங்களிலும்

முத்தங்கள் விதைத்த மோகத்தில் சில நிமிடம்

Some moments, with our gazes locked,

A few moments in total fear,

In tears, we seek solace in a close embrace.

In uncharted romantic grammar and territory

Kisses galore we lie, carnal desires taking over in yet another moment

As Tamizhsevan fondles Senthamarai’s cheek with his touch, the frame starts rotating even faster; soulful humming with stunning percussions hitting on us in the background.

எது நியாயம்? எது பாவம்? இருவருக்கும் தோன்றவில்லை

அது இரவா? அது பகலா? அதைப்பற்றி அறியவில்லை

யார் தொடங்க? யார் முடிக்க? ஒரு வழியும் தோன்றவில்லை

இருவருமே தொடங்கிவிட்டோம் இது வரைக்கும் கேள்வி இல்லை..

Heedless of righteousness and sin,

With complete indifference to dawn and dusk,

We both have started, sightless and thoughtless,

Not letting questions arise, and

Unaware of who actually began, and who ended!

Is it the frame that is spinning? Or the ground? Or our thoughts? The questions get only stronger…

அச்சம் கலைந்தேன் ஆசையினை நீ அணைத்தாய்

ஆடை கலைந்தேன் வெட்கத்தை நீ அணைத்தாய்

கண்டத்திருக்கோளம் கனவாக மறைந்தாலும்

கடைசியில் அழுத கண்ணீர் கையில் இன்னும ஒட்டுதடி..

I shed my dread, you fondled desire.

I parted with my garments, and you embraced coyness.

Even if all the souvenirs of your magical closeness evaporates into a distant dream,

My hands would remain moist with the your final tear-drop

உன்னோடு நான் இருந்த ஒவ்வொரு மணித்துளியும்

மரணப்படுக்கையிலும் மறக்காது கண்மணியே

Every emotional moment that I have shared with you,

Would remain in my memories even in my death bed

Mani Ratnam, with ‘epic’ assistance from Santosh Shivan and AR. Rahman, takes us to dizzying heights of emotional blurring, and leaves us with this singular thought.

The master had just deconstructed amour.

Film: Iruvar

Year: 1997

Background score: AR Rahman

Cinematography: Santosh Shivan

Lyrics: Vairamuthu

Other Episodes:

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 1

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 2

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 3

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 4

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 5

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 6

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 7

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 8 (Final)