I still remember the day I watched Anjathey in college. It was right after I finished an exam and I was watching it alone and I was so engaged by it that I hardly noticed the three hour runtime go by. I also remember rewatching it the same day with some friends and then earning their wrath for wasting three hours of their lives. And that’s how my relationship with Mysskin started.
Despite the harsh words my friends used against him, a couple of things endeared him to me. This scene from Anjathey and the fact that he said in an interview, “I want to die while I’m shooting a film.”
And then it was Yuddham Sei, which was phenomenal. Mugamoodi was the first time I went to the theatres to watch a Mysskin movie and it was the biggest letdown of all. Yet, I fell in love with him once again when I watched Onaayum Aattukkuttiyum and Pisasu back to back.
Somehow I kept away from watching Nandhalala. I think I initially avoided it because he himself had acted in it. But, recently I chanced upon a couple of scenes from the movie and I was piqued. So I decided to watch the whole movie.
It was phenomenal in a Mysskin sort of way. All the Mysskinisms are there. Although he says he avoids closeups because it makes the actors feel like they’re “acting”, I get the same feeling with the wide shots he composes. They often feel staged, the movements of the actors feel staged too. But, but… somehow I am willing to overlook that. Because I know with a Mysskin film he’s always trying to communicate something to me as a viewer. In each and every frame, he’s trying to tell me something and I’d like to watch at least for the experience of finding that out.
A visual in this film shall haunt me for the rest of my life. (It is also for moments like these that I look forward to in a Mysskin film). Similar to the shot in Yuddham Sei that reveals a severed head on a watermelon wagon, this shot is a reveal of what has happened to Mysskin’s mother in the film. We see the angry Mysskin approaching the mother to slap her. We know and anticipate that he is going to see something that’ll be in sharp contrast to what he’s expecting. And then we see the inevitable freeze where he stops in his tracks after seeing something shocking outside of the frame. And then the camera tracks sideways to reveal this. What a moment!
In one of his interviews about this film, Mysskin revealed that this a very personal film for him and that something he saw as a 6-year-old was what inspired him to write this script. I am really curious to know what is that visual he saw as a 6-year-old. I hope it is this frame.
The other great thing about this movie is its visual style and its emphasis on visual storytelling. There are several scenes in which the storytelling is purely through visuals and through movement of the characters in the frame. There are several poignant moments when a lot of things are left unsaid. And that makes it more interesting. For instance, it doesn’t really matter what the kid’s mom said. She didn’t want to be with him. That’s it.
Praising Ilaiyaraja is like saying Sachin is awesome. I love this movie’s theme. He has somehow fused the idea of a journey and sorrow into it. And the moments when the theme of the movie is repeated are absolutely spot on.
However, everything said, I can still imagine how it would have been had I watched this movie with my friends who hated Anjathey. They’ll never be able to grasp or to sit with patience as Mysskin walks away into the distance carrying a bunch of balloons. That walk is the concluding shot. He walks for a good two minutes as the titles of the film roll by and the kid and the prostitute stand still, watching him walk away. I sat without moving too. And that feeling my dear non-Mysskin lovers shall never comprehend.