Thursday, December 22, 2005

Guna

A 2-minutes long tracking shot takes us through a lower-end brothel in Hyderabad and ends showing Guna on the terrace (shot from below with a 'Godly' respect), standing on one leg. It is a Pournami (full-moon day) and Guna is awaiting the arrival of Abhirami. He sees a bride going through the Jaanavasa ceremony and mistakes her for Abhirami.

So starts Gunaa, one of the best films to have come out of Tamil Cinema in the last decade. This was the first of the twin efforts (the other being the great Mahanadhi) of Kamal Haasan with his friend Santhana Bharathi wielding the megaphone. Kamal packs in a superb team (Venu for Cinematography, Balakumaran for dialogues, and of course Raaja). Yes, it is not a flawless film. But, it is a film of the kind that stays on in your mind.
The film looks at this man Guna, with unconditional sympathy; how he is doomed in this big bad world; and in that sense, it is a cynical film. Guna is a madman (an obsessional psychoneurotic) who is told, by a fellow asylum-inmate (Ananthu), that Abhirami (the Goddess) will marry him on a full moon day and will take him out of all his miseries. There is this sense of Godliness attributed to him in the movie - He can unlock anything like cars, safes etc. and helps his uncle in his thefts. He wants to be cleansed (in the famous scene Guna explaining to the doctor about how Abhirami would 'cleanse' him). He unconditionally believes that he is God, and that only Abhirami can cleanse him. He believes in uniting with Abhirami, the Goddess (an imaginatory sequence shows the formation of the Lingam). So he kidnaps her; takes her along with him to a deserted church on top of a hill and explains his love for her, and their destiny.
The screenplay of the film {written by Sabjaan, a Kamal Haasan associate who wrote Chanakyan and (according to my assumption) played the role of Narasimhan is Kuruthippunal} is of the highest standards w.r.t. Tamil Cinema. It's expertly woven, richly textured, subtle and doesn't scream for our attention. Not to forget the insightful and yet realistic dialogues by Balakumaran. Ilaiyaraaja gives a great background score (most of BGM pieces during chase sequences are liberally borrowed from Kamal Haasan's 2 earlier flicks Aboorva Sagodharagal and MMKR). Kamal Haasan comes up with a truly wonderful performance (before anyone pounces on me, I haven't seen Rain Man yet, which would not change this statement anyway), with all the rest of the cast chipping in accordingly.
What is striking is that the film doesn't melodramatize the state of Guna. It doesn't put him in fake glory. It looks at him with a detached sympathy. Guna is after all, a madman and it never bats an eyelid to put forth the fact to us. He says he is in love with Abhirami and that she can never go leaving him behind. But, he still ties her giving a new reason each time.
Apart from this, the movie also works as a traditional thriller with an (albeit heavily stereo-typed) villain, CBI in chase, and lots of money at stake. As in every other KH film, the subtle humour is unmissable.
Looking at the mythological connections of the story, the keypoint in the film is how the usual assumed gender roles are reversed here. The mythology has this story of Parvathi, the Goddess, who takes human form because of a curse and eventually re-unites with Lord Shiva. We also have other examples like Meera and Aandaal. In Gunaa, the roles are reversed. It's Guna who has taken an earthly form and yearning to unite with Abhirami.
This is apparent in many scenes like,
1. Guna tying the thaali around his neck.
2. Guna, looking reverently at his "thaali" after Abhirami walks out of the car hanging at the edge of a mountain.
3. Guna waiting for Abhirami to complete her meal.
4. Or when Abhirami kisses Guna.
The story also owes the main thread of obsession towards the Goddess to the story of Abhirama Bhattar, who wrote Abhirami Anthathi.
In a beautiful sequence, Rohini and Guna playfully pretend to be bees and buzz around in air (ending with the bees "kissing" each other), and Abhirami asks Guna to tie the Thaali, Guna says they have to wait till Pournami. But, she says "Nila aagasuthalaiya irukku? manasula irukku. Manasu thaan nila. Neranja naal!..". Apart from serving as a point for the culmination of their love (Nilu feels that this is a "must-have-sex" film and I agree; but this sequence does have the desired effect without showing them have sex), it also directly refers to the mythology itself. In the story of Abhirama Bhattar, Abhirami turns an Amavasai into a Pournami by throwing her ear-ring into the sky. Guna recollects the mythological incident and says "aamaam! Abhirami sonna Pournami thaan!".

And when the movie ends (with that divine and strangely soothing theme playing in the background), we see the deserted church in the bird's eye view and the glowing moon behind it. It is the next Pournami (thus completing the cycle) and Guna has joined hands with his Abhirami. Or has he?

75 comments:

  1. hi,

    that was a smashing insight revu on one of my all time favourite movies. Never knew about its mythological connection. It is indeed a rejected master piece and one of the unforgettable films. can we expect similar one on heyram(the long promised one)???????

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  2. First time visitor. A truly good review of a wonderful movie. Finally, somebody else thinks so highly of this movie (I have been laughed at by most of my friends when I mention this movie as one of Kamal's good ones). Could have been made a little more taut -- at least 15-20 minutes could have been chopped off. But that's in retrospect.

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  3. Good review and analysis of the mythological backround - never knew about the mythology behind this. But still one thing irritating in the movie was that, Abhirami seems to very quickly understand Guna's love and reciprocates it...of course some contrived things like her 'manager' cheating her were supposed make us beleive this, but it only makes the film somewhat cliched. Anyway we have to look at the film differently to appreciate it.

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  4. One of KH's best;It must've been one of those creations that would've given immense satisfaction to the performer(KH here)no matter the commercial failure.I guess I treasure Guna,Mahanadhi,Hey Ram mainly coz they were not meant to spread wider,but deeper.

    Nivas,I think the scene in which he saves her life was more than enough to strike a chord in her.I am sure its not a cliche(after all,it wasn't love at first sight).

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  5. Sri, Loved the write-up especially you picked up the mythology part so well that it cant be said better than this.

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  6. very nice review. at the risk of repeating what others said, the mythological aspect, esp. the gender reversal, made for fascinating reading.

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  7. That was a nice post. I wasn't aware of the mythological connections that you mentioned though I was aware of the connection in Thalapathy. There seems to be common ground between these two films that were released on the same day. Both had the mythological connections and I feelGuna is a better work.

    Good review. And please bring on the review of Hey Ram as soon as possible.

    Thanks and regards
    Ramji

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  8. Insightful write-up...

    "Kamal Haasan comes up with a truly wonderful performance (before anyone pounces on me, I haven't seen Rain Man yet, which would not change this statement anyway),"
    Don't worry, Guna IS NOT a copy of Rain Man, nor has KH imitated Dustin Hoffman....chalk and cheese.....:-))

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  9. All folks,
    thanks!

    Bala,
    Of course, Guna is not a copy of/inspired from Rain Man (the film that takes those honours, in plagiarism-detection circles, is Almodovar's "Tie me up! Tie me down!", which has a similar plot, but is actually a comedy).
    I was talking about Kamal's performance and hence the mention of Hoffman's performance in "Rain Man" which (again according to plagiarism-detection circles) is alleged to be the inspiration for Kamal's performance.

    As I have already said, I love it regardless!

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  10. Nice review. There have been several of these flawed-yet-excellent movies in Tamil cinema in the Kamal era (and by others in the same period) - somehow they seem to be missing these days, IMHO.

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  11. Ramanand,
    Very true. There are hardly any efforts in the recent past worth matching one of those flawed-yet-excellent movies of the early 90's you are referring to..

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  12. Hi Srihari
    That was a disturbingly brilliant critique of one of my favourite films. I always hum Illayaraja's tune in my head it seems to be exactly mythical like you said.

    I don't know much about Rain Man as I havent seen it, but I am sure Kamal's performance is something of cinematic legend in this film although it has gone unnoticed.

    I hope Santhana Bharati and Kamal work together again. Kamal exhibited in Virumandi that he still has it in him. I hope this combo comes together to create magic!

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  14. Hey, its a brilliant review. I started loving more my already favourite movie. needless to say the mythological (esp the gender reverse) mention..

    This post makes me to see the movie again and feel the insight finesse.

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  15. Hi friends ,

    This is santosh.. this is my all time favourate movie.. and i absolutely adore kamal s performance .. and actress ( Roshani ).. It wud be greatfull if any one can pass me her pics.. im dying to find her pics..

    Plzzz guys if any one can help me out..

    my id cuteboyskiss@yahoo.com ......Thanxxxxxx........

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  16. Great review. I always loved the movie, I saw waaay back in the day, and no one I knew liked it. I for one am glad to see there are other that love the movie.

    Keep up the good job.

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  17. Superb review bhai! I will be watching this tonight hopefully...finally found my DVD:-)

    Check out the review on my blog when you can, would love to discuss..

    http://aakshayshah.blogspot.com/

    A.Shah

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  18. i seen it some 15 years ago,i am 23 now.....
    even now i remember some of the scenes in the movie....
    really its one of the master piece from kamal..
    no one can match in his shoes...

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  19. KH is a madman making movies. mad roles suit him well. So he always relies on mythology and history. He is a selfish man and makes movies for himself and his definition. Movies in south india are still a mass favorite. We dont have specialist cinemas. Think how many people wasted thier monies in seeing guna. They dont even know to read film reviews and go by the friends saying at the tea shop.

    In this way Rajni is better. He simply entertains and that is all about tamil cinema right from day 1

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  20. this is for siva the great
    please dont insult kamal hasan by comparing him with rajnikanth. your rajnikanth is no match to kamal. i saw guna yester day in tv. rajni kanth will and can never do such roles as guna. all he can do is glorify himself in movies and outsidetthe movies also, sing love songs with a female who is like his grand daughter. rajnikanth is making movies for himself , example is padayappa.kamal hasan is the one and only indian actor who is appreciated by the legendary satyajit ray.

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  21. superb master piece movie, seen the last seen only a decade ago! still hunting for the same to see it again.

    imdad

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  22. Guna is easily one of kamal's 3 best films - the others being anbe sivam & nayagan, in my opinion.

    I feel that the film flopped because the reason for guna's obsession towards abirami was not clearly explained.

    I have watched the film many times on DVD & loved the 2nd half especially. The climax is the one of the best ever in indian cinema.

    The way kamal recites abirami andhaadhi keeping the heroine's head on his lap will haunt you for long.

    Superb masterpiece.

    Only kamal haasan can attempt something of this kind.

    A film way ahead of the times.

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  23. am seeing the movie as i type... what a masterpiece.

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  24. I am seeing this movie right now on K TV. What an actor. I cant believe I didnt revisit this movie for so many years. The subtle humor even in all the psychosis and the terror that Abhirami must feel are so clear. Especially in the past few days since in the US, the kidnapping of a child by a psychotic man for several years came to light, this movie seems to haunt me more.

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  25. where is the actress rohini now

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  26. PLEASE!!! PLEASE!!! PLEASE!!! I too eager to know more about Roshini. As I saw that Romatice face in school(teen) days 15 yrs back, She is still in my mind. I have a feeling of finding our old lover after a long gap. PLEASE!!! PLEASE!!! PLEASE!!!

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  28. Gunaa movies is consider as legendary in cinema world..Its one of the great masterpiece by kamala hassan.. Gud job man....


    Anyone know what about status of actress Roshini?Is it she still in cinema industry??

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  33. Im a die hard fan of Kamal after watching Moondram Pirai I became fan of Kamal but after Guna he is the only man that stands in my heart.Dedicative and excellent performance made Guna linger in our heart.Especially the climax scene when Abirami dies the way Kamal acted nobody can beat him really I mean it.This movie reveals mad people are those who go behind women,money and violence and not the mentally affected.

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  35. A masterpiece like this doesn't need a review ... It is best left untouched.

    Rain Man? What the hell are you talking about? Dustin Hoffman was autistic in it... Kamal wasn't autistic here ... He is the only one who could pull off a role like this, not just in India but also in the world.. except maybe Dustin Hoffman .

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  49. This post makes me to see the movie again and feel the insight finesse.

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  55. I am watching this movie on Sun TV right now...have seen it once before. Its 12 am but I am absorbed in the proceedings of the movie. Kamal Haasan gave us a gem of a movie in the early 1990s. "Guna" is definitely one of his best works..sad it flopped upon release...I liked the heroine Roshini's acting also and I do wonder why people criticise her acting.
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  56. I simply luv tis film awesome actin ba kamal!!!

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  58. Guna is my all time fav !

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  59. I m feeling little sad. It was a long perplexing thing to me why their is so little information about the actress roshini who enacted the role of Abhirami in Guna. It was the same case on internet too. A lot of people who have watched the movie Guna have always wondered about the beautiful Abhirami (Roshini) and have thought of what happened to her filmi career after this movie.

    But recently I happened to watch a youtube video of a B-Grade Hindi movie featuring Mithun Chakaravarthy named Qaidi made in 2001. In this low budget typical plotless b-grade movie the least expected thing was the appearance of Roshini. But that is what happened and more than that it was the fact that she was not acting as the heroine in this movie but as a small cheap character. I was really crestfallen to find this after all this years to see her in such state.

    Anyway I feel it is my duty to share this with you all and the people who must have been curious to know more about her.

    The video link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=___8WMyK9yw

    In this video you can find her at 32:00 and also at 42:12

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    Replies
    1. rajan tamizhanda6/27/2014 04:26:00 PM

      Mr.Kevin nanu antha Qaidi padatha pathaen,ana enaku onu athu namma alagana Abhirami(roshini) mathire therilla boss.Enaku enave roshini madam avunga filmi career'a mudichikitanganu thonuthu,aprom ungala na g+la add paniruken roshini pathi ethu thagaval internet'la kedacha enaku inform paninga plzz ithu thann en ID (rajan300spartan@gmail.com)

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  60. Wonderful review of Guna - the classic, immortal movie. Never mind the flaws, the movie will continue to be remembered for a long long time - whenever you visit Kodaikanal do visit Guna Caves where the movie was shot. Please do not forget the performances of supporting cast - S Varalakshmi, Rekha, Girish Karnad.

    Roshini I recall was a Mumbai girl who did not want to do this movie at all. She was a Bandra girl and I think was referred by Salman Khan's brother. I think she was not interested in acting at all. The prospect of acting with Kamal was too hard to resist - after all it is not everyday that you get to act with a powerhouse of talent like Kamal.

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    Replies
    1. rajan tamizhanda6/27/2014 04:42:00 PM

      Hi can u plzz tell me that, Where did u got the information that roshini is a mumbai based girl?n do u know where she is livin right now?

      Delete
  61. Excellent review for a wonderful movie.. I am right now watching the movie and absolutely loving it. I wanted to know what people have to say about it and here I came across this review. Awesome :) I wonder what happened to the actress roshini who acted in the movie. Not much information about her is available online. The movie has touched my heart leaving me feel that the characters are real and as if I have spent time with both of them.

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    Replies
    1. rajan tamizhanda6/27/2014 04:38:00 PM

      Naanu ithana nala antha Abhirami endra roshini ya pathi thaa yosichitu iruken boss

      Delete