Six Years of Mayakkam Enna (மயக்கம் என்ன)

A fantastic film by Selvaraghavan with brilliant performances from Richa and Dhanush

Date: Mar 7, 2018

A tribute video popped up in my facebook feed today. It was dedicated to Selvaraghavan's Mayakkam Enna (மயக்கம் என்ன). I still remember watching it in Cauvery Theatre in Trichy. This was the first movie I watched with my friends from NIT in a theater. A quick wikipedia search tells me that the movie was released on 25th Nov 2011. While I didn't remember the exact date, I'm willing to bet that I could've guessed it correctly. The reason is simple. We watched it in the middle of our end semester exams. It was Friday night and we were just done with 4 major exams. We had the weekend to prepare for 3 more exams. Late at night, I remember talking to SV and Aravind Raja about the movie. They had just come back to the hostel from watching it - SV was blown away by the movie while Aravind Raja described it as an okayish film. Nevertheless, we planned to watch it on Saturday in the hopes that we would have enough time on Sunday to prepare for the rest of our exams (Engineering Mechanics on Monday, Intro to Programming on Tuesday and Energy and Environmental Engineering on Wednesday). Starting Dec 1, we were supposed to have the month off as our first semester break.

I know I'm missing some people, but I remember watching the movie with Naresh, Lokesh (Dhaadi), TSB, Raam Aravind, Aravind Govindarajan (Golty), maybe Visventh, Ashwin (mech) and Aaron. We were hyped when we went to the movie. The films started out as a typical Selvaraghavan film - a love triangle where the hero falls for his best friend's girlfriend. But things changed quite drastically after the cult song - Kaadhal Yen Kaadhal Adhu Kanneerula.

This wasn't just any ordinary film. It evoked emotions I didn't know I had. G.V. Prakash's compositions were brilliant throughout the movie. The songs Oda Oda Dhooram Koraiyala and Kaadhal Yen Kaadhal were already popular. The bgm was just right, nicely complementing the tone of the film. Some scenes are still fresh in my mind - Dhanush in the wild taking pictures of birds, the one where Dhanush confronts the senior photographer (Madhesh) in the beach about stealing his work; the one when he attempts suicide (jumps off a building); Richa's miscarriage; her stunning performance after the miscarriage - she fights with Dhanush who is crying and begging for her forgiveness, she's going through a lot and is unable to talk, but she uses these guttural noises to convey her anger and sadness, the guttural noises combined with her crying opposite a broken Dhanush makes for an unforgettable scene.

A couple other scenes just blew my mind - the one where Dhanush breaks a liquor bottle on the bridegroom's head and the poignant scene where he has his last drink. That last drink was such a touching moment though. The man's been through hell and his wife stood by him all through it. When he catches a lucky break (yet another beautiful sequence in the media office), he silently walks outside to his front door and opens a liquour bottle (whiskey?). From inside the house, Richa watches with muted sadness, almost broken by her alcoholic husband. This is where we see the brilliance of Selvaraghavan. Raghu (Dhanush) pours himself one drink and empties the rest of bottle into the ground. Simple, yet such a powerful scene. I almost had tears in my eyes.

Until 2011, Selvaraghavan had a reputation for making dark movies with tragic endings (most notably Kadhal Kondaen and 7G rainbow colony). This movie had quite of lot of dark moments, but fortunately it had a happy ending. I still remember discussing the climax with my friends. Naresh was saying that he expected Dhanush to lose to Madhesh (the antagonist photographer), go crazy and quite possibly kill him during the awards ceremony. But he wins the award. We can see there's sadness in his eyes now, a wisdom beyond his years. He just smiles and shakes hands with the man who ruined his life and walks away as if nothing had happened. Something I was never able to wrap my head around was why he gives an award winners speech without mentioning his wife, walks away from the mic, comes back to the stage and then talks about his wife. I still have no clue what Selvaraghavan was aiming for, but the speech was still great though!

Needless to say, we didn't study much on Sunday for our subsequent exams. The movie had a significant impact on every single one of us. Aravind was just obsessed with Richa's stunning performance in the scene I briefly described earlier. Aaron was constantly listening to the Mayakkam soundtrack. We were all constantly talking about the movie, we couldn't focus on anything else!

It's hard to believe that it's been more than 6 years since the movie's release. Time just flies by. Damn I feel old :) This tribute video just took me back on a lovely walk through memory lane. I may misremember the exact details about the event, but I still recollect how it made me feel. Before the movie released, the song Kaadhal Yen Kaadhal Adhu Kaneerula (காதல் என் காதல் அது கண்ணீருல) was being played in every house, every street corner. It was the most popular and controversial song of the time. Feminists and a few other groups had some strong reactions to the lyrics (rightful anger to an extent). It had lines like Adi da avala, odha da avala, vidra avala (அடி டா அவள, ஓத டா அவள , விட்ரா அவள, தேவையே இல்ல). Roughly translated - beat her, kick her, leave her, she's not needed. While the song doesn't necessarily condone domestic violence or abuse, it's quite easy it misinterpret the meaning. It's morally questionable when you think if such feelings are normal. Regardless, it had a catchy tune, a rebellious feel and anyone could dance to it. I loved the song then and I still do. I remember talking to Naresh and Lokesh about how the picturization of the song in the movie didn't fit with the mood of the song. But then, we found the unreleased version of the song. That video was perfect. Must watch if you haven't seen it before!

I was 17 when I watched this movie. That was an awkward age when my mind was still naively idealistic and physically, I looked like a half adult/half kid. Maybe it was me just growing up, but this was the first movie that made me look at films as an art form. The art was bigger than the artist. And great art comes from within, comes when you are honest to yourself. When I watched films like Silence of the Lambs or Kannathil Muthamittal (கன்னத்தில் முத்தமிட்டால், A peck in the cheek), I saw it in a whole new light.

Mayakkam Enna was well-received by critics and garnered huge praise for the cast's performance, the music and direction. Shockingly though, it didn't perform well in the box office. If I remember correctly, the budget for the movie was 23 Crores and the producer recovered 22 Crores or so. The Tamil audience still weren't ready for such raw, visceral films. Selvaraghavan has a knack for dealing with real people and their raw emotions. Nothing is polished and classy. He prods underneath the neat, artificial facade and brings out the true, not so pretty emotions. He brings out the primal, animalistic emotions lurking within every human. I have come to respect him as a person and a filmmaker. As an ardent fan, I hope to see more films by Selvaraghavan in the near future.

Signing off,
Gautham Vasan