Mouna Ragam

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Mouna Ragam
Mouna Ragam poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mani Ratnam
Produced by G. Venkateswaran
Written by Mani Ratnam
Starring
Music by Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography P. C. Sreeram
Edited by
Production
company
Sujatha Productions
Release dates
  • 15 August 1986 (1986-08-15)
Running time
133–145 minutes[a]
Country India
Language Tamil

Mouna Ragam (English: Silent Symphony, also spelt Mouna Raagam) is a 1986 Indian Tamil romantic drama film written and directed by Mani Ratnam, and produced by G. Venkateswaran. The film narrates the life of Divya Chandramouli (Revathi), who is robbed of her carefree existence when she reluctantly marries Chandrakumar (Mohan). Divya does not wish for a married life due to her grief over her former lover, Manohar (Karthik), being shot to death. The rest of the story follows Divya's inner conflict between holding on to her past or coming to terms with the present and uniting with Chandrakumar.

Mouna Ragam's development began when Ratnam wrote a short story titled Divya, while he was making his debut film Pallavi Anu Pallavi (1983). As the script developed he renamed it. He did not plan to film until he finished writing the story, but he could not start actual production on it until after his fourth film, Idaya Kovil (1985), was released. Mouna Ragam was mostly filmed in Chennai; additional filming took place in Delhi and Agra. The soundtrack album and background score were composed by Ilaiyaraaja, cinematography was handled by P. C. Sreeram, and the art director was Thotta Tharani. The length of the film was 3,987 metres (13,081 ft).

Mouna Ragam was released on 15 August 1986, India's Independence Day. Despite opening to a poor commercial response, it became a box office success, running for over 175 days in theatres. The film was critically acclaimed and won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil, while Ratnam won the Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Director. Mouna Ragam was dubbed in Telugu under the same title and was released on 14 February 1987; this version was also a commercial success. The film was remade in Hindi in 1992 as Kasak, which starred Rishi Kapoor, Neelam Kothari and Chunkey Pandey.

Plot[edit]

Manohar (Karthik) and Divya (Revathi) in the "Mr. Chandramouli" scene.

Divya Chandramouli is a free-spirited college student from a conservative family. Her father works for the government and is very strict about her conduct. One day, Divya learns of a marriage proposal for her, which her parents are looking forward to. Unwilling to get married, and hoping the groom's family will reject her, she deliberately arrives home late. To her surprise, the groom, Chandrakumar, and his family are patiently waiting for her. Divya talks arrogantly to Chandrakumar in an attempt to make him dislike her, but an undeterred Chandrakumar says that he likes her and agrees to the marriage. Divya initially refuses, but when her father suffers a heart attack, the family pleads with her to accept the proposal so that he can recover quickly. Succumbing to family pressure, Divya marries Chandrakumar.

After their marriage, Chandrakumar takes Divya to Delhi. She is unable to accept him as her husband and constantly snubs him. When Chandrakumar asks Divya what she wants as a wedding gift, she asks him for a divorce. Startled, Chandrakumar asks her the reason for a divorce. In a flashback, Divya remembers when she was in love with a man named Manohar, whom she met during her college days. Manohar and his gang assault the son of an MP named Thamizhmani and steal his money. Considering it as a gang theft, Divya reports Manohar to the police, who arrest him. She later learns that Thamizhmani's son had run over a poor girl with his car and Manohar had stolen the money to pay for the girl's treatment. Divya feels guilty and bails him out of the police station.

Manohar falls in love with Divya and tries to win her love. Divya initially rejects him but eventually reciprocates his feelings. Manohar is a member of a revolutionary group, which plans to hold an illegal rally. Divya does not approve of his participation in such activities and persuades him not to attend the rally. Manohar accepts her persuasion on the condition that she marries him. On the day of their marriage, Manohar is falsely charged for participating in the rally and is arrested by the police, but escapes and runs to the marriage registrar's office where Divya is waiting for him. In the following chase, a policeman shoots Manohar and he dies in front of Divya, leaving her distraught.

Chandrakumar is ready to overlook Divya's past, but she is unable to accept another man in her life. Seeking a divorce, the pair approach a lawyer, who tells them that according to the Hindu Marriage Act, since they are newlyweds they must wait for at least one year before they can file for divorce. The couple are forced to live with each other for a year.

Later, Chandrakumar is attacked by his company's labourers because he had earlier suspended their union leader. Divya admits him to a nearby hospital, where he survives after getting proper treatment. After his discharge from the hospital, Divya takes care of him and realises that she has fallen in love with him and tries to show it by wearing the anklets he gave her just after their marriage. Irritated by Divya's immature acts, Chandrakumar asks her to return to her parent's home and books tickets for her travel. At the railway station, Chandrakumar gives Divya the divorce papers that she had earlier requested as a wedding gift. Divya breaks down and admits to Chandrakumar that she loves him. Chandrakumar comes to terms with his repressed feelings and finally unites with Divya.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

When the last schedule of Mani Ratnam's debut film Pallavi Anu Pallavi (1983) was extended to a year, he began working on a script titled Divya, which eventually became his fifth film Mouna Ragam.[4] Ratnam said he first wrote Divya as a short story about the "first night" between the female lead and her husband. He did not originally plan to film it, but after writing the story he realised he could base a film on it. Ratnam took a month's break between the schedules of Pallavi Anu Pallavi and wrote the script for Divya.[5] Ratnam said Mouna Ragam's script took five years to write.[6]

The inspiration for the title Mouna Ragam came from the song "Naan Paadum Mouna Ragam" from Ratnam's film Idaya Kovil (1985).[7] Although Ratnam began working on the script while making Pallavi Anu Pallavi, Mouna Ragam did not enter production until after Idaya Kovil's release.[8] Ratnam stated that due to budgetary constraints, it would have been easier for him to send the female lead to Bangalore instead of Delhi, but he wanted to ensure that she could not easily return to her parents because of her inability to adjust to her husband.[9]

Mouna Ragam was Ratnam's first film with P. C. Sreeram as cinematographer.[10][11] Mouna Ragam was produced by G. Venkateswaran under his banner Sujatha Films, and was jointly edited by B. Lenin and V. T. Vijayan.[1] The film's art director was Thota Tharani.[1]

Casting[edit]

"To me, it was very clear that Mouna Raagam was about this relationship within an arranged marriage. I just needed to rationalize [sic] the heroine's behaviour, and Karthik was the rationalization [sic]. If I'd done the film years later, I would have left out the Karthik character. But at that point of time, I did something that was entertaining and would reach a wider audience."

—Mani Ratnam on the inclusion of Karthik in a conversation with film critic Baradwaj Rangan.[12]

Ratnam cast Mohan, whom he had previously worked with in Idaya Kovil, as the male lead. Revathi, the film's female lead, had previously collaborated with Ratnam in Pagal Nilavu (1984). Ratnam initially had "someone like Anant Nag and Supriya Pathak" in mind when he finished writing Mouna Ragam. Between finishing the story and making the film, he decided to include Revathi as the female lead because he was impressed with her performance in Mann Vasanai (1983).[8] Nadhiya was also considered for the role before Revathi, but she turned down the offer due to her prior commitments.[13] Ra. Sankaran was cast as Divya's father, V. K. Ramasamy as Chandrakumar's boss, and Kanchana as the lawyer. Vani plays Divya's mother and Bhaskar plays Divya's brother while actresses Kalaiselvi and "Baby" Sonia play Divya's sisters.[2]

According to Ratnam, the only difference between Divya and Mouna Ragam was the inclusion of the portion featuring Karthik, which was not present in the earlier screenplay. Divya was the story about a young woman settling into an arranged marriage and did not mention her life before her marriage.[8] Ratnam realised the story needed to satisfy a wider audience, and decided to give them something that would make them accept the character as a plot point, hence preventing the audience from questioning the character. The story became a film dealing with an arranged marriage—two strangers suddenly thrown together—and how they adjust. At first, Ratnam resisted this point, but he reconsidered because it gave an easier reason for the heroine's resistance to the arranged marriage.[8] Karthik said he was "a last-minute addition" to the cast, and shot his scenes in a week.[14] He also said his role was "but a cameo".[15]

Filming[edit]

Since the film was mostly set indoors in Delhi, both Ratnam and Sreeram wanted the indoor portions to look as lively as the portions that were shot outdoors. Since there were not too many characters included in the film, Ratnam did not want the film to look like a play. The concept of backlighting inside a house was used in the film. For this, Thotta Tharani found a house in Chennai that admitted a lot of sunlight, making it different and convincing enough to have a setting similar to the houses in Delhi. Mouna Ragam was Ratnam's first film to make excessive use of staccato dialogues, which became his trademark style in his later films.[16] In a bid to reduce the production cost, food for the film's production unit was cooked at the producer's home.[17]

While filming the introduction scene of Karthik's character Manohar, Sreeram had to lie on a bedsheet to film the sequence. The rest of the crew pulled the sheet along with Sreeram and the camera.[18] Sreeram widely used frontal and profile close-ups set against long shots with out-of-focus foregrounds.[3] The scene in which Manohar plays a prank on Divya's father Chandramouli at a coffee shop, which later became popularly known as the "Mr. Chandramouli" scene,[19] was shot at Nungambakkam.[14]

The crew filmed in Delhi for two days; the portions set in Agra were shot in one day.[9] The song "Panivizhum Iravu" was filmed at the Taj Mahal,[20] while scenes from "Mandram Vandha" were shot at the India Gate and in Sikandra.[21][22] In the post-production phase, Mohan's voice was dubbed by S. N. Surendar.[23] The film's final cut was 3,987 metres (13,081 ft) long.[1]

Themes and influences[edit]

Mouna Ragam is based on the management concept of transactional analysis, which describes the ego state theory of personality. In his book The Best of Tamil Cinema, G. Dhananjayan compares the relationship between Chandrakumar and Divya at the beginning of the film to a parent-child relationship; he says the relationship changes to one of "parent-adult" and then to "adult-adult".[24] Baradwaj Rangan compared Mouna Ragam to J. Mahendran's Nenjathai Killathe (1980), which was also based on a woman torn between the man she loved and the man she married.[25]

Manohar was part of a group that was involved in anti-government activities. Rangan drew similarities between the character's motives and those of characters in the Italian film The Night of the Shooting Stars (1982) and Ratnam's Malayalam film Unaru (1984).[26] Mouna Ragam '​s introduction credits feature photographs of Revathi from her childhood through her teenage years, which according to rapper Blaaze, helps viewers "understand the girl, the character, her nature".[27] According to Rangan, the scene in which Divya is at the hospital looking after Chandrakumar reflects the traditional quality that surfaces when she cares for her husband and fears for his life, and shows that despite her strengths she is humane and vulnerable.[28] Divya's mischievous nature is shown in a scene in which she deliberately teaches a Sardar to say offensive Tamil phrases, which he uses on V. K. Ramasamy's character.[29]

Critics have mentioned in their reviews and opinions of the film that the film's background score is synonymous with the film's scenes and themes.[18][30] According to the 2003 book The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction by Martin Clayton, Trevor Herbert and Richard Middleton, the picturisation of the song "Oho Megam Vandhadho" resembled the Broadway and MTV-style of singing and dancing, while the main songs combine American music with Indian vocals provided by S. Janaki.[30]

The South Asian musical instruments Sarangi and Nadaswaram are used in the music accompanying the wedding scene between Chandrakumar and Divya. In the sequences showing the couple sightseeing in Delhi, light synth-based music is used to depict them as modern tourists in their own country. The restaurant scene featuring Manohar and Divya includes sitar music being played awkwardly, indicating the couple's emotions. Spanish music is used for the fight sequence in which Manohar attacks the MP's son.[30]

The concept of the heroine moving to a strange place where she does not know the local language is a theme replicated in Mani Ratnam's later films Roja (1992) and Bombay (1995). The theme shows the heroine in a dilemma; because she does not know the language in Delhi, she can barely socialise with local people and she is in coflict with the only person with whom she can socialise.[31][9] According to Rangan, the restaurant scene between Manohar and Divya is notable for being the first time in Tamil cinema that a man asked a woman for a cup of coffee. He compared it to Oru Thalai Ragam (1980), in which the protagonists hardly spoke.[32] Ratnam said he was inspired by the bands The Doors and The Beatles, and that it was not uncommon to ask a woman out for a cup of coffee and yet this was not reflected in Tamil cinema at that time.[33]

Music[edit]

Mouna Ragam
Soundtrack album by Ilaiyaraaja
Released
1986
Length 22:43
Label Echo Audio Company
Producer Ilaiyaraaja

The soundtrack album of Mouna Ragam consists of five songs composed by Ilaiyaraaja, with lyrics written by Vaali and sung by S. Janaki and S. P. Balasubrahmanyam.[34][35] The soundtrack was released on the record label Echo Audio Company.[34] According to The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction, the song "Oho Megam Vandhadho", picturised on Divya dancing with several teenage girls, is a reworking of Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain".[36] "Nilaavae Vaa" is included as the second track on both sides of the film's original LP record.[34] "Mandram Vandha" was later adapted by Ilaiyaraaja and used twice in the 2007 Hindi film Cheeni Kum—as the film's title track and its melancholic version "Sooni Sooni".[37][38] The album cover depicts Revathi in her costume from the song "Chinna Chinna Vanna Kuyil".

The soundtrack received positive critical reception. G. Dhananjayan said in his book The Best of Tamil Cinema, "Ilaiyaraja's sensitive and wonderful music showcased his urban side once again in this film".[24] Filmmaker Poongkothai Chandrahasan praised the cinematography of "Nilaave Vaa" and said, "Ilaiyaraja's music is such that even when you listen to it ten years later, you still remember the song."[39] Writing for Mint, Nandini Ramnath said, "Bombay’s director, Mani Ratnam, can’t make a movie without including a shower from the heavens or a splash in some kind of water body. His best rain song is Oho Megham Vanthatho".[40]

S. Saraswathi of Rediff.com described "Nilaave Vaa" as a "timeless classic that you never tire of".[41] Behindwoods.com singled out "Nilaave Vaa", "Panivizhum Iravu" and "Mandram Vandha" for their "rendering as well as their composition".[42] In its review of "Nilaave Vaa", Behindwoods.com says the song "lays out the feelings of a lovelorn heart in a better way."[43]

Tracklisting[edit]

Side A
No. Title Singer(s) Length
1. "Oho Megam Vandhadho"   S. Janaki 4:25
2. "Nilaave Vaa"   S. P. Balasubrahmanyam 4:36
3. "Chinna Chinna Vanna Kuyil"   S. Janaki 4:24
Side B
No. Title Singer(s) Length
1. "Panivizhum Iravu"   S. Janaki, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam 4:32
2. "Nilaave Vaa"   S. P. Balasubrahmanyam 4:36
3. "Mandram Vandha"   S. P. Balasubrahmanyam 4:46

Release and reception[edit]

Before Mouna Ragam was released, a member of the Central Board of Film Certification wanted it to be given an "A" (adults only) certificate because the female lead character asks for a divorce. The request was subsequently denied,[44] and the film was instead given a "U" certificate.[b] The film was released on 15 August 1986, India's Independence Day.[1] Despite opening to an initially poor response at the box office, positive critical reviews and favourable word of mouth led to it picking up after two weeks. The film fared well at the box office, running for over 175 days in theatres,[24] and becoming a silver jubilee film,[46][c] and Ratnam's first commercial success.[4] The film was lauded for its realistic portrayal of urban Tamilians,[47] and for its realistic portrayal, without any melodrama or long dialogues, of marital conflicts.[46] A version dubbed in Telugu was released on 14 February 1987 with the same title; this was also a commercial success.[48][24]

The film was screened at the 11th International Film Festival of India and was the only Tamil film entrant at the film festival.[46][49] It has also been screened at many other film festivals, including "Mani Ratnam's Love Films" at London's National Film Theatre in 2002, "A Retrospective of Mani Ratnam's Films" at the 2002 Calcutta Film Festival,[2] and the 2002 Locarno Film Festival.[50]

Critical response[edit]

On 31 August 1986, the Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan said, "Revathy [sic] has done an outstanding job in the film ... Mohan played the role with maturity;... The film does not have any commercial masalas, yet it creates an impact due to the camera work and music". The magazine gave the film 43 marks out of 100.[46] Karan Bali of Upperstall.com said, "Mouna Ragam is looked at as Mani Ratnam's breakthrough film and though somewhat dated in places in terms of both content and style, the film has some of his finest moments". He criticised the "smaller comedy tracks" in the film by saying that "don't really add anything to the film" and also called the film "too simplistic", but concluded that the film, "is well, well worth a watch even today".[10]

G. Dhananjayan, in his book The Best of Tamil Cinema, said that though the film was based on a theme that was already shown in Tamil cinema on the institutions of marriage, nothing about it was clichéd. He praised P. C. Sreeram's cinematography and Ilaiyaraaja's music.[1] Gautaman Bhaskaran, writing for The Hindu, said the film was, "Simple and shorn of pretensions".[51] Pavithra Srinivasan of Rediff.com said, "It took a Mani Ratnam to move away from cliched romantic dialogues and capture subtle nuances that add so much richness to the story, introduce proper, three dimensional characters that lived breathed and sorrowed like everyone else".[52] Behindwoods.com described Mouna Ragam as a "film to be watched to understand the nuances of a good and lasting marriage."[53]

Accolades[edit]

At the 34th National Film Awards, Mouna Ragam won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil.[54] At the 36th Filmfare Awards South, Ratnam won the Award for Best Tamil Director.[55][56]

Legacy[edit]

Mouna Ragam became an important milestone in Tamil cinema and was a breakthrough film for Mani Ratnam.[1] It inaugurated the love story genre set outside the state of Tamil Nadu.[3] As part of its legacy, the film has been acclaimed for being a box-office success while containing the elements of arthouse film.[57]

The use of filming techniques such as soft-focus shots, flare filters and backlit sequences became popular after their introduction to Tamil cinema through this film. Ratnam continued using these techniques in his later films, notably Nayakan (1987) and Agni Natchathiram (1989).[58] Mouna Ragam catapulted Karthik to stardom despite his role being a cameo,[27][59] and his "Mr. Chandramouli" dialogue became popular.[60] Dhananjayan compared Mouna Ragam to the Hindi film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), which had a similar theme, with the exception that the female lead's past lover, played by Salman Khan, is alive.[24] Mouna Ragam became a trendsetter and inspired several later films with similar themes of romance and drama—including Alaipayuthey (2000), which was also directed by Ratnam, and Priyasakhi (2005).[46] Mouna Ragam was remade in Hindi as Kasak in 1992, and starred Rishi Kapoor, Neelam Kothari and Chunkey Pandey. The remake was less successful than the Tamil and Telugu versions.[10]

Rediff.com, in its article, "The most memorable Mani movies", said, "This was arguably the film that announced Mani Ratnam to the Tamil film industry as a talent to watch out for. An excellent script by Ratnam himself, cinemotagraphy by PC Sriram and a lilting score by Illayaraja made it a hit with both critics and moviegoers."[61] Deccan Chronicle listed Karthik and Revathi on its "Top 10 Jodis" of Tamil cinema, and wrote that they "made a fresh pair and were adored by the youth, especially the college students. Their awesome on-screen chemistry in Mouna Ragam was a talking point back then."[62] On the centenary of Indian cinema in April 2013, Forbes included Revathi's performance in the film on its list, "25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema".[63] The film was included in a poll conducted by CNN-IBN to determine "the most popular romantic film of all time".[64]

Art director Sabu Cyril ranked Mouna Ragam fourth in his list of "India's best films", praising its story, narration and screenplay.[65] Rapper Blaaze called Mouna Raagam "brilliant" and praised the cameo appearance by Karthik.[27] Poongkothai Chandrahasan told The Hindu, "Mani Ratnam had the guts to make a film that interesting with a different storyline. Also the way P. C. Sriram shot the film was so beautiful."[39]

In popular culture[edit]

A scene in Mouna Ragam in which Manohar tries to declare his love for Divya through the college intercom based on a challenge given by Divya which he accepted[66] was spoofed in the parody film Thamizh Padam (2010), with Shiva and Disha Pandey imitating Manohar and Divya's mannerisms.[67][68] A Telugu film, also titled Mouna Ragam, was released in 2010; apart from sharing a name, this had no connection with Ratnam's film.[69]

Mouna Ragam has often been compared to Raja Rani (2013), due to its similar theme of marital issues; however in the latter film, both the male (Arya) and the female (Nayantara) lead characters have past lovers.[70][71][72] The restaurant scene between Manohar and Divya was recreated by Prasanna and Lekha Washington in Kalyana Samayal Saadham (2013).[73] Vaibhav Reddy compared the character he plays in Kappal (2014) to Manohar in Mouna Ragam, because of the former's similarly effervescent nature. In one scene, which Reddy compared to the "Mr. Chandramouli" scene, Reddy's character pesters the heroine to fall in love with him.[74] Mouna Ragam is also the name of a Tamil orchestra, alternatively known as "Murali's Mouna Ragam".[75]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ G. Dhananjayan's The Best of Tamil Cinema gives the runtime as 133 minutes,[1] while Baradwaj Rangan's Conversations with Mani Ratnam and Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen's Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema give the runtime as 145 minutes.[2][3]
  2. ^ In CFBC terminology, "U" means "unrestricted public exhibition", similar to MPAA's G and PG ratings and BBFC's U and PG ratings.[45]
  3. ^ A Silver Jubilee film is one that completes a theatrical run of 175 days.

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c Rangan 2012, p. 289.
  3. ^ a b c Rajadhyaksha & Willemen 2014, p. 476.
  4. ^ a b Rangan 2012, p. 22.
  5. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 38.
  6. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 44.
  7. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 29.
  8. ^ a b c d Rangan 2012, p. 31.
  9. ^ a b c Rangan 2012, p. 42.
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  20. ^ Mouna Ragam (DVD) "Panivizhum Iravu" song from 1:38:12 to 1:39:10.
  21. ^ Mouna Ragam (DVD) "Mandram Vandha" song from 1:26:22 to 1:26:32.
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