Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mani Ratnam|
|Produced by||G. Venkateswaran|
|Written by||Mani Ratnam|
|Cinematography||P. C. Sreeram|
Mouna Ragam (English: Silent Symphony, also spelt Mouna Raagam) is a 1986 Indian Tamil-language 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 to be married as she is still grieving over the shooting death of her former lover Manohar (Karthik). The rest of the story follows Divya's inner conflict between holding on to her past or coming to terms with the present and making a life 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 the story until he finished writing it, but he could not start actual production on it until after his fourth film, Idaya Kovil (1985), was released. Mouna Ragam was filmed mainly in Chennai; additional filming took place in Delhi and Agra. The soundtrack album and background score were composed by Ilaiyaraaja with lyrics by Vaali; cinematography was handled by P. C. Sreeram, and the art director was Thotta Tharani. The film was jointly edited by B. Lenin and V. T. Vijayan.
Mouna Ragam was released on 15 August 1986, India's Independence Day. Despite opening to modest audiences, 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, with Rishi Kapoor and Neelam Kothari in the lead roles.
Divya Chandramouli (Revathi) is a free-spirited college student from a conservative family whose father, Chandramouli (Ra. Sankaran), works for the government and is very strict about her conduct. Divya learns that her parents are eagerly awaiting a marriage proposal for her. Unwilling to get married, and hoping the groom's family will reject her, she deliberately arrives home late only to find that the groom, Chandrakumar (Mohan), and his family are patiently waiting for her. She talks arrogantly to Chandrakumar in an attempt to make him dislike her, but he is undeterred, says that he likes her, and agrees to the marriage. Divya refuses initially, but when her father suffers a heart attack, the family pleads with her to accept the proposal so as not to hinder his recovery. 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 wanting a divorce. In a flashback, Divya remembers when she was in love with a man named Manohar (Karthik Muthuraman), whom she met during her college days. Manohar and his gang assault the son of an MP named Thamizhmani and steal his money. 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 medical 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 rejects him initially but eventually reciprocates his feelings. Manohar is a member of a revolutionary group planning to hold an illegal rally. Divya does not approve of his participation in such activities and asks him not to attend the rally. Manohar agrees to her request on the condition that she marry him. On their wedding day Manohar is falsely charged with participating in the rally and is arrested by police. He escapes and, pursued by police, runs to the marriage registrar's office where Divya is waiting for him. 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 (Kanchana), who tells them that according to the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, since they are newly married, 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 takes 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. She 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.
- Mohan as Chandrakumar
- Revathi as Divya Chandramouli
- Karthik as Manohar
- V. K. Ramasamy as Chandrakumar's boss
- Ra. Sankaran as Chandramouli, Divya's father
- Bhaskar as Divya's brother
- Kanchana as the lawyer
- Kamala Kamesh as Chandrakumar's mother
- Vani as Divya's Mother
- Kalaiselvi as Divya's sister
- Baby Sonia as Divya's sister
When the last schedule for 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. 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 that 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. Ratnam said Mouna Ragam's script took five years to write.
The inspiration for the title Mouna Ragam came from the song "Naan Paadum Mouna Ragam" from Ratnam's film Idaya Kovil (1985). Although Ratnam began working on the script while making Pallavi Anu Pallavi, Mouna Ragam did not go into production until after Idaya Kovil's release. 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.
Mouna Ragam was Ratnam's first film with P. C. Sreeram as cinematographer. It was produced by G. Venkateswaran under his banner Sujatha Films (later renamed GV Films), and was jointly edited by B. Lenin and V. T. Vijayan. The film's art director was Thota Tharani.
Ratnam cast Mohan, whom he had previously worked with in Idaya Kovil, as the male lead. Revathi, the 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 because he was impressed with her performance in Mann Vasanai (1983). Nadhiya was also considered for the role before Revathi, but she declined the offer because of prior commitments. Ra. Sankaran was cast as Divya's father Chandramouli, Kanchana as the lawyer, and V. K. Ramasamy as Chandrakumar's boss. Vani plays Divya's mother and Bhaskar plays Divya's brother, while actresses Kalaiselvi and "Baby" Sonia play Divya's sisters. Prabhu Deva, who later went on to become a successful choreographer in Indian cinema, made his acting debut with this film with a special appearance in the song "Panivizhum Iravu".
According to Ratnam, the only difference between Divya and Mouna Ragam was the inclusion of the portion featuring Karthik, which was not part of 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. Ratnam realised that 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, preventing the audience from questioning Divya's actions. 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 the suddenness of it provided a clear reason for the heroine's resistance to the arranged marriage. Karthik said he was a "last-minute addition" to the cast, and that his scenes were shot in a week. He also said his role was "but a cameo".
Since the film was set mostly indoors in Delhi, both Ratnam and Sreeram wanted the indoor scenes to look as lively as those that were shot outdoors. As the cast was relatively small, Ratnam did not want the film to look like a play. The concept of backlighting inside a house was used. For this, Thotta Tharani found a house in Chennai that let in a lot of sunlight, making it different and convincing enough to have a setting similar to houses in Delhi. Mouna Ragam was Ratnam's first film to make extensive use of staccato dialogues, which became his trademark style in his later films. In a bid to reduce the production costs, food for the film's production unit was cooked at the producer's home.
While filming the introductory 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. Sreeram used frontal and profile close-ups set against long shots with out-of-focus foregrounds extensively. The scene in which Manohar plays a prank on Divya's father Chandramouli at a coffee shop, which later became known popularly as the "Mr. Chandramouli" scene, was shot at Nungambakkam. Filming also took place at Presidency College, Chennai, and the Schmidt Memorial on Edward Elliot’s Beach.
The crew filmed in Delhi for two days; the portions set in Agra were shot in one day. The song "Panivizhum Iravu" was filmed at the Taj Mahal, while scenes from "Mandram Vandha" were shot at the India Gate and in Sikandra. The scenes involving Karthik were the last portions of the principal photography. In the post-production phase, Mohan's voice was dubbed by S. N. Surendar. The film's final cut was 3,987.50 metres (13,082.3 ft) long.
Themes and influences
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 then changes to one of "parent-adult" and finally to "adult-adult". Film critic Baradwaj Rangan compared Mouna Ragam to J. Mahendran's Nenjathai Killathe (1980), which is also based on a woman torn between the man she loves and the man she marries. He also compared the film to Antha Ezhu Naatkal (1981) and its Hindi remake Woh Saat Din (1983) for the same reason.
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). Mouna Ragam's introductory 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". 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. 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.
According to Rangan, Mouna Ragam's background score was found by critics to be synonymous with its scenes and themes. 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. The South Asian musical instruments Sarangi and Nadaswaram are used in the music accompanying the wedding scene with 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 when Manohar attacks the MP's son.
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 with a dilemma. Because she does not know the language in Delhi, she can barely socialise with local people, and she is in conflict with the only person with whom she can relate. According to Rangan, the restaurant scene with Manohar and Divya is notable for being the first occasion in Tamil cinema that a man invites a woman for a cup of coffee. He compared it to Oru Thalai Ragam (1980), in which the protagonists hardly spoke. Ratnam said he was inspired by the bands The Doors and The Beatles, and though it was not uncommon to invite a woman for a cup of coffee, it was not reflected in Tamil cinema at that time.
|Soundtrack album by Ilaiyaraaja|
|Label||Echo Audio Company|
The soundtrack album of Mouna Ragam consists of five songs composed by Ilaiyaraaja, with lyrics written by Vaali, sung by S. Janaki and S. P. Balasubrahmanyam. It was released on the record label Echo Audio Company. According to The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction, the song "Oho Megam Vandhadho", depicting Divya dancing with several teenage girls, is a reworking of Gene Kelly's version of "Singin' in the Rain". "Nilaavae Vaa" is included as the second track on both sides of the film's original LP record. "Mandram Vandha" is based on the Keeravani raga, and Natabhairavi notes. It 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". Music director K stated that the theme music he composed for Yuddham Sei (2011) had a "tinge" of Mouna Ragam. The album cover depicts Revathi in her costume from the song "Chinna Chinna Vanna Kuyil".
The soundtrack received positive critical reception. 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". Actress Kushboo described "Chinna Chinna Vanna Kuyil" as an "unforgettable song", adding, "My Valentine’s Day is incomplete without listening to it at least once". 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' ". Srinivasa Ramanujam of The Hindu also reacted positively to "Oho Megam Vandhadho".
S. Saraswathi of Rediff described "Nilaave Vaa" as a "timeless classic that you never tire of". Sruthi Radhakrishnan of The Hindu described "Mandram Vandha" as a "song that drives fans crazy", and that "Chinna Chinna Vanna Kuyil" had "showcased Janaki’s vocals with such astounding effect". On "Panivizhum Iravu", she said, "It’s one of those only-80s songs that served as a stand-in for sexual tension, where you’d have two people looking intensely at each other. And it’s a brilliant composition too. The percussion gets you hooked and the chorus is almost eerie." Writing for Firstpost, Apoorva Sripathi said, "The film traces a couple's marital discord — the heroine is torn between the man she loved and the man she finally marries — and the soundtrack beautifully mimics it." She described "Mandram Vandha" as a "masterpiece, sung soulfully by SP Balasubramaniam."
|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|
|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
Mouna Ragam was publicised with a shot of Revathi clinging to a lamppost singing, which Ratnam confirmed was inspired by "Singin' in the Rain". Before the film 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. However the film was eventually given a "U" certificate.[a] The film was released on 15 August 1986, India's Independence Day. Despite opening to sparse audiences, positive critical reviews, and favourable word of mouth, led to its viewership increasing after two weeks. The film fared well at the box office, running for over 175 days in theatres, and becoming a silver jubilee film.[b] Ratnam also called it his "first hit". The film was lauded for its realistic portrayal of urban Tamil people, and for its realistic portrayal, without any melodrama or long dialogues, of marital conflicts. A version dubbed in Telugu was released with the same title; this was also a commercial success.
The film was screened at the 11th International Film Festival of India and was the only Tamil film entrant. 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, and the 2002 Locarno Film Festival. An enhanced 5.1 Digital Dolby sound version was released in May 2008 by the label Bayshore Records.
On 31 August 1986, the Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan said, "[Revathi] 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. Kaviya Shetty of India Today noted in 1994, "[Mouna Ragam] found the perfect formula of a strong storyline and great music, presented in a fresh visual style that caught the audience by surprise". 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 they "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".
Gautaman Bhaskaran, writing for The Hindu, said the film was "simple and shorn of pretensions". Pavithra Srinivasan of Rediff 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".
Mouna Ragam became an important milestone in Tamil cinema and was Mani Ratnam's breakthrough film. It inaugurated the love story genre set outside the state of Tamil Nadu. As part of its legacy, the film has been acclaimed for being a box-office success while containing the elements of an art film.
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 (1988). Mouna Ragam catapulted Karthik to stardom despite his role being a cameo, and his "Mr. Chandramouli" dialogue became popular. 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). Mouna Ragam was remade in Hindi as Kasak in 1992, and starred Rishi Kapoor and Neelam Kothari.
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 [sic] by PC Sriram and a lilting score by [Ilaiyaraaja] made it a hit with both critics and moviegoers". 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". On the centenary of Indian cinema in April 2013, Forbes India included Revathi's performance in the film on its list, "25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema". The film was included in a poll conducted by CNN-IBN to determine "the most popular romantic film of all time".
Art director Sabu Cyril ranked Mouna Ragam fourth on his list of "India's best films", praising its story, narration, and screenplay. 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". Kushboo called Mouna Ragam her favourite "film with a strong woman character." Mouna Ragam is also the name of a Tamil orchestra, alternatively known as Murali's Mouna Ragam.
In popular culture
A scene in Mouna Ragam in which Manohar tries to declare his love for Divya through the college intercom, in response to her challenge, was parodied in Thamizh Padam (2010), with Shiva and Disha Pandey imitating Manohar and Divya's mannerisms. A Telugu film, also titled Mouna Ragam, was released in 2010 but had no connection with Ratnam's film. Baradwaj Rangan compared Mouna Ragam to the Hindi film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) because in both films, "the disengaged wife was tempted, at several points, to snap free of matrimony, but what held her back, eventually, was the innate decency of the man she married". Vallamai Tharayo (2008) was compared by critics to Mouna Ragam because it also features a woman (Chaya Singh) reluctantly married to a man (R. Parthiepan) she does not love; it was critically panned, with Pavithra Srinivasan of Rediff.com calling it "a dull reworking" of Mouna Ragam. Neelima Menon of The New Indian Express called Yathrakarude Sradhakku (2002) a "watered-down version" of Mouna Ragam. Singer Krish stated that his acting debut Puriyadha Anandam Puthithaga Arambam (2015) was titled after a line from "Chinna Chinna Vanna Kuyil". Actress Sri Divya called Revathi's character her "all-time favorite role", and stated that she played a similar role in Mallela Theeram Lo Sirimalle Puvvu (2013). Actor Karthi stated that the character he plays in Naan Mahaan Alla (2010) was similar to the "moody yet jovial" characterisation of Karthik's character in Mouna Ragam. Nandini Ramnath of Mint compared Tanu Weds Manu (2011) to Mouna Ragam because of the similar relationship between its male and female leads.
Raja Rani (2013) was compared to Mouna Ragam as they shared the similar theme of marital issues; however in the former film, both the male (Arya) and the female (Nayanthara) lead characters have past lovers. The restaurant scene with Manohar and Divya was recreated by Prasanna and Lekha Washington in Kalyana Samayal Saadham (2013). Vaibhav Reddy compared the character he plays in Kappal (2014) to Manohar in Mouna Ragam, because of his character's 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. M. Suganth of The Times of India called the Malayalam film Bangalore Days (2014) "a sort-of Mouna Ragam with the roles reversed" because it featured a man who is unable to forget his past love and accept his wife. Malini Mannath of The New Indian Express compared Maalai Naerathu Mayakkam (2016) written by Selvaraghavan to Mouna Ragam because its female lead is unhappily married to the male lead; Baradwaj Rangan called it "Mouna Raagam, Selvaraghavan style". Director B. V. Nandini Reddy stated that the concept of a bride being unhappy with her suitor in Mouna Ragam inspired her to make Kalyana Vaibhogame (2016) where neither the bride nor the bridegroom are interested in marriage.
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