This week on our weekly show #AskBR we asked you to send in your questions about Mani Ratnam’s iconic 1987 film which saw Kamal Haasan in one of his finest performances. Here are some of the best questions we got.
I’ve seen many young filmmakers speak so highly of Nayakan. Being film critic and observer for a long period, can you describe the change Nayakan brought into the industry? Can you discuss the scene where Kamal meets Saranya for the first time in the film?
You had many people making good looking films earlier, you had many people making poetic films earlier, but in terms of visual coherence from start to finish, I had never seen anything like Nayakan. Look at the series of great PC Sreeram shots. They are all a frame within a frame. Mani Ratnam said the first time they showed a frame within a frame, he wanted to show these people as leading very compressed and adjusted life. But if you look at this, it is extended throughout the film in a series of shots. So you can make out that these people continued to be crushed by the circumstances or destiny or whatever. These visuals allows you to do readings which was not very possible in earlier films.
Is Nayakan one of Kamal Haasan’s finest performances? If yes, then which according to you is the best scene In the film?
Yes, absolutely one of his finest performances. It’s full of great moments to pick from, but one of my favourite expressions are when Kamal Hassan marries Saranya in the temple and Janak Raj behind him gets emotional. Kamal shoots in this wonderful look that’s to say, “Dude, I can see why she’s crying but what’s up with you? Why are you being so emotional?” This is a fantastic look. It makes you smile a bit and it’s a counterpart to all the emotional drama that’s happening in the scene where this man is doing a good thing by marrying a prostitute. So a small gesture but it completely changes the flavour of the scenes.
Do you think Velu Nayakan’s transition from young to old was too soon?
I thought each transition is accompanied very well by a life transforming event. When the father dies, Velu moves to Mumbai. When he hears the philosophy that would define his life, he becomes an adult. After his wife dies, he gets to a slightly older phase and after his daughter leaves him he gets to an even more older phase. So we’ve seen some very solid writing transition here.
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