Greatest Tamil Films 3. Parasakthi

‘The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning.

If it can be written or thought, it can be filmed!’

– Stanley Kubrick

 

It is quite unlikely that Karunanidhi would have heard of Mikhail Bakunin. For someone who thought Stalin was a hero, it is difficult to imagine Karunanidhi having heard of lesser known Russian intellectuals. But then, he was naturally a rabble-rouser and an anarchist and he wouldn’t have needed the teachings of Bakunin.

Because that is the only angle in which we can perceive Parasakthi: a film about a family who lose their livelihood in coincidences and natural circumstances, but blame society for all their problems. In her book, Infiidel, Ayan Hirsi Ali writes that, in Saudi Arabia, even a brief power failure is attributed to ‘Jews Conspiracy’. Karunanidhi would have identified with this tendency. In Parasakthi every problem, big or small, is due to society’s inherent cunning and deceitful nature. And the state is pretty much a failure.

This was in 1952 when India was just one year into its democracy and, with five-year planning, public sector and central planning, the optimism must have been its highest. When a new model of state was being born, Parasakthi spoke of failure of the state.  When hope might have been at its peak, Parasakthi spoke of gloom. Of course, the story is set in 1942, when Japan was ravaging the east, but make no mistake; that was just to get the historic accuracy in place.

There are no good, kind people in the world created by Parasakthi. A girl you chance upon in your hotel corridor will run away with your money. A police constable will kick you out of the pavement in the night. A money lender will arm-twist you into prostitution. A judge will kick you and your child from the porch. Even a priest will try to rape you at the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

Parasakthi spoke of a world where an educated gentleman, once his money is lost, will end up on the streets the very next day, and, that afternoon, will steal snacks from the street vendor. Worse still, he will start lamenting about the decay in the society!

Krishnan Panchu

 

A rebellious current and the anger of the wretched resonate everywhere in the dystopian world portrayed in Parasakthi. Mentally unstable people ravage the streets; thieves run riots, and even a group of mendicant refugees dream up a Beggars’ Conference and, lo and behold, a political party of their own!

Parasakthi is violent, provocative, exploitative and aggressive. It creates formless villains and attacks them mercilessly. And it works big time. We get dragged violently and immersed in the raggedy world created by the film and relish the venomous, antagonistic mood of its protagonist.

Mu Karunanidhi

There is little mention of the director Krishnan-Panchu here, because the film is essentially hijacked by two people: Karunanidhi who has penned the mesmerically violent lines and ‘Sivaji’ V C Ganesan, in the most spectacular debut in the history of world cinema. He doesn’t arrive, but simply explodes onto the screen, so much so that in the list of top-ten best scenes of Tamil cinema, his climactic court monologue will easily take up the number 1 slot.

The film not just became memorable for its debut actor, and the explosive script writer, it provoked the entire society into the perennial act of rebelliousness for the next two decades. If there ever was a real movement of collective anarchism, this was it. It made protest desirable and hyperbolic pontificating fashionable. In that way, it not just stormed into the history of Tamil cinema, but political history as well. Its after-effects are still resonating dangerously across the state. It spawned movements and leaders who wrecked and ransacked the state with the same relish of Parasakthi’s Gunasekaran. In its message, Parasakthi was a Mein Kampf of Tamil cinema; a classic!