Mayakkam Enna

Cast: Dhanush, Richa, Gangobadyay; Director: Selvaraghavan; Music: G V Prakash

Selvaraghavan’s heroes are famous losers. They are arrogant, chauvinistic, semi-literate wanderers who don’t know how to communicate with opposite sex. Their sexual frustration often projects as misogyny. They slander, abuse, strip, beat and dominate their women. In the end, this very dominance proves to be their fall.

Every time he has taken this formula, it has been a very successful outing for Selva. He moved away from this only twice, once with mixed (Puthuppettai) and once with disastrous results (Ayirathil Oruvan).

In Mayakkam Enna, Selvaraghan returns to his forte, with one key difference: His hero succeeds. Why did Selvaraghavan make him win? We don’t know. Karthik Swaminathan, the protagonist is everything that is defined in the first paragraph. He has a pathological need to run away from challenges. He runs away from the girl who expresses her love. He runs away when the man whom he considers his role model rubbishes his work. He runs away from his betrayal of his best-friend. He is suicidal and takes to alcoholism, vandalism, and violence coupled with abject misogyny. The girl, astonishingly, bears all this. She could have been taken from the 60s era black & white films of Indian melodrama. She endures every frailties of her man, including a violent miscarriage.  The only thing missing is a scene where she takes her mangalsutra and touches it to her eyes in reverence.

That would have perhaps explained their behaviour. Otherwise, we don’t know why they are like this. There must be some Freudian explanation to all this. Perhaps a detailed analysis running to 1000 pages for each of the characters. It is so confusing that it’s baffling. She is so weak that she silently suffers all his atrocities. Yet she is so strong that she endures all this and emerges as a winner. Their relationship is almost sadomasochistic in nature. A passive, silent and almost compulsive sufferer and a harsh, boorish and violent vandal: a match made in hell, and celebrated.

The violence is in the air. Not just physical but the emotional violence engulfs the screen and makes us claustrophobic. We heave in pain. With dark tints, semi-lit and ultra-close up shots, Selva brings the experience very close to our face; and to our hearts. Suddenly, it dawns on us. That is exactly what Selva has intended. We become willing candidates submitting to his violence. We become masochists. Failure looms so large and so inviting that the good people become villains. The neighbour (Brahmin / educated / middle-class) who caringly complains about the hero is made to look menacing and his defeated retreat is celebrated, albeit in hushed whispers. We embrace and relish the pain felt by the girl. We don’t want people rescuing Karthik. We don’t want people rescuing us from his suffering; his compulsive sadism. When we smell his first whiff of success, we don’t feel anything. We wonder if that would be a mirage instead. We even wish it to be. Because Selva’s heroes can’t afford to succeed. Perhaps knowing this, Selva consciously plays this emotion in one scene where he plays around with Karthik’s work from reaching the right hand that would ensure his success. It almost misses. Well, almost. Damn!

GV Prakash is ill-suited to write music for this film. Although Selva uses him only sparingly, where used, GV messes it up. Other places, the film is usefully quiet, thereby amplifying the heat emanating from the characters. There’s Balu Mahendra quietness to many frames in the film. That must be saying something. It declares Selva’s transcendence as the matured filmmaker. It is not small shoes to fill and Selva fills it amply and, occasionally, creates enough claustrophobia to even surpass those frames.

Again, to return to that inevitable question: Why did Karthik succeed? Why did Selva require a happy ending? I don’t think it is commercial compulsions and at this stage, it is unlikely that he would cave into such things. It perhaps marks Selva’s own need to redeem his hero. To liberate him, perhaps pit him against a situation that is unusual to him – that of winning – and see how he reacts. A sort of test. Well, the hero almost fails in that too. He doesn’t react, rejoice or jump. He even forgets to thank his wife. Well, almost.