Not all great love stories happen before marriage. Some of them start afterwards too. Not all love stories have to be candyfloss . They could be mature and deal with emotions in relationships in a more realistic manner. There are few movies that illustrates this better than Mani Ratnam’s Mouna Ragam. Mouna Ragam told the story of how a husband wins his wife’s heart after she was forced into the marriage without her consent and was in love with another man before.
To understand Mani Ratnam’s genius in this movie , let’s start dissecting an iconic scene from the movie. Mohan after being patient with his wife for many days asks her repeatedly why she cant love him back. Revathi turns away , walks towards the wall , presses her head against it and says repeatedly – “Yenaa en idhayam enkitte ille” ( I don’t have my heart with me).
This scene has its placement at the exact point in the movie when both the viewers and Mohan do not understand the reason behind Revathy’s hostile behavior towards him. The background music (what an eternal work by Ilaiyaraja! ) and the performances of the actors are perfect. The next minute a prominent character whom you did not know existed so far is about to make a crackling entry. It also enjoys the advantage of having a film-maker who can direct as brilliantly as he writes. The result is one of the finest movie moments in Tamil Cinema.
Now the movie’s entire soul lies in how even after learning Revathi’s past and stance on their marriage, Mohan still remains patient and wins her heart back slowly. After leaving his guests stranded , Revathi apologizes to Mohan and says she would try and change . He replies- “You don’t have to change yourself for me. After all you are going to be here only for a year”. When she asks him why he didn’t drink the coffee she made, he replies -” Today I would get used to your coffee. But what would I do after one year when you are gone”. When she asks why he behaved rudely to her parents, he replies -” If I was polite to them, after one year, they would think you only initiated this divorce. Now they would feel it is better you returned to them instead of staying with me.”
This is exceptional writing as during this entire second half , the dialogue writer in Mani Ratnam comes to forefront. Each and every dialogue he writes for Mohan is precise and measured. They just strike Revathi in the right amount making her realize how indifferent she was to him in the beginning. Its all these dialogues that finally make her fall in love with him.
Mouna Ragam is also a case-study in how you can create a sensational cameo character by having him just for 20 minutes on screen. If Mohan’s was a delicate and composed character, Karthik played a character that was poles apart. He was outgoing, persevering, charming and lovable. Its just 20 minutes and yet a lot happen as Karthik uses all different techniques to woo Revathi. It included a “trademark Mani Ratnam” bus sequence, “Mr. Chandramouli” antics and the Principal room scene where he announced his love loudly in mic .
Initially in the movie, when Mohan comes to see Revathi , she tried her best to convince him she doesn’t approve for the marriage. He still stands up , smiles and says he really liked her leaving her shocked. That was Mani Ratnam’s way of telling how important a girl’s consent is for her marriage. In the climax, when Mohan hands over Revathi the divorce notice, she admits she has fallen in love with him. That was Mani Ratnam’s way of telling how you would find love once again in life even if you lost your first love.
Mouna Ragam’s beauty lies in that it is such a relevant story today even after 30 years since its release. After Mouna Ragam , Mani Ratnam went on to make some of the finest classics in Tamil. Some on epic scales. Some with huge stars. But no other movie of his has struck me as much as this drama which just told the simple tale of relationship between two humans. Mouna Ragam ,over years, has grown on to become my most favorite Mani Ratnam movie.
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