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27 Years Of ‘Guna’ And ‘Thalapathi’

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“Natpuna Ennanu Theriyuma?” 

“Abirami…Abirami!”

Two film, two classic lines of dialogue. 27 years old this month. Yes, it’s been 27 years since Kamal Haasan’s Guna and Rajinikanth’s Thalapathi were released in 1991 for Deepavali.

Guna

Guna, a romantic drama directed by Santhana Bharathi, was released on November 5, 1991. Produced by Swathi Chithra International and distributed by Raaj Kamal Films International, the music for the film was composed by Ilaiyaraja on lyrics written by Vaali. The film was initially titled Mathikettan Solai which was then renamed due to the commercial reasons fearing that it might give the film a negative impact.

Though the film failed at the box office, it later acquired cult status in Tamil cinema, and inspired similar themes. It was later dubbed and released in Telugu.

The caves in which the film’s climax scene was shot was originally called Devil’s Kitchen, but after the film released, came to be known as Guna Caves. But a deeper effect the film had was on people. “Why are you acting like Kamal in Guna?” became a question asked both in contemporary cinema, and regular everyday conversations.

Guna, the title character, is in a hospital for the mentally ill, develops an obsessive fixation on a woman – whom he calls Abirami. An opportunistic uncle – played by Janakaraj, feeds this obsession in order to get Guna to help him with a heist – of gold jewels from a temple. During the burglary, Guna spots the woman he thinks is Abirami, to whom he will be married to on a full moon day, and kidnaps her. The film stars Kamal Haasan as Guna and Roshini as Abirami, her debut film. Kamal Haasan was reported to have gone on a diet to lose weight to fit his role.

In interviews late, Kamal Haasan has said Guna was one of his better performances and the film remains a personal favourite.

There are five tracks in the film, but the two songs which have stood the test of time are ‘Kanmani, Anbodu’ and ‘Paartha Vizhi’.

Thalapathi

Directed by Mani Ratnam and produced by G. Venkateswaran, Thalapathi is a crime drama starring Rajinikanth, Mammootty, Shobana and Bhanupriya. The film was released on November 25, 1991. The music for the film was composed by Ilaiyaraja, while the lyrics were written by  P. K. Mishra. It was was dubbed and released in Telugu and in Hindi as Dalapathi, and later remade in Kannada as Annavru in 2003.

The film is a retelling of the friendship between Karna and Duryodhana of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata.  Rajinikanth plays a character modelled on Karna, Arvind Swami on Arjuna, Srividya on Kunti, and Mammootty on Duryodhana.

The film is considered one of Tamil cinema’s, and Mani Ratnam’s classics and is an oft-cited example of the Mani Ratnam school of dialogues writing. The lines, “Natpunaa Ennanu Theriyuma? Nanbanaa Ennanu Theriyuma? Suriyana Ennanu Theriyuma?” (Do you know what friendship is? Do you know who is a friend?) have acquired epic status.

The film throughout portrays Suriya’s (Rajinikanth) loyalty for his friend Deva (Mammootty), longing for mother’s love and rethinking his lost love.

Santhosh Sivan’s cinematography and framing backed by Isai Gnani’s music, spelt magic on screen.

Speaking of music, it is a tough job to pick the best song out of the seven tracks. However Yamunai Aatrile, Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu, Kaattukuyilu and Chinna Thayaval speaks to the heart of the listeners. With the voice of S Janaki, Chinna Thayaval accurately captures love and loss.

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