Thursday, September 9, 2010

Drums Mani

This post is to bid to elucidate the roots of admiration that explain the etymological roots of this blog

John Wayne said 'In all my films, I have played John Wayne. And I have done rather well, haven't I ?" On the other hand, Oscar Wilde most famously said "I put my genius into my life I put only my talent into my works". Two contrasting schools. But what happens when the artist in question is genius personified ?

If the previous paragraph sounded sophomoric, well you guessed right. It was the gist of the opening paragraph of a piece I tried writing when in college, titled : "Of Wayne, Goundamani and Wilde". The intended recipient was "The Hindu" of indhula-sandhula fame. The paper had published an article the previous week hailing a then hot comedian which was a tad too effusive in praise for my taste. So I had set about trying to right wrongs.Of course, the article with the rejection slip came back home before I was even back from the post office.

It was indeed juvenile fanboy attempt to defend one's star. But looking back even today I cannot dismiss it completely. I did the squirrel's part in making the world at large understand the under-appreciated genius (though the genius himself has objected to the metaphor : "dEi, ANiL vEra ....peruchchALi vEra da". )

Mine was not love at first sight. I am not able to say "why not". Perhaps I was too young, perhaps I just absorbed peer/elder genteel perceptions, perhaps I was overexposed to his duds etc. But I think it was largely the incredible novelty. I had never seen anybody like that before. Who else ever and since would have said "puli nakkunAlE nee seththupOyiruve" to a harmless elderly gentleman on screen.

It took Drums Mani from Singaravelan to unlock the doors to the wonderworld. But apart from personal fascination, looking back today I also feel it is the movie where he packed many many varieties of humour. Henceforth I will stop waxing eloquent and rest content with quoting the master.


My favourite joke in the film is the following one in the gym. (to be fair the timing credit is shared by GM and Vadivelu). As they enter the gym, GM and VV step on the rotary torso machine. GM is on the sitting twist and he rolls around..VV immediately asks
VV: cutting or saving ?
GM: mottai adi

First time I understood this joke - which was not the first time I saw it - I burst out laughing loud and hard and missed the rest of the scene including (hey mottai payyA !....ding) Absolutely spontaneous, almost poetic in the sense that you are left to infer the unsaid and as 'harmless' as the genteelest person could ask for.


Humour is not about illogic. It is using the force of logic to point out the absurdities in our day to existence. GM does that to maximum effect with..
sOru kEttA arisiyum sudu thaNNiyum kuduththuruvaanga, naama thaan poNgi thingaNumA

Same scene- answering a specific question literally and thus not rendering the question ridiculous

GM: dEi segappu sattai...dEi segappu sattai
Kamal: yEN yA kaththura
GM: (in a whisper) ye- se-ga-ppu sat-tai ye- se-ga-ppu sat-tai


avar aatakkArarA irundhA ennA...pAattukkaarar-A irundha enna ? mooku mEla thuNiya kattittu eppidi varalAm

GM: inge dhaan adakkam paNNiyurkkAnga
Sumitra: ah !
GM: idhu...adukki vachchirukkAnga
Sumitra: !
GM:....admit paNNirukkaanga


His pronunciation and intonation when speaking English is stuff of legend:

GM: help
Kamal: No
GM: Tankyu !

Daring to ridicule Central Themes

Equanimus mentioned once that, in most movies he is in, GM works against the movie. In that way he is a non-supporting actor. A screenwriter's nightmare in that sense he can dissemble an emotion, character, important plot point which was carefully nurtured till he came along.

Kamal: naan oru latchiyaththOda vandhirukkEn
GM: enna kondu vandha karuvAttai...kozhambu vachchu thinnittu pOyiralAmnA

GM: idhuvallavO latchiyam !
GM: ...appidi senjA unga latchiyaththukku izhukku vandhirungaLA

Snides,quips and insults

Snide remarks and insults are GM's forte of course. And he excelled in them..
ingeyAvadhu ingeyAvadhu ingeyAvadhu ....irukkA ?

Mano: (on VV) moonjiyappAru
GM: irundhA thAnE paakkuradhukku

GM: enna kai nadungudhu....thaNNi adikkira pazhakkam undA

GM: yEN annikku nee azhalaiyAkkum ?
ThAthA: what man kiNdalA pannura
GM: Yes man

Physical attributes

In TFI, GM was the first to push the envelope and break the taboo that certain things cannot be laughed about. Complexion, physical attributes, death nothing, absolutely nothing deterred GM. This was widely considered 'insensitive'. But most humour - even the seemingly harmless varieties - indeed have their roots in misery. So laughing at some miseries and checking oneself for others it actually both insensitive and self-deceptive. No hold barred is GM's "message" for those who seek messages in comedy.

Mano: vignAnam evvaLO vaLarndhirukku
GM: vignAnikku kooda dhaan vaLandhirukku

VV extends hands to Khushboo for handshake
GM: hey ! kai edu man, thakkALi pazhaththumEla tAr oothunA maadhiri irukku

GM: oru moongil kuchchila Ottai pOttu....mooNu maNInEramA oodhittirukkAn andha bulb-thalayan

This is a man who reacted quite virulently to baldness throughout his career when he himself started his career bald. So pause a bit with that insensitivity charge.

And lastly... Jokeless jokes

This is where GM's genius scintillates. Talented comedians do one liners but it takes a GM to do no-liners. The joke is simply nonexistent. No funny line, no banana peel slip, nothing funny in his remark. Yet you laugh. Laugh not smile. Just the way he says what he says makes humour something that is beyond defintion:
(in kALiyaNNan Gounder's house)
GM: (to Kamal) kaapi kELu... kaapi kELu
Kamal: shh..
VKR: ennavAm
Kamal: illa...asingamA EdhO kEkkurAnga
GM: ada summA kELu

After you have finished laughing, can you really say what is it that made you laugh ?

Why is genius elusive to imitators ? Well, because it is greater than the some of the parts and thus cannot be put together by talent and effort alone.

PS: This is largely a copypaste of something I wrote a while back. Reposted here in the continuing effort to archive my contributions for posterity.


  1. Though he operates quite well in a stand-alone mode, GM is at his beastly best when he has a partner who sets his punches up quite nicely.

    In this regard, Senthil was quite simply unbeatable and a significant chunk of credit must go to him. (though people I know, have claimed that Sathyaraj-Kounder partnerships worked better)

    ps: Who woulda thunk about "Swappana Sundari's" current status while struggling to push a car across a village?

  2. "கோழி செவிடா இருந்தா என்ன, குருடா இறந்தா என்ன! நமக்கு வேண்டியது கொழம்புதானேடா!"- My choice of Gounder's masterlines.

    I think his uniqueness is the irreverent delivery of commonsense. He elegantly subverts pretentious poseurs- individual pretensions and social hypocrisy- with his earthy humour.

    In about ten or twenty years time, perhaps, we will realise that he is on a class of his own.

  3. Great post! He was unforgettable in Singaravelan. I even remember his "டே மொட்டப் பையா!" He was deadly in another scene in which Jaishankar pays Kamal a visit and accidentally steps on his foot: "டேய் வேலா, இங்க வராத. வந்தா இந்த புல்புல்தாரா மீசக்காரரு உன் கால மிதிச்சுடுவாரு!"

    I love his non-jokes! In Chinna Thambi, Kushbu asks him "எனக்கொரு உதவி செய்றீங்களா?" Goundamani says, "நான் சமையக்காரன்ங்க. எனக்கு சமையல்தாங்க தெரியும். உதவி எப்படிங்க தெரியும்?" And he delivers it with maximum effect.

  4. Louuly post. and to think that I was tripping on Singaravelan dialogues only last night on Twitter ... :)

  5. Once Senthil came perilously close to overtaking the Gound (Gound, Senthil from Yamalogam) with that his observation about the chaani on the wall, otherwise the gound pretty much rules.

  6. ABVan, Senthil is a gem, his sense of timing is terrific, particularly when he butts in with inappropriate interjections.

    kaLimaNkalayam, true but even that would not completely define him. Its not as if his irreverence spares the anti-establishmentarian folks too. Shoot everything at sight, seems to have been his brief.

    சாத்தான்,Prakash Thank You. Next time in Singaravelan, try counting the number of times Kamal says: யோவ் நீ கொஞ்சம் சும்மா இருக்கியா. :D

    BNB, Senthil has many many terrific moments and has many times scored with lightnign fast timing.

    In one film (I think rAsAvin manasilE) both of them woo a lady who'se husband happens to return from prison. Just as she is trying to get them into trouble

    GM: தங்கச்சி...மாப்ள வந்ததை சொல்லவே இல்லையேம்மா
    S: ஆமாக்கா

    While GM's elaborate வாஞ்சை is funny, Senthil immediately latching on to it is just side-splitting. A great talent.

  7. I've come across quite a few people from the Gound's area for whom his way of talking and general attitude towards life/society comes very naturally - especially the opportunism, putting down others, sycophancy. A Gounder like attitude needs a slouch(Senthil) nearby to project itself strongly.

    I must concede that while Gound does entertain me a lot, I really avoid being around such personalities :-)

  8. Hi, good stuff! Always game for Goundamani movie memories (though for a second there, I read "Drums Mani" in the title and thought it was something about Sivamani!).

    Senthil used to (still does?) live in Saligramam, and I grew up in Vadapalani. So during summer hols, when dad and I morning-walked past his house (passing Rambha's first, then SA Chandrasekhar's, sometimes Vijayakanth's, depending on our chosen route on a given day), his filterkaapi-sipping, oonjal-swinging, near-bald, pitch-black and blissfully rotund self has waved at us from the front porch many a time.

    Gawd, I miss those days of celeb house sightings (enakku yennikumey konjam Kodambakkam kirukku thaan, maybe coz the house I was born and raised in (behind the Vpd bus depot's granite wall) was bookened by a Nadigar Sangam (dad used to dhamm adichufy in the teashop and chat with extras, sometimes) and a recording studio (for whose inauguration in the late 80s, we waited for hours swinging on our spiky front gate, until we saw SPB, Rajini Saar and other celebs (can't bother with recalling any more names) sail past us in open jeeps, slowing down to wave as they approached gates, like ours, spilling over with starstruck kids.

    BTW, Unga (suddha or suddhama puriyaadha? lol) thamizh naala thaan appo appo prachchanai (enakku) nu nenacha, sometimes "lost in transliteration" naala kooda prachchanaya irukku. Like this line: "Soru ketta arisiyum sudu thanniyum kuduththuruvaanga, naama thaan pongi thinganuma," which I originally (mis)contrued to be something about being given spoied rice and hot water... before I came back to it and went, "aah haa, ask-a"! :-)

    P.S: Speaking of Rambha and Gounder, Ullathai Alli Tha is one of my favorite "Mani" tracks (plus, the latter has great chemistry with Karthik, especially in the car-mechanic scene/song).

  9. Crikey, how can I miss this. Superb analysis as usual. The "Yov nee konjam summa irukkaya" was carried forward in Indian. Good job, man!

  10. There are some lines from GM which just sticks forever.
    'ennadhu kodi rooba kuduthaalum saingalathuku mela vela seyya matenea? Muppadhu rooba kudutha moonu naal kannu mulichu velai seyvan da dei, appa'

    He is truly one of a kind.

  11. There is actually one dialog in Singaravelan that KILLS the plot of the entire movie and how! When they're sitting in the beach before they see Khushboo for the first time, he says:

    Ennaya mora ponnu nora ponnu-nu. Science evalo munneri irukku. Adhaan solranga illa, sondhathula kalyanam pannadheenga da, porakala pulla healthy-a porakadhunu. Adha pathi yen nee think panna maatengara.

    Ultimate genius! Oru line the whole script-aye rubbish panniyachu. Only he's capable of that!

  12. Oh yeah.
    He does that in many movies actually.

    Watch vaLLal- a movie written for Rajini which Satyaraj eventually acted in. A respectable old man, whose honor is 'slurred' when he is alleged to have an affair with Meena. Before the dramatic turns happen, GM is taking free potshots at the central idea of the movie itself.

    Screenwriter's nightmare :-)

  13. Well written. Reading about Sendhil and GM in the comments, Rajakumaran comes to mind where they literally had a battle for oneupmanship, and to Sendhil's credit, in the ponnu paakkara scene, he does steal quite a bit of GM's thunder though GM has a lot of killer lines.
    GM: Indha vEttiyum sattayum enga thirudina?
    S: Neenga enga thirudineengalo, anga thaan naanum thirudinEn.
    But GM has the most side splitting moments. The way he deflects Sendhil's repartee (GM: Naan vayasula periyavan. Ponnu enakku thaan. S: Appo aruvathaan kalyanam pannikunga)to the guy nearby, saying Dei naan ponnu ivanukku paaka valla... Genius. And GM seems more surprised with Sendhil's reply to the question on kotta eduthathaa edukkathatha... Wonder if the question, reply and the reaction was spontaneous. Each line is a gem in that scene.
    Two strokes of genius in the scene. Sendhil latching onto GM's வாஞ்சை, as you say, when GM says En thmabiya kattikka ma, by saying aNNi is pure genius. And his final dialog justifying his laugh (need I put that dialog in words?)... Brilliant.
    Talking about vaLLal, one scene that makes laugh thinking about it is the naNdu scene, the way he jabs mercilessly at Sendhil. ROFL stuff of the legends.

  14. Wonderful post!! :D Goundamani is a legend cuz of his own style.. How can we forget Singaravelan?? :D Damn.. ippavum naan adha patha sirichukitte irupppen!! :D Ultimate timing.. :D Also, Gounder had great chemistry with Sathyaraj ,Srrathkumar and Rajiinikanth(Remember mannan? :D ) But nevertheless, whomever he acts with, except the lead heroes, most people would be dimed because of the limelight shining on him.. :D And he as mechanic manikkam.. OMG.. amazing!! Esp this punch line:

    "Amam! Idhu periya injineer padippu... yezhu avrusham okkandhu padikkanum" was hilarious!! :D He rocks!! Want to see him more on screen.. but guess he lost the sense of timing a bit! :)"

  15. Kanni Raasi is one of the other gems of Goundar. "unga akkavukku soupu vekka theriyum ngradhe nee vandhadhukku apram thaanda enakku theriyum. "

  16. Mannan is another gem!

  17. njoyed this post! Thanai Thalaivar Goungamani & Nagaichuvai Illavarasan Senthil r the best.
    One of the most under appreciated movie of their is Mr.Madras. This is one of their best movie. Add Prabhu & Manorama,the timing sense were simply impeccable.
    He blackmailing Manorama,making senthil a ghost,Dai Kottachami.

    Senthil : Anne enakku (s)Katch than venum
    GM : Dai ithu katchu nathu thanda...

    GM in the car ride with Prabhu : Aiyo niruthunga da,enakku sethu pona thatha patti ellam kannu munnadi varanga....

  18. Welcome to these parts folks.

    //GM in the car ride with Prabhu//
    nirthungayyA, niruththunga saar, nirthunga saami....nirtuththurA dEi

  19. wow, a nice analysis of the genius GM.. the funniest dialogue from GM in Singara Velan was when near the climax they're discussing about Jaishankar:
    Kamal: Enna nadanthurukkum

    I was in splits the first time I saw this.. :)

    1. Hilarious and completely unsympathetic to the seriousness of the situation. The next line where he points out that the guitar implicates Kamal - he says like he doesn't really care.

  20. <--O-- oh gawd. Just like goundamani ur blog also underrated IMHO. Goundamani posts made one's day.

    1. Thank You. Welcome to these parts.

  21. This made my day. thanks man. this blog also deserves more readers B-) UNDERRATED GUYZ