When Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada (Fear is Foolishness) opens on November 11, the title will only reaffirm the director’s fascination for the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam politician and onetime Tamil Nadu chief minister, MG Ramachandran or MGR. Menon has often used as his film titles lyrics from some of the vastly popular songs that MGR “sang” on the screen.
Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada -- with Silambarasan or Simbu and Manjima Mohan -- are words taken from the number which the legendary playback singer, TM Soundarajan, lisped for MGR in his 1960 Mannadhi Mannan (King of Kings) -- a tale of royalty and treachery.
Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada has the same Menon-AR Rahman-Silambarasan combine we saw in the director’s earlier Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (Will You Cross The Skies). It was later adapted in Hindi as Ekk Deewana Tha with Prateik Babbar (Smita Patil’s son) and Amy Jackson -- the set igniting a brief but sizzling off-screen romance between the two. While the climax in the Tamil edition foxed critics and viewers (”It was bizarre”, felt one), the Hindi remake ended on a happy note. There was nothing confusing here.
Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada is one among the several MGR’s songs where melody was king and lyrics were simply unforgettable -- even though the picturisation left much to be desired.
Again, one of Menon’s earlier outings was an Ajit Kumar starrer, Yennai Arindhaal -- the words having spun out of MGR’s 1964 Vettaikaaran (Hunter) that underlined animal rights narrated through the experiences of a hunter-turned-conservationist. Admittedly, wildlife preservation was not exactly new to India even in 1964. Many of us were familiar with the exploits of Jim Corbett, who in his later life turned from a shikari hunting down man-eating tigers and leopards into a environmentalist of sorts. But yet, Vettaikaaran was a new chapter in Indian cinema.
There were other titles that Menon lifted from MGR numbers -- which are hummed even today, nearly three decades after he died. While Menon’s Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu (Hunt and Play) was taken from a song in MGR’s Arasa Kattalai (Royal Decree, 1967) -- about a people’s king -- the helmer’s Pachaikili Muthucharam (inspired by the American work, Derailed) was part of the lyrics in another of the actor’s works, the 1973 Ulagam Sutrum Valiban (Globetrotting Youngster), where he essays a scientist whose incredible discovery is sought by a villain out to the destroy the planet.
A part of MGR’s amazing popularity may be explained by the kind of roles he essayed on the screen -- a loving friend of the poor, an ardent supporter of the weak and the old, and an utterly chivalrous hero to his heroines. Women just went ga-ga over him.
It is this continuing admiration for MGR -- who gave a face and figure to the then radical ideology of Dravidian politics in Tamil Nadu, helped as he was by Annadurai and Karunanidhi (who also served as the state’s chief ministers and were excellent story/script writers) -- that Menon has been capitalising on to give a head start to his celluloid creations.
In keeping with the Menon trait, nobody really knows what the story of Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada is all about, except that it may be a romance (like his Minnale/Lightning or Neethane En Ponvasantham/You Are My Golden Spring or Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa). But with the MGR memory being rekindled through the lilting title, Menon can be certain that he has already mesmerised his audiences.