Two extremes. Happiness and Sadness. Sun and the Moon. Love and Hatred. Acceptance and Rejection. Even Life and Death for that matter. That is what was dealt by Mani Ratnam in Geethanjali.
Like many MR movies, this love story didn’t have a lot of metaphors and yet remained as poetry. How could some one make a poetic movie without using poetry? I’ll tell you.
Geethanjali basically talks about a love story of two characters who are going to die. Quite weird story line right? Now, where do these dying characters meet first to start their journey? Take a look at this.
Yes, they meet in a graveyard. People die in graveyard and the birth of their love is at graveyard. This symbolically indicates that, love trumps death. Another interesting thing we notice in Geethanjali is, every one in the movie talks openly about death. In fact, movie opens with a hospital scene and the doctor reveals that, Prakash is going to die. From then on the viewer’s mind is occupied with the thought of death. When he decides to escape that sadness of leaving his people, almost every frame is filled with darkness. Little did we know about the importance of darkness in a colorful love story. Now, when he moves on to Ooty, even there, the very first interaction that Prakash has is about death. By this time, if anyone in the movie talks about death, we have already lost the gravity of it. He suppresses that impact even more by bringing in Geethanjali and her characters who are okay about death. Now, why do you think Mani Ratnam wants to suppress the impact of death? What good does that do to the story? In fact, for a movie to be emotional and leave a lasting impact, death is used as a strong tool. But, being Mani Ratnam, he explored a new dimension even in death. Just imagine, if everyone in the movie is talking about dying and suddenly, the people who are going to die talk about living! Imagine the kind of impact that leaves! Its just like closing your eyes for sometime and opening them to sheer white. That’s the only reason he set up every frame of Prakash to be so dark until he comes to Ooty.
Coming to the characters and their establishment, both the primary characters have introduction songs. But, the way Jagada Jagadam song was shot is complete opposite to the way Jallantha was shot. In fact, if you observe the lyrics of both the songs, Jagada Jagadam is all about Prakash’s will to conquer the world. By that song, Prakash is unaware of his health problem. But, coming to Geethanjali, she already knows that she is going to die. And she accepted it. So the lyrics of it. It is all about what she wants rather than what she could do. Such different characters. Even the way they’re pictured talks about the difference. Have a look at these pictures from both the songs.
Now, when Prakash enters Ooty, he tries to experience the peace & calm over there. But, interestingly, every time he goes out, he covers himself with a warm shawl. That poetically indicates that, he is standing in a beautiful place but not letting his heart to see the beauty. If we go deeper, it says, he know that he is going to die, but not ready to admit it and trying to find peace in the warmth of nonacceptance. All this is conveyed through the song Aamani. That sorrow side of beauty and beautiful side of the end/death.
If we observe clearly, Geethanjali’s character is quite opposite to this. She is naughty. She is happy. She goes to market everyday with her grandmom. Surrounded by children and their innocence all over. Stays in a spacious place. She is dying and she is okay about it. This differences in their characters is what makes Mani Ratnam’s work easy in etching a love story. I’ll tell you how.
When you want something that is not in your reach, you feel sad. You feel disappointed. But, if you see the same thing with some one and she’s ready to share it with you, you feel satisfied. Same logic worked here. Prakash wants to have a life, but cannot have it. Geethanjali is full of energy and life. Prakash sees her. After a while she’s ready to share that life with him. As we are talking about life and death, impact created was just out of this world.
I personally lost my shit when Prakash starts to love Geethanjali. Because, that gave a question and I was satisfied without finding an answer to it. Question was, did he love her just because she’s dying? Did he gain some sympathy towards her that later on got converted into love? Or did he love her just because she’s also dying just like him? Like feeling satisfied when you get to know that your friend also failed in the same subject you did. Is it something like that? Either ways, there is a genuine emotion. But the most surprising factor of Geethanjali’s writing was, Prakash starts to develop feelings on Geethanjali only after knowing about her condition. When we are empathizing with those characters, Mani Ratnam found love between them. He’s that poetic.
Another intelligent thing Mr. MR did was, the use of fog/smoke/uncertainity. Everytime someone visits Prakash’s home, fog hits him first. So, after a point, when fog hits Prakash you know that someone is upto visit him but not sure who it was. Fog clearly adds that unclear factor to a scene. As we travel with fog throughout the movie, there is an uncertainity in the movie’s end. He never revealed that they’re going to die. He simply says, they’re going to live happily as long as they can. That ambiguity in the tale is what I call a classic touch.
If we’re talking about colors used and costumes designed, this artcile would be damn lengthy. But, I cannot stop myself from telling you this very intelligent cinematic trick played by MR and P. C. Sreeram. As the movie is all about death, no where you could see a frame indicating to it. Yet we go into that gloomy-missing-something kind of feel. How? It is very simple. Every frame and every color you see has amplified intensity. Now, when you search for dullness in that elevated brightness, it will be unclear. It’s like, you know there is something dull in there and before you think about it, scene changes and new unclear dull set up comes. Psychologically, when someone talks about Geethanjali, the very first thing that hits you is that both the characters are going to die. And after saying this you start to praise the beauty of love story. Geethanjali is such weird yet beautiful expression of love.
So, I told you that both the characters meet for the first time in a graveyard. Now, what is the finishing shot of these characters? It is in a railway station. It indicates us about the begining of their journey. See, another psychological experiment on us and we never noticed that.
Before I stop to shower my love towards this master-piece, I definitely want to mention the greatest poetic touch in it. It is this song O Papa Laali and its placement. It is a lullaby to his love. To her life. To his feelings. Interestingly, it is sung by Prakash himself. I think Mani Ratnam eats, walks, lives and thinks poetry. Ilayaraja on the other hand, complemented MR’s thoughts with his music. I think they both not only share their birthdays but also, their gifted natures.
**O Priya Priya song is actually a metaphor to the entire story. Watch it again.**
What if I tell you that we learnt how to love only through Raja sir’s music. If not you, your parents. Ask them once about this. Ask them, if they ever had Ilayaraja songs playing somewhere in the back of their heads while they were just sharing their hearts. Ask them, if they ever proposed to each other through his songs. Infact, ask them how boring their lives would’ve been without his music. Basically, Ilayaraja is responsible for so many love stories to exist. In a way, this entire generation of India is existing only because of Ilayaraja. That one reason is enough for us to call him God of Music.
I know nothing about music, except a good taste I developed from him. As I got older with his music, I realised one thing. Whichever song Ilayaraja had composed, it’s always ahead in time. Yes. It is. Because, without going ahead in time, how can he make Matarani Mounamidi? And O Papa Laali? And Thendral Vandhu? And so many others. If you can answer that question, I can actually cut my ears and give you my eardrums to play anything.
Being Ilayaraja, he composed legendary work. Being music lovers, what is our responsibility? I really urge you to do one thing. If you’re already a parent or about to become a parent or will want to be one, please make your kids to listen to his work. Because, just like Gods, his God-like work is supposed to see the end of the creation. It should prevail till then. That is my only wish.
Instead of asking us to come to the laboratory, MR pleasingly invited us to the theatres and we went. Went like mad. And helped him to conduct all the tests on us and those results were used by him to just make some more experiments. Geethanjali is that impactful. To tell you the potential of Geethanjali (1989), I can clearly give you one solid example. Fault in Our Stars (2014). It is Hollywoods’ Geethanjali. Think about it.
Finally, happy birthday Raja and Ratnam. We don’t just LOVE you. We go through all the feelings with you.
If you wish to contribute, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org