Goodbye Crazy Mohan: The loved linguistic genius is the reason Tamil cinema got Kamal Haasan, the great comic actor

Crazy Mohan was adored for his sparklingly funny comedies, his brilliant wordplay and his marvellous ability to make absolutely clean jokes.

 |  4-minute read |   11-06-2019
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Crazy Mohan’s ‘crazy’ talent found perfect collaborators in actor Kamal Haasan and director Singeetam Srinivasa Rao.

Crazy Mohan is gone.

But his rich body of work — a unique mix of puns across languages, hilarious one-liners, situational comedy, a little bit of slapstick, exaggerated tropes, stereotypes turned on their heads, some good-humoured politically incorrect jokes and, above all, excellent comic timing — is there to cherish.

His dialogues were crisp and bullet-sharp but never came across as imposed on the actors. They were simple and spontaneous.

kamal-and-crazy-insi_061119015241.jpgCrazy Mohan with his friend Kamal Haasan: A linguistic genius, Crazy Mohan always kept his humour sparkling clean. (Photo: Facebook)

In one of his interviews, he once said, “Every film has interesting dialogues written after much thought. While you take a lot of effort in writing, you need someone like Kamal to translate it in the best way possible on screen.” 

That’s true. Crazy-Kamal-Singeetam was actually the magical trio of Tamil cinema.

Remember the fish-in-sambar scene?

Kamal Haasan, who is a cook’s son, accidentally throws a piece of fish into the sambar at a TamBrahm wedding.

What follows is one of the most hilarious comic sequences in Tamil cinema.  

The easy interplay between “Meen” (fish in Tamil) and the two meanings for “Mean” in English is nothing but sheer genius. 

A part of the fish dialogue can be understood by anyone with a passing knowledge of Tamil:

“What do you mean?”

“I mean what I mean, but they can’t be so mean!” 

“Enna ezhavu, ellarum meen meenungara?” (What nonsense, why is everyone saying fish fish?)

“Ava English meana pathi pesara” (They are talking about English ‘mean’!)

Michael Madana Kama Rajan (MMKR) is known for its hilarious line which can be understood in full only by those who are fluent in Tamil. When Kameshwaran tells his love interest Thripurasundari (Urvashi) he is from a “kukgramam” (small village) near Palakkad, she says “Oh, gramam kukka?” (village cook).  

Kaadhala Kaadhala starring Kamal and Prabhu Deva has a hilarious mixture of everything — superb dialogue, situational comedy, perfect comic timing by the two heroes and their heroines.

In Pammal K Sammadham, the comedy revolves around a man who swallows a watch. 

When I asked a few members of my extended family to tell me their favourite dialogues from Crazy Mohan films, the family WhatsApp got flooded!

MMKR and Kathala Kathala led the pack, but many were quoting dialogues from all his other films as well — every time someone came up with another dialogue, it set off a string of memories. Those messages were coming from across the globe and it felt as if we were having a retrospective of his films.

Mohan Rangachari or Crazy Mohan, as he came to be known later, was born in 1952 and studied mechanical engineering at the Guindy engineering college in Madras.  But very soon, he realised that his interests were elsewhere. After the success of his first full-length play Crazy Thieves in Paalavakkam, he was dubbed 'Crazy Mohan'. In 1976, he set up his own Crazy Creations. He created over 30 original Tamil plays and staged 6,500 shows in India and abroad. He was a multi-talented person — a poet and an artist.

In his tribute to Crazy Mohan, Kamal Haasan, who said he had lost a brother, wrote, “Amongst the things that I envy my friend Crazy Mohan for, the most important is his child-like heart. Not everyone gets it. Many, in the name of learning worldliness, lose this wonderful quality. ‘Crazy’ is a title that doesn't suit him. He is a ‘genius comedian’.  The truth is that he lowered the levels of his talents, and remained populist to always please the crowd.”

Crazy Mohan’s first encounter with Kamal goes back to his college days. Kamal was the VIP guest who handed to him the first prize he won in an intercollegiate drama competition.

Subsequently, what started off as a working relationship turned into a deep friendship. During an interview to a newspaper last year, Crazy Mohan joked, “We talk over the phone almost every day. I discuss and take his feedback on almost everything that I write about. Even if I write a love letter to my wife, I discuss it with him before handing it over to my wife!” 

Kamal, in turn, has often said comedy would never have worked for him — had it not been Mohan’s perfect script and comic timing.

Their symbiotic relationship resulted in the most awesome comedy which had no vulgar jokes or scenes.  Often the plots were simple — almost to the point of being naïve, but who cared! 

The climax was when many threads got unravelled and this, in turn, gave a lot of scope for comic confusion which had us all rolling off our seats.

Goodbye, genius comedian Mohan. You will live in our hearts and memories forever.

Also Read: Why Kamal Haasan is a better bet than Rajinikanth for Tamil Nadu

Writer

Gita Aravamudan Gita Aravamudan @gitagitadan

Gita Aravamudan is an award-winning author and journalist. She has worked with and written for most of the top publications in the country. Her has authored bestselling books including ‘Disappearing Daughters: The Tragedy of Female Foeticide’, ‘Unbound: Indian Women @ Work’, and ‘Voices in My Blood’.

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