A millionaire is about to commit suicide by plunging himself into the lake when a luckless tramp who’s passing by, rushes to rescue him. The millionaire is drunk like a fish and shall be food for the fishes if he isn’t saved, but our brave-heart risks his own life and brings this man out of the water alive. The rescue attempt lasts for about five minutes, as each time the millionaire is rescued, he falls back into the lake, hardly able to stand straight and balance himself in his intoxicated state. When he is finally rescued for good, the millionaire shows his gratitude by befriending the tramp and taking him to a swanky restaurant, where they have a gala time eating spaghetti and courting lovely ladies. When the millionaire comes to his senses the next morning, after a tipsy trip-sy night, he finds the tramp comfortably sitting in his car and, failing to recognise him, shooes him away. And thus begins their unique friendship where the tramp becomes the millionaire’s bestie whenever the latter is drunk and is completely a stranger of no worth or importance when he’s not under influence.
By now, most movie buffs would’ve recognised that is the plot of one of Charlie Chaplin’s finest movies ‘City Lights‘. As I waited for the bus that was to me to my aunt’s home, where I’m temporarily staying until my summer internship ends, my mind took me for a moment to this film, which I’d probably watched about a year back. Now, how did my little brain reach this film all of a sudden, especially when I’d been consciously thinking of how what I shall write in my blog for a Tamil film I’d just walked out of?
The film I’d just abandoned is called ‘Thillu Mullu‘ and I have no idea what the title means. All I know is the film is hopeless. So what did this film have to do with a wondrous classic like ‘City Lights’, beloved by almost everybody who’s seen it? I shall begin with what happened between the moment I exited the theatre hall in a hurry and the second I reached the bus stand, which was about seven minutes away from the theatre.
Initially, my mind could not come up with anything resourceful,good or bad, to write this film. So I began thinking what brought me to watch this particular movie. It was easy to find an answer to this question: I had managed to catch a couple of scenes from this film while I was conducting a survey at a Chennai multiplex a few days before, as a part of my college internship. My job was (and still is, till this weekend) to collect data from patrons regarding their level of satisfaction with the facilities provided at the multiplex. I chose to conduct this survey either when customers were entering the theatre hall or during the interval, when I’d enter the hall and ‘harass’ with a barrage of questions, the poor unfortunate customers who chose to remain seated inside. In between, I’d be waiting in the lobby restlessly, pacing up and down the hall, checking out my face now and then in the men’s room, and chatting with the security guards who’d smile every time they see me as if I’m a foreigner who has come as a guest to their theatre.
By afternoon, I would get very anxious, not being able to hear my inner voice that I usually can very well and that I consider my most special friend and guide. When I ‘m unable to stand the boredom, I would enter a screening and watch bits of movies that are running, but would never stay for beyond five minutes. One day, I entered the hall that was running ‘Thillu Mullu’, and stood like an usher, close to the entrance.
There were hardly any audience present and only the top few rows were taken up. I could hear a joint chorus of laughter from them when I entered and so I stood to take a look myself. The scene running had a boss who catches his employee, the hero of the film, skipping his job to catch a cricket game. The boss confronts him the next day at office, recording his rowdy behaviour at the stadium on his mobile phone as a proof. The hero, who’s been giving an holier-than-thou impression to his boss, saves his skin by telling that his boss hadn’t seen him that day but his twin brother, who is a cricket lover cum karate master. His ‘gullible-than-thou’ boss believes his farfetched excuse and apologises for suspecting his character; in the very next scene, the hero jokes with his friends that if the Guinness World Records had the title for ‘Most Foolish Person on the Planet’, his boss would come first and his boss’ assistant, who also believes the hero’s lie, second.
In a later scene, the boss decides to meet the hero’s mother; to watch the cricket match, the hero had originally made an excuse that his mother had injured herself on the staircase and he had to take her to hospital. In fact, the guy’s mother is already dead and so her has to find a fake mother in three hours. His sister and he beg their female bootlegger friend to act as the mother; they dress her up like a sadhvi (the hero’s boss is a bhakt of Shree Krishna) and also convince her to pierce her tongue with a little trishul (trident) shaped object so she can’t speak. A hilarious scene plays next, starting with the boss meeting the mother and falling at her feet; when he tells her that he shall be visiting her again after his trip to Delhi, she begs him not to otherwise she shall have to pierce her tongue for the act again, but he can’t understand what she’s gesticulating (but we do).
I laughed unabashedly even when I knew they were overacting all the time; I laughed even at the nonsensical sequence where the hero, acting as the fictional karate master/brother, bashes up the guy sent by his boss as a spy after the cricket match incident. I soon stepped out of the theatre, and reserved this film for a future watch. Now I’ve seen it and you’ve heard my verdict already – its hopeless. It isn’t a film but just a set of gag sequences clipped together, with gags being flung one after the other and most of them failing to hit the target audience (us, obviously). There’s barely any effort from the director or the writer or from the actors to plunge into the story or it’s characters, and the post synchronous dubbing is so poor you hear many of the character’s dialogs many seconds after they’ve been mouthed by the actors.
So what really made the few parts so special when I saw it the first time, when most of them seem atrocious now? The answer to this is that when I entered the theatre hall this time, after spending my day at the office chatting jovially with my seniors ( I didn’t conduct the survey today), my mind was in its usual state, and I could hear my inner voice thinking, judging and critiquing every moment clearly. While on that day, it wasn’t that I had kept my brains aside (it isn’t scientifically possible to keep the brains aside and still respond to anything) but that my mind was in a state where even the silliest joke could have me in a fit of laughter. And I think that is why most people in India prefer loud and cheap comedies and artificial performances, because their mind is just too tired to ‘think’ while watching a film; lousy long job hours without any exciting work to do, plus a long journey to home that’s impeded often by traffic jams, simply put the mind in a zone where even a tiny, insignificant stimuli will incite a big reaction.
Just imagine this: a guy who has been locked up for years inside his home finds a way out one day, and the first place he finds himself is a shitty motel; this guy doesn’t need any luxury at this moment, because he is at such a low point that even an ill-functioning motel will give him respite and some freedom. When I watched Thillu Mullu the first time, I was desperately in need of any form of entertainment, and so I laughed. Now that I’ve retained my senses and my ‘inner voice’, I get extremely critical about the same. In a way I’m like the millionaire in City Lights, finding a worth even in the littlest and commonest of things when my mind is in it’s lowest state, but rejecting the same when I come to my senses, know my worth and what’s worth my time.
Thillu Mullu is certainly not worth even a second of my time now that I’m ‘sober’. But it certainly gave me a couple of chuckles that day.
- Thillu Mullu: Trailer (madaboutmoviez.com)
- Mischief in the making (thehindu.com)
-  Thillu Mullu Music Review (coloursandpuzzles.wordpress.com)
- Comedy ‘Thillu Mullu’ gets U-certificate (vancouverdesi.com)
- Copyright Hiccup: Madras High Court allows release of Thillu Mullu 2 (spicyipindia.blogspot.com)