When “The Artist” was hailed as an experiment and glorified three years back, I had a tinge of anger and a sense of pride that our Indian cinema tried this 24 years back. In fact, Pesum Padam took the contemporary milieu and gave the silent spin to it. That’s why it’s in our list
Pesum Padam (1987)
Pesum Padam is a story of a young jobless graduate (Kamal Hassan) who could less than afford a complete meal in a day. He chances upon a drunk millionaire (Sameer Khakkar). He kidnaps the millionaire and takes his place to live a luxurious life at a star hotel named “Pushpak”. He meets a young girl (Amala) who stays across his room and both fall in love. On the other hand, a hired killer (Tinnu Anand) who wants to kill the millionaire tries to kill Kamal mistaking him for the millionaire. The rest of the story forms what happens to the life of that jobless guy and his sweet silent love story.
The movie is a satirical black comedy that takes a potshot at the attitude of a common man who takes advantage of a situation he is in.
Why it is special?
- The movie is silent. No dialogues whatsoever. And the movie solely relies on the acting talents of actors and background score
- The brilliant acting of every actor in the movie especially the lead protagonists – Kamal and Amala.
- Almost a near perfect screenplay as the scenes need to be conceived to make sure that people need not speak out. The characters don’t speak sign language. They only emote without words.
- A brilliant score by L Vaidyanathan that carries the movie. If not for the music, this movie would have become a vain attempt
- The cinematography ( Gowri Shankar) and art direction (Thotta Tharani) that enabled the movie to be without dialogues. The placement of camera and the scene setting was such that a frame made more sense.
Why it is in the list?
- For trying to bring back the silent era in cinema.
- For the vision of Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao who wrote, directed and co-produced the movie with his friend Shringar Nagaraj
- Although it can’t be considered as a Tamil movie technically, I still had to put this in the list for the vision and innovation. It was a true “Indian” movie – there is at least one technician/actor is involved from major movie industries in India (except for Bengali).
- The movie was released in 5 “languages” – they changed only the titles but separate censor certificates were obtained for individual languages. It was called Pushpak in Hindi, Pushpaka Vimana in Kannada, Pushpaka Vimanamu in Telugu and Pushpaka Vimanam in Malayalam.
- The hotel called Pushpak in the movie was actually Windsor Manor in Bangalore now owned by ITC.
- Pushpak (Hindi) won the National Award for Best Popular Film in 1988
- The movie was lauded by critics and was screened in the Cannes (don’t know the details exactly). It is still making rounds in film festivals – last year it was taken to Shanghai Film Festival
- Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao was arguably the most successful collaborator with Kamal Hassan – Raja Paarvai, Aboorva Sagotharargal, Michael Madana Kamarajan, Magalir Mattum, Kadhala Kadhala and Mumbai Express.
- L Vaidyanathan composed music for more than 170 films but we got only few movies to his credit in Tamil. Probably,the most famous one was Ezhavathu Manithan – which had only Bharathiyar songs. He was the elder brother of L Subramaniam and L Shankar. He started his career as an assistant to GK Venkatesh – (now you understand where I am coming to) – he was a close friend of Ilaiyaraaja. Ilaiyaraaja whenever talks about L Vaidyanathan reminisces about his days in their house and how L Vaidiyanathan’s mother used to take care of him like her children. Probably, the most enduring legacy of L Vaidiyanathan is that he scored the eponymous theme music of Malgudi Days.
- Finally, if you are thinking if this movie made any money. The movie ran successfully for 100 days with wonderful reception from the audience. Kamal recently quipped that they spent only Rs.35 Lakhs for the whole movie while he was spending the same amount everyday on the sets of Vishwaroopam (http://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/shotcuts-whats-worrying-kamal/article4009218.ece)