On Visu

June 29, 2006

Visu: A comic genius.

Ok, I was just kidding in the title. If you know don’t know who Visu is, if you think Kamal Hassan in Ek Duje Ke Liye was cute, or if you think South Indians eat Dosa for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I don’t think you will get very much out of this piece.

Since you persist, here is a brief background-

Visu pioneered, wrote, starred and directed a bunch of family drama, middle- class depression, Patxploitation (exploiting the patriarch) movies familiar to all desi movies viewers in the 80’s.  These movies had cleverly alliterative titles – Samsaram Oru Minsaram (Marriage is like electricity), Penmani Aval Kanmani (Girl, she’s a pearl – OK, so my Tamil sucks), and many others I am too lazy to Google or IMDB.

Of all the Mahaan Insaans to hit Tamil cinema screens in the mid 80s,  there is none more worthy of our collective bile than Visu (I am so cool I don’t need a last name). Visu’s defining characteristic as an actor was his overbearing smugness, which sounds like a lot of retired Tam Brams in Mylapore i know.

However, what makes Visu’s story interesting is the range of emotions he evokes amongst people of different ages. Ask the average Tamil youth anything about Visu, and he froths at the mouth. Ask a retired Tamilian grandfather, and he proudly takes out his tickets from his last Visu movie from Devi Paradise from his pocket.

Why this dichotomy we must ask.

The hatred Visu has inspired amongst legions of children growing up in Madras cannot be understated. Sultry evenings in early 80’s Mylapore(a madras suburb) would often find kids amusing themselves in a harmless Tamilian version of “Eenie Meenie Miney Moe”. Their version went “Aadu, Maadu, Pasu, Kusu” [for the uninitiated – Goat, Cow, Milch Cow, Fart]. The guy who was “Kusu” was branded for life, or, at least until the next round.

However, by 1987 the chant had turned into  “Aadu, Maadu, VISU, Kusu”, and it was the guy who was “Visu” who cringed in shame!

So how, we must ask, did he inspire so much hate that children would rather be a noxious gas than be linked to him?

Visu’s features typically featured a joint family of ungrateful children, usually 3 sons – 2 married with nasty wives, and one “youth”- usually Dilip (I’ll dance on his grave with my hob-nailed boots) in a cut-sleeve Banian indulging in the dreadful trinity of the most unforgivable of Dravidian vices- smoke, drink and lech (this was before the Hindi serial Subah – which made drugs THE thing to do to piss of parents).

It also  featured an eternally suffering mother (Kamla Kamesh) flashing a tired, beatific smile that rivaled KR Vijaya’s Amman faces of the 80’s- (aaah, but that’s another story) when times were good, and stuffing the end of her Madusaru saree into her mouth to stifle her sobs, when times were bad.

*Note* Sometimes the third sibling is a woman, in which case, she is a slut
with a heart of gold.

*Note* Sometimes there’s an adopted kid who generally screws up, but in a
good way.

The plot unfolds with a happy family that eats, sings and laughs together. Then the brothers’ wives start their dissing (i don’t know why, but there’s usually something about money involved), sowing the seeds of dissent. The stoic father bears all and notes the treachery in his little black notebook with a Camlin HB pencil. At the half way stage, things are usually pretty far gone, with either the sons moving to a new house, or kicking the others out of their old house, or dividing the house with Lechman Rekhas etc.

This is when Visu takes charge. Whenever someone says something nasty, he doesn’t fight back, but nods wisely, smiles in his supercilious way and files it for future notice. Nastiness upon nastiness builds up to a climactic last scene where like Poirot, he gets all the badasses together in the family living room, and lashes out a 20 minute dialogue, chronicling each character’s treachery.

Now the Visu climax is unique, each slimeball’s comeuppance happens with Visu moving from pillar to pillar in the ancestral home unleashing vengeance in a whiny high pitched voice and unique cadence (likened to the sound of a dentist drill while having a root canal). When he is finished with one person, the soundtrack goes *bang*,he moves to the next pillar, and starts again. If there’s an adopted kid in the story, the last salvo is usually reserved to show how blood is thinner than water and how the adopted kid is the only good apple/white sheep of the lot

All this while, Kamla Kamesh is so busy stuffing acres of Madusaru into her mouth  that she can only nod and sob.

At the end of this, the junta are suitably contrite, and the wives cringe in shame. Of course they all make up and realize what a magaan yinsaan they have in their midst. The husbands slap their wives, and put feet to the father. All’s well and they sit together for the family feast, and the movie ends with either a joke, or with a joint photograph.

I was watching Baghbaan the other day, and from the first 20 minutes, looking at how happy everyone was, I realized that the only way it could unfold would be the Visu way. I switched to the Weather Channel immediately. If I wanted to relive the Visu experience, I could call my dentist.

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6 Responses to “On Visu”

  1. Anand Says:

    Nice. When you’re dancing on Dilip’s Grave, give me a call, I’d love to help.Wonder what he looks like now?

    In fact, stumbled here when looking for a picture of Dilip for a cartoon strip I’m doing. Any ieas?

    You might enjoy this :

    http://www.bosey.co.in/2005/08/visu-yet-to-complete-sentence-he-began.html

  2. krithix Says:

    that was awesome… you put all my thoughts of melodramatic tamil movies of the ’80s into words.

  3. Mona Says:

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Mona


  4. shocking news it was to hear from the closer sources? Really, this is turning to be the worst amongst all of affairs. Prabhu Deva, father of three children (Recently one passed away) is in love with Nayanthara, the leading actress. That sounds quite absurd but you’ve got to believe. Although it was earlier considered to be rumors, certain channels of outside Tamil Nadu have confirmed it. And of course, tomorrow morning you’ll find this one on the headlines of all newspapers.

    Sources have again revealed that concern has been shown from both of the sides and soon divorce will be done between bonded relationships.

    Now Prabhu Deva has fled to unknown place stating that he has some works on Hindi project. Meanwhile Nayan too is missing in town and seems to have gone for abroad. This has evoked yet more on this issue.

  5. a tam-bram Says:

    hilarious! very well written!

  6. Malli Says:

    reminds me my childhood… i’m one of the culprits to equate VISU to K***. we even felt a bit off to call the name “SUSI”….anything with a SU means to us as K***… just happenned to be like that in childhood… This is an awesome compilation … thank you very much..


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