The Tamil Disease

February 6, 2008 at 9:32 am | Posted in bong, life | 9 Comments
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I grew up on tamil movies. I really did, like for the longest time. I mean, tell me what you will, but any average tamil movie beats any other media (TV Shows, Radio, Books, Cartoons, Newspapers….) in entertainment value. Except maybe the Araittaiarangam that TR runs now…

But that’s not what we are here for. Tamil-dom stands for a number of achievements. In fact if Ramdoss and likes are to be taken at word value, the initial tamils came up with concepts of building, advanced astronomy, nuclear physics, quantum mechanics and sending guys up the moon. Tamilness has always been the synonym for scientific achievement. And I was just wondering at the minimal use of science in tamil cinema (except for miracles such as Vijayakanth flying, Sathyaraj being noble and Simbu acting) when I realized the role of media in spreading medical awareness.

Let me kick start this from the early 80s. That was when I was but a toddler and my only memories of TV are a hindi serial (some Mazoomdurr or something) where a guy rapes the same girl every week. But growing up without sufficient movies, I dug into a bit of the old and therefore have at least experienced the tides starting with the 80s and up until present.

Up until and even into the early 80s, the disease to get was Tuberculosis. TB. I mean, if you were a heroine and you could pump some glycerine, there you were. Spewing goo all over the place. But this wasn’t the kind of disease you really connected with. Imagine your hero. He is the invincible guy, an ideal Captain, Don, or at least the paettai good-deed-guy. Now you don’t picture him coughing up blood-shot crap all over the roads inbetween fighting the villains do you? It was probably all OK in the medival days when women chewing veththalai and spitting hot-red shit from their stained lips was sexy. But the coming of sophisticated actors like Malayoormamuttiyaan fame Thyagarajan (Prashanth’s dad) turned the tides, and pretty soon TB lost its stronghold.

The later 80s gave birth to one of the longest lived diseases in Tamil-dom. The ‘Heart Attack’! Now here was a novel non-disgusting disease that doubled up as the finality of lost love. Needless to say, the times saw the rise of non-fighting, non-macho, non-good-looking freckled stars. Mohan and Murali were quick to rise to the occasion. Up until the early 90s, heart attacks and weak hearts were the industry standards. The mother/ father always ended up with weak hearts. Occasionally the hero/ heroine would end up with a heart attack condition where their heart cannot handle even a small ‘adirchi’ (shock?). Therefore the non-heart-attacked would run around for most of the remaining movie singing solo songs about how they cannot confess the love they did not have up until the interval (when doctor removes his glasses).

Of course, tamil-dom eventually woke up to the ‘Gay’ demons. Actors could no longer be weak wuzzes. Murali tried a few semi action roles but it was more laughable, and since we had comedians like Vadivelu and Prashanth coming up the black man heart-attack game line just got extinct. Mohan tried a few shots here and there, with a few more movies of ‘Sing in the rain’, but with Rahman fast coming in, the freckles just did not cooperate.

The interim period that followed was a jumble of trial and error. Amnesia came in close to becoming the next big thing, but Bhagyaraj started making movies about it that people just forgot it existed (wow I got a pun!!).

With amnesia came the idea of taking stuff upto the brain. Neuro science hadn’t taken roots that far yet and so the doctors could crap just about anything and make it seem possible. This was the advent of weird brain diseases. Although a weed of this line still exists in today’s tamil-cinema-dom, the wave did peak at a point. Marked by ‘It is a medical miracle’, ‘Idhukku mela ellam andha aandavan vita vazhi’ and ‘24hrs aprom daan eduvum solla mudiyum’, there was a time when mental disorders became so clichéd that you knew there was a Maari-Amman song that would run parallel to that climax operation.

A little variation in this trend was the internal injuries. Probably the villain pushed the knife a few inches in, or the hero hit his head on a stone, or a lorry accident. There was always a need for blood, which the side hero would get on his motorcycle. Fight. Break the bottles. And Maari-Ammaa song.

The trend would have probably continued if only there was a variation in the doctors and their intonations. But it always had to be Naazar, the psycho-looking psychiatrist, Visu, the doctor who can’t shut up even in the OR, or Janakaraaj, the doctor who always does good to everybody but kills the universe with bad comedy. To make matters worse, Raghuvaran enters with a half doped, half villain sly and gives in his explanation of medical science… In that ‘I Know’ dialect of his!

To get a bit more specific, the period also saw the rise of Cancer. Now cancer is clean- no spewing, no throwing up, and no ghastly lesions. And up until the last breath you lead a normal happy life, albeit those flashes and headaches. Well, at least that’s the tamil Cancer. Just to prove a point, blood cancer was the disease of choice so the hero/ heroine could have a little streak of blood off their nose or voluntarily thrown up. The high point of blood cancer saw the turn of the millennium. Stars like Kamal who could never contract TB or heart attack could safely sport a dribble of blood down their nose.

As with all other diseases, the concept of Cancer had its period. However with the passage of time and falling levels of ignorance the doctors could no longer say ‘It’s a Medical Miracle’. Show me the cure dammit!

The cool wave then got to coma. People get in and out of it all the bloody time. Need some sympathy votes for the hero? Drop him into a coma for a couple of scenes and get him back when he probably has someone calling his name after a very long time. The directorial touch is the affected party (heroine) cries and the tears land onto the hero’s fingers. And they just shake a bit. Next thing you know, they are making out like crazy and the beep-beep machine in the emergency room goes off.

These days tamil-dom seems to be a little low on diseases. I can only remember one movie where anybody at all gets AIDS (obviously the villain). That makes sense too- after all, AIDS is a bad disease and only the Bad guys in tamil-land can get it. Blood-transfusions? Organ transplants? They just don’t exist in tamil-land.

I know I left out kidney failure too. These take a very minor role in tamil-dom that they aren’t worth too much of a mention. Except that kidneys are bad organs (only meant for peeing) and therefore kidney failure doesn’t happen too often in tamil-land either. Especially to fit and fine heroes who can only contract Cancer or Coma.

 

Disclaimer:

I know only TB is an actual disease in the list above, but tamil-dom science and medicine have risen to such levels that ANYTHING, even children, would now be disease. It is a medical miracle!

 

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