A very special note about a very special film – by our dear Revathy, award-winning film director, acclaimed actress and social change agent.
Last week I got a message from a person I respect and admire, Director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao – “Talk of the day. Magalir Mattum is THE film to be released now. We were much ahead ☺”.
Magalir Mattum was made in 1994, directed by Sri. Singeetham Srinivasa Rao and produced by Sri. Kamal Hassan, under Raaj Kamal Films. After all these years I feel proud to have been part of that project that dealt with an issue relevant for today’s times. Amazing that Kamalji thought of making a film that had no ‘hero’ and he appears in a guest role. Crazy Mohan and Singeetham sir are a combination which is a dream for comedy scripts and they are a riot even when they are writing sequences on the set.
Each of us, Urvashi, Rohini and I did not have a second thought doing the film soon after we heard the script. I was thrilled to be working with both Podi and Ro, the way I called them and we became thickest of friends. From costumes to performance we worked as a team. We were shooting on a single floor of a just finished building in Vadapalani and that became our home for the extent of the shoot. Nasser was the male protagonist and he too was part of our team where we worked towards a better film. Singeetham sir’s sense of humour is something I will cherish all my life! It was his detailing that made every single nuance work so well.
I remember the sequence where Nagesh Sir acted as the dead body and Singeetham sir asked him to keep a smirk on his face for the entire sequence. At first I found it a little unrealistic but as we did further sequences the ‘smirk’ on a dead body’s face became the highlight. Singeetham sir told Nagesh sir to let his body go totally limp, which was both difficult for him and us, as we had to carry his entire weight. One can see how we huffed and puffed in every sequence moving the dead body around, it was not a performance but real, having to lift his weight around!
It is always a pleasure to work with actors who are brilliant – it makes our performance better. Urvashi, by nature is a very hilarious person and she would keep us in splits in certain sequences where she would come out with the most ridiculous expressions. Rohini and me had to hold our laughter, else the take would go waste. Nasser was also one of the most comfortable actors to work with, who had a lot of regard for all of us.
In entirety, Magalir Mattum is a comedy but it had a beautiful underlying message of safety in the workspace, dignity for women and comradery. It addressed the way even a sweeper in an office is abused, but she too has her dignity. When a middle class woman takes a job to run her house, her husband is willing to take care of the house and child for her. Each woman has her reasons to remain silent to advances made by her boss due to her economic needs, it does not mean ‘consent’. The film also strongly tells that when people support each other and come together, change happens.
Years later when I asked Singeetham sir if the film can be remade now, he told me, “Magalir Mattum became the film it did only because we… Urvashi, Rohini, Nasser and me were friends in real”. Films like this happen only when there is mutual respect for each other and we don’t feel threatened by each other. It’s so true and we can see that in many such films in the 80s where we worked as friends for best of a film.