Degree Kaapi with Crazy Mohan
(A crazy interview for British South Indians by Sharanya Bharathwaj)
This multi-talented celebWITTY needs no introduction, for his fans go ‘crazy’ over his astute dialogues and punny one-liners! ‘CRAZY’ Mohan began his career as a dramatist, ventured into cinema as a writer and actor, and is well-known for his slapstick plot and unadulterated comedy.
‘Crazy’ Mohan has not only experimented OHMS LAW as a ‘Mechanical engineer’ but also experienced OM’s law as an ‘Inner Engineer’! He is not only a theatre artist but also an artist who has a tryst and thirst for painting!!
Kalaima’MANY’ Mohan is also a sensible philosopher who has penned Tamizh Venbas on Ramana Maharishi titled ‘Ramaṇāyaṇam’ (Infact, he writes a new Venba every day). He had also released “Crazy about Ramanar” – a humorous and candid record of a persistently earnest on-going spiritual journey.
Last year, he was conferred Professional Excellence Award by the Governor of Maryland, USA, for his contributions to Tamil literature, fine arts and theatre for more than 38 years and for his support to many noble and philanthropic causes.
A great friend and fan of Late Poet Vaali, his troupe has so far staged over 6,500 shows successfully, all over India and across the globe. He is indeed a Ulagam suttrum ‘Vaali’ban !
Hosted by I for India, the ‘Crazy’ drama troupe will be on their maiden visit to the UK between 21 April to 1st May 2017 with their blockbuster and hilarious dramas – ‘Chocolate Krishna’ and ‘Meesai aanalum Manaivi’.
Crazy Mohan wittily and lovingly talks to us in his signature style and straight from his heart. Here is an excerpt from an exclusive telephonic conversation with the laughter-therapist:
Greetings from British South Indians!
BSI: William Shakespeare in his poem ‘As you like it’, quotes that ‘All the world’s a stage ‘…. but for you, the stage has been your world, as you have always liked it to be! What has the stage-life taught you at this stage of your life?
CM: (enjoys the question) In this wide wild world, one has to be either a performer or an audience. It is important to be a mere witness to the proceedings happening in your life. Then, you’ll definitely be happy. Take things easy, life is crazy!
BSI: How do you foresee your visit from CHENNAI (MYLAI to be precise) to LONDON-EYE? What are your expectations from the UK audience?
CM: For me, Chennai is a word, Madras is an emotion. I am MAD about Madras and feel nostalgic about it. UK has given birth to several playwrights like William Shakespeare, humorists like P.G.Wodehouse and poets like John Keats and William Blake. I am sure, the UK audience will make this legacy true and appreciate the efforts invested behind performing stage-plays. I look forward to seeing my peer crowd coming to cheer us!
BSI: When did you identify the potential in your brother ‘Maadhu’ Balaji ? What was the factor in him that made you choose him as the hero for your scripts?
CM: I was so inspired by the hero character ‘Maadhu’ in ‘Edhir Neechal’ that I aspired my brother to become a great actor like Nagesh. Inspired by Dr.K.Balachander’s scripts, I ventured into writing, hoping to become like him one day. I have since then started writing scripts exclusively for my brother. You may call it ‘Bromance’ (Brother-Romance)!
Balaji has an amazing sense of dialogue delivery. The script remains mere words if they are not delivered with appropriate expression, diction, modulations and punctuations. Both Balaji and Mr.Kamal Hassan have done complete justice to my dialogues in stage plays and movies respectively.
‘Crazy’ Mohan and ‘Maadhu’ Balaji with Dir.Kanthan (Pic captured in the year 1987)
BSI: Do you have any ‘crazy’ or ‘dramatic’ childhood experiences that you would like to reminisce with us?
CM: I have always considered the day of Diwali, 16th October 1952 as the earliest childhood memory, though I don’t remember it! (Laughs). There is no way I can recollect it, as it was the day this crazy ‘cracker’ was born!
I would attribute my life to 3 NS’s –
NarakaaSuran (as I was born on Diwali which coincides with the day of the demon’s death) and
NS Krishnan (the father of Tamil cine comedy).
BSI: We are well aware that the female protagonist of your plays was named in honour of your school teacher, Ms. Janaki, who gave you the ‘Gnana-key’, by identifying your potential and talents. How did Janaki madam react when she learnt about your dedication? How often do you meet her?
CM: Janaki teacher who is around 84 years old now still shimmers in my heart like 24 carat gold. She was extremely elated and surprised when she knew about my humble dedication.
My first stage appearance was when I was 7 years old when my teacher made me perform and deliver ‘Veerapandia Kattaboman’ dialogues.
I make it a point to visit her every time I visit Bengaluru. It’s the attitude of gratitude I carry with me when I meet her. All I would do is prostrate at her feet & thank her for being the reason behind my feat.
When I commit to write scripts for movies, even before discussing terms of payment, I ensure the team accepts the condition to retain the name ‘Janaki’ for the main female lead.
BSI: You have staged several shows across the globe. How similar or different is it performing overseas compared to performing back in India?
CM: In India, people have varied choices like ‘Buffet’ dinner, to spend their evening. They can either choose to go to a Carnatic concert or a movie or a cricket match or ARR’s musical show or come to our plays. The percentage of people turning up to our shows gets diluted due to ample choices.
However, in overseas, people are only left with ‘set menu’. The choices are limited and they are extremely grateful with what they get. They tend to observe and appreciate even the smallest nuances. They literally yearn to smell, taste, and hear things that connect them back to their home country.
BSI: Your play Chocolate Krishna had been staged 826 times so far and is marching towards its 1000th milestone performance. Children seem to be more attracted to this play than any other. What is the secret?
CM: While humour is the best form of magic, humour’s tragic is logic. A child, watching a play is ‘no child’s play’! The stage auditoriums’ outside India, have always had baby-sitting rooms to facilitate children when their parents are watching the play. Chocolate Krishna has been an exception and has had “parents’ sitting room” while the children are busy sitting and enjoying the drama!
Children and God love celebrations. Children and chocolate are in abundance in celebrations. Since ‘Chocolate Krishna’ is a complete package of magic, Krishna, humour and chocolate- it’s immensely loved and celebrated by children!
BSI: We have heard of fans building temples in honour of their favourite heroines. However, one of your ardent fans, Dr.G.Shankaranarayanan, professor of Sanskrit from Kanchipuram, has composed Sanskrit Shlokas – ‘Unmatha Mohana Panchakam’ (unmatta mōhana paṅcakam) in your honour. How do you feel about this?
CM : This came to me a sheer surprise. The professor who composed these verses appeared composed and completely humble. He approached me in the back stage and handed this over to me. I was astounded by the gesture and being a poet myself, enjoyed every word of his creativity. Unmatha means ‘crazy’ in Sanskrit and contains five stanzas of two verses each.
BSI: How do you seamlessly juggle between cinema, drama, philosophy and painting? In simple terms, how do you manage to strike a balance between craze and grace?
CM: I owe all my success and learnings to the large joint family that I live in. Whilst a husband and a wife staying together is called joint family now-a-days, I have always lived with my Grandad, grand mom, parents, brother, sister with their respective spouses in the same house. There are loads of twists and turns happening every day and it has given us the positive attitude to look at things in the humorous way.
My grandfather, who was himself a philosopher cum painter, immensely appreciated me and encouraged me in my extra-curricular activities. My best friend Su.Ravi ignited the interest in philosophy in me.
Humour has made me deliver philosophy easily and vice versa. The proceeds I get from Ramanar books, however little it is, I treat it as Prasadam (Press -Sadam) and receive it happily.
Some of ‘Crazy’ Mohan’s paintings!
BSI: Your jokes carry the ‘stamp’ of your creativity. The TN postal department has gone one step ahead and has released Rs.5/- stamps in your brother ‘Maadhu’ Balaji’s and your honour. Please share more details about this.
CM: It was a ‘First class’ surprise! We were ‘enveloped’ with love and ‘sealed’ with warmth that day. Recently, we had staged our 695th show of ‘Meesai aanalum Manaivi’, especially for Indian Postal Department, TN, in the esteemed presence of The Post Master General. The department was indeed very gracious in releasing an album of Rs.5/- stamps with our photos on them.
Rs.5/- stamps in honour of the legends!
BSI: Former US President Obama considers a Hanuman statue as one of his luck charms and carries it with him wherever he goes. Do you have any such sentimental possessions which you would consider as your lucky charm?
CM: Mr. Obama carries just one….I actually spare none! (Laughs)…. I’m quite sentimental about few things. I have a bag with all my silly collectables and carry them with me everywhere I travel. (In fact, it is good enough to be a check-in baggage on its own!).
Whenever I get into ‘writers block’ phase, I seek for Lord Ganesha’s intervention and write ‘Om Vinayagaya Namaha’. Also, I seek blessings of Mylai Karpagambal by placing my writings at Her holy feet, even if it is to post a love letter to my wife!!
BSI: Your message to your fans and our readers in the UK…
CM: Nothing is serious in life except death and taxes! Take it easy, life is Crazy!
Rapid fire questions:
Favourite song– Solla solla inikudhu da muruga (also Janani Janani and Amma endru azhaikatha)
Favourite place– myLOVEpore (Mylapore- I become homesick even if I go to Mambalam)
Favourite food– Curd Rice (he recites a Tamil venba that he had penned about curd rice).
Favourite sport– Cricket (‘I have even scored 1700 runs in a match during my childhood days’, he jokes!)
Favourite quote or saying– You must have guessed it by now- Take it easy, life is Crazy!
Complete Itinerary of Crazy Mohan’s UK Tour ’17: