Monday, March 06, 2006

Last Scene Standing

Hotel Rwanda had a great last scene. It also made me remember 2 other really great closing scenes - in Say Anything and Sideways. But such scenes are difficult to come by. A good closing scene is deliciously(and not irritatingly) open-ended leaving us to ponder about what could happen after the end credits roll. But most movies typically like some kind of closure and closure usually means a regular, cliched ending.

Its even tougher to dig out a memorable closing scene in Tamil cinema. With directors striving to provide happy endings, the hero and the heroine(either alone or with their families) smiling at the cameras is the most popular closing shot. More unimaginative directors simply use a clip from one of the earlier duets, signifying a ‘happily ever-after’ life for the hero and the heroine.

But there are always exceptions. Here are three of my favorite closing scenes in Tamil movies.

3. Kannathil Muthamittaal
The only ‘happy’ ending in this short list, the final shot is a testament to the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. As Nandita Das walks away and Keerthana kisses Simran on the cheek, it signifies the end of her search and the fact that she has achieved closure. She is finally ready to let go of the past(and her ‘real’ mom) and accept Simran as her mom whole-heartedly. No amount of tears or hugs or cries of “Amma” could’ve conveyed this as effectively as that simple kiss.

2. Sethu
The final shot in Sethu caps an exquisite climax that first leads us on and then shocks us with the turn of events. As a cured Vikram turns to voluntarily step into the van, he tells us, without speaking a word, that life without Abitha is meaningless to him. The world has nothing for him now and he is ready to return to the very place he escaped from. And in an ironic twist, it is a mentally retarded girl who realizes this and runs after the van, pleading with him to return.

1. Kutti
Easily the most unforgettable closing shot ever for me(and for anyone who has seen the film, I would guess). Kutti boards the train with high hopes, thinking that she has finally escaped a difficult life and is about to go back to her village. But when we see the train’s destination, we know the fate that awaits her at the end of the journey. As her face lights up with a wide smile in the moving train, our heart goes out to her.


At 11:59 PM, Blogger prakash said...

Few more popped into my head right away.

'Idayathai Thirudathe'. Loved the ending. Not open ended, because we know both of them are fatally ill. Amazing that we still leave the movie with a smile on our face.

'12B' had me scratching my head, and wondering.

And I think I have mentioned 'Pesum Padam'/'Pushpak' here before. Did Kamal make something of himself, try to track Amala down ...?

'Kutti' just makes me cry. Esp because we know something like this happens everyday ...

At 12:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you can write something for:

Bharathi Kannamma: Shear shock and disbelief hit you when Parthiban does the unthinkable in this film; saving the details for those who have yet to see the film!

Roja: Madhubala's genuine sense of relief and happiness after seeing Arvind Swamy.. we really feel for her till the very end, even though you do know that it is a happy ending!

Indhiyan: Even though the ending is a clear lift from Silence of the Lambs, there is still some hope among most of us that both Shankar and Kamal may end up continuing the Indhiyan legacy in the sequel some day.

Mudhal Mariyaadhai: True to Bharathiraja's style, he finishes off all his principal characters towards the end and MM is not exception in that arena. But the first and last scenes nicely tie into the beautifully told story and it will always be one such film that we will all remember for the way it ended.

En Bommukkutti Ammavukku: A tough ending for a beautiful film... but that's what makes Fazil great. Suhasini's decision to leave the child with a mentally ill Rekha and walk away is classy and brilliant all at once.

Poovizhi Vaasalile: A genuine ending for a very nice film, yet again by Fazil. If I remember it correctly, Satyaraj leaves Baby Sujitha with Karthika and goes to jail.

Poove Poochudavaa: Even Padmini's overacting in the first half couldn't spoil the emotional and serious ending that Fazil had already planned as Jaishankar takes his sick daughter Nadiya back for treatment. Padmini re-installs the bell outside hoping that Nadiya would return to ring it again some day.. Nice touch!

I guess, I can go on forever.. but then again, paavam Balaji.. maybe I should let me write! :-) ;-)..

At 12:13 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

prakash, nice ones. i was thinking specifically about last scenes/shots rather than climaxes. so not sure 12B would fit the bill. but IT and PP r good picks :)

sandya, same thing. we've had a lot of good climaxes but i was talking about final scenes that happened after the climax. i think 'indhiyan' and 'poove poochudavaa' would make my list among your suggestions :)

At 12:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice picks!
A little observation. The mentally retarded female (Rajashri) throughout the second half (a "premontion" in the first half) serves as a counterpoint to Sethu. (Note the way she is stranded on the other side of the gate while the well-off equivalent is taken care properly in his house.)
She chases Sethu running behind the van even the first time it comes and picks up Sethu. So, I am afraind it wasn't that revelatory at the end when she chases behind him.
Yeah but she does plead him to come back, ironic in that situation as you pointed out.

At 1:06 AM, Blogger Rajesh Thiagarajan said...

If I can add a few

Manal Kayiru - After the climax(Visu gets talked away by people), he starts his routine again to the mother of an yet-to-be married girl - "Enn peru naaradhar naidu..." - was a comic last scene following a heavy climax.

Kurudhi Punal - The last scene where Kamal's son gets bullied by kids of the terrorists - was subtle yet delivered the message.

Sigapu Rojakkal - After the climax where Kamal goes after Sridevi, there was this scene where anonymous voices(like people not involved in the incidents but mere onlookers) discuss about the crime and causes for it. Quite typical of Tamilnadu's n number of Teashops. I sure heard Bharatiraja's voice among many.

Thillu Mullu - The final scene where Thengaai Srinivasan takes his mush off - hilarious stuff.

At 7:49 AM, Blogger Filbert said...

Good list Balaji. Kutti's last shot is easily the most heart wrenching shot I have seen in a Tamil movie. The only movie I could think of which is as powerful as the ones you have listed is Udhiri Pookkal. It had a great closing shot too.

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Five star, Manmathan and Thiruda Thiruda had some nice open-ended climaxes as well.

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Bart said...

Balaji, you cannot miss "Mullum Malarum". The closing shot where Shobha runs back to Rajini and then Rajini says something equivalent of "I still do not like you. But I would send her with you because she likes you" to Sarathbabu is etched in memory (esp Rajini's expression).
"Puthiya Paathai" where parthiban goes all out to kill the villain and then looks at his crying child and gets back without killing for not creating another person like him... (To make the audience satisfied, the villain gets run over by a lorry though).
The still much-talked about "Andha 7 naatkal" thaali senti closing scene.
"Varumayin Niram Sivappu" closing scene in the bus-house.

and quite a few others... :)

At 9:26 AM, Blogger Kumari said...

I didn't like the Sethu ending. In fact i feel Bala lacks happy thoughts coz life is already tough living and when even the hero takes such a defeatist attitude, you feel let down.
And for Kutti, my dad refused to watch the movie. Soemtimes, it's better not to know certain stuff.

Guess, our family is a sucker for happy endings, however contrived they may be :)

At 10:47 AM, Blogger Priya said...

I totally agree abt kutti's last scene
It totally tugs your heart

At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The minute I read the heading of your blog, I remembered the last scene from "Thiruda Thiruda", where Manirathnam doesnt show who Hera ends up with. Anand & Prashanth are shown to be more than willing to become a 'thyagi' and are happy to have the money. I think only Manirathnam can do that, any other director would have paired her with one of them and joined the other with Anu Agarwal.

ofcourse this is not a serious movie compared to the others mentioned above..but still liked the last scene.

At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji, what did you think of Nandha's last scene? there are two sets of opinions I have heard about the film. One say it is one of the best endings ever, no protracted crying scenes, just quick, sudden and with expressions conveying everything, sort of a landmark. Another set feels its a tad too unrealistic and meant for just shock value.

I missed Kutti, will have to catch it sometime. Agree with your other choices.

Since the topic is about last scene standing in your mind, the last scene of Iruvar with Prakashraj's character sitting alone in the place where they used to meet often earlier and conveying his feelings about his lost friend in poetic Tamil was touching and a classic ending scene.Veedu's final scene although not powerful leaves you with a different feeling of futility, as to how things are going to to as far as house building is concerned.Its good that Balumahendra didnt decide to show Archana successfully finish building the house and end with the housewarming ceremony :-)

At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The worst ending scenes would have to be for Vikraman/KSR movies, where they would all stand together and laugh artifically for the camera at the end :-)

At 7:30 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

zero, interesting observation. but didn't get the "premonition" part...

and the first time, vikram does have a problem. so rajashri running behind the van seems more like affection for him. at the end, since we know vikram is ok, her running behind the van takes on a different meaning i thot :)

rajesh, nice ones. esp. 'manal kayiru'. as u said, it really helped end the movie on a nice note after the heavy sentiments of the climax. don't remember that scene in 'sigappu rojakkal' though. been a long time since i saw it...

filbert, welcome back :)
and yeah, heartwrenching is the right word to use for 'kutti's climax.

i think i remember the last shot in 'udhiri pookkal'. vijayan walking into... right? don't remember anything else about the film. so i'm guessing that was a really powerful shot...

anon, didn't think 'five star''s climax was open-ended. but u're right about 'manmadhan' :)

bart, nice. that 'mullum malarum' scene is one that always brings a lump in my throat :)

At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marupadiyum is another film with an excellent ending. Arvind Swamy tells Revathi to look forward and never turn back.. Still memorable considering the way it was handled by Balu Mahendra..

Vaali also has a great ending too.. It finishes off with Ajith's voiceover that all his wishes and dreams never came true and the film ends with a shot of the cemetery.

Pudhumai Penn is another film where Revathi walks out on her husband and starts walking into the street, where she runs into the child in the household (if I remember correctly!) coming back from a fancy dress competition dressed as Bharathiyar... Purely imagery and nicely done at that!

At 10:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, actually it was nothing but a stupid aside; and that is why why I put it in quotes :D.
I was just telling that we see the mad girl (without getting affected much) in the first half; and on hindsight (thanks to multiple viewings :)), it seemed to serve as a "premonition" for what the protagonist is going to become.

At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last shot of Uthiri Pookkal is a long shot of the two kids standing together (waiting for their dad) in the twilight (on a meadow) and nobody is around. Poetic!
Sandhya Raagam also comes into one's mind talking about poetic endings. thought of mentioning it in my first comment, but somehow missed it.

At 3:35 AM, Blogger Maverick said...

How about 'Usual Suspects'?

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Balaji,
I'm a huge fan of your site, both your blog and Tamil movie reviews website. I never submitted my own comments but now that you just had your 1-yr anninversary(congrats!!!), I thought it's time to do it.

Besides the movies mentioned, I can think of Thalaipathy and Punnaigai mannan. Both were done so nicely, where the former shows Rajini with the sun in the background looking at his mum who just told everyone that she will stay back. I just thought that was so touching.
Punnagai mannan, I don't remember the stuff the Charlie Chaplin Kamal wrote on the rock but I do remember that it was just a perfect ending, esp considering that both have tried to commit suicide at the same spot.

Keep it up, Balajii. Good luck!

At 8:45 PM, Blogger vICkNeS said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:54 PM, Blogger vICkNeS said...

how abt anbe sivam...the last scene where kamal walks away with his dog after advising naser's sidekick....
n also nayagan...where he was shot dead n the pics of velunayaker as a young boy to an old man were shown back....

n i agree with kavitha ...the last scene in thalapathy still lingers in my memory...

At 9:33 PM, Blogger vICkNeS said...

also...i don't do justice to this category if i don't mention the last scenes in ajali and aboorva sagorthagal....
the 'enthiri anjali enthiri anjali' scene where the little gal tried to wake up her dead young sister can still bring tears even for those who have watched the movie again and again....
n in aboorva sagorthargal where the dwarf who got arrested by the police will ask his brother to take care of his parrot 'appu appu' before being taken away is also worth mentioning...


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