After all, the car is a man’s best friend

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Within three months into this year, we have a winner!

Long ago, man lived in caves. Then man, accidentally discovered fire, then man worshipped fire. We later went to worshipping cows and now on a particular day we garland our vehicles and apply sandal paste.

The quality to see oneself in others in perhaps unique to mankind, I do not speak with any scientific backing, but it certainly seems true, does the cheetah think of the fate of the gazelle before it hunts it down? Does it? We cannot say for sure, but I do feel sorry for the gazelle as much as I admire the strides of the predator.

The idea of thinking that non living things do have life is also an extension of this thought, an interesting twitter account which posts occasional pictures of things that look like humans is an example, but closer home it is the naming of cows, chicken and more importantly vehicles that best represents these traits.

Why do we have the intention of naming anything that is devoid of any form of feeling, which will probably never respond to us?

Although the car is not named in the film, the Premier Padmini is from a time when it really meant something to own something; I do not think if the film would have had any value, if it had been about recent variants of any automobile.

Owning something is not a luxury anymore, but a sign of luxury, the freedom of choice, and the freedom to always wait for an upgrade on the existing. The freedom to cast away what we have; and to acquire something new and, then to be bored by it all.

A telling moment of another time is in Su. Arun Kumar’s Pannaiyaarum Padminiyum is when the Pannaiyaar is confronted with the question of ownership by his driver, the driver fears for his career (more so about his life, for it is this car which brought him everything including love), while the Pannaiyaar wants to please his wife by learning to drive.

Objects mean something to people, not because of the value that is thrust upon them commercially, but because of their usage that connects in so many ways to so many people.The way the principal characters behave are the reactions to the presence and their attachment to the car.

To think of it, in the hands of Peter Jackson this story could have ended up as ‘Hope Diamond’ meets the one Ring kind of story, detailing the fate of the characters, completely consumed by the object of possession. The Pannaiyaar and his wife are consumed by the car no doubt, but not in any diabolical way, but share a relationship similar to that of  a grandfather-grandson.

The state of not being in possession is also deftly handled by the side shot, as if a member of the family is being taken away on one last funeral procession, the car completely humanized towards the end of the film, a dreamy end to the film, an unrealistic but completely agreeable end.

The success of the film is heightened by its setting, a remote village with a loveable headman, whatever is owned by him is in turned ‘owned’ by the village, the children running around, the shunting(a word humorously used in the film as well) to nearby places and the whole sense of community goodness that comes with it.

Although the path taken to achieve this desired effect is dramatised, it is only understandable.

Pannaiyaarum Padminiyum is by no means a path breaking film, it has not shaken up the castle walls at Kollywood, nor it is about something that is entirely new to the screens, but the sense of fulfilment that this film brings is an unanswered question for me, maybe for those whose emotional investment in similar themes is comparatively less might have found it overdrawn and sentimental.

Like how the Pannaiyaar falls in love with this green antique car, my love for this movie is probably without reason; but I do believe that the case for reason to love something is quite inexplicable. Told with abundant humour and loveable characters,the simple Pannaiyaarum Padminiyum is the best Tamil film this year. If this comes out as a challenging statement, it is a challenge that we have already won.

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3 thoughts on “After all, the car is a man’s best friend

  1. Good one.
    The personification of the car, as you rightly observe, is all over the film from the title, to the actions, to dialogue (the paNNaiyArammA actually says it). But that that is the one we can celebrate things, regarding them with disproportionate empathy – is a good point you make.

    i.e. it is one thing to regard the car – or any object of consumption for that matter – on the basis of how it serves us/ how we use it. But when one’s personality is itself is being influenced by the consumption. It is not even a question of insisting one is more than what one consumes. Even if you don’t, when everyone else is perceiving your consumption, it is through that that their understanding develops. It may seem superficial when talking about material consumption, but what about other things we ‘consume’ – music, poetry, arts in general – that we are unabashed in portraying as our labels. What about religion?

    //Why do we have the intention of naming anything that is devoid of any form of feeling, which will probably never respond to us?//

    To venture out on one limb, what could be more satisfying than a ‘being’ that completely submits to one’s will? Is it really that frustrating that it doesn’t have a ‘personality’ of it’s own.

    I am not challenging your statement above as much as questioning if it is indeed that obvious. In fact, we can tease apart the two parts of that sentence – is it the lack of feeling or the non-responsiveness that makes it absurd to name objects?
    Did you watch Her 🙂

    //Owning something is not a luxury anymore, but a sign of luxury, the freedom of choice, and the freedom to always wait for an upgrade on the existing. The freedom to cast away what we have; and to acquire something new and, then to be bored by it all.//

    சிறப்பாக சொன்னீர்.
    Once again, did you watch Her 🙂

    //the sense of fulfilment that this film brings is an unanswered question for me, maybe for those whose emotional investment in similar themes might have found it overdrawn and sentimental.//
    Didn’t get this sentence. Is something missing?

    • No I havent watched Her.
      From what i can say, it is these labels that single out us while also grouping us in the process, to take the example of the gazelle what labels can a gazelle have, for a cheetah they are all gazelle; but is not the same with humans.
      Also to the question of whether there is frsutration or not when a non-sentient being is being thought as one, i do not see it like “because we know it wont respond, we are speaking it”, it is of course like how mothers say things to infants that the infant might not even understand, she just wants someone to hear what her thinking is, she already knows what happens.
      Mine was an open ended question of wonder not frustration.
      Yes something is missing in the last sentence, now will change.
      Thanks for the comments

  2. //Mine was an open ended question of wonder not frustration.//
    Got that. Which is why I think ‘Her’ will push this rumination further.

    I saw the revised line about emotional investment, it was what I thought you meant, but I didn’t want to guess. I agree. If someone found this too mushy I would not disagree with them. Sympathize perhaps.

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