In between lines… Movie Dialogues

Real life conversations can never become ‘movie dialogues’. Its altogether a different ball game. I have been always fascinated by movie dialogues, especially the magical moment when you actually forget that you are watching a movie and the actor is just rendering the lines of a writer, yet you feel a disturbance in your heart and your eyes moisten.

God knows how many times I have watched Mammooty’s speech in climax scene of Kadha Parayumbol, Murali’s speech to his son on his death bed in Lal Salaam, Vijayan climax speech in Mahendran’s Udhiripookal, Rajini Sir and Sridevi Romance in Johny, Raghuvaran talking to his kids about Anjali in Maniratnam’s movie Anjali, Sivaji Sir talking about his mother in Mudhal Mariyaadhai, Sivaji Sir dialogues to Mohanlal in Oru Yatra Mozhi, Mohanlal’s farewell speech in Thanmaatra, Amitabh Bachan’s dialogues in the climax scene of Family, Kamal Hasan’s single shot dialogues in Guna, Mohanlal’s climax dialogues in Dhrishyam and many many more… Just awestruck by the way the brilliant actors emoted the dialogues and of course the master dialogue writers who wrote the lines.

But this write up is not about the dialogues that were spoken but what was conveyed in between the lines. An actor’s real talent is seen what he or she does between the dialogues or when the other character is speaking.

“Bastard… you used my popularity and fame to reach out to people, you used my fan following to win elections, you needed me to fetch crowds for your political meetings, you wanted my image in posters to gain popularity and credibility to your party, and today seated as a chief minister and when I come asking for a favour you right royally say that you don’t encourage film guys… how audacious can you be?”

Maniratnam’s movie Iruvar

The above dialogues were told by master performer none other than Mohanlal in Maniratnam’s movie Iruvar to Prakashraj, but without even opening his mouth but by just grinning. This is what excites me more in an Actor or the Director who is behind this. The way the Actor uses his eyes to convey a dialogue.

Rajini sir silence after he says the classic lines “Ketta paiyan sir indha kaali” in Mullum Malarum, Rajini sir silence when he meets Shoba after he loses his hands in Mullum Malarum, The silent moment when Mohanlal comes to know that his mother is pregnant in the movie Pavithram, Mammooty’s silence when he finally meets Srinivasan in Kadha Parayumbol climax, Amitabh Bachan’s silence when he listens to his son’s voice asking him to be killed in the movie Family, Fazil’s Kaadhaluku Mariyaadhai climax scene. These are the magical moments where you get to see the mastery of these actors and directors.

And I would like to finish this with a rare experience of mine as a dialogue writer. I was then writing for a television soap that was directed by a reputed director and a national award actress acting the lead role.

An emotional scene, a confrontation between a wife and her husband’s paramour. Keeping in mind all the masters I admired so much for their dialogues, I penned the dialogues for the scene so sure that the next day everyone in the shoot are gonna be dumbfound hearing my dialogues.

I was out for a surprise.

Next day when my director heard my dialogues and felt it should be shot in single shot, the news was conveyed to the actors who were baffled to see the length of dialogues for the single shot. The experienced director came to the rescue of actors, he very coolly asked them to say, 1 2 3 4 5 6 and the other actor to say A B C D E F. The scene was shot and everyone applauded. (For What?)

I heard someone laugh… it was my dialogue papers.

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About the Author

John Mahendran
Film Director, Writer, Author, Currently teaching Film Making in BOFTA

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