Romanticizing the Eye

One of the favourite subjects of poets (right after the moon), has to be the eyes! Millions of girls and women trying to beautify it by standing in front of the mirror and spending eternity perfecting the perfect, the window to the soul, to your emotions. And it would be wrong to say that cinema hasn’t exploited it to bits. 

The unforgettable shot of Shakti aka Shalini in the song Pachai nirame, with the mind-blowing music by the Mozart of Madras was etched into my heart as a kid. And obviously, director Mani Ratnam sir has made the most of it in his other films as well. Shekar, awestruck by Shaila Bano, just through the slit in her burkha to VC falling in love at first sight with Leela, shows how much that tiny organ can bring colours to the screen. Even one of the posters for Chekka Chevantha Vanam was just the pair of eyes of the protagonists. Our Ulaganayagan is one of the best dancers, but his eyes need a separate platform to perform.

While Kollywood has been known for romanticizing the eyes, Hollywood is out there showing how agony and fierceness do not need words but just a close focus (pun intended) of the eyes. An adult or a child cannot forget Jack Nicholson walking up the stairs without blinking his eyes for more than a minute saying “I’m not gonna hurt you”, while our eyes were shut tight behind a comforter. Some other examples would be Willem Dafoe from the movie Lighthouse or the eye-popping (literally) character of Jake Gyllenhaal from Nightcrawler brings a wave of discomfort to the viewer. A close-up shot of the eyes is a trademark of director Damien Chazelle, be it La La Land’s climax or intense finale performance in Whiplash, he does it.

But I realized that the eyes could also be a subtle yet powerful tool in storytelling as well and not just to portray emotions when I watched ‘Naanum Rowdy Thaan’. Throughout the movie, you can see Kathambari aka Nayanthara’s vision set on the lips of the person standing in front of her so she can read and understand what they are saying because Kathuma was deaf. It was more profound in the song “Neeyum Naanum” when Pandi sings “Oli illa ulagathil, Isaiyaga neeye maari, Kaatril veeseenai”, to which Kathambari misreads and sings “Kathil pesinai”. But immediately in the next line, “Mozhi illa ulagathil, Vizhiyale varthai korthu, Kannal pesinai”, Pandi aka Vijay Sethupathy tilts his head low and makes Kathambari understand the lyric he is singing to which Kathambari correctly repeats, “Kannal pesinai”, and Pandi shakes his head acknowledging it. 

You might think I’m reading too much in between the lines, but that’s the beauty of eyes! Although all of our eyes are of the same make, it’s the vision and perspective that changes everything. So guys, go out in the world with a more empathetic and kinder vision, I’m sure you will feel the difference. 

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