Shooting film songs

Viral hit ‘Manikya Malaraya Poovi’ is only the latest example of the eye contact song in movies

The expression of love by exchanging silent glances is a popular sub-set of the film song across languages.

The eyes have it in the video of Manikya Malaraya Poovi from Omar Lulu’s Malayalam movie Oru Adaar Love. This is the one in which a school student responds to a raised eyebrow from a male admirer by raising both her brows and then winking at him. The entire song is an ode to the cheekiness of young love. Manikya Malaraya Poovi has promoted a flurry of interest in the eyebrow-raising and headline-generating young actress, Priya Prakash Varrier, and is the Jimikki Kammal of the moment.

Manikya Malaraya Poovi, Oru Adaar Love (2018).

Manikya Malaraya Poovi is not the first of its kind, though. Numerous film tunes across languages are dedicated to ocular romance, of which the silent eye contact courtship song is an important subset. Words are deemed so unnecessary that the song plays out in the background without being lip-synced by the besotted lovers.

The situation is typical, give or take a few variations: man/boy or woman/girl spot each other in a public place and cannot look away any more. They keep staring at each other unmindful of the world around them, communicating their mutual ardour in visual code. The tune plays out in the background. Time freezes and the people and objects around the lovers disappear – the ultimate state of being in love.

In Aankhon Ki Gustakhiyaan from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), Sameer (Salman Khan) and Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) flirt with each other at a family function. He pulls her hair, mimics her actions, and follows her around. She too responds to his overtures. The rest of the family is clueless to the side show. When they find out, hell freezes over.

Aankhon Ki Gustakhiyaan, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999).

Balaji Shaktivel’s breakout film Kaadhal (2004) is about the dangers of the love-filled look. Aishwarya (Sandhya) develops an infatuation for scooter mechanic Murali (Bharath), one that eventually leads to insanity. Murali falls for Sandhya even though she is from a wealthy family, and they elope, leading to a tragic turn of events.

Ivanthan, Kaadhal (2004).

The gaze can sometimes be one-sided. In Farah Khan’s rebirth-revenge drama Om Shanti Om (2007), small-time actor Om (Shah Rukh Khan) is besotted with movie star Shanti (Deepika Padukone). He gawps at her at a movie premiere as she enters in all her radiance. Om manages to catch Shanti’s eye, but reciprocity will have to wait till the next birth.

Aankhon Mein Teri, Om Shanti Om (2007)

One of the best ocular romance entries is Kangal Irandal from M Sasikumar’s remarkable debut film Subramaniapuram (2008). The daring passion between Azhagar (Jai) and Thulasi (Swati) is forbidden by differences in social status, but it blossoms nevertheless on the streets of Madurai. Jai is so smitten by Thulasi that he follows her around and clowns about on his bicycle hoping to impress her. His friends disapprove, and her family most certainly will when they find out. And yet, the eyes cannot stop meeting. Sasikumar uses slow motion beautifully to suggest a love with the power to stop the passage of time.

Kangal Irandal, Subramaniapuram (2008).

The theme of eye contact leading to lasting love is brilliantly explored in Karan Johar’s My Name is Khan (2010). Rizwan (Shah Rukh Khan) has Apserger’s syndrome, and has difficulty maintaining visual or physical contact with people. Yet, he loses his heart to Mandira (Kajol), and slowly begins to loosen up by letting his gaze meet hers. Mandira can’t resist Rizwan either. Tucked somewhere into the Shankar-Ehsan-Loy tune is the sound of wedding bells.

Tere Naina, My Name is Khan (2010).

In A Sarkunam’s period movie Vaagai Sooda Vaa (2010), it’s the woman who is throwing looks at her man. Madhi (Iniya) is in love with school teacher Veluthambi (Vimal), but his attention is focused on educating the village children. In the beautifully filmed Sara Sara Saara Kathu, Madhi tries to catch Veluthambi’s eye, but he is oblivious to her charms. The weather, insects and trees, and all of nature itself, resonate with Madhi’s love. Only Veluthambi remains blind.

Sara Sara Saara Kathu, Vaagai Sooda Vaa (2010).

Also one-sided, and this time because of caste, is Jabya’s love for Shaalu in Nagraj Manjule’s powerful debut Fandry (2013). Jabya (Somnath Awghade) is from a pig-herding Dalit family that lives on the edge of the village. Shalu (Rajeshwari Kharat) is from an upper-caste family. In Jabya’s dream world, Shalu walks beside him in the forest, while in reality, he remains as invisible to her as his caste is to society itself.

Tuzhya Priticha Vinchu Chawla, Fandry (2013).

If you didn’t know the plot of Rajeev Ravi’s interfaith love story Annayum Rasoolum (2013), you might assume that Rasool (Fahadh Faasil) is stalking Anna (Andrea Jeremiah). Rasool, who ferries around tourists in his taxi in Kochi, has fallen hard for saleswoman Anna. He starts following her around wherever she goes, and comes dangerously close on many occasions. Anna is initially wary, as any sensible woman would be, but since the eyes that are plastered on her belong to Fahadh Faasil, it can be assumed that she will relent. She does.

Kandu Randu Kannu, Annayum Rasoolum (2013).

Also from Malayalam cinema is Alphonse Puthren’s Premam (2015). The coming-of-age movie explores the three loves of George (Nivin Pauly): the first one unrequited, the second ruined by an accident resulting in memory loss, and the third redeemed by George’s heroism.

The song Chinna Chinna unfolds during the second chapter. College pupil George is exchanging bashful looks with lecturer Malar (Sai Pallavi). The normal restrictions that govern teacher-student interactions do not apply here. Both are single and ready to mingle, and by the end of the song, phone numbers have been exchanged.

Chinna Chinna, Premam (2015).

Fandry director Nagraj Manjule’s Marathi blockbuster Sairat (2016) returns to the theme of love separated by caste. Prashant (Akash Thosar) has been eyeing Archana (Rinku Rajguru) for weeks. She is the daughter of the local Maratha politician, and is not expected to return the low-caste Prashant’s feelings. When he learns that Archana has come with her friends to bathe in the community well, Prashant decides to take a leap of faith. He plunges into the well with the single aim of getting Archana’s attention. Their eyes finally lock, she is intrigued, and, eventually, interested.

Yad Lagla, Sairat (2016).

Anurag Kashyap’s boxing drama Mukkabaaz (2018) is set in Uttar Pradesh, but it accommodates a song whose sensibility is distinctly southern. Boxer Shravan (Vineet Kumar Singh) is in love with Sunaina (Zoya Hussain), the niece of the upper-caste coach who has vowed to destroy his career. All the elements of the silent eye contact song are present in Mushkil Hai Apna Meil Priye – the use of slow motion, the cheeky glances between the lovers, the ensuing bashfulness and the sheer thrill of getting away with it all.

Mushkil Hai Apna Meil Priye, Mukkabaaz (2018).
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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”


“Like what?”


A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”




“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:


This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.