In ‘Alaipayuthey’, ever managed to notice which bank name is painted across the compartment that Shakthi travels in?

Sambashiva Srisailapathy Mrinal Narayan Dinesh Sekar
Flix Human interest Tuesday, September 15, 2020 - 20:38

When Sambashiva Srisailapathy, 33, Mrinal Narayan, 35, and Dinesh Sekar, 29, or the Sumaar Moonji Kumars, get talking about films, you stop what you’re doing and watch them, even if it is over a patchy video call. 

The three, all raised by families that loved films, get animated, and speak about everything from the first to the last second of a film. Samba’s father would pick him up early from school and take him for a movie, Mrinal’s mother would be ready to travel with family from Madras to Hyderabad to catch the Telugu version of Salangai Oli, and Dinesh was the typical child who grew up on a diet of world masters before deciding he loved mainstream pulp too. 

Where they are different is that they do not stop with watching films. They do a deep dive and frame questions for film quizzes before getting back to work. They’ve been doing this for nine weeks now, and the response to their Google docs quiz, which drops on Friday evening, has been phenomenal.

The three don’t possess a blue tick on social media, but that has not stopped people from ensuring that the link to the quiz is shared extensively on social media, WhatsApp and more. 

Sample this: “Epic romantic scene no? But ever managed to notice which bank name is painted across the compartment that Shakthi travels in?” Or “According to Poorni, 'watt' is the brightness on Shakthi's face?” This from their Alaipayuthey quiz, with a photo caption that goes: "Karthik.... Pass Book renew pannitela..." And so, you go through your memories of Alaipayuthey, remove Madhavan and Shalini from the scene with great difficulty and focus on the train, which was until now, just the proverbial messenger of love. 

The quiz made its debut on June 26, 2020, with a film with dialogues by a man the three adore, Crazy Mohan. The Panchathanthiram quiz had questions, answers to which people might have missed while laughing off their chairs. Like, this one: Where is the office of Sanjeevi & Paravatham Granites situated? This is from the famous co-brother scene in the car, and it might have slipped through the cracks in between all the other laugh bombs. As many as 4,364 took this quiz.

The films they’ve covered so far include Ghilli, Super Deluxe, Thalapathi, Kaadhala Kaadhala and Annamalai, and about 13,500 people have taken the quiz. The best part about the quiz is being proven wrong. It feels good to fail a quiz set so meticulously, and realise how well you’ve been taken for a ride. That’s because the three of them go back a long way and understand each other’s strengths. Samba is Mrinal’s junior at Sairam Engineering College, and his wife’s junior from Modern Senior Secondary School, Nanganallur. Dinesh is Samba’s brother-in-law. It so happened that three Madras boys landed in Singapore on work. 

In the first few weeks of lockdown, amid strict physical distancing in Singapore, the friends decided to catch up with others over a game of online quizzing. “We did our Intel Inside, Covid Outside quizzes covering movies, sports, Harry Potter… at one time, about 40 of us quizzed, starting at 9 pm and finishing at 2 am,” recalls Samba, the most vocal of the lot. 

That’s when one of their friends Mahesh sent them a film quiz. That inspired them to create one of their own. “I went straight to Mrinal and Dinesh, and we decided to begin with our common love Panchatanthiram.”

The trio did not have an audience, but what they banked on was a near-universal love for the Kamal Haasan-Crazy Mohan combination. Dinesh, the quietest of the three, recalls how, overnight, they received a thousand responses. “There were a whole lot of comments, and we realised that people were having a lot of fun. That kept us going.”

It helps that the quiz is in an easy-to-share format, and not too verbose. They edit multiple times so that no question exceeds a certain magic word/line limit, says Mrinal. “We did not want people downloading any app, and we wanted to keep things simple.”

Samba says the overriding goal was that there should be no tech-related barriers to stop people from taking the quiz. “We did consider audio and video questions, but decided against them because they might add to the loading time,” says Mrinal. 

Of the three, Samba is the automobile lover; so you know why every quiz has a Soppanasundari-type question. Mrinal is the art and music lover; so the raga-based questions are definitely his. As for Dinesh, he’s an analyst, and that shows in the in-depth questions; for example, the one on order of words, etc, the bank question, the number of women who pass on the message that Sakthi is the girl Karthik is to marry. All three contribute to the cheeky captions for every photo. 

Every quiz takes the three of them about 10-12 hours to put together, and a film is collectively watched at least four to five times among them. The questions are shared thus among the three: 9,8 and 8. And yes, there are online fights too, over how to make the questions funnier. Every Friday, they review the questions (“We are very critical of our work,”says Samba), rearrange the order so it ideally follows the flow of the movie, double and triple check questions, play movies at .25x speed to get the correct snapshot… the works.

Mrinal says that while they are delighted with the feedback, what gives them most joy is that the quiz has allowed the three of them to enjoy films they love, once again, in a more in-depth manner. “Sometimes, my wife wonders why I play the same scene five times and laugh the same during every re-play!” says Samba. 

For Dinesh, the Super Deluxe quiz was extremely gratifying. “It is a new film, and we knew so many people had tried analysing it. And so, we took a chance to find out if there were more layers that could be explored. It worked,” he says.

The team has been sticking to old favourites since then. The reason, says Mrinal, is that newer films have probably not been watched with the undivided attention span like older movies. “Plus, there is a lot to choose from.”

What the friends want is for families to take up the quiz and re-visit films they once loved. Any joy the trio derives while re-watching is an added bonus. “Did you know?” asks Dinesh, “Only when watching Panchathanthiram again on the laptop with the headphones on did I realise that during the Pachai driver scene, the song Pachainirame plays in the background. These tiny details are so exciting to catch.” Samba says that at its heart, this effort is “an intellectual mark of respect to Crazy Mohan.”

Mrinal is happy seeing the repeat audience; people who look forward to some brain massage every weekend. “In fact, in the questions or captions, we sometimes roll back a reference to earlier quizzes; our hat tip to returning quizzers.”

Check out the Sumaar Mooji Kumars quizzes at Facebook.com/groups/smkquizzes

Subha J Rao is an independent journalist based in Mangaluru.

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