‘Crazy’ Mohan who passed away on 10 June 2019 after he suffered a cardiac arrest, was known as a playwright with a penchant for comic one-liners bereft of innuendoes. His friendship with Kamal Haasan was legendary and together the two created magic on screen.
Born in 1952, Mohan Rangachari completed his engineering from Guindy College of Engineering. But in Chennai no one knows him as Mohan Rangachari. He is known more by his epithet “Crazy”. A Tamil Iyengar, his Tamil diction was impeccable. He himself was amazed at his transition from an engineer to a writer.
He worked in TVS Motors for a while before writing lured him. Along with his younger brother Balaji, he formed a winning combination staging one successful play after another. Remarkably, unlike most Tamil Brahmins (TamBrahms), Crazy Mohan stayed in a joint family until death snatched him away.
His first film appearance seems to have been in Apoorva Sahodarargal (remade in Hindi as Appu Raja) wherein Kamal Haasan played a midget. His dialogue writing was laced with pulsating and rib-tickling humour, something that the audiences remembered years after the film’s release.
Crazy Mohan’s friendship with Kamal Haasan resulted in memorable films like Sathi Leelavathi, Michael Madana Kama Rajan, Avvai Shanmughi, Tenali, Pammal K Sambandham and Panchathanthiram. In all these films, the comedy track was superlative – thanks to Crazy Mohan.
Sathi Leelavathi was remade as Biwi No 1 that starred Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, Tabu, Karishma Kapoor and Sushmita Sen. Avvai Shanmughi was remade in Hindi as Chachi 420 and starred Kamal Haasan and Tabu in pivotal roles. Crazy was considered adept in screenplay writing and Kamal Haasan’s comic timing only added to the allure of these movies. He played an important role in Vasool Raja MBBS which was a remake of Sanjay Dutt’s Munnabhai MBBS.
He had a knack for writing in Madras Tamizh – the kind of slang used by slum dwellers in Chennai. Of course, there were critics who felt that his comedy was getting repetitive over the years. Not everyone fancied the slapstick comedy.
Mohan loved chewing betel leaves and tobacco. He wrote the dialogues for Rajinikanth’s super hit film Arunachalamthat starred Ramba and Soundarya along with Rajinikanth. The film was loosely inspired by the Naseeruddin Shah-Aditya Pancholi-Mandakini-Poonam Dhillon starrer Malamal (the plot in both the movies was completely different). Mohan was terribly scared of stray dogs; so much so that he would comment that he left his job because of this fear of stray dogs. Tamil fans proudly call him “the King of Twitter” for his punch dialogues.
Crazy Mohan would be sorely missed by Tamil audiences who loved slapstick comedy and gentle humour.
(After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)