Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Last Century's Sparkling Child Artistes of Tamil Cinema.

 



    








  
















     Child artists of cinema, generally bring cheers to the audience, because of their fine flashes of innocence and their beautifully formed performance skills.Tamil cinema has always been beaming with child talents taking the audience by surprise.In the current scenario exposure to theatrical experience is easier for children thanks to the availability of television channels. Today,children make wonders as singers,dancers, speakers and actors.But in the last century things were not easy, because stage and cinema were the only options available.Under these restrictive circumstances, there grew young performers bringing remarkable credit and name to Tamil Cinema.Among boys,there were Kamalahasan,Master Rajkumar,Master Sekar,Master Sridhar and Master Prabhakar. The notable child artists among girls were,Kutti Padmini,Roja Ramani, Baby Sridhevi Baby Shakhila,Baby Rani and Baby Indhira. Of these,excepting Kamalahasan and Sridevi,others are remembered only for their childhood performance.
    Kamalahasan's childhood cinema days, were evenly divided among the top stars of those days.As a child artiste, he acted one movie each with Sivaji Ganesan{Paarthaal Pasitheerum} M.G.R {Ananda Jodhi} and S.S.Rajendran{Vaanambadi}.He did his first film Kalathoor Kannama and later Padhakanikkai with Gemini Ganesan. His passion for thespian excellence was firmly rooted to these films with clarity and force in dialogue delivery.There were also noticeable symptoms of independence and aggressiveness,towards taking him inseparably closer to the celluloid mode, as an uncompromising actor.His creative voice was deeply imprinted for future promises.
    Master Rajkumar gave a stunning performance as the dumb and deaf son of Gemini Ganesan in A.V.M Pictures' mega hit family drama Ramu. So natural was his plight as the speech and hearing impaired, that it reflected the ripeness of a radiant performer.Master Sekar who was introduced in M G R's block buster film Kudiyirundha Koil, later acted in MGR's Annamitta Kai and Idhaya Veenai.He had also done a role in Sivaji Ganesan's Vani Rani. Master Sekar showed extraordinary dynamism in acting and made a couple of films like Anadadhai Anandan and Manippayal  live in the memories of film goers on account of his impeccable  performance.The first one was an AVM release and was based on Charles Dickens' famous novel Oliver Twist. Sekar played the title role of the orphan boy Oliver in that film.The  second film was a Sathya Movies' release and ran successfully because of its thematic content and story value. Sekar rightly fitted into the main role and received accolades for his sprightly show. Besides these, his role performance in the film Kattila Thotila was also noteworthy. 
   Master Sridhar was the most graceful child artiste and so he became the frequently preferred actor, for roles in mythological and spiritual films such as Karnan {as Meghanadhan}Kandan Karunai {as child Muruga}Dasaavadhaaram{as Prince Laksmanan}Nambinaar Keduvadhillai, Mupperum Dheviyar and Vetri Vinayagar{as Naradhar}.Introduced in the Veenai Balachandar film Avana Ivan, he continued to act in films like Marakka Mudiyuma, Kurathi Magan, Panathukkaaga and Krodham. Sridhavar was known for elegant acting with soft and controlled delivery of dialogues  contrary to Master Sekar, whose force of dialogue delivery was ever a clean sweep.
   Master Prabhakar was of a mischievous brand, who cast lasting impressions by his chuckle and cheeky delivery of dialogues.He created a special place for himself through his meritorious performance in the two A.P.Nagarajan films Thirumalai Thenkumari and Va Raja Va.He was an endearing child artiste and it was his lovely looks and demonstration of pranks that took him closer to the audience.He joined Master Sekar in Anadhai Anandan and Master Sridhar in Marakka Mudiyuma. His other important entry is for the film Engalukkum Kalam Varum. 
  There was another male child artiste called Pakoda Kadher who generated roars of laughter as the thumb sucking  son of a Bramin couple, [played by the most talented comedy script writer and actor A.Veerappan and Achi Manorama},frequently demanding the snack Pakoda, in the great road comedy film Madras to Pondicherry. His fatness and sluggish way of talking fetched him a unique place, as an extraordinary child comedian.It was my personal opinion that his looks and acting mode were similar to those of the burly comedian T.S.Dorairaj.
   Among the girl child artistes Sridhevi who established fame as an award winning actress of grace and charm, could reach Bollywood status, glorifying the throne of stardom.Her performance with Kamalahasan and Rajinikanth created records of kind.But the two boy roles that she donned as a child artiste in Thunaivan{as Child Muruga} and Nam Naadu {as the cute younger brother of Kutti Padmini }will be specially remembered for the charm and glory of innocence.
   The other five child artist girls are celebrated more for their roles as amazing performers of  childhood grandeur.Of these, Kutti Padmini who started acting as a three year old kid in Abalai Anjugam went on to act nearly fifty films until her mid thirties.Her most remembered  films as child artiste are Dheiva Piravi,Nenjil Oer Aalayam,Kaathirundha Kangal {as young Savithri in dual roles} Avana Ivan,Pasamalar,Navarathiri,Asai Alaigal,Namnadu,Motor Sundaram Pillai,Sadhu Mirandaal and the ever outstanding Kuzhandhaiyum Dheivamum. 
    With her bold eyes and devil -may- care dialogue delivery,Kutti Padmini always cast a spell of her roles with consummate energy and fascinating perfection.Several grown up actors were found wanting in courage, to tackle her invincible grasp of role delivery.If as a pathetic girl laid up with a fatal illness, she brought tears in Nenjil Oer Aalayam,as an ebullient character in Nam Nadu,Sadhu Mirandal  and Kuzhadhaiyum Dheivamum,her boldness created a sense of awe and surprise. No one can forget the way she bullied her grandmother G.Varalakshmi in Kuzhandhaiyum Dheivamum.In dual roles, she clearly marked a note of difference in performing the role of twins.She could rightly be called the most invincible child artiste of Tamil Cinema.
     Unlike Kutti Padmini her close contemporary Roja Ramani was an incarnation of docile and subdued feminine passivity.Though she performed as a grown up actress in films like Vayasu Ponnu and M.G.R's Neethikku Thalai Vanangu [both were great films}it was her role performance as a child artiste in films like Iru Malarkal,En Magan,Edhiroli and Enga Mama that would stand to her credit.Incidentally,all the four were Sivaji Ganesan films.Besides these, Roja Ramani stole our hearts by performing the role of the boy,Praghaladha son of Hiranya Kasibu in the A.V.M film Baktha Pragaladha, dubbed into Tamil from Telugu.Very cute and nonchalant she was,saying 'narayanamantram' purposely to irritate Hiranya who was a proclaimed hater of Lord Vishnu.When anyone thinks of Prkaladha it would be the profile of Roja Ramani that would stand before them.
     The other child artiste Baby Shakila with her rotund cheeks and beaming eyes was a treat to watch, in films like Enga Veetu Pillai,Kannithai and Kuzhandhai Ullam. Her prattling Tamil  was an added attraction to her cute looks.As Nambiyar's kid and MGR's niece, the way she showed fear for her father and love for her maternal uncle, was an inimitable sample of toddlers performing roles, with ease and spontaneity.It was the same way Baby Rani essayed her roles in the films Kuzhandhaikkaaga and Kanne Papa.Following them,there came Baby Indira whose acting dynamism was equal to that of Kutti Padmini in terms of sharp looks and sharper utterances, performed brilliantly in films like Kadavul Mama,Doctoramma,Pinju Manam,Thaliya Salangaiya,Unakkaaga Naan, Unmaiye Un Vilai Enna and Idho Endhan Dheivam, to mention a few.Later as a grown up actor she was seen in the films of Bhakiyaraj and Rajinikanth. She is another child artiste to find a lasting place in the archives of Tamil Cinema.
     As I said earlier, in the contemporary world  we have a large line of child artistes doing excellent rounds in various fields of talent exposition.Today the openings are many and the contenders for excellence are also many. I have purposely left out today's prominent actors Meena and Simbu, who were also once commanding child artists.This is because, they belong to the succeeding generation and  my focus is only on the child artists of the Nineteen Sixties and  Seventies. I would have left out a few names here, due to lapse of memory.I would have referred only to a few films of the proud children of Tamil Cinema.I think my forgetfulness has to be apologetic for these omissions.Barring Kamal and Sridhevi, who have established an immortal place for themselves in the broad spectrum of Indian cinema, all the others mentioned in this article, remain today a forgotten lot.Hence,I make this article  a singular tribute from my side, to those less remembered but greatly talented child artistes of Tamil cinema, of the last century and I record  my tribute as a special memento to them,on this year's children's day. 
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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Impersonation of Characters in Tamil Cinema.

 




















      Themes of Cinema are mostly based on what happens to man and society or what is made to happen by them.Human imagination grasps a particular theme,depending upon the film maker's interest and evolves it into a process of narration,with events and characters.In making up a story,some times there may be more themes being put together by the narrator,either for the sake of necessity or convenience.For instance,a theme like impersonation,may become the core of a story that warrants it,or an intermingling layer to support another main theme,either as an indispensable factor,or an additional feature of entertainment.Impersonation has been handled as an effective theme in Tamil Cinema,from its inception.
      Impersonation can happen in cinema as it happens in real life,for fun,or for furtherance of one's motives.Though impersonation and disguise are two different things, impersonation also at times seeks the help of disguise,if the dramatic situation makes it mandatory.If characters have to hide their original identity as a precondition,then they have to get into the identity that they have to represent.On the other hand, if the identity of the character that is impersonated,is not known to anybody and if it has to be established through  some identity marks such as a tattoo or a mole, disguise becomes an unnecessary exercise.
     For instance, an action thriller like the film Naan directed by T.R.Ramanna and released in the mid Nineteen Sixties was a great hit,because of the theme of impersonation necessitated by its story line,focusing on the return of the son of a rich man, lost as a kid years ago whose identity could be established only by the presence of a big mole on his back. Knowing this fact, three youths attempt to impersonate as the lost son, by creating an artificial mole on their backs.While one of them comes with pecuniary motives  the other two, come just for fun or for the purpose of detecting  the whereabouts of the original son.The interesting twist of the story is that the real son is hidden somewhere by one of the three impersonators and his gang.It was a movie with sense and suspense and was received very well for its tempo and the way the theme of impersonation was handled, besides its rich quantum of entertainment.The film also had a huge cast of energetic actors like Ravichandran, Jeyalalitha, R.Muthuraman, Nagesh, S.A.Asokan,R.S.Manohar and Manorama.
     A newer movie of this millennium with the same title Naan showed music director Vijay Antony, impersonating one of his co-passengers on a bus,who is killed among many others in a major  road accident that the bus undergoes.As Vijay Antony luckily escapes with minor bruises, he uses the ID card of the dead fellow passenger and  fixes his photo there,in order to settle down in life, through his false identity.The remaining course of events of the film illustrates the inevitable curse of impersonation that the hero has to suffer, by way of compunction and humiliation.. 
      A similar story line of the earlier Naan,was found in one of Rajinikanth's early hits Adutha Varisu produced by Dwarakish and directed by S.P.Muthuraman.In this film it was the legal heiress to a rich Zameen lost in her childhood,who had to be impersonated, by the greedy relatives of the queen of the Zameen and in this process, the hero [played by Rajinikanth} unwittingly helps the gang by bringing a nomad girl {Sridevi}to impersonate as the legal heiress.As usual here too, it was a tattoo mark that was relied upon to establish the identity of the Zameendar's lost daughter.However as a twist in the story, it is later known that the person who impersonates is the true heiress to the Zameen.The hero then gives up his bounty hunting habit and decides to safeguard the interests of the heiress as well as her zameen.
    Twins impersonating each other either for the sake of rivalry or concern for the other twin,has been witnessed as one of the regular features in several films.The rivalry might be due to an itch for snatching power and position from one's twin brother or sister.It might also be due to the fact that both the twins would have fallen in love with the same person.The first category was beautifully pictured in Venus Pictures' Uthama Puthiran' wherein,the twin princes of a kingdom fight for the throne,one with a bad character brought up by the maternal uncle and the other struggling to gain control over governance, to restore the kingdom and its people from ruin.
    Sivaji Ganesan in dual roles, brilliantly performed as twins with their distinctly contradictory characteristics of wickedness and nobility. M.N.Nambiyar as the notorious maternal uncle,did a neat job for his role.The story line had a perpetual appeal so as to revisit it in a humorous perspective,through another film.This humorous version of the same story was filmed by Simbudevan, with Vadivelu playing the lead and it also carried an amusing title called Imsai Arasan Irubathi Moonraam Pulikesi,In both the films, impersonation was resorted to by both the twins, raising the tempo of narration to exciting levels.
    Impersonation for the sake of one's love interest became an interesting factor of films like Kaathirundha Kangal, and Vaali. While in the first  film it was the heroine as one of the twin sisters who impersonates, in Vaali it is the hero,who as the elder twin with his evil mind, attempts to molest his younger brother's wife.Whereas in Kaathirundha Kangal  one of the twin sisters makes use of the situation favorable to her and marries her twin sister's lover,whom she too loves.But she undergoes the trauma of guilt to a great extent and is forced to face the consequences of the suppression of the fact of her impersonation.
    A sense of barbarity prevailed in films like M.K.Radha's Aboorva Sagodhararkal and its later version of M.G.R's Neerum Neruppum,taking one of the two brothers on a devilish track,with temptations for impersonation.Whereas in films like Enga Veettu Pillai,Vaani Rani, Kudiyirundha Koil ,Irulum Oliyum and Thoongadhe Thambi Thoongaadhe, it was the good intention of one of the twins to save the other from their sufferings and unfavorable environment that formed the crux of impersonation.In these cases, impersonation became an inevitable solution to the problems faced by one of the twins,by helping them to restore their rights of identity,as well as the dignity in their position that they deserved.In Kudiyirundha Koil, it vitally helped one of the twins to redeem the other from the gangster world.
   Similarly,persons looking alike happen to get into the position of the other,in order to save them from an unjust imprisonment or unexpected sudden death.Films like Maattukkaara Velan, and Rajadhi Raja showed one of the two persons looking exactly alike, helping the other to come out of a critical position in their life.Whereas in Sandhitha Velai,of two guys looking alike,one of them has to replace the other,as per the other's request at death time,and carry on the latter's business and look after his family, living everyday on tenterhooks.
    There are cases of impersonation caused by the vagaries of individuals refusing to adhere to the parental yardsticks of discipline.Such a treatment of impersonation, was handled both deftly and hilariously, in films like Sabash Meena and Ullathai Allithaa.Both the films were super hits of comedy shows with Sivaji Ganesan joining hands with Chandrababu and Karthik Muthuraman with Goundamani, opening the gates to  incessant bouts of laughter.At times,men and women have to impersonate in each other's gender either for necessity or for the sake of humor.In films based on royal stories either the heroine or her female aid would go in the guise of men depending upon exigencies that warranted such an impersonation.This has regularly happened in Tamil cinema,during its formative years, as an effective dramatic necessity.
    Whereas,men have stepped into the profiles of women to fulfill their objectives of romantic celebration, or family reunion.Impersonation for this purpose was focused in films like Aanazhagan,Maaman Magal  and Avvai Shanmugi.In the first two films Prashanth and Satyaraj resorted to impersonation to get closer to their women, whom they loved. While in the first Prashant got into the guise of a young woman in Maman Magal Sathyaraj had to impersonate as the mother of the hero {himself} to move closer to his woman. However, in Avvai Shanmugi, Kamalahasan disguises himself as an elderly female aid and goes to the house of his wife, who is seeking a divorce from him.The movie fascinatingly showcased Kamal's pranks and earnest efforts in getting reunited with his wife and daughter.Both Maman Mahal and Avvai Shanmugi took the audience to the height of laughter with Avvai Shanmugi surpassing the other.
   Satyaraj impersonates in another movie as an old man for the purpose of getting a job in an estate.This was beautifully pictured with a lot of humor creating instant laughter.The film Nadikan robustly created hilarious moments, with Satyaraj and Goundamani teaming up as the most competitive deceptive guys. Kamalahasan's Kadhala Kadhala,was almost a hilarious ride of rib tickling impersonation.There was also a solid case for serial impersonation,in the film 'London'directed by Sundar.C. In this film with immense scope for comedy, impersonation contributed to frequent bouts of laughter,while at the same time taking an old, visually challenged couple for a ride.
   From my memory,I could recall some notable instances of the deft handling of impersonation in Tamil Cinema, reflecting a variety of creative perceptions. From what I have recalled, one could understand that the concept of impersonation, has widely attracted the creative imagination of Tamil film makers.It is also an indisputable phenomenon, that this specific theme has equally inspired the audience to a great extent, as an enchanting dimension of their film watching experience.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Rich 'Mersel' Made Richer by Resistance.



     it is nearly two weeks since the film Mersel was released. There were many reviews, oppositions and rejoinders making the film reach more audience, than its stakeholders could expect.I happened to watch it in a theatre abroad only today.While reviews are the natural outcome of any movie, objections and rejoinders have also become  fashions of the day.The film as on today, has become a top slot product, yielding very high dividends.The film is an action bonanza,with Atlee's inheritance of the Shankar touch,Vijay's brilliant role play and exceptional visual splendor and singular speed in narration.
   I wonder what made the critics raise a hue and cry about the hero's reference to building a hospital,instead of a temple, so long the decision is born of frustrations,caused by failures of the health care system and not of the hero's preference for any specific religious group.The unfounded resistance of a section of the political groups,certainly failed on account of absence of logic.The film's reference to cashless economy and G.S.T anomalies,are also a part of the existing social and economic realities.After all, how many film makers succeed in making a lengthy film enjoyable in spite of its length.No doubt Atlee and Vijay have done it to an amazing extent.
  But there are three things that personally put me into a questioning mood.1}Why should Rehman fail to come out with his positive dynamism and professional exuberance, if it is not either a Shankar film or a Manirathnam film.This is the second time this great music composer has made a Vijay film, with less endearing numbers.In Azhagiya Thamizh Magan excepting 'Madhuraikku Pogaadhadi',no other song was worth remembering.In Mersel apart from the sound track portion,the songs seem to be meant for the theatres only and not takeaways after the show.2} Can the brothers who carry an age difference of at least four years, look like twins? A little bit of make up sense would have made a lot of difference.3}The hero who is referred to as an eminent surgeon,mentions in one scene that he is an M.B.B.S MD when he is asked by one of the doctors in his hit list, if he is a Sidha doctor.Perhaps these negatives get dissolved in the pageantry parade of Atlee and Vijay.
   The film's success owes a lot to the dual, high voltage energy of the Atlee /Vijay combination.When I left the theater the impact of the climax scene made it difficult for me, to extricate myself from a nostalgic recall of the climax scenes of MGR's Enga Veettu Pillai and Kudiyirundha Koil that I watched  almost five decades ago.There was also a feeling in me, that Thuppaaki of A.R.Murugadoss still remains as an unsurpassed
Vijay film.
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Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Five Fabulous Roles of Sivaji Ganesan.

     
























      'Give him any role,he will excel'.That was the acting spirit of Sivaji Ganesan,who was born with theatrics in his blood.He was the first Tamil film hero,to don nine roles in a single film and the film Navarathiri was a big hit.Like Oliver Goldsmith the illustrious English writer, who is said to have left not even a single field of literature untouched and whatever he touched he adorned,this great actor, would not have left any role not portrayed and whichever role he did,he did to his best.But there are certain roles which remain extraordinarily brilliant, making them timelessly incomparable.I am giving here five such roles that appear to me immortally magnificent.Of these, three are historical roles and the other two are mythological and spiritual.
    Fictitious characters are at times easier to play than any historical or mythological roles.This is because, the first type is more open than the latter.The pressures are usually more on an actor who attempts to play important historical or mythological and spiritual characters, that have gone deeper into the socio-cultural roots,as well as into the human psyche of a region. Tamil cinema has periodically visited some of the important historical events relevant to the Indian and Tamil soil with a view to throwing light on life's real time occurrences with verity and value.But all such shows do not yield the intended result on account of either poor narration or actors' lack of involvement in becoming the real life characters.Even Sivaji Ganesan's films like Ambikapathi and Chittor Rani Padmini became failures in bringing history back to life with its inherent layers of interest.
    But there are three historical characters that Sivaji Ganesan played as a poet,a provincial ruler and  a Swadeshi business man, that live as monumental roles purely because of Sivaji Ganesan's indisputable authenticity in role performance.Yes,as the ripe, Telugu Poet Tenaly Raman who was the incarnation of intelligence,Sivaji Ganesan demonstrated his highly committed acting skills with poise and perfection. In fact it was one of the earliest roles of Sivaji Ganesan. The movie was simultaneously made in Telugu and Tamil, with N.T.Ramarao doing the role of King Krishnadevarayar in both the languages,while Nageshwararao depicting the role of Tenalyraman in Telugu and Sivaji Ganesan in the Tamil version.
   Being a Telugu remake with quite a few Telugu actors moving through the screen, the film did not reflect Tamil fragrance.But the fact remains that, it was Sivaji Ganesan who brought the film closer to the Tamil audience and made a Telugu poet pass through the linguistic barriers and become part and parcel of the Tamil soil. The film Tenaly Raman might not be said to have become a great hit.But the character Tenaly Raman got closer to the Tamil people, mainly because of the realistic presentation of role by the actor par excellence.
     Sivaji Ganesan who created dramatic waves by his very first movie Parasakthi, began to rule Tamil cinema not only through his verbal efficacy for lengthy ranting dialogues, but also through his credentials for natural acting. Tenaly Raman was an early sample of this marvelous actor's flair for underplay of characters with effortless humor and instant punch.Today if any one makes a reference to the historical character Tenaly Raman,those who know the days of nascent Tamil Cinema, would instantly fix Ganesan's profile on this historical figure of literary fame.
   After this film, it was no wonder that this actor whose body and mind were consummately made up of the acting stuff, spontaneously poured forth his entire energy levels for becoming Veera Pandiya Kattabomman,a provincial ruler who fought tooth and nail, against the British Raj and bluntly refused to be enslaved by the invading forces, indulging in a process of taxation and hateful enslavement.
    This epoch making film produced and directed by the Padmini pictures' B.R.Panthulu, was a Summer release in 1959 and was the first Tamil film to be made in Technicolor. Sivaji Ganesan became the personification of a firebrand rebel, stoutly raising his voice against the alien oppressive rulers,who came to India, in the guise of the East India Company.The story line for this war film was written by M.P.Sivagnanam,a famous Tamil scholar and political representative and the dialogues were written by Sakthi T.K. Krishnasaamy. 
    The force of the dialogues and the way Sivaji Ganesan uttered them made the film a lasting show of historical events on the big screen.Every aspect of the film was invincible and every actor made their role play precisely true to life.It was a block buster film and would ever be one of the most fabulous shows of Sivaji Ganesan.
   Following the victory of this film B.R.Pantulu was inspired to make another film based on some notable events that took place in Tamil Nadu as a close corollary to the Indian Freedom Movement.This film Kappalottiya Thamizhan which was a Deepavali release of 1961,biographically narrated the life story of V. O. Chidhambaram Pillai,who founded a Swadeshi Stream Navigation company, to lift the image of India in the midst of the aggressive East India Company, which came to India under the auspices of the imperialist forces, to conquer and suppress both the business and freedom of Indians. Sivaji Ganesan lived as V.O.C. 
    Unlike in Veerapandiya Kattabomman there were no ranting dialogues in Kappalottiya Thamizhan.It was a black and white film,for which the story line was provided by the same M.P.Siva gnanam but the dialogues were penned by'Chitra' Krishna swami.Though the film was a moderate show, no one could fault the natural, down to earth performance of Sivaji Ganesan and the equally impressive acting of Gemini Ganesan,Savitri, S.V.Renga Rao,K.Balaji, S.V.Subbiah,T.K. Shanmugam and others.
   As poet Bharathi and as Subramanyam Siva S.V.Subbiah and T.K.Shanmugam gave a brilliant performance.The narration was so realistic that the scenes showing the last days of V.O.C and Poet Subramanya Bharathi brought tears to the entire audience at the theatres. Perhaps the low profile dialogues and the composed acting of the cast, failed to take it to the level of the very lively narration and vigorous action display witnessed in Veerapandiya Kattabomman.Though the film fizzled out at the box office, till date when one thinks of V.O.C it is Sivaji Ganesan with his turban would stand before them bringing to one's focus the aristocratic nobility,the righteousness in approach and the historically recorded commitment of V O C to the Swadeshi movement,as an inspiring force of the Freedom struggle in India.
    Besides the dazzling shows mentioned above,Sivaji Ganesan performed two other awesome roles,one from Hindu mythology and the other from the life of a divine Hindu saint. Sivaji Ganesan played both the roles with utmost veracity and credibility in looks and portrayal of emotions.The first one was that of the Surya Puthra Karna and the second was the sacred Tamil, Hindu saint Thirunavkkarasar also known as Appar.
   It was again B.R.Pantulu who made the outstanding mythological film Karnan produced under his Padmini pictures and released in 1964.While A.P.Nagarajan took up the screen play it was Sakthi T. K. Krishnaswami who wrote the dialogues for the film,after Veerapandia Kattabomman.This color film had most of the Kurushetra war scenes shot in outdoor locations in Jaipur.The film had an excellent cast with Sivaji Ganesan as Karnan S.A.Asokan as Dhuriodhana,N.T.Ramarao as Lord Krishna and R.Muthuraman as Arjuna.The female cast included Devika and Savitri as the wives of Karna and Dhuriyodhana respectively and M.V.Rajamma donning the role of Kundhi Devi,the mother of Karna and his half brothers the Panja Paandavas.
     Sivaji Ganesan as the most wronged and harmed Karnan, passionately embraced the character and literally made an outburst of his pent up emotions of anguish and despair,that necessarily formed the base of the characterization of the forlorn hero of the Maha Bharatha. He would roar against the injustice that was serially meted out to him and at the same time melt down the moment he saw his mother who disowned him.Charity,chivalry,and gratitude were the three major virtues that Karna, inhaled as his life breath and he remained as the incarnation of those virtues till his last breath. So perfect was Sivaji Ganesan's portrayal of Karnan in body and spirit, that words go wanting,if one tries to talk about this peerless hero's perfect role absorption of Karna.
   The fifth in my favored list is that of the character of the Tamil Savaite saint Thirunavukkarasar who was also called Appar. Sivaji Ganesan took up this role for A.P.Nagarajan's spiritually inspiring film Thiruvarutchelvar. It was one of the most difficult roles,even for a highly involved and talented actor like Sivaji Ganesan. Besides the flawless make up manual meant for the saint's aged looks,the excellent way Sivaji Ganesan imbibed and delivered the sacred intricacies and subtleties of the role, carried a venerable demonstration of the saint on the screen.
     The two songs"Pithaa Piraisoodi Perumaane"and ''Naadharmoodi Melirukkum Nallapaambe"were beautifully pictured to enhance the quality of portrayal, by creating saintly vibrations in celluloid form.In looks, gait and governance of words,Saint Appar was unquestionably reborn on the screen.I doubt if any other hero could have succeeded to this extent, in taking the body and soul of a saint, closer to the audience.
    This article is born of my life long love and admiration for a Tamil hero, who frequently crossed the conservative,stipulated barriers of acting, to conquer the unconquerable.Though the much deserving Chevalier title was conferred upon him, it was really unfortunate that this high profile actor's grandeur was less recognized in India, in terms of awards and titles.The numberless challenging roles he took up to deliver, are all being listed and remembered only by Tamil film lovers, who are known for evaluating an actor's credentials mostly in terms of their emotional admiration for his/her inspiring and appealing portrayal of roles.
    While a majority of Sivaji Ganesan's roles were born of creative imagination,the five fabulous characters focused here,were reflective of history, mythology and Hindu spiritual reality.That Sivaji Ganesan made all the five characters revive and reverberate in the larger than life spectrum of cinema and that he left indelible impressions of those five roles,are the undying  wonders of Tamil film history.
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Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Mellifluous Malayalam Actor.














       There are voices that vibrate like that of the Superstar, Rajini kanth.There are voices that conquer our ears in a mighty majestic frame, like that of Sivaji Ganeasan. But there are mellifluous musical voices too, that do not sing, but deliver dialogues in a soothing manner, making the hearing process a wonderful experience.If in Tamil films,we have had such a voice in Muthuraman, in Malayalam cinema it is the enchanting voice of Nedumudi Venu, that creates a mellifluous effect.Never in his dialogue delivery does Venu hurt the ears.The more he talks,the more lovely it is, to listen to him.It is not just an anguished tone but is also one of contextual control and authority.Besides,it is also a reassuring voice,a voice ever willing to comfort and console.
   I have not seen too many movies of this winsome character actor.The first I saw him was in Fazil's film Manjil Viringna Pookal {Incidentally it was Mohanlal's debut film too}.This was followed by Bharathan's Vishaali. Nedumudi Venu has been the most favored character actor in many of the films of Mohanlal. The list of films that I watched,would include Mohanlal's great hits like Chitram,HisHighnessAbdullah,Thalavattam,Then Maavin Kombath,Thacholi Verghese Checkavar,Bharatham Chathurangam,Akkare,Uncle Bun, Kaakka Kuyil,Madampi, AkkareAkkareAkkare,Devasuram,Spadikam,Thandavam
Life is Beautiful,Manichitrathaazh,Nirnayam,Mithunam, Pavithram,Alexander the great and the most recent Oppam.
   With Mammootty, Venu's entries do not appear to be many.I could only recall films like Lekheyude Maranam Oru Flash back,The King and the Commissioner and the most memorable Prajabadhi in which Nedumudi Venu played a very impressive, villain role.It is very difficult to imagine Venu in a baddie role,because his profile and pattern of acting would resemble those of the venerable Telugu and Tamil actor V.Nagaiah of the last century,who could breezily fit into lovable character roles.But Venu excelled as a villain too, making indelible impressions in every scene of the movie.
    Nedumudi Venu also seems to have found space in a good number of films with Dileep playing the lead.The latter's films like Ishtam,Vettam,Vinodha Yaatra,Maya Mohini,Sringaara Velan, Mr.Marumagan,Nadodi Mannan and Villaali Veeran had a notable role play for Nedumudi Venu.The first three films in the list, would find a special place in Venu's career.I am not here to talk about the favorable position that Venu enjoys with the heroes of Malayalam Cinema.But I am here, to categorically state,that Venu has certainly demonstrated an endearing camaraderie and warmth with Mohanlal in films like Chitram,Thenmaavin Kombath, Bharadham and Oppam.The team spirit between these two actors could be reasonably compared to the endearing rapport between Sivaji Ganesan and R.Muthuraman.
     What makes Nedumudi Venu as one of the true faces of Malayalam Cinema, is the element of poise in his delivery of characterization in almost all his films and the natural way he embraces his characters, without violating the yardsticks of realistic presentation of character portrayal, that always forms an integral formula of Malayalam film making.
   The fact that Venu was associated even at the start of his career,with distinguished  men of the Malayalam film industry, like actor Bharath Gopi and directors G.Aravindhan and Padmarajan is an indicator of the creative stuff that Nedumudi Venu is made of.His entire career has come under the aesthetic scanner of fine film makers of Malayalam Cinema,like Bharathan G.Aravindhan, I.V.Sasi Padmarajan,Sathyan Andhikkad, M.T.Vasudevan Nair,Fazil,Pryadharshan,Sibi Malayil and so on.
     Nedumudi Venu's under play of characters and avoidance of melodramatic traits in acting, have secured him a prestigious position in Malayalam Cinema.Venu has also done a few Tamil films of which Indian and Anniyan directed by Shankar need a special mention.In certain frames,his grasp of role and the anguished tone in acting, might carry a semblance of Late Murali's style of deliberation. But Murali's show was always of a sober type. Whereas,Venu would spontaneously reflect a comedy flair wherever necessary, without deterring the dignity of the role he is vested with.
    Beyond his ever controlled body language,it is his perfectly captivating voice mould, blended with a unique kind of rhythm and flawless intonation of utterances,that crisply carry his roles closer to the audience.I love his voice and I can imagine his right mode of acting, just by listening to his mellifluous voice and the singular effect it creates, on his subtle depiction of the character that he naturally dons and neatly delivers.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Dialogue Component of Tamil Cinema.

     If the story of a film is the skeleton,dialogues constitute its flesh and blood and characters bring life to the dialogues.In other words, dialogues and the actors who deliver them, become complementary components of the cinematic process. Each language has its special attributes towards expressing thoughts and emotions in a way that would make the power of language closer to its soil.Cinema as a creative medium became full fledged only when it came out of its silent movie days.The sound track of cinema is its soul, setting the process of communication as a prerequisite for transporting the events on the screen into the grasp of the audience, as factors of entertainment,enjoyment and enlightenment.
    Film dialogues delve into a comprehensive course of introspection and revelation of a galaxy of human experiences, in individual and collective compartments.However, dialogues find their relevance and magnitude,only when individuals come together as friends,families and wider social groups.The nature and quality of dialogues will vary, in terms of the social base and the contexts,generating dialogues.So a good dialogue writer should first take these two aspects into his mind and then formulate the right course of dialogue.A realistic and relevant study of the dialects of the respective regions of any language, becomes the most important criterion for dialogue writing, besides the family and social layers involved in the portrayal of themes and characters.
    As far as Tamil films are concerned,the pertinence and force of  Tamil language as film medium, gained its significance only during the Dravidian era.Till then Tamil was under the spell and impact of the Devanagari sound and script.If one has to talk about the grip of chaste Tamil trying to find its strong foothold in Tamil Cinema, one has to gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Kalaignar M.Karunanidhi for his forceful and enriching quality of Tamil dialogues that he wrote for films like Parasakthi,Manohara ,Raja Rani and so on.In writing dialogues he could be said to have surpassed Arignar Anna himself, by adding greater semantic thrust,twist,punning and alliteration, to the dialogues that he wrote.Even these days, Tamil film directors and actors proudly recall the powerful dialogues, from the fertile and fiery imagination of this great creative force, in Tamil Cinema.
    There were many films which were enriched by the dialogue component.Various dialogue writers with a right perception of the diverse strata of society and regions of Tamil Nadu, contributed their stuff to the most vital, dialogue segment of Tamil Cinema.For instance,many of the successful films of A. Bhimsingh, owed their grand dynamics of  narration to the probing dialogues of M.Karunanidhi, M.S.Solaimalai, Kannadasan, A.L.Narayanan, Aroordas, Javert Seetharaman, Jeyakanthan and several others .Of these,A.L Narayanan and Aaroordas made their long time, emphatic contribution as dialogue writers of many popular films. Jeyakanthan created indelible impressions as a meritorious fiction writer and it was actually his two critically acclaimed  novels Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidharkal and Oru Nadikai Naadakam Paarkiraal that A.Bhimsingh made as films and it was  these two films that were adorned by Jeyakanthan's dialogues.
    Later K.S.Gopalakrishnan not only wrote the screenplay and directed his films but also wrote gripping dialogues, reflecting the power of family values and the unique cultural base of the rural soil of Tamil Nadu.Some of his films specially treasured for dialogues are Karpagam,Panama Paasama,Kai Kodutha Theivam,Vaazhaiyadi Vaazhai and Kulama Gunama.Great actors like Sivaji Ganesan Gemini Ganesan, S.Varalakshmi, Padmini,Savithri and Pramila added life and vocal splendor to the dialogues penned by K.S.G.One of his most memorable dialogues from Panama Pasama is that of the words spoken by the heroine to her mother who hates her son in law and plans to do away with him"Mom, I have had of mothers who want their sons dead because they want to see their daughter in law a widow.But you are one who thinks that even if your daughter becomes a widow, you want to see your son in law dead"
   Unlike K.S.G who wrote dialogues in an open and direct form, his contemporary K.Balachander had his package of dialogues written in subtle and suggestive mode as well as in clear argumentative style, with a flair for rationalizing and modernizing the dialogue format.His dialogues for films like Punnagai,Major Chandrakanth,Iru Kodukal,Arangetram,Aval Oru Thodar Kadhai, Apoorva Raagangal,Thamarai Nenjam, Nootrukku Nooru,Thanneer Thanneer, Varumaiyin Niram Sigappu, Thappu Thaalangal,Puthu Puthu Arthangal and Kalki had a lot to suggest things through hidden meanings and punch in dialogues.Whereas his other films like Server Sundaram Ethir Neechal, Velli Vizhaa,Bhama Vijayam, Kaaviya Thalavi ,Poova Thalaiya and Sollathaan Ninaikiren, were full of direct thrust of words with their mind blowing meanings. 
    K.B's play with anagrams like 'life' and'file' in Iru Kodukal was discussed as an exceptional aspect of the dialogue form those days.In Arengetram the heroine would tell her mother. "There can be any number of skirmishes between a mother and daughter, but not that of two wives of the same husband, fighting over him."Similarly,in Sollathaan Ninaikirein, Kamalahasan doing the role of the Casanova, would proudly declare after seducing his last victim,"the last in the list is lost at last"This single utterance simultaneously brought out the filth of male arrogance and the ace director's ability to play with English words.It was no wonder that the driving pull of his dialogues and  his directorial excellence,fetched him awards for his films like Ethir Neechal,Iru Kodukal,Thamarai Nenjam, Apoorva Raagangal, Aval Oru Thodar Kadhai,Thappu Thaalangal and Thanneer Thanneer.
    A.P.Nagarajan took Tamil Cinema to a different level through his impressive dialogues written in pure literary Tamil format for his movies depicting religious and spiritual themes. His mega hit films like Thiruvilaiyaadal,Saraswathi Sabadham, Kandhan Karunai,Thiruvarut Selvar and Thirumaal Perumai bear clear testimony to his grasp of literary Tamil.He also handled colloquial Tamil with its local and contextual dialect varieties in these films as well as in his other films like Navarathiri,Thillaanaa Mohanaambaal,Vaa Raja Vaa, Thirumalai Thenkumari, and so on.In the peerless thespian skill  of actors like Sivaji Ganesan,Nagesh,T.S Balaiah, Padmini and Savithri and many others, all these films ruled to the roost, with Nagarajan's resplendent dialogues.The argument between Lord Shiva,played by Sivaji Ganesan and Tamil Poet Nakeeran portrayed by A.P.Nagarajan himself, showed not only the might of Nagarajan's creative mind but also his brilliant Tamil accent, intonation and clarity of utterances. Sivaji Ganesan as usual demonstrated the grandeur of his body language,with infallible verbal flair.
    Following these eminent dialogue writers there was a line of other qualitative dialogue writers like Sornam,Vietnaam Veedu Sundaram,Kaaraikudi Narayanan,Panju Arunachalam,Rama Arngannal,Valampuri Somanadhan,Malliyam Rajagopal, R.C.Shakthi,Madhurai Thirumaran,Visu,K.Bharathiraja K.Bhagyaraj, R.Parthiban, Liaqat Ali Khan,CrazyMohan, Vikraman, Agathyan K.S.Ahiyaman, K.S.Ravikumar,Bala kumaran, P.Vasu A.R.Murugadoss, Seemaan, Pandiraj and a few others. Most of them in this list have got awards for their dialogue composition. 
   But the present scenario is slowly changing with a clear shift in priorities from language heard to visuals expressed with minimum words.Most of Manirathnam films have dialogues less said, than visuals more seen.The slowness in dialogue delivery and the use of minimum words with maximum focus on wordless narration are the specialties of directors like Manirathnam.
  The last time we witnessed forceful dialogues were in Ramana and Thambi for which A.R.Murugadoss and Seeman wrote the dialogues, respectively.May be these days people do not want to listen to too many utterances in the place of impressive action play.Already language has shrunk on account of the social network exigencies.The decline of dialogues in Tamil Cinema is perhaps an indicator of the situation calling for the maxim"the less said the better"But let not film makers forget the fact that dialogues are the teeth of the film medium.If you pluck the teeth,cinema loses its power of place,by missing its focus on the sheen and charm of the human race.
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Friday, September 1, 2017

The Unconventional Hero of Tamil Cinema.





   

     Four decades ago, when Rajinikanth hit the big screen, he was considered to be an unconventional actor because of his novelties in portrayal of roles and his brave new style that broke the earlier conventions meant for donning the role of a hero.As a negative hero with ruffian roots, he created new waves and sensations and this soon began to create a new chapter in Tamil Cinema.But soon Rajinikanth was seen to consolidate his style components in acting, to become a conventional hero in the line of MGR and Sivaji Ganesan, besides capitalizing a favorable situation that transformed him into a Superstar.In the early years of the new millennium there entered another unconventional actor into Tamil Cinema, so far unrelenting to change his unconventional approach and that is the brave Vijay Sethupathi, born afresh, in each of his new releases.
      After playing insignificant roles in films like M,Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi,Puthupettai, Lee Anjaadhe,Vennilaa Kabadikkuzhu,and Naan Mahaan Alla, he played the lead role in Seenu Ramasamy's award winning film Thenmerku Paruvakatru. Then we saw him in Sasikumar's 'Sundarapandian', playing a silent, negative role, with some excusable reason to be a baddie.At that time, no one would have thought that here was a person with his own hidden agenda for acting, with a grit to drive the audience imagination, to a maddening craze for seeing him more and more as a hero of unconventional stuff.Well, when the audience first saw Rajinikanth  playing the role of the sickly, docile husband of Srividya, in 'Aboorva Raagangal', who would have thought that he was going to  rock in his next film Monnru Mudichu with a rebellious and unconventional pull in his body language and dialogue delivery.This is how Vijay Sethupathi continues to haunt the imagination of the audience, by playing even serious roles with a self surrender, towards creating glimpses of a hero, without an iota of heroism and personality projections.There is a perennial store of innocent mischief in him, waiting to take a new avatar in each film.
      Film after film,Vijay Sethupathi's  irreverence to the conventions of hero norms, took him to greater reception and higher acclaim from the audience.There is an unending list of films like Pizza,Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom,Soothu Kavvum,Idharkuthaan Aasaipattaaya Balakumara,Kadhalum Kadandhupogum,Sethupathi,Orange Mittai,Naanum Rowdy Thaan,Rekka, Dharmadhurai,Aandavan Kattalai,Kavan and the recent blockbuster Vikram Vedha. Most of the films fetched him awards from one source or the other.What is special about this new wave hero is the special impact he creates in not claiming to be a hero.In this respect he reminds me of Nivin Pauly of Malayalam Cinema.{His film "Action Hero Biju"is one big sample of his quest to crush the image of the action hero}.Vijay Sethupathi's big image is born of blowing off the projections of being a hero.When you break and crash the existing norms of the hero base, a new base is constructed and this new base takes wings like a phoenix and creates wonders.We do not know whether Vijay Sethupathi does it purposely, or it is his way of acting.But the end result is the fresh appeal and the new lease he has given to what it means to be a hero.
      There is always the layer of a thug in most of the role performances of Vijay Sethupadhi and there is ever a uniqueness in making the thug look clumsy and funny.Humor -blended negative role play, always carries a charismatic touch. Rajinikanth and Sathyaraj were successful in negative roles because of their singular stylish approach to display villainy.The Superstar's sense of humor began to reflect itself only from the film Ninaithaale Inikkum directed by the commendably professional K.Balachander. Whereas Vijay Sethupathi like Nivin Pauli, makes himself a butt of ridicule and silently pushes himself along with the character he plays,for an instant reach with the audience.No one can forget how he beautifully destroyed the rowdy image, in Naanum Rowdythaan. Even in the latest, wonderful movie Vikram Vedha, it is the fun impact during every encounter between the Cop Madhavan and the Rowdy Vijay Sethupathi that rules  every frame of presentation and makes the film a trend setting phase, in Tamil Cinema.
    As matters stand, Vijay Sethupathi  has come to be a broadly acceptable hero, without being a hero.How long this unconventional endearment will continue with the audience,will be decided by factors like difference in story line, characterization and the actor's unflinching motivation to preserve the ongoing gusto.However as on date, let us wish him well for a long journey through the Tamil big screen for being one of the most viable and desirable segments of the Tamil film industry. The number of entries he makes every year shows how much viable and desirable, this unconventional hero is.If this trend continues it will create new records for Tamil Cinema.
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