Friday, May 18, 2018

An Actor with a Creamy Layer Stuff


        Actors are of different brands.Some would perfectly fit into the aristocratic mould.The profile of S.V.Renga Rao was made for this frame. Some would remain as unbeatable paupers. No one can beat V.Nagaiah in this category.A few would combine both  the profiles as S. V. Subbiah did and T.S.Balaiah did.An actor like the vibrant V.K. Ramasamy stood as the exemplary voice, reflecting the mean mindedness of a section of the rich and the poor, while at the same time personifying elements of nobility and generosity in some of his role plays.Film lovers can validly include names such as S.V.Shasranamam T.K Bagavadhi,V.S.Raghavan and V.Gopalakrishnan in this list.These were actors other than heroes,who formed the creamy layer of Tamil Cinema of the last century.As this blog carries independent and comparative articles on all these actors excepting the last name,the present article would proudly place on record the greater vibes of acting material frequently demonstrated by this, not much talked about, actor.
     The span of acting of this veritable actor,was spread over five decades between 1947 and 1997.He began with the role of an office boy at the age of fifteen, for the Gemini Pictures' famous film Miss. Malini and ended up with his final performance in Thadayam released in 1997.This actor had never blown up his credentials but revealed them to the best of his abilities and quietly passed away,five months after the release of his last film.What was specially great about him was the huge list of film makers and heroes, with whom he shared his time and performance potential.He was as much a favourite of K.Balachander as he was with Sridhar and K.S.Gopalakrishnan.So was he with A.P.Nagarajan the famous maker of mythical and  spiritual films.The other film makers who fondly made use of his refined acting stuff were, A.Bhimsingh,P.Neelakandan,S.Balachandar,C.V.Rajendran,S.A.Chandrasekaran and K.S.Ravikumar.
     V.Gopalakrishnan has acted with the all prominent heroes like M.G.Ramachandran,Sivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan,Muthuraman,Sivakumar,Jai Shankar, Rajinikanth, Kamalahasan, Karthik Muthuraman,Vijayakanth and Sarathkumar.He has acted almost equal number of films with both MGR and Sivaji Ganesan.With MGR his bulk of movies were in the final spell of the hero's acting journey and it started with the film Idhayakani and went on up to Inrupol Enrum Vaazhka.I first saw this actor on the big screen in the film Aaravalli in the role of Prince Abimanyu.Though the film was released two years before I was born, I happened to watch it,as a boy of ten,when the film was screened in a local touring talkies twelve years later.Some of his popular films I cherish in memory are Nenjirukkumvarai,Galaattaa Kalyaanam, Neerkumizhi, Punnagai,Nootrukku Nooru,Naalai Namadhe,Needhikku Thalai Vanangu,Pallaandu Vaazhga, Kilinjalkal,Raanuva Veeran and Thee.
    Unlike most other character actors, V.Gopalakrishnan has appeared as a Christian in quite a number of films.Some of the Christian names he carried in films were Thomas in Thulasi Maadam, Robert in Nootrukku Nooru and Naalai Namadhe Joseph in Velli Vizhaa in David Kilinjalkal and Prof.Peter in Paarvaiyin Marupakkam.He was an extraordinary actor with both theatrical and screen sense and could precisely take himself to playing any professional role, such as doctor {Kalangarai Vilakkam,Naan Yen Pirandhein and Ninaithadhai Mudippavan} Jail Warden {Pallaandu Vaazhka}advocate {Chakravarthi}Public Prosecutor {Saavi} Judge {Sattathin Marupakkam}.
     All these professional roles he performed with dignity and grace [at times even with negative tint]and redefined the characters with his proficiency in English and Tamil. In this context, it should be mentioned here that he was a post graduate which was a rare phenomenon to prevail among actors those days.His accent and stress upon dialogues be it English or Tamil, proved the fact that his acting was the sum and substance of the creamy layer brand. Interestingly the same actor could casually perform the role of a taxi or cab driver as he did in S.Balachandar's Bommai and M.G.R's Needhikku Thalai Vanangu.Another distinct trait of this actor is his flair for comedy as witnessed in Galaattaa Kalyaanam.
    Here is an actor,who would have acted in nearly 400 films encompassing Tamil, Telugu and Hindi,but would have been seen only in restrictive space and scope in many of them.It would have been very difficult for him to stay strong and surpass adverse currents pushing him out of the mainstream concept of holding up one's place and keeping it unforgotten in the field of one's choice. But V.Gopalakrishnan succeeded in this by establishing the ground and playing it safe with constant grip and control of his position as an actor.This determination and power of hold, will itself prove the fact, that he was an actor of the creamy layer category.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Neelu's Acting Nerves


     R.Neelakandan,aka Neelu was an exuberant stage and film actor who like late N.Mathrubootham created a special track of comedy parade with sustained and calculated role play.He was a passionate player of roles both on stage and on the big and small screens.Acting came to him like child's play and he would be making himself a butt of ridicule, with an extraordinary sobriety on his face and a kind of noisy deliberation to hit humorous goals.He was closely associated with the satirical comedian Cho Ramasamy and later had a telling share in the comedy moments created on stage, by Crazy Mohan and his group.
  For me, the most treasured role of Neelu on screen was that in K.Balachander's Nootrukku Nooru in which he appeared as a rigorous professor of Mathematics and fell vulnerable into the hands of a batch of mischievous students. In a particular scene, Neelu would be found teaching Calculus and every time when he would try to get up from his seat with the fond words"Now coming to Calculus"he would struggle to extricate himself from the gum pasted chair, prepared by his students as a mark of revenge.One could obviously notice the discomfort coupled with humor effectively displayed by this wonderful comedian.
    Some of the other films in which he made a significant impact of comedy were Aayiram Poi,Mr.Sampath, Gowravam, Velum Mayilum Thunai,Mohamed bin Tughlaq, Sabatham, Sooriya Vamsam  Kamalahasan's comedy blockbusters Avvai Shanmugi,Kaadhala Kaadhalaa and Pammal K.Sambandham. Besides these popular films, he will also be remembered for the television serial Enge Brahmanan.Neelu carried on his comic roles, with well meaning gestures on his face and sound and fury signifying complete sense of humour within the yardsticks of decency.The nasal tone and the way he would meddle with it rhythmically with his intrinsic love for Carnatic music, would make Neelu one of the most remembered comedians of his times.In his death, Tamil audience eagerly looking for sensible comedy skits, will not only miss a greatly endearing comedian, but will also happily push his name into the golden archives of Tamil Cinema, to be passed on to posterity for nostalgic recalls and reviews.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Tamil Cinema's Stamp of Nobility


     If one wants to know what nobility is,it is shortly the will of an individual, to mark a selfless journey for 'oneself,' towards living solely for others.Cinema glorifies nobility,when a film maker employs a noble vision of life and humanity.Today, humanity is inextricably technology bound.It is so much obsessed with technology,that even its creative wings carry abundant feather touch implications.There is always an explicit difference between what and how men are and what and how they should be.The last century's creative imagination seemed to have been anxious about what and how mankind should be.Hence,it evolved themes, characters and events,revolving around the redeeming and cathartic factors of life.It expected the wrongs of life, to be corrected by right living models, reflecting nobility as an inseparable part of living.
    Consequently,though right and wrong existed side by side,right won over wrong,with exemplary ethical foundations and their relevance to life, through characters and events.There was a lot of admiration for noble qualities,such as selflessness,forgiveness , generosity and an overall respect for the goodness of men,as seen in their behaviour.Tamil cinema celebrated noble themes,stories and characters.Characters very often outlived the story contexts, because of their intrinsic importance and deeper depiction.This article intends to recall through indelible memory bytes,such persons of nobility,who passed through the Tamil big screen,to deserve a standing ovation and an eternal preservation in memory.Their memories perpetuate the truer marks of nobility on the minds of the audience,so as to make them live like such characters,in their own real life.
    The earliest incarnation of feminine nobility,was portrayed by late Padmini in L.V,Prasad's noted film Mangayar Thilagam,as the wife of Sivaji Ganesan's elder brother,played by S.V.Subbiah. The title of the film itself is a beautiful image of the brilliance of womanhood and hence it could be rightly called a heroine oriented film. My childhood memories are stuck to the selfless woman protagonist of the film,who would decide not to have a child of her own,lest she should be constrained to deviate from her affection for her husband's motherless little brother.The little boy would grow up to manhood{played by Sivaji Ganesan},get decently employed and would continue his love and devotion to his sister in law, whom he considered as his mother.But after his marriage,things would change.The new comer, as most women are,would treat her husband's sister-in law with utter disregard and jealousy.Afterwards,she would deliver her son but would not care much for the kid.Nor would she allow her sister in law to handle her child.
   The climax of the film showing the selfless woman dead,would certainly have made the audience,particularly the womenfolk, leave the theaters with a tank load of tears.Both Padmini and M.N.Rajam played their roles amazingly well,but the nobility of Padmini's character became a monumental piece of memory. Though I saw the film as a six year old boy, some scenes from that film{especially the lullaby song scene"Neelavanna Kannaa Vaadaa"in the mesmerizing voice of R. Balasaraswathi Devi}still stay strong in my memory.
    As sacrificing sisters,many women would have cast deep impressions of nobility on the sub conscious minds of the audience.Characters such as the younger sister role played by Saroja Devi in Kalyana Parisu made by Sridhar and that of the all giving elder sister character, the same actor played in K.S.Gopala krishnan's Kula Vilakku, are treasures of the character evolution theory,followed and practised by film makers, purely for the purpose of ennobling mankind.Similar elder sister characterization became emphatic in the role delivery of Sujatha, in Aval Oru Thodarkadhai and by Pramila in Arangetram, both films made by the most intelligent film maker,K.Balachander. 
    The next unique stamp of nobility in character, was effectively displayed by late Sujatha in the most popular film Annakkili.As Annam{Swan}she carried on with ease and ecstasy, the character of a simple village girl,falling in love with a school teacher and bearing all the brunt of disappointment and abuse of others.She would finally give up her life for the guy whom she serenely loved,by saving him and his family from a major fire accident and falling a victim of the very same accident.It was altogether a tale of Platonic love and the woman's character looked like gold being put into fire for assessing its quality.
     Among men,almost all the roles that MGR tactfully took over, belonged to a kind of trade mark nobility, of a mother devotee, an adorer of women and a selfless worker for the welfare of the downtrodden and the depressed sections of society.But the one grandest role he performed was that of a noble youth,who would forgive all wrong doers and thereby transform their character from evil to good.At the end of the film,all wrong doers would be redeemed from their negative profiles and would call the hero,the rarest among the rare.The magnificence of the gist of forgiveness was beautifully shown in that epic level film called Aayirathil Oruvan.MGR as Manimaran, stole the hearts of everybody, in that blockbuster movie made by B.R.Pantulu.
    Some of the tall roles that Sivaji Ganesan performed,projected him as an ever shading  branch of the family tree.He was frequently shown as a selfless lover thinking and doing good to the woman he loved, or as an exemplary friend spreading the fine aroma of beautiful friendship.As Rengan in Padikkadha Medhai and as Renga Dhurai in Rajapart RengaDhurai,he really stood as the colossal tower of nobility reflecting the voice of truth,selfless ness and sacrifice.So naive was his role performance in 'Padikkaadha Medhai',that as an innocent orphan,cherishing his personal loyalty to his adopting parents, both in their best and worst times,he showed how naturally one's love and loyalty should uprightly stand up and symbolize nobility,from its roots to its heights.Can any other actor perform this kind of role with such  natural vigour and genuine emotion, is ever a moot question.
    In family dramas Sivaji Ganesan was shown as a sacrificing elder, or youngster,in many films of which Baaga Pirivinai, Bandha Paasam,Pazhani and Padithaal Mattum Podhumaa, created a special impact.In demonstrating the sacrificing spirit of friendship, Sivaji  excelled in films like Paarthaal Pasitheerum, Nenjirukkumvarai and Unakkaaga Naan.In the last film stated here, he would go to the extent of shaming his father by going to jail, for the planned murder of his soulmate [Gemini Ganesan} arranged by his capitalist father.In Nenjirukkumvarai and, Deepam,Sivaji Ganesan exemplified the spirit of immaculate love transcending all material levels and culminating in the total surrender of body and soul.The death of Sivaji Ganesan in Deepam and Nenjirukkumvarai, created deep pangs of sorrow for his ardent fans.
     But the noblest ever role Sivaji Ganesan performed was that of a rich man who considered the very purpose of his life was to part with all that he had,for the sake of others and enjoyed an inner delight of giving away everything to others and prayed to God not to keep him alive,the moment he had nothing to give. Kanna dhasan's thought provoking lyrics and M.S.V's soul sustaining music took the nobility of the hero to supreme levels of character idealization.At the end, when the hero died after giving away his last personal belonging, it created a heart rending effect of an unusual film watching experience.
     The character of Sivaji Ganesan remained as the embodiment of nobility in Avanthaan Manidhan,invigorating a kind of awakening in every one,about the grandeur of leading one's life as an extraordinary human being, symbolizing the essence of what life is and how it should be lived.I would rate this film as the magnum opus of nobility in human life.The latest film Muthal Mariyaadhai which showed Sivaji Ganesan marrying his uncle's daughter who had gone astray, for the sake of maintaining family dignity,was a special film, picturing middle age Platonic love,but could not be called a film bearing a singular thrust on the nobler side of character formation.However,the character of Sivaji Ganesan,certainly upheld the precept of dignity and self esteem, very much in accordance with the title of the film and its suggestive meaning.
     In taking up roles of a special positive human being,the other hero Gemini Ganesan,was never lagging behind his coevals and contemporary heroes.Two of his films could be rated very high in this particular category.One was Sridhar's Sumaidhaangi and the other was K.Balachander's Punnagai.In the former,he was the pathetic younger brother sacrificing everything including his love, for the sake of his selfish family members and ultimately embracing priesthood,to find peace and dignity in the rest of his life.
    In Punnagai,his character appeared as the edifice of truth,not  letting him deviate at any point of time in his life,from his core ideology, that truth alone should prevail in one's life and truth alone would make one's soul attain bliss.In this clean movie, he married a wronged, unwed mother and made it a point to tell his wife's son,that he was not his son's biological father.Gemini Ganesan who was always identified by a fascinating softness in role delivery, performed both the characters with perfect charm, grace and dignity.His softness firmly established the principle of noble living,as a mandatory requirement for human survival.The other less noticed film of Gemini Ganesan that portrayed him as a noble character, was Ezhai Pangalan.
    During the passage of time the noble features of life slowly began to occupy the back seat.The films of Jai Shankar and Ravichandran were usually of the action genre and did not seem to create any memorable impression with themes of nobility. Whereas,Shivakumar's roles in Sollathaan Ninaikiren and EniPadikal carried the essence of nobility.
    Rajinikanth's films like Aarilirundhu Arubadhu Varai and Muthu resurrected nobility as a vital part of human life.While the first film reiterated the dignity of a scarifying mindset,the second film eulogized nobility  through the impressive character evolution of the father role of Rajinikanth.This mind blowing  character represented the supremacy of the surrender of one's wealth,for the sake of a given word and thereby emphasized the fact, that there should be a sense of Gandhian triple purity in thought word and deed,towards attaining nobility.The distinguished film maker, K.S.Ravikumar,could be proud of making a special film of this genre.
     Director Vikraman has also focused on the nobler side if humanity through his impressive delineation of themes and characters, in almost all his films.Some special hits from his direction in this regard were, Poove Unakkaaga,Soorya Vamsam, Unnidathil Ennai Koduthen and Vaanathai Pola. 
    Now a days,nobility is a weakening factor everywhere, including the celluloid world. Personal aggrandizement and suppression of others for self promotion, are the hallmarks of human behaviour that we witness everywhere.Either we become victims of negative patterns of behaviour,or we ourselves behave as negative propagandists.Heavy themes are unpalatable for the imagination and acceptance of a generation,that wants to go with the flow,like thin wafer biscuits,temporarily satisfying the taste buds and fading like marginal clouds in the vast sky.
   A lot that we see,hear and read,is either no news or bad news. Life has become a package of peripheral realities dipped in artificial emotions and affected behaviour. There is an obvious presence of touch-and-go course of events,not making any credible impact on the routine of a majority of people.The sparks of Nobility seem to stay as memory chips.Perhaps some future generation may restore the vibrant flow nobility in their veins .Till then,let those who have vitally lived under the roof of nobility, keep masticating its remnants,by activating their nostalgic nerves. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Bala's Throes


      Not all film makers are concerned about the pain of living.Even if they are concerned about life's deeper layers of agony, not all film makers consciously fill up their skits with solid roots of psychic turbulence, originating against  human and social disorder. K.Balachander used to move here and there to themes of human aberration and social crookedness in  his films like Avarkal, Arangetram and Thappu Thaalangal.The same Balachander delivered fine family dramas like Iru Kodukal,Bama Vijayam and Poovaa Thalaiyaa  and clean movies like Punnagai,Velli Vizha and Kaviya Thalaivi. His sense of humour was compact in several films like Edhir Neechal and Bama Vijayam. But some film makers can hardly extricate themselves from the pressures and pangs of the wrongs of life,of whom Bala leads the others by his consistent focus on the depressing social realities.
    Starting with his famous film Sethu that gave Vikram his sobriquet Chiyan,Bala has trodden on the thorns of life as an unpretentious builder of sordid towers on the big screen. Sethu narrated the sad tale of a rugged and macho youth making aggressive overtures to a timid and orthodox girl and both falling victims to the villainy of fate,thy guy being pushed to a mental asylum after a brutal attack by anti social elements and the girl committing suicide caused by depressions of untold love and anguish over her mentally deranged lover. It was a heart rending film, passing through phases of  robust routine of college  students,rare depiction of romance and crude villainy throwing the hero into unpremeditated madness .
   The most redeeming factor of the film was Ilayaraja's music.Both the piercing number Enge Sellum Indha Paadhai and the vigorous Gana Karunkuyile energetically choreographed for the dance sequence of yesteryear dancer Jothilatchumi formed an integral part of the immortal film.For that matter, all songs in the film were good. Besides securing several awards,Sethu became a tremendous success and  paved the way for Vikram  transforming into a specially performing actor. 
    Bala's next film Nanda was a pathetic narration of patricide on provocation, caused by filial devotion to mother and revolt against domestic violence.It was a great opportunity for Surya to prove his extraordinary mettle as an actor and he made the best use of it.The worst part of the story was that the mother for whose sake the son killed his father, hated her son for his brutal act.The hatred continued even after the son was let off from the reformatory after the stipulated period of juvenile confinement.The disowned son turned into a thug and finally met his end in the poisoning hands of his mother and dying in her lap.The significant comic relief provided by Karunas,could not in any way bring down  the tragic intensity of the theme and its tormenting narration.This film was also an award winner.
     Pithamagan the third film of Bala inducting the heroes of his first two films, was the story of an undertaker and a delinquent youth, both meeting in jail and developing deeper layers of friendship,much of it going unsaid.Both the heroes performed very well and Surya's beaming show of banter and mischief in association with Lila, created some exciting moments of film watch only to culminate in the most unexpected and gory death of the former in the hands of a born criminal {performed by Mahadhevan}.Vikram's partial underplay of emotions followed by bouts of ferocity, made his character evolution,a unique  process and consequently the whole movie got pushed up to an unusual category, to become eligible for awards.
     Bala's other film Naan Kadavul,a traumatic tale of enforced beggary under the inhuman clutches of its operators as profiteers, coupled with the nightmarish fact of the hero being an aghorie {performed impressively by Aarya}was a disturbing saga of human suffering,Only an audience with  a selective frame of mind  could withstand the horrid terrains of cruelty and gruesome social disorder, possessing the big screen. Bala's poignant perception of the  human and social deformities has proved to be an onslaught on the psyche of the audience despite the fact that Bala is so true to his creative purpose of exposing the darker side of life.Like the earlier films of Bala,Naan Kadavul also won awards. 
    Among  his other films like Avan Ivan,Thaarai Thappattai and Paradesi,the first one had a lot to reflect on the side of human deviation such as bigamy, half brothers and the murkier dimensions of the mind, with adequate additions of abnormal comedy.Both Arya and Vishal brought credit to their acting, though the latter outperformed the other,looking different with a deformed eyesight. Thaarai Thappattai was a horrid story of the street dance performers and their umpteen sufferings, ending up in the death of the female protagonist. Paradesi is a burdensome tale of bondage, taking us back to the pre independence years, with atrocities  of suppression and forced conversion dominating the scenario.It is a Dickensian kind of narration of poverty and mindless exploitation of the underdogs.This film was also an award winner. While Sasikumar and Varalakshmi Sarathkumar made their characters stay in memory in Thaarai Thappattai, the young Adharva struck a perfect note of involved role delivery in Paradesi, in the line of his unique actor father, Murali.
    Bala's latest film Naachiyaar has come out as an impressive action show, taking singer-cum actor G.V.Prakash Kumar to exuberant levels of acting.It is surprising that Bala's films could also be entertaining with energizing action segments.So breezy and beautiful is Bala's  narration that I could find myself travelling through the narration scene by scene.The film deals with the now prevalent rape conundrum afflicting women, not excluding even minor girls and kids.Bala has approached the issue in a different perspective,depicting the grandeur of innocent, all giving love of a teenager, in contrast to the dirtiest, sex oriented mindset of a rotten section of the male.
    My only grudge against Bala here, is that the titular, best performing woman Jyothika,could have been given some more space to steal a greater show of her talent capable of expressing emotions, in their authentic and characteristic pattern.However,being an ardent, action film watcher, I would rate Naachiyaar as the most vibrant of all the films of Bala, because the negative side of humanity is far less shown here, than in his other films.
    On the whole,Bala has been fledged with distinct wings to fly into zones forlorn by most other film makers.It needs greater courage to consistently stick to the Macabre mode choosing a variety of themes that could hardly leave the audience undisturbed.Getting awards for one's films almost every time is also not an easy task.The all pervading tone of irony and pungent satire projected through the dialogues of his films is another asset of his peerless stamp of creativity.Above all,the fact remains that Bala's throes are born of the inner urge to expose the evil side of humanity without any excuses.It is equally true that he devoutly throws the throes into the heads of his specially targeted audience, to keep them perpetually awe struck and unnerved.It is like passing the pain to others, at their preference.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Sterling Younger Brother of Sridhar

                                                     { Homage to C. V. Rajendran.}


       C. V. Rajendran,one of the stylish Tamil film makers, is no more.His elder brother C.V.Sridhar who was associated with Tamil Cinema as a story and dialogue writer from 1954, directed and released his first block buster film Kalyana Parisu in 1959.Among his entries as a story and dialogue writer,Enga Veettu Mahalatchumi,Yaar Paiyyan,Amara Dheepam and Uthama Puthiran were very successful and their success was also due to the weight of his story and dialogues. C.V.Rajendran first joined Sridhar's creative crew, as an Assistant director for the famous Hindi film Dil Ekh Mandhir and worked in this capacity for nearly half a dozen films starting from Nenjam Marappadhillai to Nenjirukkumvarai, directed by Sridhar. Then C.V.Rajendran independently directed his first film Anubhavam Pudhumai, starring R.Muthuraman and Rajashri.
     Like his brother Sridhar,C.V.R was also fond of the acting calibre of Muthuraman.But unlike his brother who gave greater preference to Muthuraman than Sivaji Gabesan,and did a couple of films with MGR too, C.V.Rajendran never worked with MGR but soon shifted his focus on the Chevalier and went on to make more than a dozen films with him,starting from Galaattaa Kalyaanam to Vaazhkai. C.V.R's most prominent films with Sivaji Ganesan were Galaattaa Kalyaanam {remake of a Malayalam film},Raja,{Hindi Johnny Mera Naam}Needhi{Hindi Dushman}En Magan{Hindi Be Imaan} Sivakamiyin Selvan{Hindi Aaradhanaa}Vaani Raani {Hindi Seeta Aur Geeta}Unakkaaga Naan{Hindi Namak Haraam}Ponnoonjal, Manidharil Manickam, Sandhippu {Hindi Nazeeb} and Vaazhkai{Hindi Avataar}.His less popular Sivaji Ganesan films were Sangili{Hindi Kaalicharan} and Thiaagi. It is the unprecedented victory march of this duo that made me include C.V.R's contribution in my earlier article 'The Main Makers of Sivaji Movies"posted in my blog some time ago.
     C.V.R's other memorable films were Pudhiya Vaazhkai,Veettukku Veedu {both with Jai Shankar and Muthuraman},Maalai Sood Vaa, Ullaasa Paravaikal{both with Kamalahasan} Garjanai {with Rajinikanth}Raaja Veettu Kannukutti,Anand{both with Prabu}and Chinnappadas with Sathyaraj.One could find A.V.M Rajan and Muthuraman in quite a few well known films of this sleek director.The distinct dimension of C.V.R's  art of film making was the inclusion of  slapstick comedy and rib tickling romance blended with moderate action quotient.As a Sivaji Ganesan director,he carefully avoided the element of sentimental melodrama of A.C.Thirulogchandar,the sober sensibility of P.Madhavan and the family emotions of A.Bhimsingh.
     As most of C.V.R's films on Sivaji Ganesan were Hindi remakes,his filming process was almost a ready made journey and what he had to do was to add some Tamil cultural substance to his tone of narration. His inherent skills of film making were explicit through his breezy touches of comedy,love and action as  beautiful moments of film watch,especially in his great films like Galaattaa Kalyaanam,Raja,Veettukku Veedu,Vaani Raani and Ullaasa Payanam. While his Nil Kavani Kaadhali{another Jai Shankar film} and Chinnappadas were casual action films, Raaja belonged to the exuberant mode. Vaani Raani was almost a street show. En Magan was a serious and sincere adaptation of the Hindi original.His unique piece of tragedy was Vaazhkai,with a genuine and realistic portrayal of events and characters. Sumathi En Sundari and Ponnoonjal were exciting tales of romance enriched by the enthralling numbers Pottuvaitha Mugamo{rendered in the captivating voice of SPB during the earliest decade of his career, for Sumathi En Sundhari}and Aakaaya Pandhalile{an immortal duet in the voice of TMS and P.Susheela for Ponnoonjal}.Unakaaga Naan was a grand show of friendship surpassing filial requirements.
      C.V.Rajendran started his career of film making in the line of his elder brother reputed for  his extraordinary concepts of love and humour. But he slowly moved from this track to carve an individual status and position for himself. Luckily a vibrant producer like K.Balaji with an innate love for remaking films from other languages,joined hands with him and they both remade more than a dozen films without letting down the core of the original or the expectation of the Tamil audience.Their team spirit  precisely reflected a perfect grasping of the thumb rules of remaking other skits and it worked out very well.Consequently C.V.R proved to be the sterling brother of Sridhar in learning the art of making films and learning to make it as rightly as possible.There is no doubt that Tamil Cinema will cherish in its archives the wonderful contribution of this great director and the fact that a world class hero like Sivai Ganesan continued to patronize C.V.Rajendran is enough proof to speak of the grandeur of this film maker, who is no more today.

Two Unique Heroes of Tamil Cinema


       To be unique is to be distinct.In every field we have distinct men and women.When I say unique heroes I mean those belonging to a specific category, not simply stamping a special path in acting, as MGR and Rajinikanth or not like Sivaji Ganesan and Kamalahasan who are known for adorning the very profession of acting, by their galaxy and grandeur of role performance.What I mean here is, some persons are different from their colleagues and coevals in an all inclusive frame, that incorporates one's parentage, family and social background, educational aspects,individual charm and then their levels of performance in a particular field.When it includes similarities, such as the spot from where they begin their career and the roles in which they are cast,it makes the comparison of such personalities more interesting and worthwhile.It is in this singular perspective, I think of bringing R.Madhavan and Arvind Swamy together on a joint focus.
     It is quite interesting to note that both Madhavan and Arvind Swamy were born the same year and same month.The former is just a couple of weeks older than the latter.Both hail from fairly well to do families.While Madhavan's parents are former executive heads of the industrial and banking sectors, Arvind Swamy's father is a noted industrialist.As far as their educational background is concerned, Madhavan is an Electronics graduate with a Masters in Public Speaking;whereas Arvind Swamy holds a US Master's Degree in international business, following his graduation in commerce from Loyola College, Chennai. However,Madhavan who grew up in Jamshedpur and Mumbai, had his school and college education in the Northern States and also holds the special pride of having undergone training with the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.Apart from their elitist background the fact remains that Arvind Swamy is an entrepreneur with a flair for modelling.Both Madhavan and Arvin Swamy share the credit of occupying the small screen in compering T.V.shows and conducting programmes such as Neengalulm Vellalaam Oru Kodi respectively.
     Though they started their career in Tamil Cinema during different periods,both were introduced with a chocolate boy image, by the ace director Mani Rathnam.While Arvind Swamy stepped into Tamil cinema at the age of 21, as the half brother of Rajinikanth in Thalabathi in 1991, Madhavan embraced the Tamil big Screen only in the new millennium {2000},straight away as the charming hero of Mani Rathnam's illustrious romance Alai Payudhe.Madhavan continued the dream boy image in films like Minnale Ennavale, Parthaale Pravasam,Jay Jay,Run,Dum Dum Dum,Priyasakhi,Ariya,Priyamaana Thozhi and so on.He also had quite a few memorable action films in his kitty, like Thambi, Edhiri, Rendu , Vettai and Vikram Vedha.Some of his unusual films were Kannathil Muthamittaal,Ayudha Ezhuthu,Guru,{all Mani Rathnam films}Anbe Sivam,Nala Thamayandhi,Yevano Oruvan, Vaazhthungal and the horror film Yaavarum Nalam.
     Arvind Swamy's initial innings were with Mani Rathnam. Following Thalabadhi,he teamed up with the aesthetic film maker, for greatly credited movies like Roja and Bombay. Both these films carried his romantic image of charm and grace which he continued later, in En Swaasa Kaatre and Rajiv Menon's unforgettable romance Minsaara Kanavu.He was also the hero of Indhira, directed by Suhasini Manirathnam. Unlike Madhavan,Arvind Swamy had frequent spells of hiatus from acting.After several years he appeared in Manirathnam's Alai Paayudhe in 2000 and again in this director's failure film Kadal.Some of the other films of Swamy like Thaalaattu and Pudhaiyal were not received well by the audience.But he was reborn again with a revitalized profile, in M.Raja's Thani Oruvan with an enchanting,negative role package.The film was a grand show and made him come back to Tamil cinema with a big bang. It was followed by Bogan in which he once again joined hands with Jeyam Ravi.
     One could see a lot of underplay and subtle ecstasy, in the performance of Arvind Swamy whether he dons the role of a hero or villain.He is ever an actor with well regulated moves in his body and a remarkable control in his utterances of dialogues.He is an embodiment of visual grandeur in romantic sequences, with the felicity of imagination governing his role play, portrayed with perfect elegance as we witnessed in Bombay and Minsaara Kanavu. There would be romantic breeze gliding through his face, reflecting a beautiful blend of shyness, innocence and consummate joy,whenever he is shown falling in love.In Minsara Kanavu,when Prabu Deva is sent to Kajole as a proxy wooer,the amount of imagined romantic vibrations that Arvind Swamy silently exhibits on his face, was a classic visual treat to the audience.As a lover Arvind Swamy certainly scores a bit higher than Madhavan, because his face becomes a map of the integrated dimensions of love.
     On the other hand, the energy levels of Madhavan are always higher. He is ever a robust performer with an aggressive and emphatic tone delivery, coupled with a kind of proclaimed macho dominance in deliberation to the extent of putting others in a spot. Even the intermittent shaking vibration in his voice, animates his dialogue delivery by creating a turbulent throbbing effect. His romantic journey is also on tough tracks never letting down his fighting instinct.It is this vital side of the romantic, that came to his grip, in films like Run and Ariya.At the same time he is equally capable of revealing the softer side of romance, delicately displayed in Alai Paayedhe,Jay Jay,Paarthaale Paravasam and Priyasakhi. 
    Besides this, Madhavan's splendour in doing the role of a police officer has been shown in two extremes, one as a chicken hearted guy in kakhi uniform in Vettai and the other, as the 'brave new heart'of the cop without wearing kakhi, in Vikram Vedha.There is ever an attitude of determination and forbearance in Madhavan, with which he takes his characters closer to the heart of the audience, as he did in Thambi and Irudhi Chutru.As a restless and self prone youth in Anbe Sivam his character had a lot to learn from Kamalahasan,the main hero of the film. The immaturity of the character he played was very much in contrast to the character of a responsible husband of an understanding wife[beautifully played by Jyothika}in Priyamaana Thozhi.These films are samples of Madhavan's capacity for travelling through different zones in acting.
     On the emotional side Madhavan could explode spontaneously, unlike Arvind Swamy whose low profile emotional show, ever remains his singular asset.Though Madhavan has tried a negative role play in Manirathnam's Aayudha Ezhuthu,he has not been that impressive as Arvind Swamy who did  his negative role in Thani Oruvan by cutely mixing venom with warmth.Both Madhavan and Arvind Swamy are reputed for their English accent and it is no wonder that recently a Whatsapp message showing Madhavan delivering a lecture in an American University went viral. Madavan's proficiency in English has enabled him to act in a couple of English films.{Inferno,Nothing but Life}.His native familiarity with Hindi, has made him do a score of Hindi movies of which Three Idiots is very popular. As close contemporary heroes of Tamil cinema,both Madhavan and Arvind Swamy belong to an elite class of actors, with their distinct attributes and performance levels, that would hardly keep them off the centre stage of the celluloid world.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Classical Trinity of Music, in Movie Mode.


     Tamil Cinema has not only travelled far ahead, on ever-changing highways and exits, but has also deviated to a considerable extent,from the cherished dimensions of themes,both in story line and music.Today,film music has become more unconventional than even themes of story lines and their narrative techniques. Everyone is quite sure that today's film music will hardly outlive its time, because of its ephemeral ingredients.But the epic grandeur of Tamil film music, still holds good on account of its classic foundation, firmly rooted to Carnatic music.In fact, the effervescence of music began to rule Tamil Cinema, from the pre-independent years, dating back to the early Nineteen Forties.There existed mighty voices of men and women making Tamil cinema relevant, more on account of vocal music than anything, including the script and its narration.
    Among women there were three monumental voices with a peerless wield of range and throw, immensely reverberating the essence and excellence of Carnatic music. Of the the three women,the first two were born during the same decade{1910 to 1920}and the third was born in the next decade{1928}.They were Madhurai Shanmugavadivu Subbulakshmi, Damal Krishnasamy Pattammaal and Madras Lalitangi Vasanthakumari, who were proudly called the Female Trinity of Carnatic Music.
     With no knowledge of Carnatic music,besides having been born much later, when compared to them, I really stand at a point of disadvantage to speak about their myriad musical  mastery. But actors like MGR and T.R.Mahalingam were also born during the two decades cited and this blog carries articles on them.So I decided to adorn my blog with a tribute to these three  women, with an exclusive reference to their contribution to Tamil Cinema, which was purely a sequel to their dedication to Carnatic music.I thought I could speak of them in my own way with my limited scope and knowledge of these early musical charmers of Tamil Cinema.
    The point of difference that keeps the first two singers on the one side and the third musical voice on the other, is not only a span of ten years, but also the fact that while the first two women chose to sing only for five and a dozen movies respectively, the third singer would have succeeded them as playback singer, for nearly one hundred films that include her Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada entries.The other notable fact is that of these three women, it was M.S.Subbulakshmi who acted as the heroine of five great films, Sevasadhanam, Savithri, Sakuntala,Meera and Meerabai {Hindi remake of Meera}of which the last three were directed by the eminent American director Ellis. R. Dungan. 
   M.S.S was called 'the queen of music' by Pandit Nehru,the first Prime Minister of India.She was an awardee of several titles including the most coveted Bharat Ratna that gloriously crowned her in 1998,six years before her demise.Her probing voice pattern,mastery over Carnatic music and her most enviable singing ability made her an outstanding performer of all times.God seemed to speak to the human soul through her divinely dignified voice, not only in her perfect delivery of Venkateswara Suprabhatam,Vishnu Sahasranaamam,Bhaja Govindam, and Kuraiyonrumillai Maraimurthy Kanna, but also through her felicitous singing of film songs like'Kaatrinile Varum Geetham''Brindhavanathil Kannan Valarndha''Giridhara Gopala'{all from Meera}and"Engum Nirainaadha Brammhame '{Shakuntala}.
     My most favoured songs of M.S.S are,'Kuraiyonrumillai Maraimurthy Kanna'and 'Kaatrinile Varum Geetham'.The latter, I believe, would neatly transport us into a world of absolute  ecstasy.There is a deep sense of longing reflected at the beginning of the song, with the nuances of the fabulous voice, travelling through multi layers of emotions and culminating with a state of union with Peace.It is a kind of song that pierces the soul and heals it with simultaneous hitting and soothing notes.What more can a God sent voice do, other than absolving one's mind of all its curse and offering it consummate joy, parallel to bliss?A voice becomes a legend with its inner rhythms, rightly laid by the breath of divinity.It is this spiritual intricacy that has made the voice of M.S.Subbulakshmi, the most desired of all voices and the one closer to the threshold of the Sanctum Sanctorum.
    The voice of D.K. Pattammaal is on the other hand bound to the soil, as one purifying the air we breathe in,the water we drink,the earth we are born on and the fire that passes through our emotions.Moreover,her perfect and exquisite rendition of Pallavis, rightly earned her the title Pallavi Pattammaal. If M.S.S could sing to the ears of God,D.K.P could lift her voice up to the skies and sing in praise of her country and the national flag.Hers was a bold patriotic voice and hence the songs of Maha Kavi Subramanya Bharathi, gained greater impetus and the power of patriotism,through her inspiring voice.
    Apart from her song 'Dhesa Sevai Seyya Vareer'{Thiyaaga Bhoomi},which was written by Kalki R.Krishnamurthy, the other patriotic songs like 'Vetri Ettu Thikkum''Aaduvome Pallu Paaduvome'{Naam Iruvar},'Thoondir Puzhuvinaipol'{Vedhala Ulakam} and 'Bharatha Samoodhaayam Vaazhgave'{Vaazhkai}were all from the mighty pen of poet Bharathi, whose poetic cry for freedom,feminism and patriotism would ever remain not only as the beautiful part of Tamil literature, but also as the documentary evidence of the poetic fervour of nationalism. The other immortal song of Bharathi that Pattammaal sang was,'Theeraadha Vilaiyaattu Pillai' {Vedhaala Ulagam}.It is a still mystery how all the songs dedicated to Kanna {Lord Krsina} are supremely pleasing to the ears.This one in particular from DKP's scintillating voice, would remain as the earliest and most delightful piece,sung in praise of Kanna.
   Interestingly Pattammaal has also sung the song 'Vaishnava Janato' for Kamalahasan's Hey Ram under the musical composition of the music prophet Ilayaraja and she subsequently made her artistic contribution to the 'Jana Gana Mana Video Album' composed by the A.R.Rehman, the Oscar winner.It was no wonder that DKP too was a recipient of the PadmaVibushan, Sangeedha Kalanidhi,Sangeedha Saraswathi and quiet a few other awards.
    M.L.Vasanthakumari,the junior most among the three, was a singer with a stentorian voice mould.She could vigorously sustain her position as an invincible play back singer, for nearly two decades.She had a governing voice among the three singers,with which she could effectively compete with male singers like C.S.Jeyaraman,{'Kaani Nilam Vendum Parasakthi Kaani Nilam Vendum'from Andaman Kaidhi and'Manjal Veyil Maalaiyile' from Kaveri},T.M.Soundarajan {'Aadaadha Manamum Undoe',from Mannaadhi Mannan} Sirkazhi S.Govidarajan{'Mohana Renga Ennai Paaradaa' from Maamiyaar Mechiya Marumagal,'Aadum Arul Jodhi', from Meenda Sorgam and the light minded song 'Manasukkulle Marachuvaikka Mudiyalle' from the film Thilakam} and with V.N.Sundaram {'Chinnanjiru Kiliye Kannammaa' from Manamagal}.In all these songs referred to, she would have proved to be a tough challenger for the male voices.Particularly the song 'Aadaatha Manamum Undoe' would show a marvellous merging of the male and female voices in seamless unison and would ever remain as an impeccable song.
     The most exciting solo songs of MLV are 'Ayya Saami Avoji Saamy'{Ezhai Padum Paadu} 'Kadhavai Saathadi' {Ratha Kanneer} 'Aadal Kaaneero','Senthamizhaa Ezhundhu Vaaraayo' {both from Madhurai Veeran},'Konjum Puraave' {Thaai Ullam},and 'Kalaiyodu Kalandhadhu Unmai'{Mannaadhi Mannan}.MLV's songs with other female singers were equally popular with the audience those days.With P.Leela MLV sang the immortal song Ellaam Inbamayam {Manamagal}.She joined Radha Jeyalakshmi for the soothing number Olipadaitha Kanninaai Va Va{President Panchacharam}and with Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi she rendered  the fabulous song 'Varukiraal Unaithedi' for the great Sivaji Ganesan film Thanga Padhumai. 
    MLV would have sung the maximum number of songs in films like Raja Mukthi,Manamagal, Raja Rani,MandhirikumariThai Ullam,Maamiyaar Mechiya Marumagal and a couple of more films. The ruling voice of MLV has fittingly conquered the musical kingdom of Tamil Cinema, by her forthright grasp of lyrics and dynamic rendition of the musical notes, to the extent of making her songs, eternally fascinating.Her consistent and remarkable career of  playback singing, certainly deserved more awards than a mere Padmabushan. But her voice will be heard enchanting the ears of music lovers, with robust vibration.
   What has been said here in this brief article, is not going to supplement in any way, the status of the classical trinity of music, which has solidly established its indisputable brilliance,through peaks of performance and perfection.But it is just a modest attempt or a spec of the vast sky of the grandeur of music, perceived, rejoiced and remembered through the decades and is going to last, as long as human ears are open to the musical notes of the exalting, angelic voices.Today, we have words without music, or music without words.There are creditable lyricists and commendable music makers.But somewhere something goes wrong, either depriving the lyrics of the merit they deserve, or distracting music from the precious goals it wants to reach.There is a huge galaxy of singers with enormous potential, to reach out to the audience.Unfortunately, the end result does not outlive the period of its delivery. Under these circumstances, this article has given me a chance for revisiting the awe inspiring and resplendent relics of our traditional portals, by recalling memories of the classical trinity of music.