Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Bhagyaraj Bonhomie.









         




     The name Bhagyaraj, if translated in to English,will literally mean the King of Benediction. Indeed Bagyaraj has been luckier than others not because he is an actor and director but because he is one of the film personalities enjoying the bonhomie of a vast section of the people of Tamil Nadu.It  must be only due to his geniality and his inherent sense of humour, that he very often stretches to the extent of making himself a butt of ridicule.Self targeted humour is not an easy thing to successfully execute and customize.But for Bhagyaraj that is his special asset and it comes to him like child'splay. 
         Bhagyaraj has been equally fortunate as a director and actor.While other directors turned to acting after a considerable stint in directing films with other heroes ,Bhagyaraj had the distinct position of directing himself as hero. Other directors like Manivannan,Sundarrajan, Manobala and P.Vasu could play only character, villain and comedy roles. Bagyaraj started his career as hero in Director Barathi Raja's 'Pudiya Vaarpugal' with Radhi Aknihotri as his female pair.He played in that movie, the character of a school teacher struggling to break the superstitious beliefs of the people in the village where he worked.The film was given an A certificate and I remember taking my fifteen year old brother in law with me and he was denied entry into the theatre on account of that. Interestingly, there was nothing meant only for an adult watch in that film, other than the climax that contained the situation of a virgin being forced to make a nude walk around the village based on the superstitious belief, that if she did so,the drought hit village would get rains.The heroine of the film had to undertake the ordeal and there was no visual in this regard.But even a concept not meant for adolescents was kept out of their reach,those days.
    After appearing as a crude villain in 'Kanni Paruvathile', Bhagyaraj became a full fledged director-cum-hero of his movies. Following his footsteps,a line of directors like Pandiarajan  Parthiban Sundar.C and S.J.Soorya also began to direct themselves as heroes. 
      Bhagyaraj is the only constant bespectacled hero with a jarring voice pattern. But these so called draw backs have actually pushed him forward as his special attraction.His voice was initially dubbed for his first movie and after that he tried his own voice and it clicked perfectly for a distinct style of dialogue delivery.His innate flair for mischief could be seen not only in his dialogues but also in his choice of titles for his movies.Some of his film titles like 'Indru Poei Naalai Vaa' 'Mundhanai Mudichu' Idhu Namma Aaalu'  and 'Veitiya Madichkattu' will reflect the undertone of mischief. But he is also good at creating poetic titles like  'Mouna Geedhangal' 'Dhaavanikkanavugal' and 'Suvar Illaatha Sithirangal'.
     Most of the films of this special category of director [special in the sense that he extracts more of his own creative energy and histrionics for the over all quality of his films] have shown in clear terms, his focus on variety in themes and story line because even if his acting pattern is going to remain the same,the freshness in other areas will not disappoint his regular audience.His main thrust has been on the conjugal side with its manifold patterns of man woman understanding of a routine of domestic give and take for a peaceful and happy coexistence.He was a struggling husband in 'Mouna Geedhangal', a mesmerized  son in 'Enga Sinna Raasaa' a sentimental stuff in 'Raasukkutti' an enlightened music teacher with a respect for tradition in 'Andha Ezhu Naatkal' a responsible elder brother in 'Dhaavanikkanavugal' and a kind of 420 in 'Idhu Namma Aaalu'.
    His two movies with an undercurrent of the tragic element were 'Suvar Illaadha Sithirangal',and 'Pavunu Pavunudhan' In the latter,Bhagyaraj appears as an army man and a humanist going to the extent of pulling the chains of a running train to stop it, in order to trace a baby's pacifier that slipped off the train.And that was the starting scene of that movie.  Bhagyaraj has also tried his hand with themes of crime thrillers as dialogue writer for 'Oru Kaidhiyin Diary','Tik Tik Tik' and as director for his 'Vidiyum Varai Kathiru'.
     In between his directorial ventures,Bhagyaraj has also acted in films under the direction of others. He was the hero of Sujatha Cine Arts'En Rathathin Rathame' directed by K.Vijayan. It was a remake of the Hindi blockbuster 'Mr.India' starred by Anil Kapoor.Meenakshi Seshadri,the popular Hindi heroine of those days, was paired with Bhgyaraj. He has also acted in S.A.Chandrasehar's 'Naan Sigappu Manithan' starred by Rajinikanth and as a private detective,his natural gusto of humour was a perfect foil to the seriousness of the Superstar.
         Similarly,in 'Rudra' in the role of a petty thief assisting the police to track a major criminal network,he provided endless laughter moments for the audience by his funny looks and mischievous banter creating a lot of tension for the police officer Lakshmi. The film was directed by Sasi Mohan.Bhagyaraj made the unusual effort of unearthing an incomplete MGR film that could not be released,added his well known creative potential and made it a full length action movie doing  dual roles as MGR would normally do.The title of the movie was 'Avasara Police 100', and with a lot of comedy element and with two heroines [Silk Smitha and Gowthami] the  final product became a casual piece of entertainment.
     However, the sum total of any Bhagyaraj movie will be a captivating screen play with an even mix of sentiments and emotion with an inseparable Bhagyaraj brand of humour interlinking one scene with the other.He has inducted all the female talents of his time like Radhika, Sulakshana, Ambika, Rohini, Radha,  Poornima,Shobana, Gowthami,Aishvarya, and Saritha to be his heroines .In his later movies he has also acted with Kushboo and Nagma. But he would have acted more movies with Radhika sharing a lot of healthy banter with her.  
     As far as his dialogues are concerned,it is a pure stuff of everyday reality,with arguments rising from common sense, blended with the ingredients of the rural conventions and habits.His robust reference to sex, through common place indicators, which may include even an ordinary vegetable like drumstick, will ensure that there is no harping on cheap taste and vulgarity.His films like 'Mouna Geedhangal' 'Mundhanai Mudichu' and 'Chinna Veedu' were criticized by some, as bordering on obscenity in certain respects.But the very fact that all these movies were box office hits, confirmed their acceptance and reception as great entertainers.
    The creative imagination of Bhagyaraj can capture the sentimental,practical and idealistic dimensions of the romance domain. His vigorous and successful attempts at marrying his maternal uncle's daughter in 'Thooral Ninnu Pochu', showed the presence of family sentiment, in realizing the romance component.His 'Darling Darling Darling' was an ideal celebration of childhood love, developing into an undying romance and the film was a decent demonstration of love, besides bringing together the hero Bhagyaraj and heroine Poornima Jeyaram, as husband and wife in real life.Most of his other films, exhibited the mischievous outbursts and efforts of the hero, to get the girl whom he loved, or, who loved him, as his life partner.It is the practical approach of Bhagyaraj in narrating tales of romance, that has taken him closer to his fans.
   These days, Bhagyaraj has become an energetic character actor, as we recently saw him in 'Unakkum  Enakkum Something Something' and 'Uthamaputhiran'.As a director, his film 'Sokka Thangam' with Vijayakanth as hero, was a clean family entertainer and his film 'Paarijaatham', with his daughter playing as heroine, was fairly good.. It is true that the best of Bhagyaraj has already been delivered.But the best of his talent as director and actor, is still there, in its ever cheerful and laughter-prone package in store, ready to entertain us.The benign look and cheerful attitude combined with his merrymaking tone of delivery, are the standard trade marks of Bagyaraj, that call for a continuance of the bonhomie  between him and his supportive audience base.
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Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Two Big B's of Tamil Films.










          They are not actors but makers of actors.They made themes,stories and characters as the most beautiful creative explorations of life.They deserve a unique place in the Tamil film industry for making it move on, at two different periods,in two different levels for an inclusive growth of talents jointly involved in the process of film making.Their creative dimensions were totally different;so were their attitudes and outlooks towards realizing their twin goals of exposition of existing social ethos and exaltation of their respective vision of the art of film making. One had an open and subtle audio vision agenda, had substance and depth, that would be dearer to the growing urban middle class.But the other man thought that his product should always evolve from the soil, that became his body and mind and he wanted to reach out to a vast  section of familiar people, who would also become the subject matter of his movies  This striking difference in approach, might be because of the generation gap that existed between them and the needs and priorities in their perception.But both did for the Tamil film society, what had to be done during their respective times. One is the ever invincible K.Balachander and the other the indomitable Barathi Raja.
       Though both of them hail from the rural side of Tamil Nadu, Balachander has generally been a man of the educated urban elite, not turning to the village side, in search of stories and characters. But the Theni man is mostly a true son of the soil, here and there, picking up one or two plots from the urban block that too for picturing themes of criminality and villainy.While Balachander first made his entry as a dialogue writer for films like 'Deivathai'  'Server Sundaram' and 'Neelavanam' the other B, straight away launched his directorial flight calling it a day never to fail. His very first film '16 Vayadinile' endeared him to the Tamil speaking world at large.
       Both these eminent directors are reputed for not sticking to a particular theme or way of presentation. Balachander could be an idealist at one spell and become an iconoclast in the next.His intelligence and sharpness of understanding of the basic core of film making, have always remained his amazing merits.It could be categorically said, that his first decade of film making was grandly on the side of the gloried edifices of the traditional mould. For instance,Truth as the most unshakable basis of life was emphatically told in his 'Punnagai' .The inseparable bond of the conjugal prototype, was adored in 'Iru Kodugal'. A platonic love story with shades of nobility of the human spirit, was the strength of narration in 'Vellivizha' . 'Major Chandrakanth' reaffirmed the significance of  modesty and chastity of  woman, as something that could not be compromised on any account. 
      While Balachander's 'Thanneer Thanneer' assertively fought for a highly genuine social cause,his 'Achamillai Achamillai' [both won National award] like his 'Aval Oru Thodarkadhai' Avargal and Manadhil Urudhi Vendum,focussed our attention on women's suppression and suffering, with a wonderful difference in depiction of the same issue in different  perspectives.His other great production 'Varumaiyin Niram Sigappu' truly pinpointed society's compunction in not taking into cognizance the gory consequences of poverty and unemployment.As a contrast, his later release Unnaal Mudiyum Thambi sowed the seeds of optimism and confidence building as the vital threads of survival mechanism. More than being a thoughtful and thought provoking director,he has always remained a sensitive and responsible human being, with an awareness of issues and concerns of individuals and their living environment.
     Quite often, Balachander's invaluable insight and intellectual appeal put him at an advantageous position in exposing effectively the socio- psychological predicament of humanity.He has let out the lighter side of his creativity with equal efficacy through his catchy story line and characters in films like 'Ethir Neechal' and 'Bama Vijayam.' His idea of the humour sense, was intelligently conceived and demonstrated, in his films 'Anubavi Raja Anubavi' and 'Thillumullu',It was really a tribute to music he paid in 'Ninaithale Inikkum' through a nostalgic blend of laughter and grief and later in Sindhu Bhairavi.While the former rejoiced over the grandeur of Western notes the latter was a poignant celebration of carnatic music and folk songs.
       This brainy director, who qualitatively spent a decade in exhibiting the perfect side of life, soon nosedived to drive home the other side of human perversion and aberrations.It all started with his film Arangetram that told impressively the sad story of a family girl taking to prostitution to support her mother and siblings. The film poignantly put forth the director's critical observation of the perverted mindset of the exploiting male and the oppressed female.Even in 'Aval oru Thodarkadhai' there were aberrations like neglect of family responsibilities by the male head,and the helpless woman protagonist taking over the role of the bread winner with her never terminating saga of suffering and sacrifice.Through these movies,the director tried to lift sex from its taboo perceptions and made it a topic of discourse.
      Then came his most controversial 'Aboorva Raagangal' with a vastly deviating story line of young adults craving for a marriage with persons older to be their parents. The movie created disturbing sensations, but won the National award as the best feature film of the year. Balachander's 'Thappu Thaalangal' released later, reveled in aberrations and social misdemeanor The wide reception for a consecutive show of  unconventional themes and characters, made him realize that the new trend he had created, was going to stay for long, to fulfill the new generation's dreams and perceptions on the creative front. 
    Unlike Balachander, BarathiRaja was making films on the good and bad precipitations of life in a succession.Initially his thrust  was on  rustic themes that were riveted to romance and the age old traditions of the village mode, in films like '16 Vayadhinile' 'Kizhakke Pogum Rayil','Niram Maaraadha Pookal' and 'Pudhiya Vaarpugal' . Then he shifted the focus to psychic malaise, criminality and political satire in movies like 'Sigappu Rojakkal' 'Tik,Tik,Tik' and 'Oru Kaidhiyin Diary'.His 'Alaigal Oivadhillai' and 'Vedam Pudidhu' boldly and poetically interpreted the pressures of religion and caste on individuals' right to choose their conjugal partners.Both the award winners, reflected an aesthetic evolution of the concept of love and its beautiful dimensions and the latter was rich in characterization bringing out the extraordinary acting potential of Sathyaraj as Baluthevar.
    While A.V.M's 'Pudhumaipen' under Barathi Raja's streamlined direction, brought forth the fiery spirit of feminist rage against undue male chauvinism and suppression of the basic rights of women, the earlier 'Manvaasanai' that introduced Pandian and Revathi to Tamil cinema, truly smelt the Tamil soil, known for sprouting values of a classic world order.
    The poet in Barathi Raja was ever vibrant and sensuously excited whenever he happened to deal with the romantic element and his fecund imagination bloomed with  unseen petals of  colourful flowers of romance. His most refined and felicitous expression of love in 'Mudal Mariyadhai' struck deeply the emotions of the audience as an ever enduring experience in film watching.It was the grand message of ideal love transcending the parameters of age,body and all other material considerations. But the love story of a rugged uneducated village youth for an educated school teacher in 'Kadalora Kavidhaigal' was an aggressive outburst of juvenile sentiments bound to nothing but love, to the extent of being obsessed.
    The major difference between the two big profile directors is their creative base.If the Balachander school grooms talents for a down- to- earth, experiential programme,the Barath Raja academy kindles emotions and elevates talents for a flying experience in the enjoyment of everything that is beautiful.It does not mean that the latter is promoting an escapist formula.The rural realities with their native slang,the large warmheartedness behind the smallness of exteriors, the petty  scuffles in the midst of big bonhomie,the family feuds followed by an exemplary spirit of cordiality are the usual attributes of a Barathi Raja movie.Films 'Kizhakku Cheemaiyile' and 'Pasumpon' are there to prove how realism finds a vital place in the scripts of Barathi Raja. But the  point is,the theme of romance being a predominant factor in most of his pictures,Barathi Raja capitalizes on his poetic ability to extol the romantic fervour to adorable proportions .He has his heroes and villains, at times, the community rituals and inter-communal clashes getting into the garb of villainy to thwart the glorious dreams of romance.His lovers would have failed to get united; but the impact of his romantic show has always retained the victory trophy. 
    Both the big B's are the proud makers of heroes and heroines by honing talents through demonstration and extraction.But K.B can be prouder for introducing Rajinikanth into acting in a new range of style that took its myriad wings to make him the Superstar today.The two directors have brought out some of the best acting fundamentals of Kamalahasan and Rajinikanth. However, KB can claim a bigger role for honing the acting patterns of the two top most thespians of the Tamil film industry, today.The romantic theme, which has gone into the making of many films of Barathi Raja, has attracted KB once a way as in 'Thaamarai Nenjam' 'Kaviyathalaivi',Sollathaan Ninaikiren' and Punnagai Mannan, which were all inseparably stuck to tragic undercurrents.
      Barathi Raja owes the richness of music in his movies, to the maestro Ilayaraja ;whereas, music and not the music director that has been part of the various inventive formulations of the  film making concept of Balachander. However he laid the main thrust on music in a few films like 'Ninaithaale Inikkum' 'Sindu Bairavi' and Punnagai Mannan. Barathiraja on the other hand, made music a vital segment of the aesthetic component of all his films.
   KB has been very sensitive to the negative side of human psyche particularly in matters of sex, which he did not hesitate to expose either suggestively or directly through his characters. As far as Barathi Raja is concerned, negative psychological factors were not his priority issue,except for his projection of a misogynistic character, in 'Sigappu Rojakkal'. Even in that film,the hero is finally shown as getting psychologically retrieved from the mania, by the nobility of his wife. His filming pattern has always been forthright,emotionally true,and poetically pervasive. KB would never forego his intellectual thrust in film-making in exchange for any other creative mechanism.The dialogues of KB would quite often move to  ratiocination, to prove the supremacy of the intellectual order. Barathi Raja would never allow his characters to get estranged from the main stream in speech and behaviour.
       The regular film watching group of the urban middle class should feel indebted to KB for having entertained them with films of quality with conviction and steadfastness.The entire rural population along with other film goers, should be grateful to BarathiRaja, for making them relive their routine on the big screen by enhancing the quality of their day-to-day dreams and real-life expectations.The positively winning argument is that, both these big men of the Tamil film industry, as makers of its destiny during their period of active film making, were firmly rooted to their creative norms and they never failed in their mission to make the celluloid medium, a powerful pathway to reach the masses. What took them closer to the audience, was their independent creative formulation,confident throw of their creative potential and celebration of their art experience, without pretense of any kind. It is this distinct characteristic that binds them together.
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Clean Movie Concept.

                 























   Every one is familiar with categories of films as comedies and tragedies,action movies and family dramas, thrillers and horror movies. But the term clean movie is something that most of the film goers can not interpret because such a thing is beyond the purview of some of the film makers themselves. Many do not know that a clean movie is like a clean environment that becomes indispensable for a healthy life. Clean movies can spring only from a clean creative mind that does not permit even a backdoor entry of the undesirable, that would impregnate a skit with impurities.A clean movie is a fountain of positive energy that makes the audience sit up to receive a flow of ideas emotions and experiences that become a recipe for new directions in real life.A clean movie never hurts the audience either physically or emotionally and it is always meant for a family watch.
         A clean film may be a comedy or tragedy or family drama.Some times even action movies could be clean in their perspective and presentation.The most discordant elements of a clean picture are the reels of perversity,manipulation,backstabbing,crude display of obscenity,and sadistic villainy  that reflect a state of diseased psyche. People after all, go to the cinema houses to be away, at least for a short time, from the pressing ordeals of their routine.If their thinking is air lifted for breathing in, fresh ideas through visuals and words,we can say the film has served the purpose for which it was made.It does not mean that films should be instructive or moralistic,because that is not the objective of cinema.But definitely one should not show wrong roads with dead ends, as the route to enjoyment. Negative themes are certainly road blocks for those who want to travel safely to their entertainment terminals. 
     Can any one say that a movie like 'Missiamma' did not entertain or it disturbed their mind as an entertainer?It was a clean comedy without any trace of vulgarity or negative undercurrents.'Adutha Veetupen' was another great comedy of this generation that proved its clean format from beginning till the end. 'Bama Vijayam' was again a clean comedy show,with a throw of lessons on frugality and decent living. Balachander's other movie 'Punnagai' was a clear journey towards the destination of Truth,without any deviation and his'Vellivizha' established a clean scope for man-woman relationship surpassing the demands for sexual intimacy. Cho Ramasamy's 'Unmaye Un Vilai Enna' was an unassailable satire on society in a motiveless laughter mode. 
     Most of the movies of Sridhar like 'Sumaidhangi,' 'Policekaranmagal' ,'Nenjil Oer Alayam' carried an ennobling stuff.  Manirathnam's 'Mounaragam' was a fascinating presentation of the conjugal core,decently told. Vikraman's tremendous source of positive thinking has made many of his movies clean to the best of his intentions.He makes his protagonists do their best to make others happy and never allows them to indulge in depression and tragic philosophizing. This supreme element of positive selflessness was the base of all his movies like 'Poove Unakkaga','Sooryavamsam' 'Unnai Ninaithu' 'Vanathaipola' and 'Unnidathil Ennai Koduthein' .Even the comedy portions in his movies were generally unpolluted.
     How beautifully, Lingusamy the maker of speedy action movies, came out with a clean family drama in 'Anandam' and made all those who watched the movie, enjoy.There was a particular scene in that movie, showing the arrival of an undesirable man stepping on a heap of cow dung, to mean symbolically,how unpleasant the filth was going to be,for the emotionally clean family fabric.
     Ezhil demonstrated a decent show of love in 'Thullaadha Manamum Thullum' and 'Poovellaam Unvaasam' Similarly Rajeev Menon was true to the concept of making clean movies by presenting love stories with dignity and grace both in 'Kandukondein Kandukondein' and 'Minsaarakkanavu' Though the hero was a confused  lot in Karu Pazhaniappan's 'Parthiban Kanavu,' the clear headed director ultimately made the hero realize the cleaner roots of conjugal life. In 'Mugavari' Durai finely presented the concerted efforts of a family to help the hero realize his dreams of becoming a  music director. Vasanth is another notable director who has made clean movies like 'Keladi Kanmani' and 'Poovellaam kettuppar' that entertained everybody, without sound and fury.
      Agathiyan's 'Kadal Kottai' and 'Gokulathil Seedhai' told tales of romance and  transformation of  character from promiscuity to plain living respectively,with a clean mode of narration. Ravichandran should also be complimented for his clean sense of screen play in his 'Kannethire Thounrinal' that made a love story decently watchable. 
       Some of the recent family entertainers like M. Raja's 'Santhosh Subramaniam',Mithran Jawhar's 'Uthama Puthiran',and R.Kannan's 'Jeyankondan', can surely be included in the list of clean movies. Cheran's 'Barathi Kannamma' and 'Autograph'  Sasi's 'Rojakootam' Saran's 'Vasool Raja MBBS' and the grand master Shankar's latest film 'Nanban' have all generated a lot of positive energy and cathartic content to occupy proud positions as clean productions.
      Malayalam film directors like Fazil,Sibi Malayil and Kamal are best known for their forthright moves towards making films of a classic, clean order.Most of the Malayalam films of Fazil  and their Tamil remakes were of the cleanest stuff.Some of his Malayalm hits that need a special mention are 'Life is Beautiful' 'Noketha Dhoorathu Kannum Nattu' [Tamil'Poove Poocudava']'Aniyathpravu' [Tamil'Kadhalukku Maryadhai']and his other Tamil films like 'En Pommu Kutti Ammavukku'and 'Poovizhi Vaasalile'. Sibi Malayil's 'Summer in Bethlehem' is also a precise example of what a clean film could be.
       Bagyaraj,the master craftsman whose different voice of humour and healthy mischief have endeared him to a vast section of the Tamil audience,and the women section in particular,has mostly dwelt on the ticklish issues of man-woman sexual relationship and family emotions.But he has come out with two cleanest films from his directorial delivery point.The first one was 'Darling Darling and Darling' that narrates a story of serene romance cherished from childhood with shades of innocence and naive indulgence.This movie is also credited for bringing actor Purnima to the family net of Bayaraj as his wife in real life. The other movie 'Sokka Thangam' starring Vijayakanth and Prakash Raj,both acting in a low profile, was an unadulterated family drama with  characters and situations  making a clean impact on the audience.
      Radha Mohan,the recent breeze of Tamil cinema,should be commended for consistently clinging to the concept of clean cinema, His films, like those of Vikraman, provide a soothing touch with a qualitative inclusion of the clean characteristics. We can take home memories of the feel of an  all pervading clean sense in all his movies released so far.  His poetic and suggestive titles like 'Azhagiya Theeye'. and 'Mozhi' with a speech impaired heroine, enrich the aesthetic value. 'Abiyum  Naanum' was an exuberant show of paternal love with a subtle presentation of sublime emotions of a devoted father undergoing the plight of parting with his beloved daughter. Even the narration of his latest 'Payanam', containing  the story of hijack of a flight by terrorists,was a breezy affair, with a greater thrust on the funny and serious behavioural patterns of the flight passengers rather than making it a typical high end action drama. One can say for sure, that none of his outputs, carried anything undesirable so as obstruct a healthy watch.
      Each one definitely has an inbuilt attitude, formula and impetus of thought process for film making so as to give shape to one's creative urge in one's own style.The struggles undergone by movie makers to produce films that would truly portray their dreams and aspirations, are known only to them.The intention of the writer is not to down grade great movies of other genres.But the point of observation made here,is that,those who responsibly take care of the mental and emotional health of the audience, deserve a special mention.
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Monday, October 15, 2012

The Great Action Movie Makers in Tamil.


























      Speed,chase and run, crime and escape, detection and capture,suspense and thrill, sustained tempo,struggle for possession or retrieval and the power of the body and mind towards executing tasks on hand, are the essential ingredients of a specific genre of films, known as Action movies.Action movies were originally more common in English and Hindi. Soon, Telugu and Tamil film producers also learnt to catch up with this trend. Malayalm production houses who stuck to the inextricable root of realism, were subsequently forced to fall in line,to retain audience support and patronage.
      Among the old Tamil production units,it was Modern Theatres which cherished the action movie concept closer to its film making agenda. From the days of 'Mandirikumari' speed and action became the top most priority of this film production company.They produced many action hits like 'Alibabvum Naarpadhu Thirudargalum' 'Kaithi Kannayiram' 'Vallavanukku Vallavan' 'Iru Vallavargal' and 'Vallavan Oruvan'. With the restricted reach of trendy technical resources, Gemini Studios intelligently magnified the action formula in their films like 'Chandralekha' and 'Vanjikkottai Vaaliban' to project speed and tempo of an amazing range .The commercial and creative interests of these companies were to keep the audience actively entertained throughout the movie- watching experience.The Devar Films unit was also seriously involved in making many action films with MGR as its most cherished protagonist.   
       MGR could be called the first great action hero in Tamil. No MGR film could be conceived without stunt scenes because this mass hero firmly believed in the installation of his macho image by excelling in physical feats.His acting space almost exhausted all aspects of the physical show like fencing, boxing and other types of stunts that included fisticuffs. He executed the stunt sequences with utmost speed and time sense, that could be considered difficult during his time. MGR's own production house Sathya Movies put up a brave action show by releasing fast moving films like 'Theivathai' 'Kannipen' 'Kaavalkaaran' Moonru Mugam 'Kaakichattai' 'Thangamagan'
and Baasha.
       Jai Shankar who joined the fray nearly two decades after MGR began his film career,also fitted perfectly into the action mode in films, that came from the Modern Theatres and Sathya Movies. Though not talented in fencing,Jai Shankar was not lacking in other areas of stunt making. Both MGR and Jai Shankar were chic and smart, as detectives and police officers.
      The R.R.PPictures was another action film makers from whose banner,fast movies like 'Naan'  'Periya Idathu Pen' and 'Parakkum Paavai' were released. K.Balaji the uncrowned king of remakes, under his Sujatha Cine Arts and then Suresh Balaji Combines,was well known for his action formula hits like Sivaji Ganesan's 'Raja'[A remake of Hindi Johnny Mera Naam'] and 'En Mahan' [Hindi 'Be Iman'],Kamalahasan's 'Savaal' and 'Sattam' Rajini's 'Billa'.and Viduthalai'' [Hindi 'Qurbani']and Satyaraj's 'Makkal En Pakkam' [Malayalam 'Rajavinda Mon']
      The greatest action movie of the late eighties was Kamalahasan's 'Aboorva Sagodharargal' directed by Singeetham Srinivasa Rao,with an astonishing level of speed in narration and a foremost commitment to entertain the audience through a refreshing presentation of a theme of revenge, that film goers would not have experienced earlier. From toddlers to elders, every one enjoyed that movie. Rajinikanth's 'Badsha'.from the deft hands of Suresh Krishna, was another racing action film with an undeterred tempo that kept the audience tied to the screen.But the film contained an over doze of violence.
        As technology advanced fast,speed became a cake walk for movie makers.Action magnitudes began to make a stunning impact on the audience.The astounding speed range witnessed in 'Run' a title justifying its relevance to the story,not only made it a prime action film but also projected the  director's flawless perception of what an action picture is and how it should be executed. That Lingusamy, could change his genre so soon and make a totally different kind of movie like 'Aanandam' was really incredible.Equally unbelievable was the fact, that he could carry on the action formula unflinchingly in his other movies 'Sandakkozhi' 'Payya' and 'Vettai' Lingusamy could rightly be called the lion among action makers.
    P.Vasu,the variety provider among directors adeptly handled his flair for an impressive action show in films like  'Water Vetrivel', 'Vaimaye Vellum'  'Sethupathi IPS' and 'Malabar Police'.Of the four,the first one was his best, delivering dialogue and action with fire and force.The second in the list, interestingly narrated the hero Parthiban's struggles against his cruel and corrupt father in police uniform.While Vijayakanth showed his muscle power as Sethupathi IPS, Sathyaraj once again proved his pep as a spirited police officer in 'Malabar Police' after his mighty show as the impeccable Walter Vetrivel.K.S.Ravikumar,the man with an acumen for the success formula, deviated once, from his pet theme of family drama of the rural vein, to make the block buster action movie 'Villain'
     Saran's action world is full of  youthful energy with a speed of the unexpected. His themes are mostly related to the struggles for love with a breezy mix of mischief and juvenile thirst for adventure and animation.His films,especially those starring Ajith were bubbling with enthusiasm for a mega action feel.Films like 'Kadal Mannan' and 'Amarkalam' were fast in narration while 'Attakaasam'and 'Asal' moved on with controlled style and speed.The other name known for unstoppable speed and action is Hari who has given us amazing action films like Saami and Singam.
      If Arjun could be called the action king among actors,Dharani deserves that title for his speed efficacy in direction.His 'Dil','Dhool' and 'Gilli' as the titles themselves suggest, were admired for the tremendous force and speed in exposition stamping a mark of physical and moral courage.'Gilli' in particular made a sparkling demonstration of street bravery,as a muscular storm, igniting the thrill of the audience, for an unusual experience in jet speed cinematography.
     K. Subash has in his kitty films like 'Bramma' 'Abimanyu' and 'Chathriyan' [the last a Manirathnam Production] that speak of his potential for making action movies of enduring stuff. R.K.Selvamani's 'Captain Prabakaran' with that train chase scene in particular, was an exciting action treat, though his other action films like 'Makkal Aatchi' and 'Arasial' needed more speed in narration. Vijayakanth has acted in many action movies,but Thiagarajan's 'Managarakaaval' from the AVM Productions, Maharajan's 'Vallarasu' and K.S Ravi's 'Honest Raj' find a special place among his action films because of the unexpected twists in the first two and the level of emotion generated by betrayal of friendship in the latter.
     Pratap Pothan's 'Vetrivizha' [from Sivaji Productions] as well as his 'Jeeva', and Joshi's 'Airport' were wonderful action films.Similarly, Pavithran's 'Sooryan' and Arjun's 'Jai Hind' were grand action shows too.Prabu Deva the electrifying dancer and actor demonstrateded his directorial efficacy by screening an uninterrupted action show in his Telugu remake 'Pokkiri' as K.V Anand generated freshness in the action genre through his latest release' Ko'. M.Raja well known for his expertise in sentiment and family emotion,gave us an all- time family entertainer-cum action bonanza in 'Velayutham'. Murugadoss another variety master proved his skill in making action hits like 'Gajini' 'Ramana' and 'Thuppaakki',though crude violence dominated in the Gajini. Sankar, the technology wizard, made his emphatic entry into the director's domain by his ever talked about first venture 'Gentleman' that was exuberantly action-packed.
     From my five decade old movie viewing experience, I have listed the names of most of the Tamil action movie makers who formed part of my memory stretch and I have also included  some of the titles of action films, that made me happily masticate their action segment again and again.The action film genre is always the most popular and ever patronized movie type.But it requires a lot of united creative effort, to keep on infusing freshness in presentation so that one action movie is believed to be different from the other in story line and narration.The most important requirement is to keep the momentum intact, by introducing twists in characterization, speed in motion and over all quality, that makes the output, pleasantly watchable and worthy of its name. 
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Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Changing Phases of Comedy in Tamil Cinema.

                     
























      Laughter is a universally approved therapy for the mind, laid up with its myriad moods.N.S Krishnan,the Tamil comedian of tall order,sang a memorable number classifying the different kinds of laughter.If laughter can be of so many types,one can imagine the scope and levels of the comedy spirit generating laughter.This comedy spirit, is the outcome of sharing of moods and views, in a gregarious get together of people, with a genuinely socializing attitude. In a formal  creative background,the comedy spirit takes on a regulated and systematized pattern to deliver the intended effect through books, radio stations,the drama stage,and the screens, big and small.Any pattern of comedy for that matter, is a bilateral formulation consisting of the comedy- making unit and the recipients of  humour . The patterns of comedy, change periodically.Films are no exceptions to this change.
       Comedy plots in Tamil films, have smoothly moved from one phase to the other,sensing the pulse of the audience.Quite often as a coherent sub plot, it forms a compact layer of the main plot.At times, it becomes an independently identifiable subplot, without joining the main story domain. Once a way, comedy itself takes the main course of action of a film, with tailor made situations and sensible  verbal interactions among characters occupying the show, leading to hilarious moments.The comedy element in Tamil films has been physical or verbal,slapstick or farcical, comedian-oriented or context-oriented, depending upon, the changing popular mood and reception.
       During the days of Kali N.Rathinam,T.S Dorai Raj and N.S Krishnan, the comic element was intrinsically bound to dialogues but carried its impact on the audience not only through healthy banter, but also through facial expressions and body language of the actors.These comedians were not noisy,and they measured their utterances with common sense and witticisms without bordering on vulgarity. There were no dry jokes either.The comic spirit was always a part of the conversation as we could find in 'Malaikallan' between the Police inspector M.G.Chakrabani and the head constable T.S.Dorairaj. The frequent interruptions of T.S.Dorairaj might irritate the Inspector but would never fail to send the audience into continued spells of laughter.
       N.S.Krishnan was a personification of clean humour. He would not strain his nerves to tickle the audience. His tone of satire and his positive comments implying a sense of disapproval of the existing systems and values,were his specific assets built up with a mature perception of the humour concept. His controlled delivery of dialogues would tease but not hurt because he knew how to assuage the feelings of the fellow comedians. Along with his wife T.A.Madhuram, NSK always resorted to a pleasing, well planned,and coordinated comedy throw, of a mutually amicable couple.The comedy track of NSK would certainly keep intact the  social values, cherished during his time, besides trying to take a dig at the highly prevalent superstitious beliefs. We could categorically say that the NSK couple, always provided responsible comedy,joining hands with great heroes like  MKT Bagavathar, MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan.
     J.P.Chandrababu and K.A.Thangavelu who came later, had also acted with NSK, but they both provided comedy in two diagonal directions. Chandrababu believed more in physical comedy, twisting his face muscles as Charlie Chaplin would do. Being a powerful dancer of rock and roll,he believed perhaps, more in gesticulation than in clear dialogue delivery. His clumsy movement of the body combined with his singing and dance core, took his comedy to greater heights in movies like 'Pathini Dheivam' and 'Maman Magal' with Gemini Ganesan and 'Sabash Meena' 'Padhi Bakthi', 'Manamagan Thevai''Pudhayal','Maragatham' and 'Aandavan Kattalai' with Sivaji Ganesan. He had continued his physical thrust in comedy, in many other movies including those of MGR such as 'Mahadevi' 'Gulebaghavali'. 'Pudhumaipithan' 'Nadodimannan' and 'Adimaipenn'.His other great films are 'Anna'i,'Sagodhari' and 'Kumararaja'.
      Whereas,Thangavelu  firmly believed in verbal comedy,following the footsteps of NSK. But his humorous word play, in response to the queries of others, marked his level of intelligence in comedy transmission.The comedy subplots of Thangavelu  in films like 'Aduthaveetupen', 'Kalyana Parisu' and 'Arivaali'  reached each and every home in the form of gramophone records.K.A. Thangavelu and  V.K.Ramasamy were great exponents of verbal comedy,the latter with a temptation and capacity for vulgar connotations too.But Thangavelu  and the character actor-cum-comedian T.S.Balaiah, always made their comedy move on the  track of decency for family watch. Thangavelu also provided comedy, playing the hero or second hero in films like Rambayin Kadhal and Kaidhi Kannaayiram. The next entrants into the comedy field, like Suruli Rajan  and Thengai Srinivasn continued this verbal component of humour both in the form of farce and higher level comedies.
     Nagesh who  secured an unparalleled position in Tamil Cinema as a comedian,became a lovable mix of Chandrababu and Thangavelu, in the sense that he was capable of performing physical and verbal comedies in the same degree of excellence.Though not a great singer like Chandrababu, Nagesh was  an amazing dancer in his own way, and he could assertively demonstrate his word power with clarity and control, like Thangavelu.
    The list of films of this comedy legend, is too vast to include here. But no one can forget the most enduring comedy moments he created with the veteran T.S.Balaiah in 'Kadalikka Neramillai' and 'Bama Vijayam', his road comedy with A.Karunanidhi in 'Madras to Pandicheri' and later, the stomach curdling laughter kicks he gave in a dual role in 'Anubavi Raja Anubavi'.He has mixed up dejection with comedy in films like' Server Sundaram' 'Major Chandrakanth'  and 'Ethir Neechal'.His dark humour  emanating from the character's terminal illness was emphatic in 'Neerkumizhi' and his comedy born of villainous mischief was pretty much enjoyable in 'Thillana Mohanambal'.He could also generate contextual comedy by exposing his predicament in helpless situations as the one successfully displayed in Thiruvilaiyadal. The comedy of Nagesh never slipped into indecency. Cho Ramasamy,the vibrant contemporary of Nagesh,was  an amazing verbal comedian,capable of generating  intelligent comedy sparks reflecting the true fire of political and social satire.Both Nagesh and Cho put up a dual parade of intelligent and idiotic humour, in  films like Thein Mazhai and Ninaivil Ninraval. 
     The next generation comedians began to view comedy as a part of the every day reality.From the mid seventies ,Tamil films in general began to move to villages in terms of theme,story content and characterization, and as a result, the comedy segment also moved to the rural block to a great extent. The focus of directors and music composers turned to the emotion and language of the village folks. Along with Barathi Raja and Ilaya Raja, came the Goundamani- Senthil duo to occupy the comedy side of many successful films, for more than a decade.
      Their comedy was both physical and verbal, but had to move on a downward slide, to determine the strength of a new variety of humour with the domination of the rural slang.Most often refreshing, but at times ritualistic, this new comedy wave casually put Senthil at the receiving end, here and there,Sentil taking Goundamani unawares, for a ride.Their decade old comedy parade, was augmented by the arrival of a black lean man, to make it a gang of three, driving the audience to  laughter with a triangular pull. Vadivelu,the new comer, began to play his independent ISI mark physical comedy, receiving crowd- blows, each time  for a different reason, in every movie, and making himself a butt of ridicule in a fresh mode. However,thanks to the intelligent comedy track evolved by the director-cum- actor Parthiban, it made the comedy bullets shot by Vadivelu boomerang and hit him quite unexpectedly and this type of manipulative comedy, composed of dialogue twists, threw the audience into the peak of laughter.
       In the midst of these comedians,there grew up an independent voice of humour, pruned by the school of K.Balachnder,to fly his comedy wings in a free zone.It was the voice of Vivek, who chose the midway between the iconoclast and the idiot extremities to fix himself at the delivery point with a package full of positive messages. His rationalistic intent and tone of presentation became his plus points.The stuff of Vivek is a spontaneous medley of the comedy perspectives carefully evolved and developed by N.S.Krishnan and K.A Thangavelu.But even this superior brand of comedy, occasionally slipped into bathos, in the form of inferior jokes excavated from the sexy, and scatological trash. From rich contextual comedies of a mixed verbal order,Vivek's humour skits, also inducted an itch for the physical comedy of getting beaten up, to provoke laughter. However,Vivek's comedy sub plot in movies like 'Saamy' and T'irunelveli' was full of social awakening messages and his script was mostly enjoyable in many films that include 'Kadal Sadugudu','DumDumDum'  'Parthiban Kanavu' and 'Thenkasipattinam'. On the whole, Vivek's position as a seasoned comedian stays unchallenged.
      Santhanam who is currently making waves on a massive scale, is channelizing his humour flow on a spotlight basis, cutting others into their edge of discomfort, through a commendable  thrust of one liners..It is difficult to say if he has the Goundamani formula in mind or coming out with a creative side of his own by amalgamating the comedy genres of Thangaveu, Gaundamani and Vivek. At times, his jokes also tilt towards the lavatory side.
     Making sensible,decent and enjoyable comedy is not that easy.The creative base of a comedy plot is as much a serious affair as that of the main story line. Like the various components of film making,the comedy intercessions also need good time sense and spontaneous deliberation. Whether the comedy is physical or verbal, it is the appeal and reach that matter more. The full length comedy entertainers like 'Missiamma' 'Adutha Veetu Pen' 'Sabash Meena' 'Kadalikka Neramillai' 'Bama Vijayam' and 'Ullathai Allitha', had  their comedy substance and style of presentation effectively interwoven so as to keep the verve and tempo undeterred for a hearty laugh from the beginning till the end.
      The second line of farcical outlets of laughter like 'Galatta Kalyanam' 'Ootivarai Uravu' 'Veettukku Veedu''Utharavinri Ulleva' 'Madras to Pandicheri' 'Kaasedhaan Kadavulada' 'Anubavi Raja Anubavi' and the most recent films like 'Bass Engira Baskaran' 'OruKalOruKannadi' 'Kalakalappu' and Theeyaa Velai Seiyyanum Kumaaru', were all based on strong foundations of notions of laughter, and proved to be committed endeavours to woo the targeted audience for a comedy time.
      The comedy spirit weighs at invaluable levels in the hands of script writers and actors of both the main and sub plots of comedy skits. Crazy Mohan is a wonderful comedy script maker and actor, with a flair for fun and frolic, through his comedy of errors; and whenever this intelligent comedian joins hands with Kamalahasan it is a comedy storm that hits the theatres. Cho Ramasamy,the esteemed comedian, writer and political satirist and actor came out with his commendable comedy of manners in films like 'Muhammed bin Tukhlaq',and 'Yarukkum Vetkamillai'. The previous generation's skilled comedian and script writer A.Veerapan, showed a Midas' touch in transforming common place situations into fountains and streams of laughter.
     There has never been a dearth of positive comedy or talented comedians in Tamil Cinema. The phase of humour is always subject to change. But the changing phase of comedy should definitely retain its true face and formula to create the lighter side of life, without demeaning the purpose and experience of laughter.Let there be any phase of comedy, but not the one that breaches the line of refinement, to create bad taste in the name of laughter.
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Thursday, October 11, 2012

The 'R' Series Heroines of Barathiraja and Others.

             



















        K.Balaji,the great producer of Tamil remakes and originals,was sentimentally tied up with the names Raja for his heroes and Radha for heroines. Barathiraja,the buoyant film maker of creative sharpness and subtlety,seems to have been obsessed with a similar sentiment to introduce his heroines with their names starting with letter R. This resulted in half a dozen R series women getting regenerated as actors for their long and short spells of screen magic.
       Radhika the first among the six, came to limelight with the poetic director's second film 'Kizhakke Pogum Rayil'. From her entry point, she established her spirit of dynamism and dare-devil attitude to remain demonstrably as the most wanted female artist of Tamil Cinema.She continued to play the female lead in her mentor's other movie' Niram Maraadha Pookal.' But it was in the great director's 'Kizhakku Cheemaile',as Vijayakumar's sister,did she win people's hearts as an emotional artist of very high standard. She played as the Superstar's love interest in nearly six movies,of which 'Nallavanukku Nallavan' showed her as the woman behind the success of her husband and her death at the end of the movie made the audience leave the theatre with a heavy heart.In 'Oorkaavalan' too,as a village girl aggressively after the hero,to marry him ,she sacrifices her life in the end.It was a heavy role for her in both the movies and she did not miss the opportunity.
      The other actors with whom she was paired were,Vijayakanth,Bagyaraj, and Prabu.Her films 'Ninaivuchinnam' with Prabu and 'Poondhotta Kaavakaaran' with Vijayakanth helped her retain her name as an actor of great mettle.'Later,in a heavy character in 'Pasumpon' [another film from the Barathiraja production house] as the daughter of Sivaji Ganesan, she essayed an emotion packed role with subdued grace. Similarly, with Kamal in 'Sippikkul Muthu',she came out with one of her best performances. Her virulent performance as a virago, in Shankar's 'Jeans' was a proof of her capacity to play negative roles, besides making herself true to the characters she played. Radhika's profile would perfectly fit into aggressive,feminist roles too. Barathiraja's first introduction of heroines should really have made him proud.
       Barathiraja's another award winning movie 'Alaigal Oivathillai' exposed the wonderfully talented  Radha, whose charm and acting merit got her an acclaimed position in the film industry. Like Radika, she too started with a film that beamed at the box office.Following her first movie, Radha was lucky to be signed for other success shows like 'Oru Kaidhiyin Diary' 'Vellai Roja' Amman Koil Kizhakkaale' and the most talked about 'Mudhal Mariadhai'.
     Radha was a great combination of glamour and lovely acting potential.She had acted with all the popular actors of her time,mostly as a glamour addition with Rajini,[except for a solid role in the earlier 'Engeyo Kettakural'] Kamal, Prabu,Karthi,Vijakanth and Bagyaraj. Her performance with Sivakumar in 'Manidhanin Marupakkam' and with Mohan in 'Mella Thirandhadu Kadhavu' deserve higher recognition.Like her actor sibling Ambika, Radha retained an estimable position in her career.She is another lovable addition of Barathiraja into the film industry.
        Revathi, the third in the list to hit the screen with her debut performance in 'Manvaasani' marvellously helped her director to present the smell of the Tamil soil.She is an actor belonging to the category of Sri Vidhya,Sujatha and her contemporary Suhasini. This classification is due to the fact that she is also an actor capable of underplaying her emotions and like Sujatha and Suhasini,she too has a hidden spirit of revolt against the forces suppressing the legitimate rights of women.Her feminist tone of resistance was explicit in AVM's 'Pudumaipen' directed by her mentor.Her suppressed sense of anger against the erring male tribe could be felt in Balu Mahendra's 'Marubadium' 
    Revathi's portrayal of a pathetic blind woman in Mahendran''s 'Kai Kodukkum Kai' was a true reflection of her histrionic capability. Her roles in 'Kizhakku Vaasal' and 'Dheiva Vaaku' were on a similar line because in both, she appeared as a bonded soul under the suppression of a lustful local bigwig in the former and a greedy man who had adopted her as sister for the pecuniary benefits she would bring by soothsaying.In both the films Karthik Muthuraman  was her pair and in both Revathi was extremely appealing with elements of modesty and dignity.   
    The movies that showed Revathi's smartness and charm were 'Pagal Nilavu' 'Oru Kaidhiyin Diary' 'Punnagaimannan' 'Mounaragam' and 'Magalirmattum' Her specialty is that her roles were always taken care of by eminent directors like Barathiraja, Balachander, Balu Mahendra, Magendran and Manirathnam.The other movies that showcased her emotional appeal were 'Vaidehi Kaathirundhal' 'Anjali' and 'Priyanka'.Aan Paavam with Pandiarajan and Kanni Raasi with Prabu also reflected the graceful performance potential of Revathi.She knew her limits on the glamour side and her ability for character delineation was her asset.
       Of the remaining three R stars,it was Rekha who after her debut in 'Kadalora Kavidhaigal' could withstand the storm of competition.She made a brief appearance in Kamal's 'Punnagai Mannan' and created sensation in a kissing scene at the start of the movie. Lack of considerable opportunities deprived this talented artist of higher positions in acting and so she became contented with the offers of elderly roles that keep her busy even now. Ranjani introduced in 'Mudhal Mariadhai' as a supporting actor,did one movie 'Aayiram Vaasal Idhayam' with Mohan and disappeared from the scene may be, for want of opportunities.Ranjitha who was paired with Karhik in her debut movie 'Nadodi Thenral' could vindicate only her glamour stint in some of her other movies like 'Jaihind' but could not form a  stable film career.
      A few other actresses who were the close contemporaries of the R heroines but were not from the school of Barathi Raja, were making a vital contribution to the acting field during their period.They were Suhasini a product of the Hasan Family, Shobana,related to the [late] legendary actress Padmini,Nadhiya introduced by Fazil, Seetha who became popular with Parthiban's 'Pudhiya Paadhai' , Amala brought to light by T.Rajender and  Gauthami, who made her debut in the Rajini starring 'Guru Sishyan'.
     Suhasini whose introduction was from the reputed Director Mahendran's' Nenjathai Killaadhe' had another opportunity to prove her remarkable acting stuff in Manivannan's 'Gopurangal Saaivadhillai' and later in Balachander's great movie 'Sindhu Bairavi'.She also co- starred with Rajini in 'Thaimeedhu Sathiyam' and 'Dharmathin Thalaivan'. Her performance in Fazil's 'Bommukutti Ammaavukku' could be another memorable entry in her career diary. After becoming director Manirathnam's spouse,she continues acting in character roles. 
      Shobana being very busy in the Malayalm film field has acted only in a limited number of Tamil movies.From Balu Mahendra's 'Azhiyada Kolangal',it was a brief stint of acting for her in Tamil. Being a good traditional dancer she exhibited her flair for dancing in Kamalahasan's 'Enakkul Oruvan'.She has also acted with Sathyaraj,Bagyaraj and Vijayakanth in films like Malluveitti Mainer,Idhu Namma Aaalu and Ponmanachelvan respectively.She had costarred with Rajini in K.Balachander's 'Siva'  before acting again as Rajinini's love interest in Thalapathi  directed by Manirathnam. Her acting vein has reflected a perfect combination of boldness and feminine grace.
    Nadhiya who appeared in Fazil's 'Poove Poochoodava' became the heart throb of many youngsters by her decent mode of acting, pushing glamour much behind her priority list.She acted naturally and gracefully in films like 'Chinna Thambi Periya Thambi','Uyire Unakkaga' 'Raajaathi Raja' and a few more. .But she did not stay for long here.Then she reappeared with a bang as the young and lovely mother of Jeyam Ravi, in 'M.Kumaran,Son of Mahalakshmi' and later as heroines' mother in 'Thamirabarani' and 'Sandai'
    It was a gripping performance that Seetha delivered in Parthiban's  'Pudhia Paadhai'  his first and best movie as director. But after that she was not lucky to get meaty roles for her calibre. Her roles  in 'Guru Sishyan' and in Balachander's 'Unnaal Mudium Thambi'as Kamal's pair, only showed her as a graceful and charming person without adding merit to her acting capability.
   Two other women of beauty, acting vigour and dancing verve made an indelible mark during this period and they were Banupriya and Ramya Krishnan. Of the two the former with her captivating bold eyes was paired with Kathik Muthuraman{Gopura Vaasalile},Sathyaraj {Bramma and Kattalai},Mohan and Sivakumar{Porandha Veedaa Pugundha Veedaa}.She also did one movie each with Kamalahasan,{Maharasan}Mammootty {Azhagan} and Raguvaran {Aaahaa}Her dancing flair and emotional performance carried a special effect with the audience. Ramya Krishnan whose looks of sustaining youth, keep the audience surprised{like that of Nadhiya of course} can perform both as a modest and arrogant woman with invincible charm and efficacy and will be remembered for her wonderful performance as Neelaambari in Padayappa of Rajinikanth. It was an amazing display of role performance reflecting wealthy arrogance of womanhood.In another film Paattaali paired with Sarathkumar and directed by the same K.S.Ravikumar, Ramya appeared as a rich woman endowed with feminine grace, modesty and wifely devotion.She has also starred with Prabu {Budget Padmanaban} and Vijayakanth {Vaanchinathan}. 
     Amala who fascinated every one in Maidhili Ennai Kadhali' and 'Mella Thirandhadhu kadhavu' joined Prabu, Kamal and Rajini as their finely matching co star. Some of the leading movies like 'Sathya''Vetri Vizha' [both with Kamal] 'Agni Natchathiram','Uthama Purushan'[with Prabu] and'Velaikkaaran' and 'Mappilai'[with Rajini] speak of her convincing  performance combining  grace, glamour and emotion. Her other graceful role was with Mammooty in Kovai Sezhiyan's 'Mounam Sammadham'.Her dancing flair added to her fascinating place as an actor.
      Guathami's contribution has been both voluminous and meritorious. She has costarred almost with all the heroes of her time like Rajini,Kamal,Sathyaraj Prabu,Bagyaraj Sarathkumar and Vijayakanth. Particularly,she performed impressively in Vasanth's 'Nee Paathi Naan Paathi'  [for which she got an award] 'Rudra' 'Sandhanakkatru' and 'Darmadurai'.Her other films with the superstar include Guru Sishyan and Raja Chinna Roja With Kamal,her movies like 'Aboorva Sagotharargal','Nammavar' 'Devar Magan' and 'Kuruthipunal' emphatically established her position as an actress of both  stylish and subtle performance.Her concept of glamour was usually confined to a voice play of  emotion relevant to titillate the audience mood and she was known for clarity in her over all perspective of acting.More than the glamour side,it was in the sober characters,she always excelled.On the whole, she was another talent addition to the Tamil film industry. 
      The R heroines of the truest Tamil face among directors, and the other actresses mentioned here, have made one thing very clear. However creative a director is, an actor's survival depends basically on one's own inherent or acquired base.The director can stimulate and steer the process of acting.But it is the actor, who should emote and excel with an earnest,confident and competitive zeal to participate in the process. 
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Agents of Change in Tamil Cinema.

                 



















      No medium of art can remain static.Change is the determiner of dynamism in any field and the success of all art forms depends solely on the refreshing changes taking place, every other day. The agents of change may be human beings or their inventions.These agents keep the goings- on under their close watch and active control.Cinema being the most popular form of art,has to tap new directions for its enhanced creative dimensions and come out with an appeal that indicates and justifies the change factor.Tamil cinema has also necessarily come under the scanner of dramatic change- makers in every interlinked parameter of film making. 
     Until at least the early fifties,Tamil cinema could not be said to represent the Tamil language and its literary spirit,because of the fact, that Tamil Nadu was still under the larger Madras Composite State.To put it simply,Tamil vocabulary was still under the influence of the Devanagari languages, especially Sanskrit.One could easily understand this pivotal aspect in the  use of Tamil, in movies released during the forties and early fifties.The All India Radio's news bulletin in Tamil,was also using words that were not Tamil in its original sense.
     Thanks to the fast emerging Dravidian Movement in Tamil Nadu, prompt awareness of this anomaly began to spread to the Tamil speaking mind and spirit, and necessary steps to infuse nativity into the Tamil language, became a gradual reality. This refurbishing upheaval, was not confined to language alone.It triggered a kind of impetus, to install a social awakening launch pad, to extricate people from their age old superstitions and make them fly into new creative zones with modernity in thought and imagination. The film medium came in handy to initiate this process.
     It was at this stage, stalwart political leaders like Thandhai Periyar, Thiru.C.N Annadurai and Kalaignar M.Karunanidhi. took up the onerous task of evolving revolutionary ideals in order to rejuvenate the Tamil society. Of the three,Periyar did not directly get into the movie world.But his iconoclastic views reached the people, through the films for which, story line and dialogues were written by the other two creative experts. Both these leading voices, became the foremost agents of an unforeseen transformation, in Tamil cinema. The changes envisaged, were to liberate people's thought and behaviour from the erstwhile forces that had enslaved their Tamil identities in terms of cultural and linguistic propositions. While both their writings and force of elocution carried the ignition to kick- start the restoration and reorganization of Tamil identity,it was Kalaignar M.Karunanithi who sanctified the Tamil language with its native moorings. We can say Tamil was reborn with its dynamism and dramatic vibrations, with fire and speed, to drive a great following towards attaining the true fundamentals of the language for its functional use.
      Kalaignar revolutionized Tamil cinema with his fiery literary Tamil in the form of immortal dialogues that reached the Tamil speaking world through more than a dozen films of which 'Panam' 'Parasakthi', 'Mandirikumari','Manohara','Devaki',and 'Poompuhar' deserve a special mention.The rich and ranting dialogues delivered by the captivating voices of MGR Sivaji Ganesan and SSR, gained historic significance in Tamil cinema.The actors themselves were the epitome of  change factors transforming their roles into image building and talent exposure. The use of literary Tamil from the script writer's pen and from the voices of the respective heroes, should have goaded other Tamil scholars to establish the original version of Tamil vocabulary, at all levels.A veteran comedian like N.S.Krishnan can also be rightly included as one bringing a new face to Tamil Cinema by his responsible  addition of comedy with purpose and meaning, aimed at effecting much needed social transformation. He infused social values like equality and egalitarianism through his dialogues and songs. 
       Following the emergence of pure Tamil in script,Tamil films began to accommodate changes in other significant areas such as, lyrics, music, direction and screen play presentation,and other technical aspects, like photography, editing and so on.Next to the script, the most vital segment that requires periodical change is the song sequences which have always remained as an invaluable addition to aesthetics of film making.The lyric component got enriched by the meaningful evolution of ideas and imaginative use of appropriate Tamil words.Lyricists like Pattukkottai kalyana Sundaram, Udumalai Narayana Kavi, Kaviarasu Kannadasan and Vaali took the lead as the grand agents of change in lyrical composition. Kannadasan had the extraordinary poetic wings to take human emotions to unseen dimensions and newer peaks of imagination.The richness of his lyrics was a result of the felicity of the Muse that he was endowed with. Like John Keats,the renowned English poet,Kannadasan also had an 'indescribable gusto' in his thought process and a fascinating flow of words that made it easier for the music composers to set tunes for his songs.
     Melody Kings G.Ramanathan, Vedha,Viswanathanand Ramamurthy, the classic music doyen K.V.Mahadevan, and the emphatic rural music Maestro Ilayaraja were all agents of the changing phase of music celebrations in Tamil Cinema. Ilayaraja in particular, evolved the soul of music in its original form, incorporating a galaxy of  nativity notes that promptly filled the urban- rural gap. Starting from 'Annakkili' he almost carried on a musical revolution, for bringing into focus, the neglected tunes closer to the soil and dearer to our hearts.Behind the silence of this felicitous king of music, is the hand of God, playing every instrument and singing every song, that can claim another Oscar for a Tamil music composer.There is an unspoken grandeur resting as an eternal crown on his head and it is the Maker's mystery.
   While the new lyricists like Vairamuthu Pa.Vijay and many others are busy with fresh similes and metaphors,the Oscar winner A.R.Rehman's invigorating new notes have crossed the regional barriers to make Tamil music a world rhythm so as to reach the global ears.
    When it comes to direction, there were many who made Tamil films reach higher levels of growth through successive changes in perspective. Among those, there was A.P.Nagarajan whose ornamental use of  literary Tamil in his mythological movies, was not only appropriate but was of an inspiring order. Malliam Rajagopal became the true voice of the underdog and the down trodden sections of Tamil society,making his voice heard and his purpose known to everybody. K.Balchander, an unflinching new wave brain became the proudest directorial profile of Tamil Cinema.He knew where to be traditional and where unconventional.Starting as a script writer, he became a major source of change in presenting social issues, with a newer thrust on individuality and feminism through the vision of a responsible director.
    Like Balachander,his new find Rajinikanth created a cellular storm by his completely fresh style of acting, that incorporated new vibrations in body language and dialogue delivery.Whereas, Kamalahasan crossed all the directorial boundaries,became an innovative actor rediscovering himself in every new venture with a new avatar and thereby breaking all world records.This ceaseless inventive urge is something rare among actors and speaks of universal excellence.
    The other directors like A.Bhimsigh ,A.C.Thirulogchandar P.Madavan,Krishnan Panju  dwelt elaborately on family emotions ,sentiments and the psychological entanglements and bondage of human relationship. Sridar  focused on exalted themes of sacrifice sprouting from selfless love.
K.S.Gopalakrishnan believed in the power of argument to establish long standing values of life with special lenience to the rural model. Later, Barathiraja electrified the spirit of the audience, by a dramatic shift in location and characters wedded to the rural milieu.
      Themes forming the base of story line in movies, can cause dynamic changes in one's thinking and behaviour particularly if they are reformative or generative of positive energy. Films like 'Anbe Sivam', and 'Vasool Raja MBBS' of Kamalahasan and Shankar's 'Nanban' were capable of revising an individual's attitude and outlook in terms of one's personal and social objectives.
     The recent and current developments happening in the Tamil Film zone would make one awe- struck by the astonishing changes in every layer of the released product.The gigantic expanse of technical intelligence, facilitates aesthetic wings in graphics.The Tamil language that got rid of its Devanagari pressures,is now in the grip of English,the language of the people from whose rule, the country got liberated .Technology has made it imperative for the Tamil film industry to tie up with this language of a major chunk of the world. Starting from the titles down to the use of dialogues, English necessitates its inclusion, wherever possible,in Tamil movies.
    The key board has become a quality addition to the play of musical instruments.The electronic imagination can make catchy film locations move into one's pre-fixed spot. Cameras are now being endowed with exotic control systems to mix,edit and delete thousands of vision programmes at the click of the mouse.The new wave theories of film making can make and unmake things like a child's play. All of a sudden,the globe seems to have shrunk. Along with this shrinking process is the truth, that Tamil cinema is a vital part of global cinema, as Tamil race is a limb of humanity at large.   

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Sathyaraj Stuff.

         









          These days,a galaxy of young men, get introduced straight away, as heroes.How many of them stick on to a solid ground of their own,is a matter of fitness and fortune.Previously, men who came as villains,were kept waiting to prove acceptability as hero, as if they were put under a course of wild card rounds. Sathyaraj is one such person who with the hero's stuff, was made a villain and an old man, before getting affixed with the hero stamp.
        Though Sathyaraj and the Superstar were not seen together on screen after'Mr.Barath' they have two things in common.Both of them installed uncommon styles of villainy with unseen dimensions in the execution of negative roles.Similarly, both of them passed through a gradual spell of transition from villain frames to the hero image through middle level, rugged and ruffian type roles  implying the ramifications of masculine might. If Rajini's 'Kazhugu' 'Kaali' 'Thappu Thaalangal' and 'Mullum Malarum'  were the escalating scales of  growing into a full time hero, Sathayraj's 'Makkal En Pakkam' 'Dravidan' and 'Kadamai Ganniyam Kattuppaadu' slowly took him up the hero ladder.
        In the mean time, Sathyaraj did the unusual. He became one among the the few,to take up elderly roles before becoming a full fledged hero.He did not seem to bother about the repercussions it might cause by dumping him for ever into a repeated show of such characters and be typecast in that model of role. How gallantly did he get into such crude and ever hurting characters of old men,in films like  'Pagal Nilavu', 'Mudhal Vasandam', 'Mangamma Sabadam' and finally, as the last- minute redeemable father of Rajinikanth  in 'Mr.Barath'. Who can forget his highly dignified appearance as Balu Thevar in 'Vedam Pudhidhu' ? This is one sample to show the classic stuff of Sathyaraj, stealing people's hearts at his budding stage, as an amazing actor. Even after becoming a hero,Sathyaraj did the role of a middle aged man in 'Vallal' and 'Senathipathi'.
      Fortune favoured Sathyaraj in the guise of his bearded friend-cum director Manivannan with whom the hero was found  to  enjoy warmth, team spirit and unfailing trust. Manivannan graphically lifted the degree and level of acting of Sathyaraj through his regular hits like Nooravathu Naal,24 Mani Neram,'Mudhal Vasandham'Paalaivana Rojakkal' 'Chinna Thambi Periya Thambi' 'Vidinja Kalyanam' and 'Vaazkai Chakkaram'. The maximum number of Manivannan films  would have  gone into the hero kitty of Sathyaraj. Years later, 'Amaithipadai' became another most impressive joint parade of the duo.
     During the same period,Sathyaraj came under the eminent grooming of another bearded director who took him for a victory ride making worthy movies for him.It was P.Vasu who made Sathyaraj a hero of high standard through his block buster movies like 'Vela Kedachiduchu' 'Walter Vetrivel' 'Nadigan' and later his 'Malabar Police'. As the uncompromising police officer, Walter Vetrivel,he was full of fire and rage against the corrupt and criminal breed. He was equally aggressive as Chinnasamy,the man in uniform, in 'MalabarPolice'. His self- styled sense of humour as a clever youngster, capable of impersonation,brought him accolades in 'Nadigan'.The Sathyaraj- Goundamani  combination,indulging frequently in satirical revelry and mutually taunting banter, created records of kind in many of their movies. Sathyaraj also did a convincing role in  P.Vasu's 'Ponnuveetukkaran'.
      Among fellow heroes,Sathyarej seemed to enjoy greater friendliness in the company of Prabu in films like ;Palaivana Rojakkal', 'Chinna Thambi Periya Thambi' and 'Anna Nagar Muthal Theru' .
He should also have enjoyed his acting with Prabu's father,the Chevalier, in 'Muthukkal Moonru' 'Jallikattu' and 'Pudhiya Vanam', in different roles.
      Sathyaraj has mostly done rough and tough roles in the movies of Manivannan and P.Vasu.But there is another side of this wonderful hero with his natural handsomeness and urban refinement.This has been brought out with chic and charm, by people like Pratap Pothan in 'Jeeva', Joshi in 'Airport' Subash in 'Bramma' and Guru Danapal in 'Mamanmagal'. He was equally appealing in AVM's 'Ulagam Pirandhadhu Enakkaga',P.Vasu's 'Ricksha Mama' and Guru Danapal's 'Thaimaman.' In between the rough and soft extremes is the beaming Sathyaraj with his healthy banter and hilarious mind set as revealed in 'Nadigan' and 'Maman Magal'. Sathyaraj has admitted on several occasions that he is a hard core fan of MGR .But he may not know that he himself looks like the eternal mass hero in quite a few frames. 
      This  merited actor can make you laugh, himself not laughing; he can show rage and fury making you share his mood of genuine anger.His forceful and clear outbursts,very often culminating in a shiver,will establish his angry mood in an apple pie order. He has a long list of movies showing his cry of wrath. He is an unpretentious rationalist deserving the right to play the role of the most respected Thandhai Periyar. He is capable of delivering all kinds of emotions including the romantic as in Barathi Raja's 'Kadalora Kavidhaigal'  and the paternal as in 'Onbadhu Rooba Nouttu'. But his innate voice of anger against atrocity,criminality and injustice and his unadulterated comedy flair are his distinct stuff,besides his boldness to direct a movie of his own acting, in dual roles, in 'Villadhi Villain' The stuff of Satyaraj is certainly raised on a solid and sturdy base.
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Friday, October 5, 2012

Seven Tamil Films of Epic Grandeur.

     






































       An Epic is a high range poetic composition, on a noble or greatly cherished theme, involving a grand story background, with characters of exemplary and heroic stature, leading to a splendid show of events.An epic should sustain its momentum from the beginning till the end. On rare occasions, some films also reach this kind of grandiose position, arresting the attention of all sections of the audience, during their film watching spell besides making them recall that experience, even years after.This page will grind memories of seven such movies in Tamil, which I feel are known for their timeless thrill of enchantment and high quality entertainment . 
      The Gemini Studios takes the singular credit  for producing and releasing two magnificent films with in a time span of a decade.These two movies  were under production, during the crucial period of India's struggle for independence,followed by the concerted efforts of the midnight's children to set the house in order, after the horrendous Partition years. 'Chandralekha'  produced during the years of the freedom movement,was released soon after the declaration of Independence.'Vanjikkottai Valiban', produced during the post Partition trauma period, was released ten years after 'Chandrlekha' .The film based on the novel 'The Count of Monte Cristo' written by the French writer Alexandre Dumos, created records of kinds, as a gorgeous presentation of events, characters and aesthetic components.
      These two films based on the theme of a prolonged and dedicated struggle for restoring kingdoms from the usurpers to the royal heirs, beautifully reflected the epic qualities of the sustaining spirit of heroism and sacrifice without letting the tempo of the struggle sag at any point. Gorgeous settings, the visual impact of scenes of grandeur, the vast number of people involved, and the captivating climax were the common features of both the movies. If  M.K.Radha,Ranjan and T.R.Rajakumari  put up a brave show in 'Chandralekha' ,Gemini Ganesan P.S.Veerappa,Padmini and Vaijayanthimala contributed all their might for a stupendous show in 'Vanjikkottai Valiban'. The entertainment factor in both the movies was unimaginably of a very high order and with a balanced mix of action, music, dance and comedy the impact of these movies was of a lasting kind..
      Then two other movies released in the sixties,genuinely deserved, in my opinion, the epic status, despite the fact that there were other eligible films in the list.The first one that could be called an epic film by merit was the Vijayalakshmi  Pictures' Sivaji blockbuster 'Thillana Mohanambal' that portrayed vividly, a spirited competition between music and dance as two great forms of art. Human talent became the centre of  display with an effectively integrated romantic element.This film beautifully dramatized on a grand scale, love,dignity of the self,respect for one's cherished artistic career, and a competitive zeal to excel in one's professed faith in their respective art form. The movie marvellously  demonstrated the struggle between male and female pride, between music and dance and finally between man- woman relationship and their dedication to the art form they represented.
        The story was not confined to one's talent of acting as in 'Navarathiri', or a regulated focus on mythology as in 'Karnan' and 'Thiruvilaiyadal' or a fabulous show of history like 'Veera Pandia Kattabomman' or finally,to individual emotions as in 'Paasamalar'. Thillana Mohanabal was a comprehensive show of human talent and human emotions of love,anger,infatuation [of the Nilambur King for the dancer] sacrifice and the interlinked, all pervading sense of humour. K.V.Mahadevan's tremendous musical support was an added credit for the movie, which was not only an award winner but an all round entertainer on a grand scale.
       The next big release of the Sixties was the all embracing MGR movie 'Ayirathil Oruvan'  of Padmini Pictures, that glorified ideals of nobility and forgiveness as the invaluable fundamentals of humanism. The other two contesting movies 'Enga Veetupillai',that coincided with the release of Ayirathil Oruvan and the 1970s release 'Ulagam Suttrum Valiban' lost the race in my perception because the first one,was just a family entertainer with a  story line centering around the twin brothers of a zamindar family, separated in their childhood and their fight for their rights, with their greedy brother-in-law. The later decade's release became more of a travelogue type entertainer rather than getting into the other core aspects of an epic show. 
    'Ayirathil Oruvan' [One in a Thousand ]as the title implies carried an exalted theme personified by the hero, through his words and deeds of magnanimity and forgiveness.The rich script,the costume and settings sense,the scenic portrayal,the high level lyrics supported by felicitous music,the fine choreography and the overall involvement of every segment of the production unit made it an all time audio visual bonanza. The extraordinary thematic content of goodness conquering evil through generosity and forgiveness raised the film to the heights of epic glory.
        Another movie that created a sense of the impossible in the Eighties, was the stunning ,mega hit movie'Aboorva Sagotharargal', depicting a justifiable theme of revenge to undo the brutal wrong committed by a gang of evil forces.It was Kamalahasan  who did the impossible under the astute direction of Singeetham Srinivasa Rao,by boldly taking up three totally different roles as a formidable police officer,an innocent auto mechanic and a clumsy but shrewd dwarf, wreaking vengeance on the wrong doers, by a highly contrived scheme, for killing the killers of his father.With speed in every frame, holding up the tempo from the beginning till the end, and with an amazing entertainment tag binding all sections of audience, in a forgetful spell of watching a world of wonder on the screen, it was a clean sweep of victory,for this magnum opus of the decade .It was a visual ecstasy of song, action, dance and a mind blowing circus show reminding the elders of the spirit of 'Chandralekha'. .Kamal's 'Nayagan' which was a saga of heroic violence and vendetta against the baddies,did not provide this kind of variety.
       Kavithalaya's 'Muthu' that hit the screens in the mid Nineties, had remarkable epic credentials in terms of theme and execution.The movie sent out a clear message that humility and the strength of sacrifice of riches are the cornerstones of human existence.Besides,the film contained the wide ranging ingredients required for an untiring entertainment kit. It was a remake of a popular Malayalam film ['Thein Mavin Kombathu' ]  but got enriched in the escapist formula of film making that would suit the Tamil audience.What I mean here is, the addition of incredible visuals,speed in screen play,impressive costume designs,Rajini's beautiful blend of humour and sobriety, gripping  choreography reverberating music and the controlled comedy element blended with a powerful story background made the audience escape from the world of reality to that of fantasy.The other fine films of Rajini, like 'Padayappa' 'Siavji' and 'Endhiran' might have been extraordinary entertainers but did not make an integrated evolution in terms of epic proportions. 
      The last in the list is another mass entertainer with a refreshing message that proved to be an  innovation in the history of film making. This movie was a trend setter, carrying a positive title that appeared to be paradoxical to both the conception of the plot and the actions of the protagonist. However the theme base of the story became the most convincing argument for the title.Along with the movie,a most challenging director was also born. The film was 'Gentleman' produced by K.T.Kunjumon  and the director of this epic genre movie was S.Shankar .In this first venture,Shankar took  up the noble task of projecting the educational rights of the meritorious, among the economically underprivileged.The movie raised a clarion call, for the right to education To carry on this arduous struggle,the dynamic new face among directors,conceived a Robinhood type of hero who was himself a victim of denial of higher education by the corrupt and greedy political bigwigs.The movie was a clean course of adventure,the chase and run being the inevitable follow up of a high class action play,unheard of in Tamil film history.The social theme was intelligently handled through a demonstration of the growing scales of technology in Tamil Cinema. Action,emotions,stimulating story line,felicitous narration,music,dance and comedy all put together with logistic stipulations, made the movie serve its salient objectives of heroism and became a true epic film.
     The seven films listed here, are purely my personal preferences, taking into account the moments of applause at the theatres and the rave reviews they received from various quarters.While there are chances for other movies being added to the list, I am sure dissent voices to this list will not be many. As a matter of fact,the entertainment sector does a tremendous service in driving people of mixed routine,out of their homes, for a short sojourn in a variety of wonder zones. The best wonder land, is each one's choice.
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