Actors playing dual roles is a common feature in Indian Cinema, particularly in Hindi,Telugu and Tamil films.Besides, Sivaji Ganeasan and Rajinikanth have taken up even three roles in 'Deivamagan' and 'Moonru Mugam' respectively.Kamalahasan took ten avatars in 'Dasavadharam' as Sivaji did nine in 'Navarathiri'. But stories revolving around the plight and predicament of twins are totally different.The objective of this article is to revisit the treatment of the ordeal of twins through a variety of perception and vision, in some popular Tamil films and express their special impact on my movie minutes.
Some of the striking themes related to the depiction of stories of twins were sibling rivalry for love or power,separation of twins in childhood and reunion, leading to united revenge against wrong doers, parental disposal of one of the twin kids, on account of its physical deformity and the most recent focus on the predicament of conjoined twins
The first major hit in this genre was Venus Pictures' 'Uthamaputhiran' starring Sivaji Ganesan appearing in dual roles as twin brothers, Vikraman and Parthiban, born as princes of Malarpuri kingdom.The twins were separated in childhood, and one of the twins was groomed in promiscuity by his wicked maternal uncle who had plans to kill both the twins and usurp the kingdom but could not execute his conspiracy because the king had read his mind and made him the guardian of the younger of the twins. The elder of the twins whose killing was already arranged was not actually killed but brought up by a loyal servant, with his identity hidden from his uncle anticipating threat to his life. Vikraman taken into irredeemably bad ways saw his brother as a rival and ultimately it was Parthiban who acceded to the throne defeating the evil designs of his twin brother and their crooked maternal uncle. The film was known for brilliant narration, sustenance of tempo and wonderful acting of Sivaji Ganesan, marking a marvellous difference between the two roles. The same story was later parodied by director Simbudevan, with comedian Vadivelu playing the roles of twins in the ridiculously titled film 'Imsai Arasan Irubathu Moonraam Pulikesi'. Interestingly, this film also became a box office hit.
Decades ago, Gemini Studios released a twin story movie 'Aboorva Sagodharargal' with veteran M.K.Radha playing the twin roles. This film was later remade as 'Neerum Neruppum' with MGR donning the twin roles of M.K.Radha. Both the films portrayed the predicament of twins having similar feelings and symptoms of aggressive sensuousness.The twins in 'Neerum Neruppum' were called Karikalan and Manivannan and it was the theme of revenge besides the sensuous predicament of the twins that both the movies focused.Though the later version was considered to be inferior to its original ,MGR definitely did well to differentiate between the two characters, but he was more convincing as Karikalan than as Manivannan.
MGR tops the list of actors who did the maximum number of dual roles, half of which as twins.His other box office hits showing him perform as twins were ,'Enga Veetu Pillai','Kudiyirunda Koil, and 'Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban' The first in the list showed the twins as reforming their maternal uncle who had enslaved one of them and brought him up as a coward.The second movie pictured the twins taking a united revenge against a smuggler who had killed their parents and brought up one of the twins as a criminal. The third category portrayed one of the twins as a dedicated scientist and the other as a CBI officer both struggling to get the criminals booked before law and punished.In all these films, it was the MGR formula of virtue conquering vice that became the central theme and winning proposition.The difference in make up and the range of style in acting, added to the freshness and made the films, eligible for repeated viewing as most other MGR films ever did.
Following the footsteps of MGR, Bagyaraj retrieved from the bin an unfinished film of his model hero and made it into a full length action movie worthy of a happy watch.The film was titled as 'Avasara Police 100' and was endowed with a story line of twins,one a cowardly police man and the other a formidable street fighter. It became another entertainer of the Bagyaraj brand.When the twins came to know each other,the strong one emboldened the coward and both fought a united battle against the wrong doers.
The same revenge theme by employing the twins concept was also tried in showcasing women as twins in films like 'Vaani Raani'[ a remake of 'Hindi Seetha Aur Geetha' acted by Hemamalini] and 'Irulum Oliyum', both films going into hands of Vaanisri one of the most talented actresses of the sixties and seventies. Vanisri literally repeated what MGR did in 'Enga Veettu Pillai', in mending the wrongs of the elder relatives and made her performance as twins,commendable in both the films. AVM's 'Kaathirundha Kangal' showed Savithri in dual roles as twins, both in an entanglement of love with the same man followed by attempts of impersonation by one of the twins and the sorrowful complications it caused. In all these films, including those of MGR, the twins were separated in childhood by unforeseen circumstances and were reunited, years later.
Sivaji's 'Deivamagan' and Arjun's 'Karna' focused on a similar theme but different from what has been discussed so far.In 'Deivamgan',the father disposed one of his twin sons who was born like him, with a scarred cheek on one side giving a horrid look.As the father did not want his son to undergo the insulting moments and the attached trauma that he had suffered, he decided to part with his son resembling him in ugliness.Finally,the neglected son came to know the truth and troubles hit back making situations untenable both for the father and son.The emotional conflicts between the father and son were excellently delivered by the massively talented Sivaji. In addition to this, Sivaji also showed his pranks and playboy attitude as the second of the twins. Arjun's 'Karna' showed a rich father disowning one of his new born twins on account of a congenital physical deformity.After years,the son with a stunted growth, reappeared to disturb his father's conscience.The forlorn son came back as a rich lawyer and finally it was he who saved his father from gangsters.As in 'Deivamagan',here too, the second among the twins had grown up as a pampered son.However, in emotional display and demonstration of paternal love and filial devotion, 'Deivamagan' remained unbeatable.
Director Shankar gave a new thrust and dimension to the portrayal of twins in his film 'Jeans', which mooted the idea of twins marrying only twins, but the proposal finally got nullified .The film effectively brought home the sufferings of the twin brothers Nachiappan and Pechiappan, played by Nasser and it was the fish mongering attitude of Pechiappan's wife that caused all the problems culminating in the death Nachiappan's wife. So,Nachiappan decided that his twin sons Viswanathan and Ramamurthy should take only some twin sisters as their wives.However, the film had a different climax with one of the twins marrying the girl whom both of them loved,on account of a technically manipulated drama showing the same girl as twin sisters. While Viswanathan married the girl, Ramamurthy had to gulp the disappointment.The film was dipped in humour and sentiment in equal degree and proved to be a great entertainer,like all other Sankar movies.
The two recent releases 'Charulatha' and 'Maatraan' have taken us on a new track to watch the plight of conjoined twins.While the former deals with rivalry between two sisters in marrying the man whom both of them love,the latter though has a similar romantic element,projects the twin brothers as brave fighters for a great cause.In both these films one of the twins gets killed ,while the other person has to undergo the ordeal of deprivation of the erstwhile conjoined self who remained part and parcel of the daily routine ever since they were born.However, the nature of struggle of the protagonists of both the films, was completely different. 'Maatraan' was a little more appealing than 'Charulatha' because of Soorya's dedicated efforts to bring out the routine physical and psychological anguish of the twins being inseparable and the later sufferings of the one living without the other. However, this movie too was lacking in tempo and coherence and the happenings were hardly gripping for a worthy watch.The morbid climax,though would have been considered as a nemesis meted out to the anti human, paternal antagonist,the film could have been given a decent, different and meaningful end .On the whole, the movie disappointed the audience, who expected freshness and clarity in delineation of events from the maker of a great movie like 'Ko'
The stories of twins have taken discursive routes and destinations, picturing problems and situations in a variety of mind fixing portrayals and claiming tall positions.The creative imagination of film makers, deserves a special pat for adding a new sense of dimension and appeal in story line and presentation, among movies dealing with a similar subject matter.