The quality of a film is determined not only by its theme and story line, but also by its variety element, in capturing the imagination of the audience, through its distinct base of narration, reflecting uniqueness in the midst of variety.The base for the sequence of events in a movie, may be the family, or history, or politics, or spiritualism, or the different strata of society such as one's place of work or outside one's working environment.Sometimes there will be contributory layers adding up to the strength of the base. These layers could include criminality or be free from it, depending upon the film maker's perception. One such very valuable supporting layer,is the presence of a circus company and its shows, finding extraordinary relevance to the story base and its complete presentation.This article focuses on four such Tamil films, with a circus base released during different periods, creating an amazing feel of simultaneously watching both a movie and a circus show, with a vigorous appeal.
One of these films had the circus element as a supplementary feature in helping the heroine to achieve her main objective of liberating a kingdom, from the evil forces, besides saving her lover from death. This film Chandralekha, based on a story of historical fiction, was made by the Gemini Pictures' production house It was an epic level film,released in 1948.This film produced and partially directed by S.S.Vasan, was under production for more than four years.There was an unimaginable amount of aesthetic grandeur, infused exhaustively through gorgeous settings and visual splendour.
Chandralekha had in its cast the most fascinating T.R.Rajakumari as its titular character. M.K.Radha and Ranjan,the sterling actors of that period,appeared as siblings,the latter in a villainous role, scheming to usurp the kingdom and win the hand of Chandralekha, with whom he was obsessed. The circus show maintained by the most illustrious comedy pair N.S.Krishnan and T.A.Madhuram, played a pivotal role in helping the heroine to save her lover, M.K Radha and the kingdom,from the machinations of Ranjan The circus shows greatly helped the entertainment value of the film and made the whole film, an immortal piece of Tamil Cinema.
Then came Sivaji Ganesan's Kulamagal Radhai directed by A.P.Nagarajan. Released in 1963 the film's cast included B.Sarojadevi,Devika,K.Sarangabani,V.K .Ramasamy, R.S.Manohar Sandhiya P.Kannaamba, and P.D.Sambandham. K.Sarangabani played a negative role in this film.It was actually a love story and the circus base was an accidental interruption in the life of the hero. Situations schemed by Sarangabani became factors leading to misunderstanding and the final rapprochement of the hero with his beloved Radha. Here the circus company called National Circus is maintained by V.K.Ramasamy and his daughter Devika plays as a trapeze artist. Sivaji Ganesan, also learns the circus activities.Though the movie did not do well at the box office,the songs under the enchanting musical composition of K.V.Mahadevan, might still be ringing in the memory of the audience.Songs like Chandiranai Kaanaamal, Pagalile Chandiranai Paarkaponen and Unnai Solli Kutramillai were great hits.The other notable feature of the film was the sparkling role performance of Sarojadevi and Devika. P.Kannaambaa as the meek mother of Radha was a graceful symbol of positive motherhood.The circus events were neatly filmed, adding pep to the sub plot, poignantly spreading its layers into the main plot, involving the romantic segment of Chandran and Radha.
The other circus film was the M.G.R starring Parakkum Paavai, released in 1966, by the most popular R.R.Pictures.Besides MGR, the film had a huge cast of great stars like B.Sarojadevi, Raja Sulochana and Kanchana and veteran actors such as V.Nagaiah,R.S.Manohar, S.A.Asokan and M.N.Nambiyar With an inherent layer of suspense, the film carried the thriller effect from its beginning till the end.It had a fairly good story line and is still remembered for its fascinating music quotient and for its exhaustive circus show with MGR,R.S.Manohar and Sarojadevi performing as trapeze artists. and S.A.Asokan stiffly controlling the animal world in the circus company.
Though R.S.Manohar and S.A Asokan reflected an evil frame of mind,the source of villainy and its accompanied thriller effect,originated from the woman[played by Kanchana}who wanted to marry the hero and hence attempted to get rid of the girl, whom the hero loved. M.N.Nambiyar appeared as the family doctor of V.Nagaiah the rich man and father of B.Sarojadevi,the heroine. K.A.Thangavelu was the circus manager and along with him, there was also J.P.Chandrababu to provide the comedy segment.When compared to Kulamagal Radhai,the circus shows of this film were more relevant to the main plot and hence became an inseparable element of the whole course of narration.Each and every scene could be correlated to the base of the story, with a simultaneous throw of action both from with in and outside the circus ambiance.Music composed by Viswanathan Ramamurthy was a bonanza with eternal melodies like Kalyaana Naal Paarka Sollalaamaa and Yaaraithaan Nambuvadho Pedhai Nenjam. However,in spite of all these positive aspects, like Kulamagal Raadhai this film also was not a blockbuster.
The latest in this category was the Rajkamal Pictures' most popular film Aboorva Sagodharargal that hit the screens, in 1989.Directed by Singeedham Srinivasa Rao,this movie showed Kamalahasan in three roles as father and twin sons.Like Chandralekha, this film also attained an epic status because of its universal appeal in narrative grandeur,aesthetic richness and entertainment value.It was a revenge drama projecting a dwarf doing the impossible.The film threw several challenges to Kamal's grasp and he never missed to grab the opportunity and prove, how much capable he was, in delivering the magnitude of a mind blowing performance.The film had every thing in its kit-a magnificent story line,remarkable range of characterization and brilliant performance by everybody, involved in making the film.Like Parakkum Paavai,the circus segment was inseparably linked to the over all narration of events and characters.Here,Mouli was the circus manager.
The greatest winning point of the film, was its tricky revenge programme thoughtfully designed and executed by the dwarf Kamal with the able support of his acrobatic body and circus brain.The other extraordinary thing about this mighty show, was its tremendous reach with all sections of the audience without any hiccup. Ilayaraja's music was an additional enticement.All the songs were beautifully composed and memorably rendered.It is a film that calls for a continued flashback on account of its unique vigor in keeping the entire audience visually enthralled, without any let up in tempo at any point of its narration. Aboorva Sagodharargal was one of Kamal's outstanding ventures and the circus portions of the film stand out as the most prominent events of the film, with the most specific climax scene showing Nagesh,the primary villain, getting killed with in the circus premises, by the circus animals.
Of these four films mentioned here,Chandralekha and Kulamagal Raadhai were in black and white and the other two were color films.While Chandralekha and Aboorva Sagodharargal were the out come of massive human and technical efforts,Kulamagal Raadhai and Parakkum Paavai were not that kind of extravaganzas requiring any extraordinary labor or expenditure.However,the latter films had great star value and B.Sarojadevi was the heroine of both the films.But the fact that Chandralekha was under production during the pre- independence period and that it was filmed during the days of little technical access, speak of its singular greatness and special position in film making.One can not imagine how many ordeals the entire production unit would have come across, in managing men money, materials and animals.A stupendous task it would have been for all those, involved in making this majestic movie and all of them need an immortal recognition,
Aboorva Sagodharargal would have been another uphill task for Kamal who had to undergo the strain of shrinking his posture and size to genuinely fit into the role of a dwarf.These are amazing expositions of talent and merit in performance of individuals and groups.Beyond all this the truth of the circus base, stays stronger in MGR's Parakkum Paavai and Kamal's Aboorva Sagodharargal. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the main course of events is cohesively interrelated with the circus schedule in both the films and both were action packed films, not shedding the weight of action, at any point of portrayal of events.The other reason could be that Chandralekha had more to do with the historical base and Kulamagal Raadhai was more a tale of romance, confined to the plight of a man caught in between two women.On the whole, all the four films had a lot to entertain the audience through their circus display.