Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Malayalam Film That Marks a New Beginning. {Philips and the Monkey’s Pen}


    The Monkey’s Paw  is a horror short story,  written by W.W. Jacobs with a theme cautioning human beings not to play with their fate. The monkey’s paw  in that story was nothing but a jinx. But the  Malayalam film ‘Philips and the Monkey’s Pen’ released in 2013 does not have any such horror base. On the other hand this critically reviewed film, seems to sing a  corrective melody with a variety of themes, as notes and ragas. One would initially feel a bit confused about too many layers getting into a single narration. One would  even doubt if it is a  historical anecdote or a mythical mystery or a social malady the film is trying to project.
     A few vital factors, as life’s standard norms, are focused without raising the volume of the  didactic voice. One is about truth and falsehood. The clear statement is ‘Truth might appear to be bitter, but falsehood is too sweet to taste’. The second thumb rule  is, one should solely depend on oneself to come up in life. The other refreshing perception  is  about the demarcation of learners into meritorious, mediocre and mischievous categories with their respective percentages of 20+60+20  and with a categorical emphasis on the last segment, becoming memory pointers and value indicators for an Alma Mater.
     Aggressive adolescence, has been the chosen theme of a small group of film directors of all languages. This film made me a considerably  nostalgic about late Balu Mahendra, whose ‘Azhiyadha Kolangal’ that  came in the Nineteen Seventies, created indelible impressions of the vagaries of adolescence, through a different mode of narration. Recently the Tamil film Pasanga,directed by Pandiraj, also dealt with memorable adolescent  days at school with an inseparable mark of mischief and pranks and the freshness in narration made the film eligible for a National Award. The concept of drawing a longer line, parallel to an already existing line in order to make it smaller, owes its courtesy to director K.Balachander ,whose title and theme impressively discussed its significance in the film’ Iru Kodugal’.
    The major plus point of the film ‘Philips and the Monkey Pen’ is its overall aesthetics in presentation that includes the natural role play of all the kids, particularly the cute little boy playing the role of Ryan Philip, {Master  Sanoop Santhosh}with consummate understanding of all nuances of acting, the exuberant photographic grasp of human mood and natural landscape, the commendable underplay of  a compact father character by Jaya Soorya and the integrating musical elegance.All these fascinating components of the movie raise it to its deserving heights. Should the beginning of a reformed behavioural pattern  always be preceded by the death of a loved one? The death of a girl student in an accident involving the school bus, becomes a prompter for sermonizing  on parental and social responsibilities, besides forcing an already reforming delinquent, to introspect.
   The Mathematics teacher’s change over from a conventionally flawed approach to one of ripeness in dealing with victims of formative age syndrome, could have been pictured in a little more acceptable way, than as a casual course. But the teacher throwing a party to his wards even after losing the competition, certainly adds a fresh dimension to the change over, that spontaneously drives Ryan to confess  his act of making a phone call to the police, in order to  falsely implicate his teacher by using the latter’s mobile phone.The boy’s crying aloud on account of  compunction comes as a genuine follow up, sharply reflecting his sense of shame and guilt. The other unusual aspect of the film is, the avoidance of blaming parental pampering or negligence, as the sole reason for adolescent misbehavior. After watching the film one would certainly carry solid memories of the events on screen, vibrating deeper some where in the mind, accompanied by a sense of fulfilment of  seeing new talents, getting ready to conquer cinema in its original creative form. It is not that easy to forget this film. In this regard  I am sure, the duo Rojin Thomas and Shanil Muhammed have made  a clean start.
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Friday, April 11, 2014

An Ever Delightful Malayalam Hero.

     The quality of Malayalam Cinema stands high, not only because of its vital roots of creative brilliance,sprouting its exalting themes and unique style of narration, but also due to the wholesome contribution of a commanding line of heroes, at every point of time.The post independent years witnessed the magnificent show of mighty heroes like Prem Nazir,Sathyan,Jeyan, Sugumaran, Madhu and Barath Gopi.During the Nineteen Seventies, there emerged another batch of greatly talented heroes like Mammootty, Mohanlal,Suresh Gopi,Jeyaram and Mukesh. Within a decade or so, there was a stream of next generation heroes like Dileep, Jaya Soorya, Prithviraj, Indrajit,and Kunchacko Boban. Of these, the first name has established a specially appealing impact, through a distinct style of acting.
     Neither well built with macho norms like Mammootty,nor fascinatingly vibrant like Mohanlal, neither charming like Jeyaram,nor tall and smart like Prithviraj,but combining the best in every one of them,and gracefully adding pep and dynamism to character portrayal,Dileep stands out as a special Malayalam hero,fit to become a member of every Malayalee family.He could be called the most endearing hero of Malayalam Cinema.Who among all Malayalam heroes,has given the best of comedy core like Dileep?While Suresh Gopi would certainly find himself uncomfortable on the comedy track, Mammootty's breezy reflection of the comedy feel, could be beautifully realized by his casual ease of character portrayal, in films like Pranchiettan and the Saint,Kammath& Kammath and Thapanna,Jayaram's  humour path takes credit for his timing of jokes and facial expressions causing laughter explosions.
     Mohanlal's versatility never excludes the humour side {like Kamalahasan in Tamil}and he does it effortlessly through his characteristic style of dialogue delivery. Mukesh is another hero capable of generating vibrant comedy moments. Prthviraj is generally serious in role play, but in the recent years,he has also been sincerely comedy prone{like Vijay in Tamil}.But no Malayalam hero has so far grasped the fundamentals of different types of comedy, like Dileep. He has at his beck and call, the mood changing magic of acting.He can put together physical comedy, contextual comedy and comedy of witticisms and perform with utmost credibility, in providing comedy of the ISI brand.
    What makes most of Dileep's films a delightful watch, is the compactness in fitting the character to the original design.It is this element of compactness in the evolution of the protagonist of each of his movies, that enriches the overall quality of its final outcome.He not only has a middle level body frame but is also a middle level hero, without any assumptions, but with a high degree of perception of the magnitude of a character and its maximum impact on the minds of the audience. He never deviates from the main task of entertaining the film watchers, to the best of his ability.He is one hero, who knows the opportunities to perform well,without ever bypassing the yardsticks of the character's journey, along the stipulated story line and he does this, by a perfect understanding of the dimensions of the character.But he finally fixes the character for its journey, on the Dileep track.It is a broad gauge track, with an even mix of all the entertaining ingredients like comedy, sentiment,action and aesthetics.This is why, even in a story of sobre romance like Chandran Udhikkunna Dhikkil,he could envisage a seamless blend of the Dileep comedy special,to a tale of love disappointment that calls for sorrowful reminiscences.He could not miss his comedy mark even in family dramas like Vinodha Yatra and Kariyasthan.
    The biggest asset of Dileep is his light mindedness and cheering profile.In this particular aspect he could be compared to the Tamil director-cum-actor,K.Bagyaraj,whose geniality and bonhomie in character presentation, made him a special category of hero.Incidentally,it was K.Bagyaraj who led the jury that conferred Kerala State's Best Actor award for Dileep's performance in 'Vellaripraavinde Changadhi'.One could pretty much see a beaming sense of well being, in all the characters portrayed by Dileep.You can not call this levity.But he is an exuberant actor and he can never hit you like a storm and upset your mood. Throughout the time of watching his film,he will make you feel his presence, as some one closer to you,sitting beside you, at the time of movie watch and goading you to enjoy the film without missing any portion of it.He will not tie you to the film with a firm grip, like Mammootty or hug you every now and then, like Mohanlal, through a dialogue pattern, shuttling between emotional heaviness and soothing sedation of humour.The presence of Dileep is mostly within you and beside you, throughout the movie's length and breadth.
    Every hero has their mark of individuality and ability to perform in a manner that would bring them a kind of invincible identity in the long run.More than the award winning potential of an actor, it is the continued flair for maintaining, an inspiring and endearing role play, that guarantees a historical place for a hero, in the film industry.A good hero should make the audience feel that he is there at all times and can not be written off.What is the use of getting a few awards and then disappearing from the scene?Heroes like MGR and Sivaji Ganesan are still there in the thoughts of the Tamil audience.They have found an immortal place in the annals of Tamil film history. Energetic and exemplary heroes like Rajinikanth,Kamalahasan,Mohanlal and Mammootty not only have the capacity for winning  awards, but can also make a long career without dent.But a hero who always makes the audience happy by his endearing presence, besides getting awards, is definitely different.It is in this respect Dileep is distinct.
     I would have watched more than one third of his films that include all his best.Of these,Meesa Madhavan,Paappy Appachan, Paandippada and the latest Kammath&Kammath will be my all time favourites.I admire his impressive role performance in films like Spanish Masala, Ishtam, Vinodha Yatra,Vettam and Kalyana Raman.Some of his action films like Bodyguard, Runway, Chess,July4 the multi- hero film Twenty Twenty and Lion are well marked for speed and tempo in narration. Though his performance in Chaandupottu has fetched him an award I somehow did not like the film.Nor was I inspired to continue watching the film Sound Thoma. May be I do not want to see a hero capable of  a self ridiculing mode,to be seen in a further unpleasant or ridiculous form.
    I would not rate him as a conventional romantic hero{His Spanish Masala is an exception].To me he is an action hero, with an inbuilt grit to generate grace,grandeur and dynamism, incorporating several layers into a single character and unfolding them one after the other, for a broad spectrum of histrionics.This is how he succeeded in clinching his delivery points, in several action films and action -oriented family dramas.His dancing core,fighting style and capacity to adapt dialogue, perfectly to the emotional context, make him an all rounder, as far as the action genre is concerned. The most significant and indisputable fact is, his position as the hero of many commercially viable projects on screen. Dileep must be the favoured hero of directors like Lal Jose,Joshy,Priyadarshan and Rafi Mecartin. He has also worked under other eminent directors like Kamal,Sibi Malayil, Lohitha Das,Siddique,Thomson K.Thomas, Rajasenan,Vinayan and so on.He has done a movie for Fazil too.He has been convincing, as the younger sibling of Mammooty{Kammath& Kammath} Mohanlal{Twenty Twenty}and the dauntless Tamil hero Vijayakanth {Rajjiyam}.Most of his contemporary heroines have been his perfect pairs of whom, Kavya Madhavan needs a special mention.
    It is in the police uniform,Dileep has not yet made an impressive show like Mammootty,Suresh Gopi and Prithviraj. His CID Moosa was just a comedy parade as a private detective.The other film 'Inspector Garud' that came later, was not a straight police story and the diversions and deviations in the narration of events, failed to make a focus both on the main character and the theme. However, having  done one hundred films within a fairly short period,Dileep is bound to reach newer heights not only in numbers but also in grasping enviable levels of quality performance, without losing his strong base of being a lovely and lovable hero.His felicitous and breezy mode of character delineation, will continue to push him up the cinema ladder.His action and comedy parameters, will remain fresh for a display of unseen proportions, presenting a periodically updated version, of this Malayalam hero of myriad shades.In all Celluloid parameters,Dileep is an ever delightful hero, on the Malayalam big screen.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Success Story of Sathya Movies.

     Every film production house has its stated and implicit objectives towards accomplishing entertainment norms and audience satisfaction.This blog already carries articles on the two gigantic production houses like the AVM studios and Gemini Pictures.There are articles on the Devar Films and  the Modern Theatres too.The other famous production unit that has made history in Tamil film Industry is the Sathya Movies, once proudly managed by RM.Veerappan. This unit owes its genesis and victory chiefly to the most popular mass hero MGR who contributed directly and indirectly to its strong base and steady growth.In other words it was under his blessing and stewardship,the Sathya Studios[the name Sathya forming part of the name of MGR's mother Sathyabama}established its position as an astounding film making institution.
      The victory march of Sathya Movies,started with its very first film Dheivathai,starring MGR and Sarojadevi.This film had several distinct features.It was the only film of MGR directed by P.Madhavan.It was the only film of MGR, for which K.Balachander wrote the dialogues. This film was a blockbuster on account of its creditable story line,the twists and suspense in narration,its extraordinary music quotient,and the amazing character portrayal of MGR, S.A.Asokan, Pandaribai and S.V.Sahasranamam besides the charming deliberations of Sarojadevi.It was a police story involving crime,family sentiment and a clear focus on filial dedication,particularly to one's mother. This film perfectly adhered to the film making yardsticks prevalent those days and proved to be an exemplary and extraordinary MGR hit.The second film 'Naan Anaiyittaal' of this production house was also an MGR film and captured the audience imagination with a theme of reform of wrong doers and MGR as usual played the role of a good man struggling to reform a gang of robbers.The songs of this MGR film,directed by Sanakya, also became great hits.
   There was another silver Jubilee hit of Sathya Movies released in 1967 and the film was Kaavalkaaran,with MGR and Jeyalalitha playing the lead roles.It was again a police story carrying a great deal of suspense from the beginning till the end.For the first time, Nambiyar acted as the father-in-law of MGR but as an irremediable baddie waiting to be sent to jail by his son-in-law, anytime.The film was action packed showing MGR as a boxer at the very beginning of the film.Neat narration of an eventful story,subtle displays of the conjugal element and felicitous music, took the film to its great heights, making it a fabulous commercial hit.Then came 'Kannan En Kadhalan',another MGR Jeyalalitha film with a captivating story line that showed Jeyalalitha undergoing the trauma of one side love, coupled with a leg handicap, preventing her from dancing that she loved to perform. Vanisri was the other heroine of this film.The crime aspect without which, hardly any MGR movie could be thought of,was shown through the character of a criminal doctor, played by Asokan. Both these films were directed by P.Neelakandan. 
     Rickshawkaaran and Idayakkani were the other two Sathya movies films in which MGR played the hero.Both these films were amazing hits and MGR despite his ageing,was shown in brilliant form, with enriched looks and enchanting action zeal.While Manjula played the opposite of MGR in the former,Radha Salooja,a noted Hindi actress was his pair in the latter.The stories of both the films had a lot of scope for action, sentiment and social sense.In Rickshawkaaran,Padmini who used to be MGR's pair in his films released in the Nineteen fifties,performed as the hero's elder sister with her usual gusto.It was one of the limited number of MGR films, in which Major Sundarajan had a telling role performance.These two films were directed by M.Krishnan Nair and A.Jeganathan respectively.
    MGR being in active politics,Sathya Movies had to think of alternative heroes when they could not get his call sheets. Jai Shankar replaced MGR as a dynamic police officer in Sathya Movies Kannipen directed by A.Kasilingam and released in 1969.This film was highly acclaimed for its gripping story line and powerful narration. Sivakumar,who had already played as MGR's cousin in Kaavalkaaran,was again inducted almost in a similar role in this film. Vanisri and Lakshmi were the two heroines of the film though, as per the title,it could be said that Lakshmi was the main character of this film. After this film,Sivakumar played the lead in Vellaadu Vengaiyagiradhu and Arjun was the hero of  En Thangai .These two films were of course released when MGR had already become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
    Later,two other new generation heroes perfectly fitted themselves into the family of the Sathya Movies. They were Kamalhasan and Rajinikanth.Of the two,the superstar became closer to this film house because Kamalahasan did only two films, Kaakki Chattai and Kadhal Parisu of which the first was a grand success with Kamalahasan and Ambika adding glamour, dynamism and tempo, followed by Sathyaraj who brought in a new style of villainy by his inimitable freshness and gusto.Of the two Kamal films,Kaakichattai was directed by Rajasekar and Kadhal Parisu  went into the hands of A.Jeganathan.
    But it was Rajini, who after MGR, gave a successful series  of commercial hits under the Sathya Movies banner. Rajini began his association with Sathya Movies by a grand play of three roles in Moonru Mugam that was received and rated very well.His second movie was Thanga Magan, another run away hit. Ilayaraja's music was an additional strength to Thangamagan that did not leave out any of the trade mark features of the Sathya Movies' films.These two films were directed by A.Jeganathan. Rajini's Raanuva Veeran directed by his pet director S.P.Muthuraman, Oorkavalan made by Manobala and Panakkaaran by P.Vasu, were the other films produced by the Sathaya Movies.Each of them was recognized  for their different theme and narration of events.But Oorkaavalan was more impressive because of Ranjini's combined show of humour and gravity and Radhika's brilliant role play.
     However, after Thangamagan,it was the movie Baasha that hit everybody's imagination with forceful dialogues and Rajini's exuberant style of acting. Raguvaran's villainy was yet another prominent aspect of this film.Most of the scenes were pictured powerfully elevating the superstar's image through catapulting his potential for a tremendous projection of his body language.Thus the film became another milestone not only in the career of Rajinikanth but in the history of Sathya Movies'film making.
    When Sathyaraj turned to play the hero after creating a fantastic record of villainy,Sathya Movies offered him two films.They were Mandhira Punnagai and Pudhiya Vaanam. Interestingly,for the first time Sathya Movies came forward to include Sivaji Ganesan in the film Pudhiya Vaanam,in which both Sivaji and Sathayraj performed as cops.It was a known fact that  many film houses and directors of MGR{eg.Devar Films and The Modern Theatres} would hardly think of inducting Sivaji Ganesan in their films and Sathya Movies was no exception to this.The other fact here is, Pudhiya Vaanam was produced and released only after the death of MGR.
     A close observation of the films released by Sathya Movies will reveal one fact crystal clear.It is about the two mass heroes MGR and Rajinikanth who at different periods, became the true face of the Sathaya Studios for its success story.The other salient feature is the consistent spirit of adventure, popularized as an inherent layer of all stories taken up by this movie house for effective narration.Like the Modern Studios,Sathya Movies' films were one hundred percent action oriented with dramatic intricacies never sagging at any level of presentation.Like Modern Studios,this Movie House also inducted the stout villain actors R.S.Manohar and S.A.Asokan. Similarly,like Sujatha Cine Arts of K.Balaji,Sathya Movies' films were offered to different directors at different times.What made Sathya Movies different from others was its unique record of creating Silver Jubilee hits every now and then.Actors like V.K.Ramasamy and Thengai Srinivasan,were frequent additions into their films.The strongest and most indisputable thing about Sathya Movies was ever, the story line of all their films, that always kept the audience guessing about the turn of events. The presence of top level heroes like MGR,Rajinikanth and Kamalahasan facilitated the continuance of their success story.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Filmstars and Politics.

       When George Bernard Shaw said that politics is the last resort of scoundrels,he would not have meant that persons from other walks of life are unfit to cherish ambition for a political career.In fact,politics has also been the bastion for many intellectuals and right thinking people, who have made it a field for fair play.Whatever be the motive for an individual's entry into politics,it is one's personal charisma and popularity that determines one's success and survival as a politician.  
      A few decades ago,when the political leaders in India,earned distinct positions through their selfless service and honest handling of vital issues,popularity was not viewed as a means for meeting political ends; but it emerged as the end result of selfless service, rendered to people through a track record for honesty and personal integrity. However,during the process of political evolution,concepts began to change and a platform other than political,became necessary for taking the new ideas closer to people with a view to revolutionizing the  society in tune with the changing trends and attitudes..
    The drama stage became one such platform and stage actors began to play pivotal roles in casually indoctrinating the changing values to the common man and thereby  absorbed the imagination of  the audience through a spell of''willing suspension of disbelief''.Tamil society in particular, which was always known for its profound  admiration for theatrics and effective portrayal of character types, used to be carried away by a kind of star worship and image idealization  to the extent of identifying the actor with the role he played.
      The transition from the stage to the celluloid world, made things easier for the actor to create for himself, a screen image,much more improved and periodically updated by human imagination and technology advancement. An actor consistently playing  the role of a  good Samaritan or of an upholder of women’s liberation and social emancipation,could always magnify his star image and get emotionally fixed in the hearts of a glorifying audience.One who is constantly shown as a staunch fighter of corruption in public life, gets the maximum recognition.Such a hero's popularity always grows by leaps and bounds and the adored hero, eventually looks for other avenues  to perpetuate his image, during his lifetime.Politics is most often looked upon by film heroes,as the right ladder for achieving a place of prominence and the MGR formula comes in handy for them, for a smooth journey from stardom to politics.
      M.G.Ramachandran affectionately called and remembered as M.G.R is a legendary name both in films and politics. Many of the political  aspirants from stardom today, seem to be drawn to his hero formula as an entry ticket to catch people's imagination, in terms of their   democratic ideologies for exemplary governance and collective well-being. But there are two important facts that will make the MGR legacy difficult for exact emulation. Firstly, MGR's growth as a star and politician, was a simultaneous process well established by a symbiotic link between the two fields that he most dynamically represented. Secondly,MGR' star image was groomed with the objective of rationalizing  the society for a dramatic change, through an existing political party of which he was a member.The later developments leading to MGR’s    formation of a new political party and the repeated success stories that followed, added fresh fascinating chapters to the political history of Tamil Nadu.S.S.Rajendran was the other hero of this period who was an active promoter of the Dravidian Movement and he was successful in politics as a member of the legislature.However,he knew the limits of his political capacity and personal popularity and did not develop greater ambitions in this regard, despite the fact that his Tamil accent always remained an endearing aspect and carried an influencing appeal.
      Many heroes in the South Indian film industry, were inspired by the M.G.R model and were drawn in to the political arena, only to be  rewarded partially or rejected with a drubbing at the hustings. Even a classic actor like Sivaji Ganesan,who was a close contemporary of M.G.R , failed miserably at the political front.Similarly, the God image of  N.T Rama Rao could not help him remain as  the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh for a longer period. Chiranjeevi,the gloried Telugu hero,started a new political party but soon merged it with the congress party, at the opportune time. Malayalam super star Prem Nazir and the Kannada demi - god  Rajkumar were the wise political drop outs.Kerala being a land of freethinking people,who know to keep each individual in their respective place,would hardly think of resorting to a hero worship programme. Prem Nazir knew this factor and wisely avoided any serious political move from his side.
    However in Tamil Nadu, a soil potentially vulnerable to emotional exploitation,people would keep themselves ever ready to give a chance for political aspirations to fructify from the film front. Ms.Jeyalalitha, whose long term film association with MGR helped her develop interest in politics,has not only reflected a charisma almost similar to that of MGR,but has also proved to be a perfect competitor of her political rivals, by a sheer capacity to wield a controlling whip over the Dravidian break away party, launched by her political senior.She seems to sustain the power game, through a kind of courage, that she alone is capable of.
    In the north, quite a few Bollywood actors and actresses joined political parties and became MPs and MLAs sharing the spirit of their own film popularity and the prevailing victory mood of the political parties.But rarely any big star like Sunil Dutt, Amitab Bachan,Raj Babbar and Satruhun Sinha was inclined to start a party of their own.May be, they rightly understood the difficulties involved in running an independent political outfit.From the South, Soundharya joined the BJP but unfortunately she died in a plane crash.Vijayashanthi is doing her round in politics,representing different parties at different times. Jeyapradha has also been active in politics for quite sometime.
     Quite a few from among the present day popular heroes in Tamil,have been working out a magical shift from stardom to politics with a blind faith in converting their committed fan base into a political core group.They do not want to leave their luck untried, perhaps because of their belief, that, fallacy might become fact any time and what had happened to M.G.R  might happen to them too.This is how heroes like Ramarajan,Vijayakanth and Sarath Kumar began to show a keen interest in politics.Ramarajan in fact began to follow each and every mannerism,makeup and costume sense and theme focus of MGR, in all his movies and finally became an MP for a brief spell,representing the AIADMK party founded by MGR.Even now he is campaigning for this party's candidates, contesting the upcoming parliamentary elections.While Vijayakanth and Sarathkumar have launched their own political parties, the former is aggressively moving coins, with the fond hope of becoming the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, one day or other.Other actors like Vagai Chandrasekar,Nepoleon and Comedian S.V.Sekar have also evinced keen interest in politics and contested elections to become MLA or MP. 
      The power of popularity breeds tendencies of narcissism and creates greed for more power, generated by public acclaim and accumulation of wealth made possible, through the invincible charm of the tinsel world.The star image spontaneously boosts one's self image and makes one crave for undeserving recognition of merits that one does not possess.As most of the mega stars are just the product of the director's creative imagination and professional control, the other side of what they really are, becomes known to the people,only when they  are noticed as,off- screen performers of political or social roles of their own making. So long the stars twinkle in the wonder world, they look awesome and admirable. But once they start gliding from their fancy mountains to the valley of reality,some of them begin to glare.Above all, the political ambition of any film star is nothing but the outcome of hero worship and the deifying attitude of their much excited fans.The fans would do better by letting their heroes twinkle from where they are,like diamonds in the sky.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fineness of Family Dramas.

      Family dramas on the big screen,if presented neatly and with conviction,create a mind blowing impact much more than other genres.This is because,an individual's life, gains greater significance only in relation to one's association with others, in the form of one's family or society.Of the two, it is the family that generates,supports and fulfills an individual's dreams and aspirations and supplements one's character formation, for one's own benefit as well as that of humanity at large. That is why fiction and films dealing with family formulations,patterns and emotional intricacies, win over readers and audience preference, more overwhelmingly than other forms of creative excellence. The Tamil soil with its deep rooted emotional moorings,has embraced family dramas with great enthusiasm and involvement.Tamil films released from the Nineteen Fifties  to the Seventies, simply excelled in family dramas, through brilliant narration and spirit of authenticity, because those were decades of sentimental celebration of family love and unity.The perfect bond of well founded joint family institutions,existed purely on the solid fundamentals of respect for  elders, inherent attitudes of mutual love,tolerance at all levels and readiness to sacrifice anything,anytime. Invariably, only these themes formed the base of a vast number of films, dealing with family drama during that period.
     There were primarily,films discussing only the family factors without incorporating any other element such as romance,friendship,crime and social concepts.There were also others, relating the above said external aspects to the family environment,thereby focusing on how conflicts were caused in the family routine,by characters and events not directly linked to the family foundation. Directors like A.Bhimsingh and the duo Krishnan Panju, cleanly excelled in the narration of pure family themes,characters and events.There were also Telugu directors doing a remarkable job in the depiction of family themes and stories.My childhood memories of family oriented films,take me to the days of watching films like Kudumba Gowravam and Devar Film's Vazha Vaitha Dheivam both starring Gemini Ganesan,Sivaji Ganesan's Makkalai Petra Magarasi,MGR's Thaikkuppin Thaaram {another movie from Devar Films},Kuladeivam, directed by Krishnan Panju, Engaveettu Mahalakshmi of A.Nageswara Rao, and the two long titled films 'Thaayai Poela Pillai Noolaippoela Selai' and 'Maamiyaarum Oru Veettu Marumagale'.
     All these films released during the Fifties,beautifully and firmly projected precious family sentiments and values that constituted the quality of life those days.Most of these films also at times, went out of the family fold, to meet events and characters that were mandatory for socializing and strengthening interactions with the world.But there was one movie of this particular decade, that became a standing model of the family edifice, with an underlying vital thrust on the stronghold of the joint family system and that was the movie Baagappirivinai,directed by A.Bhimsingh.This film had all necessary ingredients to evolve into a fine demonstration of family experience,and struck everybody's imagination by its richness of narration and magnificence of characterization.Amazing actors like Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan,Sarojadevi,M.N.Nambiyar, T.S.Baliah, S.V.Subbiah, C.K.Saraswathy and above all the exuberant actor M.R.Radha, made the film a monumental revelation of the joint family stronghold, cherished intensively by a value bound generation.
    Sivaji Ganesan was of course, the natural choice to play the protagonist of the family drama because he truly fitted himself into characters carrying the load of emotions and sentimental layers, reinforcing the base of such films.It was the element of grandeur in his acting,that helped Sivaji Ganesan to make a serial success show,as the one and only hero of Family drama.The other fact is the omnipresence of A.Bhimsingh, as the most acceptable narrator of family drama, on account of his creative potential to present precisely  scenic sequences that could create a lasting impact.This is how, he made exemplary films worthy of family watch.As the trend continued during the Sixties, there were many of his hits like Paava Mannippu, Padithaal Mattum Poethuma,Bantha Paasam, Pazhani,Paar Magale Paar and so on.Gemini Studios'Motor Sundarampillai would also rightly belong to the category of  fine family dramas.The later releases of Sivaji Ganesan's films like Baratha Vilas,Thanga Padhakkam andThirisoolam also contained a lot of family emotions though these films had other vital aspects of life to deal with.
   Interestingly,like Baagapirivinai, during the Sixties,there was another blockbuster that carried the family sense, heart and soul into the mind of the audience and this movie Padikkaadha Medhai, starring Sivaji Ganesan and directed by A.Bhimsingh, became an instant success because of the natural role performance of Sivaji Ganesan, S.V.Rengarao and P.Kannaambaa.It was an eventful film in the career of Sivaji Ganesan and a timeless reflection of the greatness of Tamil Cinema.Each and every scene of this film, would remain as an unforgettable life experience for the great lovers of family drama.
   Two other outstanding films of Sivaji Ganesan on family emotions are, Vietnaam Veedu and Vaazhkai,released during different decades.Both these films discussed poignantly the fall out of family unity, arising out of filial selfishness and ingratitude.The first one was the story of a very prestigious man called Padmanaban, who cherished the longstanding values of the family bond and was a model of dignity,discipline and dedication to exemplary family norms.With his much devoted wife Savithri,{played by the fabulous actress Padmini}Padmanaban simply extolled into the height of glory as the vital pillar of the family, but finally fell dead, not being able to withstand the load of privation and disappointment.The latter film Vaazhkai bordered on a similar story line, pictured the amazing growth of a man from scraps to success, with the strength and support of his wife {played by Ambika}but was finally left alone by his sons, whose selfishness finally took away the life of his noble wife.
    Though social revolution was the chosen field of MGR,he too became a substantial part of many family films such as Kudumbathalaivan,Periya Idathu Penn,Neethikkuppin Paasam, Panakkaara Kudumbam, Panam Padaithavan, Naan Yei Pirandhein and a few more films like OruThai Makkal and Thaikkuthalaimagan,However, as far as MGR was concerned,the spirit of justice was of paramount importance for him and he could not let it down for the sake of family emotions.It was true that MGR also played here and there, the role of an affected and sacrificing member of a large family;but it was Sivaji Ganesan who created a tremendous impact, as a character falling a prey to  the schemes and strategies of other characters in the family fold and finally turning into an embodiment of sacrifice.There was certainly a cathartic sense in the role performance of Sivaji Ganesan and he never failed to create a heart rending effect of family drama, causing tears to flow naturally from the eyes of the viewers.
   What made the family dramas capture the sensitivity of the audience was the all pervading spirit of goodness, imbibing tendencies of tolerance and sacrifice,as something essential for promoting the well being of the family cluster.The good elements in a family, will always act as a catalytic force strengthening and protecting each layer with concern and care.Quite often, the good elements would be subjected to exploitation and humiliation and it was at this juncture,the mood of tolerance would set in, to carefully avoid any kind of eventuality, leading to the disintegration of the unified segments of the larger family dispensation.
    The greatness of a family drama, relies mainly on its structure of nobility and goodness kept in compact form, by emotions of love and affection.The fifties and sixties were a golden era, honouring the highness of family unity, as part and parcel of healthy and happy living.The sacrifice note was poignant in films like Paava Mannippu,Bandha Paasam, Pazhani and Padikkadha Medhai. Apart from A Bhimsingh,veteran directors like K.Balachander {His films such as Arangetram,Aval Oru Thodarkadhai and Bama Vijayam} and K.S.Gopala krishnan{Movies like Vaazhayadi Vaazhai,Kan Kanda Dheivam,Kulavilakku}truly brought home the value of family unity and the spirit of sacrifice both seriously and humorously.Even a renowned director like B.R.Pantulu,who tried his hand on a variety of subjects like mythology and history,also dealt with a family theme in his film Namma Veettu Lakshmi.Later a credible and valued director like Visu successfully handled many family stories ,of which AVM's Samsaaram Adhu Minsaaram tops the list.
    During the Seventies as well as Eighties, there were wonderful family dramas like Aarilirundhu Arubadhuvarai,Padikkaadhavan and Dharmadhurai all starring the Superstar in the role of a sacrificing elder brother. Rajini's performance in these films was as much convincing as that of Sivaji Ganesan clearly transmitting the changing trends in emotional vibrations of the new generation.It is strange that Rajini's close contemporary and versatile actor Kamal did not evince much interest and involvement in family drama, though a couple of films like AVM's Per Sollum Pillai and K.Balachander's Unnaal Mudiyum Thambi projected him as the central force of family stories.Perhaps an actor like Kamalahasan with a rationalistic mindset, does not believe in sentimental exhibitions in role performance.
    Even during the new millennium, we came upon an extraordinary film like Lingusamy's Anandam that fascinatingly narrated a joint family story, with all its intricacies and nuances, laying considerable emphasis on the longstanding family values like tolerance,flexibility and unrelenting faith in the trusted family member, be it an elder brother, or a younger one.Mutuality prevailed as the most significant aspect of this catchy story with clean perspectives. Ananadam was definitely the new millennium gift of  the Tamil  Film industry, to those who continue to cherish family norms.Besides this Lingusamy treat, there were two delightful family films each, from the hands of M.Raja and Mithran Jawahar.The former's Unakkum Enakkum and Santhosh Subramanyan and the latter' Yaradi Nee Mohinand and Uthama Puthiran took us to a new family environment,with members of larger families, enjoying each and every moment of living together.However,romance was the core of these family dramas.The other emotional family film, with a rural background was, Mayaandi Kudumbathaar.
    Old or new,family dramas hardly fail to reach the audience favour, with an exceptional quality of fineness and perfection.The story background may carry great joyous moments like Baamaa Vijayam,Santhosh Subramanyan and Uthamaputhiran, or sad and sorrowful sequence of events as seen in Bagapirivinai,Padikkadha Medhai,Kulavilakku and Aarilirundhu Arubadhuvarai. Some will shuttle between lighter and heavier emotions as we witnessed in Aval Oru Thodar kadhai  and Anandham. Whatever be the mode of presentation,family oriented films without deviating from the mainframe, with a bird's eye view of romance or social events, have struck a solid note on our memory lane with sensitive,aesthetic,exalting and realistic creative dimensions, to last for a lifetime. Family dramas on the whole offer us, the finest moments of film watch.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Smart Major of Tamil Cinema.


       There are a few highly esteemed actors of Tamil Cinema, known specially for their impeccable and forceful dialogue delivery.Among the heroes, no one has so far replaced Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan, in this regard.But among character actors, it was actor Sundarajan popularly known as Major Sundarajan, who could effortlessly occupy that prestigious position of an actor capable of delivering dialogues with utmost clarity,power and enormous reach.One could say without any trace of exaggeration, that it was Major Sundarajan who came closer to Sivaji Ganesan as a mighty performer both on stage and on screen.The other known fact is that it was that immortal hero who remained as the soul mate of Sundarajan.
       Sundarajan would have started his career with T.M.Soundarajan's Pattinathaar and become popular with his noticeable performance in Server Sundaram. But the proud prefix 'Major'that adorned his name after his much talked about stage play Major Chandrakanth{A play of the eminent director K.Balachander which was later made into an unforgettable film,by him}that put him firmly on the thespian journey, destined to go on for long, with merit and grandeur.Major Sundarajan must have felt immensely grateful at least to two people in the Tamil Film industry.One was his actor model Sivaji Ganesan and the other was the most dynamic film maker K.Balachander.
    Nearly one third of the Major's films would have been with Sivaji Ganesan. Of these, the most memorable and the closest to the hearts of the ardent fans of Sivaji Ganesan were, Gnana Oli, Ethiroli,Uyarndha Manithan,Gowravam, Thangapadhakkam,Kalthoon,Unakkaaga Naan, Dr.Siva, Engirundho Vandhaal,Vasantha Maaligai and Avanthaan Manithan.In Gnana Oli, Sundarajan played the role of a cop and bosom friend of the hero, a vengeful murderer, escaping arrest by the police.It showed Sundarajan beautifully reflecting the sentiments of friendship and a sense of duty with a clear balance of mind.In Uyarndha Manidhan, Sivaji and Sundarajan were again shown as friends from childhood,who would meet later to cherish their childhood days in retrospect.People would have hardly forgotten the eternal number 'Andha Naal Gnabagam Nenjile Vandhadhe' that gloated over a grand model of friendship between them two.In Unakkaaga Naan,the major played the role of a manipulative capitalist father of Sivaji Ganesan, demonstrating his capacity for performing a scheming,self-centred business man.
    His other films with that mighty star include, Raja,Anbaithedi,Thiagi,Sangili,Dr.Siva Engal Thanga Raja,Padugappu and Simma Soppanam.Their team spirit in films,was in fact firmly based on a sentimental foundation, with emotions of friendship and family spirit pouring fourth like a flooding waterfall. The duo, successfully carried on an era of highly dramatic human relationship in celluloid form and exuberantly fixed their performing gusto, in the minds of the audience. No two actors would have so cleanly swept human emotions, with such invincible theatrical thrust, as these two epoch-making individuals. It was a historic association between two actors and they definitely created history of many kinds. 
   Director K.Balachander's success as film maker, mainly reflected his rare acumen in spotting out right talents and mould them in the fittest form, so as to transform his chosen men and women, into remarkable artists of stuff and merit.Not all could fulfill his expectations and live up to his yardsticks and norms of film making.But those who came under his creative scanner, did fulfill his expectations and lived up to his dreams and aspirations.Two great actors who fall in this category were, Nagesh and Major Sundarajan.The trio[the two actors and their passionate director] made many success stories like Major Chandrakanth, Naanal, Neerkumizhi,Edhir Neechal,Navagraham and the ever watchable Baamaa Vijayam. Major Sundarajan consistently enjoyed a similar team spirit with Nagesh as he had with Sivaji Ganesan.
    Major Sundarajan was compact both as a character actor and villain.Though he always excelled in character roles,as a villain he made a singular mark, in films like Naanal,Enna Mudalaali Sowkyama, Billa and Andha Oru Nimidam. Among the production houses,big banners like the AVM Pictures, Devar Films and Sujatha Cine Arts, quite often inducted this highly talented actor for meaty roles.Like many other actors who were closer to Sivaji Ganesan,Sundarajan also did not frequently share screen space with MGR.But his roles in MGR films like Rickshakaaran and Thedivandha Mappillai,need a special mention.Among the next generation actors,Sundarajan was comfortable with both Rajinikanth and Kamalahasan.
    Before I conclude,it must be stated here that Major Sundarajan's film career was prefabricated by many dramas and stage shows and in this respect he truly belongs to the line of great actors like the TKS brothers,S.V.Sahasranamam and R.S.Manohar. One could clearly see the impact of the stage on the screen, in the form of  clear pass over of dialogues and body language from live shows to celluloid formulations. Sundarajan definitely belonged to the tribe of dedicated performers and he rightly deserves a place in the line of grand masters like V.K.Ramasamy,S.V.Rengarao,S.V.Subbiah and M.R.Radha.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Voice That Takes Us Along.

   The myriad voices of film music, rule our ears in different veins. In other words, each one of us takes a fancy to the singing voices, based on our likes and dislikes.Some times, a few numbers and tunes take us closer to the singer.We have sweet melodious voices,possessing voices,high pitched voices,clarion voices, yearning voices and those that are sharp and scintillating.Tamil  film music is a magnificent mix of a galaxy of top ranking singers.Of these, one stands out as a sharp,sweet and captivating singer with a pulling control in her voice and that is none other than Vani Jeyaram.
The special charm in Vani Jeyaram's voice is that of an all pervading sense of longing and hidden element of sorrow, that one could genuinely feel as well, in the mind blowing male voice of the noted Hindi playback singer Mukesh.
  Take for instance her two most popular numbers, sung in her nascent days, for the film Aboorva Raagangal of K.Balachander.The most meritorious 'Yezhu Swaranagalukkul Ethanai Paadal' and Kelviyin Nayagane endhan kelvikku padhiledhayya' from that film, were beautifully dipped in the stream of sorrow and they captured our emotions through a process of gripping and tightening tone control.If S.Janaki is well known for her predominantly high pitched voice,it is the sharpness and clarity in the voice of Vani Jeyaram that would take us along.
   Most of the solo numbers like 'Malligai En Mannan Mayangum'{Dheerga Sumangali},'Naane Naanaa Yaarodhaanaa'{Azhage Unnai Aaraadhikkirein}'En Kalyana Vaiboham Unnoduthaan' {Azhage Unnai Aaradhikkirein} and the differently sung 'Nitham Nitham Nellusoru'{Mullum Malarum},to mention a few,were historic hits of this amazing singer whose voice calibre was specially known for travelling deeper into the aesthetic layers of music enjoyment.For that matter her duet songs sung particularly with K.J.Yesudas stand equal testimony to her ability to pull the human ears into a delightful listening experience.Some of the musical hits in this respect are 'Andhamaanai  Paarungal Azhagu' 'Ninaivale Silai seidhu'{ both from Andhaman Kadhali} 'Gangai Yamunai Ingudhan Sangamam'{Imayam} and 'Thangathil Mugameduthu' {Meenava Nanban}.Her other felicitous duets were with S.P.B and the most reverberating ones are Ilakkanam Maarudho{Nizhal Nijamagiradhu}'Ore Naal Unai Naan'{Ilamai Oonjaladugiradhu}and 'Barathi Kannamma'{Ninaithale Inikkum}.With Jeyachandran her immortal number is 'Inraikku Ein Indha Anandhamo' from Vaidhehi Kathirundhal.
   During the Nineteen Seventies and Eighties it was Vani Jeyaram's songs that were frequent award winners bringing pride both to Tamil and Telugu Cinema.She had a very bold voice frame capable of creating the intended impact through a casual play of her vocal cords without manipulation of any kind.Most of her songs were of the 'Hear Again'category and beyond all the ecstasy of carnatic music that she was capable of,it was a voice with a categorical winning effect by simply taking the music lovers on an exotic journey along with her singing core.In this regard,she always remained unbeatable,through out her film  music career .