Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tamil Cinema's Timeless Villain.


    Villainy is as old as humanity.Creating concepts of villainy and a focus for its proper display are the greatest challenges facing the creator of any art form, that demonstrates evil or bad behaviour denoting the yardsticks of villainy.Fiction and drama, have specialized in the working of the human mind and its reflection as character and behaviour. Cinema has distinctly extended the dimensions of good and bad manners and ways of life, through a dedicated presentation of themes, stories, events and characters.Villainy in Tamil Cinema, is factually as old as Tamil Cinema itself.This Blog has already discussed fairly, the varied trends in villainy prevailing in Tamil Cinema, under another article entitled, 'The Archetypes of Villainy in Tamil Cinema'.The objective of this article is to make an exclusive tribute to a villain actor whose villainy on screen is closer to the inception of the Tamil film industry. It is M.N.Nambiyar,the marvelous villain actor,who deserves this special encomium for remaining as the timeless villain of Tamil Cinema.
    The composition of villainy involves two things.They are,a foul psyche and its fouler manifestation. One may be a scheming villain,a crude villain,a loud villain or a smiling villain. M.N.Nambiyar has proved many a time that he is the combination of all these tough and trendy traits of villainy.What always created a special impact in the case of Nambiyar was his singular modes of gesticulation and. unique voice modulation creating the most gripping shades of villainy.
     Two of the earliest films that showed him as the sweet quoted villain,were Nichaya Thamboolam and Thirudaadhe,the former a Sivaji Ganesan film,and the latter an MGR special.He also did a similar dubious role in Missiamma a Gemini Ganesan hit. Later he appeared once again in such a role in one of MGR's last leg films Neethikku Thalaivanangu. As a deceptive villain, Nambiyar was perfectly captivating because of his charming and graceful looks.As Nambiyar was one of those actors who moved to the screen from the stage,he knew at the deeper levels, the intrinsic parameters of timing in dialogue delivery and bodily coordination in acting,that made him a special asset to Tamil Cinema,leave alone his inborn flair for performing villainy with felicitous involvement.
     Nambiyar was one of those actors who was simultaneously performing character roles along with villain roles in early Tamil releases like Thigambara Saamiyaar, Makkalai Petra Magaraasi, Baagapirivinai, Naan Petra Selvam, Nallavan Vaazhvaan, Boologa Rambai and Paasamalar.He also convincingly portrayed the role of an honest police officer in movies like, Nallavan Vaazhvaan, Panthottam, Ragasiya Police and Ninaithathai Mudippavan, all MGR films.As a police officer, he was chic and stylish in all these films.What was extraordinary about this outstanding actor was his facial composition and body frame that could naturally fit into any kind of character be it of a royal mould or a social/ familial/tribal type. 
      Some of the earliest grand shows of Nambiyar's incomparable villainy were the MGR blockbusters Marmayogi, Mandhirikumari  Sarvaadhikaari and the moderate hits like Arasilankumari and Arasa Kattalai. He was either a Raajaguru or scheming royal lieutenant or a flirting guy in these immortal films.Similarly inspiring were the roles he performed, in the Sivaji Ganesan super hits like Vanagamudi, Uthamaputhiran and Thanga Padhumai. One great thing about M.N.Nambiyar was that he was a non controversial actor at all times and that is why he could get patronized both by the MGR and Sivaji Ganesan camps without any degree of discrimination.
      Nambiyar was seen as the crudest and most violent villain both in looks and demeanour in some of the notable MGR films like Naan Aanaiyittaal,Padahotti, Kudiyirundha Koil,Pudhiya Bhoomi,Kaavalkaaran,Naalai Namadhe, Sirithu Vaazhavendum and Pallaandu Vaazhga.Of these Kavalkaaran was a totally different type of film in which he played the role of an irredeemable rich criminal-cum-father-in law of MGR.In Engaveettu Pillai he was the greedy and ruthless brother-in-law of the hero MGR, but finally got mellowed through a process of reformation, as in the film Aayirathil Oruvan, which showed him as a bad provincial ruler unethically attempting to marry the heroine.In Sridhar's Urimaikural,he was the scheming son of a greedy mother who finally got beaten and reformed by the hero {MGR}.The other detestable villain characters in which he appeared were for the Sivaji Ganesan starring Thirisoolam and Rajini Kanth's Naan Mahaan Alla. A few other films that exhibited the brutal side of his villainy were, MGR's Dheivathai,En Kadamai, Parisu, Nododi,Madapura, Vivasaayi, Thozhilaali and Aasaimugam.
      Some of the rarest and most memorable roles that Nambiyar performed brilliantly, were as a rich zamindar bent upon destroying the love of his son even during the rebirth of his son and his lover, in the film Nenjam Marappadhillai and as a rich man displaying the arrogance of wealth or  not allowing his sister or daughter to marry a poor, beneath- his status man, in films like Raman Ethanai Ramanadi Enga Oor Raaja and Rajapart Rengadhurai. He compactly and buoyantly fixed himself, in performing  roles such as poet Ottakoothan in Ambikapathi  as an aristocratic zameendhar in Thilaanaa Mohanaambaal and as Balathevar in Raja Raja Cholan. 
    Unlike P.S.Veerappa,M.N.Nambiyar did not have bold eyes to make a physical thrust of villainy.But his eyes could at times speak more than his tongue because his eyebrows could rise and shrink to suit the emotions required for the scene .The effectively calculated rise and fall of intonation in his delivery of dialogues and the corresponding gesticulations he would make, were the invincible trademarks of his villainy would inspire many mimicry artists and comedians like Vivek to imitate him, not for the sake of mockery but for the pleasure of doing it.If P.S.Veerappa was good mostly at fencing, M.N.Nambiyar was equally adept in fencing, boxing and wrestling.This comparison should not be misunderstood,because P.S.Veerappa who was an inimitable and contemporary villain actor of Nambiyar,had shown his tremendous skill for fisticuffs in films like Kaidhi Kannayiram and Ananda Jothi.The point here is, unlike P.S.Veerappa,M.N.Nambiyar had acted in more number of films on social themes and so the need for practising and performing other genres of stunt activities, was more for M.N.Nambiyar than for Veerappa. 
    M.N.Nambiyar lived longer than P.S.Veerappa and he could share screen space with a long list of actors starting from MGR and Sivaji Ganesan down to the youngest actors like Vijay, Prashanth and so on.Similarly both as a villain and character actor he would have acted with comedians like N.S.Krishnan, K.A.Thangavelu,J.P.Chandrababu,Nagesh and Vadivelu quite often sharing their comic spirit with him.Incidentally,the very first film of M.N.Nambiar 'Vidyabadhi' showed him as a comedian and many years later,it was K.Bagyaraj who restored the comic mantle to Nambiyar in his film Thooral Ninnupochu. In the film Winner, one can see Vadivelu teasing M.N.Nambiyar with a funny remark that the death of MGR has made his  mischief rather uncontrollable. Surprisingly,Nambiyar would not make any reaction to this remark. Perhaps he would have silently enjoyed and endorsed Vadivelu's cheeky remark.
     No one can ignore his elderly character roles,mostly as a lovable grand dad in the films of heroes like Rajinikanth [Ejaman}Vijayakanth[Ezhai Jaadhi}Vijay{Poove Unakkaaga} and Prasanth{Winner}.It is known to the Tamil audience that this ardent villain of Tamil Cinema was a staunch Ayyappa Devotee and a teetotaler.His journey from villainy to valued character roles on the stage and on the screen, was ever a spontaneous course, because of the magic in his voice and the volume of his vision, that could easily travel from the destination of villainy to that of virtue.It was his inbuilt capacity to undergo this by polar journey that keeps him in the most reputed and prestigious position as the timeless villain of Tamil Cinema.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Tamil Cinema on Kings,Kingdoms and Empires:- A Historical Perspective.

     Cinema as a creative form has never failed to carry on its twin objectives of entertaining and enlightening.There have been pointed expositions at various levels, of issues concerning individuals and groups, the latter taking different identical positions such as family,society and humanity as a whole, with local or global compositions.There have been interpretations of civilization and culture, with generational implications.There have been geographical influences in framing and shaping regional fundamentals of culture tradition and morality.There have been war and peace, aggression and conquest,victory and defeat as cyclic events across the world.Prosperity and famine, feudalism and egalitarianism, fascism and socialism,expansionism and coexistence, types of governance such as monarchy,democracy,oligarchy and even anarchy  have all come and gone, as world realities cutting across nations.
  All this has moved on, as  corollary conditions of the passage of time and have made human beings susceptible to the outcome of time related- events, chronicled as history of regions and the world. Cinema in a galaxy of languages, has responsibly exhibited these realities most often confining to happenings at the time of its creativity.Occasionally films have also focused on periodic occurrences looking back retrospectively on the course of events and their relevance to mankind, creating a temporary or lasting impact, on the lives of people.Such an approach with a historical thrust is accompanied by elements of heroism and grandeur in narration.
   Some of the English historical films that come to my memory are,Ben-Hur,The Guns Of Navrone King Arthur,Waterloo, Cleopatra, Lincoln, Gone With the Wind,The Great Escape,Genghis Khan, The Ten Commandments, Elizabeth the Golden Age,Brave Heart and The Patriot.The list I am sure is a minuscule from the voluminous archives of English Cinema, focused on world history.What makes most of the English historical films gorgeously appealing, is the magnificent display of scenic splendour,powerful action and the make- believe, or factual veracity of events and characters.Music component also plays a vital role, in making these movies totally different from the other genre films.There is always a sense of epic glory in history films, dipped in heroism, conspiracy, espionage, adventure,aggression, revolt and resistance, all culminating in war, involving victory and defeat, with their inherent layers of sacrifice and loss of lives.Watching one extraordinary historical film, creates a life time experience to be treasured and remembered.
    Indian cinema in general and Tamil cinema in particular, can also make amazing claims of having presented a stupendous show of history, in terms of global standards.Even during the days of inadequate technical advancement, our people have set  commendable  standards and yardsticks, for producing films on provincial and national events and personalities, to find an immortal place in the map of time.Some of the Hindi films in this regard are Jodha Akbar,Ashoka the Great,Jhansi Ki Raani, Gandhi,The Passage to India,Train to Pakistan and so on.
    Tamil historical films have crossed the regional barriers and dealt with historical personalities like Krishnadevarayar['Tenaliraman'] and Queen Padmini of Chittoor{'Chittoor Rani Padmini'}.The first one was simultaneously made in Telugu and Tamil and in both the versions N.T.Ramarao donned the role of Krishnadevavarayar. Sivaji Ganesan whose face was rightly made for social and royal themes, replaced A.Nageswararao in the role of Tenaly Raman. and had graceful Jamuna as his wife.In Chittor Rani Padmini,based on a traditional story of historical mould,with its story background located in Rajasthaan, Vijayanthimala,the most fascinating actress and dynamic dancer,played the title role,while Sivaji Ganesan appeared as King Rana and M.N.Nambiyar as Alauddin Khilji,the Sultan of Delhi.The film unfortunately failed at the box office.
     There were many films with historical themes and it was MGR or Sivaji Ganesan seen as prince or king, in most of them.Some of the noted films of MGR in this category were Mandhirikumari,Jenova, Marudha Naattu Ilavarasi,,Marmayogi,Mahadevi,Mannaadhi Mannan,Madurai Veeran,Chakravarthi Thirumagal,Rani Samyukta[in which MGR played the role of King Pridviraj]Rajarajan,Raja Desingu Arsailankumari,Nadodi Mannan[an epoch making film produced and directed by MGR himself}, Kanchi Thalaivan[ a story from the mighty pen of DrM.Karunanidhi relating to the Pallava empire] Arasa Kattalai,Aayirathil Oruvan{a fiction film on bonded labourers, overpowered by imaginary provincial rulers,and this run away hit, could gain an epic status because of its over all grandeur in presentation} Adimai Penn[a great success from the production house of MGR ] and Madhuraiyai Meetta Sundara Pandian,
    The story line of all the films mentioned above, was generally related to rulers of actual or imagined provinces or the kings of the Pandiya, Chola and Pallava empires. Among these films, Nadodi Mannan was a mixture of black and white presentation in the first half and in colour in the second half.The  colour films of MGR in this genre, were the last three, in the list mentioned above. The striking features of all these films were, the royal costumes meticulously made, the chaste Tamil dialogues delivered forcefully and clearly by MGR and all the actors,the impressive show of heroism,the scheming back door villainy of politically ambitious and power hungry forces represented by great actors such as P.S.Veerappa ,M.N.Nambiyar, R.S.Manohar, S.A.Narajan,  andT.S.Balaiah and a few others, the fitting musical addition and the exquisite display of art, in erecting exhaustive settings and the dedicated shooting of the whole process of events, with accuracy at all levels.
     Besides earnestly trying to present history,a majority of these films stuck to the traditional and cultural aspects, prevalent during the period referred to, with relevance and authenticity. Excepting  Rani Samyukta,Rajarajan and Arasilankumari all the films of MGR with historical background, were mega hits and films like Mandhirikumari,Mannadhi Mannan, Mahadhevi, Chakravarthi Thirumagal Nadodi Mannan,Aayirathil Oruvan. Adimaipen and Madhuraiyai Meetta Sundara Pandian were  block busters.The last in the list was the last film of MGR,the evergreen hero of Tamil Cinema and the story base of this great film was provided by the reputed Tamil novelist Akilan.
    The list of Sivaji Ganesan's historical films is also very impressive, though not as long as that of MGR.His earliest hits were Manohara,Vanagamudi and Uthama Puthiran,Then came the epoch making Veera Pandia Katttabomman produced by B.R.Pantulu of Padmini Pictures.Like Pantulu's grand epic Karnan,this huge historical piece has been digitally remade and is eagerly expected for a revisit.What a sprightly and invigorating performance it was, for the Chevalier,playing the role of a provincial king from a Telugu region ruling from the extreme southern region of the Tamil soil,roaring like a lion and not budging to the British invaders, towards paying duty and taxes.From the beginning till the end, the movie was a wonderful treat in all respects.The narration was so gripping and dramatically so stimulating, that it made elements such as historical authenticity and veracity a secondary factor.With a grand cast of veteran actors like S.Varalakshmi,Gemini Ganesan, Padmini,O.A.K Thevar,V.K.Ramasamy and Javert Seetharaman, along with Sivaji Ganesan,this silver jubilee hit continues to haunt audience imagination, with its amazing cinematic stuff.
     A couple of historical films of Svaji Ganesan also flopped at the box office.They were Raja Bakthi and Rani Lalithaangi. However,Pantulu's ''Kappalottiya Thamizhan'' dealing with a few salient events relating to the Indian freedom movement, with special reference to the happenings in Tamil Nadu, fulfilled audience expectation though it could not be equated with the success rate of Veera Paandiya Katta bomman. But the film beautifully brought out the emotional aspect of the struggle for freedom, under the effective stewardship of a noble minded businessman, called Va.Vu.Chidambaram Pillai. The film also threw light on other freedom fighters like Poet Subramanya Bharathi,Vaanchinaadhan Subramanya Siva,Madaswami and so on.The narration was extraordinarily realistic with the underplay of emotions,by stalwart actors like Gemini Ganesan,S.V.Subbiah,T.K.Shanmugam and K.Balaji, besides the grandiose Sivaji Ganesan. I am sure, many would have shed tears on watching the film at the theatres.
    Then came Raja Raja Cholan under the ace direction of A.P.Nagarajan. This was another color film on a historical subject starring Sivaji Ganesan,after Veera Pandia Kattabomman.The film had a huge cast of great actors like M.N.Nambiyar,R.Muthuraman.Sivakumar,T.R.Mahalingam, R.S.Manohar  S.V. Sahasranamam, Sirkazhi Govindarajan,S.Varalakshmi,Vijayakumari  Lakshmi and Manorama. This film carries the pride of being the first cinema scope movie in Tamil.In spite of great contribution and support from Sivaji Ganesan and many other talented actors and technical crew,this film noted for veracity in narration, clean dialogues and good music quotient,could not become a box office hit, because of lack of vigor and dynamism in over all presentation.However, there is no doubt that Sivaji Ganesan as usual, made every one feel that Raja Raja Cholan would have been like him and would have walked and talked like him.This made Raja Raja Cholan an unforgettable piece of historical narration in celluloid form.
    Gemini Ganesan who was a close contemporary of MGR and Sivaji Ganesan and an intimate associate of the latter, also stays remembered for playing dynamic roles in films based on historical fiction.Gemini Ganesan's films like Pathini Dheivam [based on Shakespeare's Winter's Tale]Guna Sundari[story base lifted from Shakespeare's King Lear] and mythical entries like Kanavane Kankanda Dheivam,Sowbagyavadhi, Manaalane Mangaiyin Baagyam,Boologa Ramabai and Mangaiyar Ullam Mangaadha Selvam were tales of the royal stuff.Besides these,there were special historical films like Konjum Salangai, Vanjikkottai Vaaliban and Parthiban Kanavu.
    Konjum Salangai is remembered for its fabulous folklore music and fascinating narration of romance and adventure. The story written by Ku.Ma.Balasubramaniyan and directed by M.V.Raman accompanied by the grand musical show of S.M.Subbiah Naidu made the film an aesthetically rich and commendable show.The film is remembered as much for the immortal song ''Singaara Velane Dheva'' as for its other creditable aspects..Parthiban Kanavu was a clean show of historical fiction, based on a novel written by Kalki Krishnamurthy,with the same title.The story of Parthiban Kanavu had direct references to events relating to the Pallava and Chola empires.It is ever remembered for the enchanting role performance of  Gemini Ganesan and,Vaijayanthimala and the appealing performance of ace actors like S.V.Rengarao,T.S.Balaiah, P.S.Veerappa and S.V.Subbiah.
     Vanjikottai Valiban was a felicitous narration of conspiracy,conquest,misrule, struggle for independence and became a mammoth show, like the other Gemini pictures' movie Chandralekha starring M.K.Radha, T.R.Rajakumari and Ranjan,In entertainment value and marvellous presentation,Chandralekha and Vanjikottai Vaaliban would ever retain their status as films of epic grandeur.The artistic excellence of both the films in general and the classical dance competition between Vaijayanthimala and Padmini in Vanjikottai Vaaliban in particular, would ever be preserved as the invincible treasures of Tamil Cinema.The mega settings erected by Gemini pictures for both the films, became a visual ecstasy speaking of high standards of film production, set and practised by Gemini Pictures,as an outstanding film production house.A couple of  other popular movies of Gemini Ganesan in this line were, Veerakkanal and Ellorum Innaattu Mannar.
     It should be mentioned here that films like Ambikapathi,[starring Sivaji Ganesan and P.Banumathi as the immortal lovers of the Kulothunga Chola kingdom]Avvaiyar,[ a film on the female spiritual poet and saint of the Chola empire played by K.B.Sundarambal] and Poompuhar[based on the epic Silappadhikaram with S.S.Rajenran, Vijayakumari and Rajashri donning the roles of Kovalan, Kannagi and Madhavi], carried direct or indirect connections with the Chola and Pandia empires spread over the vast stretch of Tamil Nadu, at different periods.Stories of kings and queens, princes and princesses,also formed part of films like S.S.Rajendran's Muthu Mandapam,Mani Makudam and Petra Maganai Vitra Annai and AVM Rajan's Chitrangi.[the last two films produced by the Modern Theatres].The other two qualitative additions in this genre are, Citadel films Vijayapuri Veeran and A.V.M's  Veera Thirumagan,both celebrating the acting potential of C.L.Anandan and the unique feel of dynamism in presentation. Veerathirumagan is specially known for its enduring musical richness.
    I would have left out some movies for want of memory.But the list provided here is certainly vast and valid  to show that Tamil Cinema has not at all been lagging behind, in depicting history and history- related fiction,with authentic understanding,supportive imagination and artistic commitment. Part of it might be pure fiction and part of it might be a combination of real events, blended with imagination.But on the whole, it has been a solid demonstration of faith, in presenting men and matters,with a single minded devotion to how things would have been and events would have occurred, at different periods of time.Moreover, films of  this genre,have also thrown light on gloried individuals, as kings and queens and as fighters for human freedom,justice, progress and happiness.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Venkat Prabu's Brand of Ghosts.

  Tamil audience have been interestingly exposed to a variety of narrations of stories on benign, ridiculous and serious types of ghosts on the big screen.It has been a season of ghosts haunting us in celluloid form.The list has been considerably vast with entries like Pizza, Darling, Aranmanai, Pisasu and Kanchana making a special impact. Now  it is ''Maasu'',from the Studio Green Production house under the direction of Venkat Prabu.The director has not got out of his formula of crime and comedy, this time with an addition of a plethora of ghosts dominating the screen.His usual thrust on fraud, Hawala and the lure for money being  a vital ingredient of a Venket special, also finds prominence in this ghost ridden action entertainer.
   The initial scenes make it a strenuous necessity to correlate one with the other. Suriya has remained as the major source of strength in two roles as father and son, the former as a ghost character with a magnificently brief flashback. Suriya has put in his muscles and brain for a convincingly stylish performance talking Tamil, in the Chennai and Srilankan dialect and accent. Premji Amaran is behind Suriya for the most part of the film, both alive and dead[as a ghost] flashing his own style of humour here and there.Including Shanmugasundaram, there are more than half a dozen ghosts each with a pre mortal desire, remaining unfulfilled.With the arrival of the ghost of senior Suriya,the narration takes a more serious turn with events running one after the other, at a ghastly[ghostly too] speed.I think Yuvan is best only for melodies[Almost all his songs in Payya keep ringing in my ears.]His background score is a bit noisy and in most scenes the music component seems to swallow the dialogues.He could have learnt a couple of notes from his Dad's composition for Pisaasu.
   Samuthirakani has returned as a villain after Subramanyapuram.Parthiban is his usual stuff wherever he is and whatever role he performs.His cheeky sense of humour asks for more.It is his light minded approach to cinema that makes Venkat Prabu an endearing film maker.Though there is enough of it here,it does not fill one's expectation as his Mangaathaa and Saroja did.As the narration is half lighter and half serious, we do not know where we have to fix ourselves in watching the film.Though the first half of the film went off fast, without much to fall back upon,the second half came as an over loaded container, unable to unload the whole stuff for an easy and clear delivery.Is it a crime masala, or a ghost story, or a combination of both, in humour-cum-gravity mode,only Venkat Prabu should say.The women characters dissipate into thin air,in an atmosphere crowded by ghosts and criminals.I would not call it a gripping tale of ghosts.Nor would I rate it as an impressive action movie.But definitely it is somewhere  between the two.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Some High Voltage Tamil Film Songs.

    Film songs could be classified into breezy, solo, or mixed melodies,vibrant duets and inspiring group songs. Music composers have the onus of unearthing felicitous numbers from the existing seven ''swarams'' through an innovative process of fixation of tunes for a refreshing musical experience.How the tunes receive popular acclaim depends upon how they are tuned and rendered. The reception of a tune is also determined by the taste and mood of the audience, changing from time to time.Some might be longing for melodies.Some would stand up and dance for the fast  numbers.
  On the whole, good music hardly escapes popular admiration and patronage.However what decides the popularity of film music is the magnificence in instrumental and vocal inspiration. There is an absolutely unique category of songs that carry a high voltage of consistent energy, vibration and gusto to keep them eternally acceptable to human ears wherever they are, whatever be their mother tongue and to whichever time they belong to.In this connection I am presenting here a list of Tamil film songs of different periods that have become immortal pieces of music purely on account of their exquisite ingredients supported by a high voltage composition.
   Decades ago there came a group song in the voice of S,C.Krishnan,P.Suseela and others and this most popular timeless number is  ''Sithaada Kattigittu Singaaram Pannikittu''from the film Vannakkili. The enchanting aspect of the song is governed by its never sagging speed and the immortality of the song could be attributed to the wonderful musical composition of the traditionally talented K.V.Mahadevan.The lyric for this song was penned by A.Maruthakasi. The same K.V.Mahadevan composed another fascinating high voltage song and this song was written by K.M.Sheriff and delivered in the mighty voice of T.M.Soundarajan with the titillating female voice of Jamuna Rani .This memorable piece is ''Maamaa Maamaa Maamaa''  for the great movie Kumutham.Both these films were from the Modern Theatres.
  What a speedy and powerful duet ''Oho Endhan Baby Nee Vaaraai Endhan Baby''  from the film Theinilavu was.How colloquially,the song  written by Kannadasan and tuned by A.M.Raja, sailed through the waters and stays stuck to our memory with its tremendous vigour.Then came the two fast numbers ''Adi Ennadi Raakkamma''from Pattikkaadaa Pattanamaa and''Sattai Kaiyil Kondu'' from Kaadhal Jothi  from the clear and high sounding voice of T.M.Soundarajan and Sirkazhi Govindarajan.The former was from the mighty pen of Kannadasan and it was composed my melody king M.S.Viswanathan and the latter,written by Vaali was grandly tuned by MSV's counterpart T.K.RamamurthySimilarly,the stimulating group song ''Nallavan Enakku Naane Nallavan''from Padithaal Mattum Podhuma in the combined rendition of the stentorian Soundarajan and mellifluous P.B.Srinivas would ever have its gripping influence on those,bound to the traditional music of M.S.Viswanathan/Ramamurthy for the fine words of Kannadasan.
  Songs set to a context of competition such as the most glorious ''Kannum Kannum Kalandhu''sung by P.Suseela and P.Leela for the dance competition of Vaijayanthi Mala and Padmini in Vanjikkottai Vaaliban{ Song by Kothamangalam Subbu and music by C.Ramachandraand the musically competitive ''Chinnanjiriya Vanna Paravai'' and''Neeye Unakku Enrum Nigaraanavan'',the former in the voice of TMS and S.Janaki from Kungumam  and the latter rendered by TMS and M.Raju from Bale Pandiya which are monumental samples of high voltage singing and for which Kannadasan takes the credit for lyrics and Viswanathan/Ramaurthy and K.V.Mahadevan for tuning the songs respectively.
    Two more songs of the last century,one in the voice of P.Suseela and the other from the intoxicating tone of L.R.Eswari,came as the most throbbing numbers.These two songs both penned by Kannadasan but composed by M.S.Viswanathan and K.V.Mahadevan were for the two epoch-making films Ootivarai Uravu and Panamaa Paasamaa one a hilarious comedy and the other an extraordinary family drama.These two exuberant songs are ''Thedinein Vandhadhu''and ''Elandha Pazham Elandha Pazham''.
  S.P.Balasubramanyam reputed for his high spirited and most vibrating voice, sang an energy packed song for Sridhar's Avalukkenru Oer Manam.The song ''Aayiram Ninaivu Aayiram Kanavu'' for which SPB gave his masterly voice for Gemini Ganesan, became an eternal high voltage rendition on account of its contextual validity and commanding romantic felicity.SPB sang another high voltage number for Kamalahasan in Sakalakalaa Vallaban and the most popular song was ''Ilamai Idho Idho''[Vaali's lines hit the ears with the fantastic music of Ilayaraja].
   The same way,S.Janaki's historic, energy blowing piece ''Machaana Paatheengalaa''from Annakkili  brought overnight fame to Ilayaraja because of the novelty in composition and sustained speed and energy in delivery by the exemplary singer.The song written by Panju Arunachalam vitally presented the quintessence of rustic charm and glory.The other ever enchanting energy booster is the song ''Adi Raakkammaa Kaiyathattu''in the voice of SPB and Swarnalatha from the Mani Rathnam blockbuster Thalapathi and the song written by Vaali, became one of the most outstanding musical compositions of Ilayaraja.  
   Oscar winner A.R.Rehaman has come out with several high voltage songs like ''Mazhathuli Mazhathuli Mannil Sangamam'' that carried the combined effect of the mighty voice of M.S.Viswanathan with the mesmerizing voice of Hariharan.The lyric for this song was from the refreshing imagination of Vairamuthu for the film Sangamam.M.S.V has sung another breath taking high voltage song''Sivasambo''in his own composition for the film Ninaithaale Inikkum. 
  Rehaman himself sang the most powerful number''Adiradidhaan'' written by Vaali for Sivaji.The song made everyone dance,by its amazing flow of energy, speed and splendour of background music.The supremacy of the stringed and percussion instruments accompanying the forceful voice of Rehaman, made the song carry an everlasting impact on the listeners.The latest high voltage song in Rehaman's music is ''yei Sandikkudhira''for the film Kaaviathalaivan 
  The list of high voltage songs will remain incomplete without the two popular hits from the Vijay starring Gilli and Vettaikkaaran and the remarkable songs are 'Appadi Podu Podu' and 'Puli Urumudhu'.The two songs were written by Pa.Vijay and Kabilan respectively While Vidhya Sagar compsed the tunes for Gilli,Vijay Antony was the music composer for Vettaikkaran.There would be a temptation to add a few more songs in this list particularly the songs that introduce the heroes in many films,a few more solo numbers sung by A.R.Rehaman and the immortally mind blowing songs of MGR generating a lot of positive energy.
    But the songs I have mentioned here, show consistency in tempo and vigour capable of binding the audience mood from the beginning of the song till its end.It is this yardstick that has constrained me to restrict my memory to these high voltage songs and call them so, because of the genuineness in speed and power of delivery.I might have left out some songs due to my memory failure.Whether the list is big or small,the fact here is that there exists this specific genre of high voltage numbers that could invigorate the listeners'nerves and mood. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Romance and Manirathnam.



     Romance is always a rejoicing, reverberating and rejuvenating concept for the creative mind.What one perceives as the right core of romance and how one tries to interpret it,constitute the artistic and aesthetic fundamentals of creativity.As a result,romance in Tamil Cinema, has travelled through a galaxy of lanes with characters and events catching up the imagination of the creator, for a refreshing presentation of its complex layers accumulated through the passage of time and perspectives of each generation.Eminent directors like Sridhar,Balachander,Balu Mahendra Bharathiraja and Manirathnam have relaid the lanes with their concrete stuff of imagination and reality. Idealistic Sridhar,innovative Balachander,uncoventional Balu Mahendra  poetic Bharathiraja and traditionally modern Manirathnam have walked through the lanes of romance, stamping their remarkable footprints for a line of followers, of their respective footprints.This article would like to see the depth and volume of Manirathnam's footprints,in this regard.
   Manirathnam is as much a specialist in romance as he is a specialist in narrating the innumerable intricacies of the gangster world, with intimate understanding and scrutiny. Manirathnam's delicate touches of the intrinsic vibrations of man and woman fondling each other, or tickling each other's emotions, have never never fail to reflect an extraordinary aesthetic appeal, ever since the days of his first film Pagal Nilavu followed by Idhayak Kovil. His earlier innings in romance were of course, a combination of ruggedness and male gusto as seen through his heroes of Pagal Nilavu [Murali}and Mouna Raagam[Karthik Muthuraman].Even his Agni Natchatram which was a family drama,celebrated certain amount of macho vigor in the character formation of one of the two heroes[again Kaarthik Muthuraman].
  Whatever be the story line of  a Manirathnam movie,one could not miss the robust delineation of characters undergoing the thrill and grill of the romantic journey.[Naayagan and Thalabathi could be exceptions].No one could find the romantic vigor ever sagging in the character portrayal of the heroes in Roja and Bombay[Arvind Samy playing the hero in both].Bombay was out and out a love story dipped in the cauldron of religious fundamentalism and religion related violence. But the all pervading high voltage romance was the power station of the film.There was the fire of  love in the midst of the flames of terrorism in films like Roja,Uyire, Knnathil Muthamittaal and Raavanan.[the last one was a passionate and bullying course of romance aggressively promoted by the thorniest bush, emanating the fragrance of  mighty romance].
   But two films that stand apart as the bullet trains of romance are Alai Payudhe and Oh Kadhal Kanmani that share a period of nearly fifteen years between each other.The two films thus belonging to two different generations, could not be compared as such.But at the same time one can not deny the fact that both the films have the train station link and the live-in relationship concept apart from projecting the whims and vagaries of youth, governed by a craving for a sense of belonging,mutuality and the positive influence of elders, in shaping the aspirations of youth.
    On watching O.K.Kanmani,one who had seen Alai Paayudhe, can not be faulted for making comparisons between the two, because the young lovers Adhi and Tara of OKK, seem to be a replica of Karthik and Shakthi of Alai Payudhe.The narration of the lovers' routine,the emotional exchanges between the lovers in OKK, keep on tapping at the doors of Alai Paudhe for a revisit.The predominantly different part of narration is the more exhaustive focus on the lovers in OKK because Alaipaudhe had a lot of other events such as the misunderstanding between another couple calling for the intervention of the hero,the hurdles thrown on the track of Karthik and Sakthi in getting married and the accident in the climax sending Sakthi into a state of coma and so on.But in OKK,excepting Prakash raj and his wife, the audience have nothing to watch other than the pranks, buoyancy and bickering of the lovers.
   Alai Payudhe will live longer in memory, not only because of its eventful narration but also because of the richly enchanting music of the same A.R.Rahaman. The mighty numbers ''Snegidhane,snegidhane Ragasiya Snegidhane'' ''Pachai Nirame Pachai Nirame'' and ''September Maadham'' will continue to perpetuate the memory of Alai Payudhe. Moreover, without any prejudice to Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menen,it should be said here that Madhavan and Shalini got into out heart and soul, as young lovers and still stay there, as eternal treasures of a solid romantic experience. All said and done, Manirathnam deserves a special applause, for not liquidating the traditional base of our culture and cherished values.The fact that the director is ever conscious of the supremacy of the roots of love, in creating a bonding pattern and sense of belonging, puts him on the right exit, sidelining the roadblocks of the vagaries of youth and the new norms of man- woman relationship, imported through globalized existence.To put it in a nutshell, Manirathnam is never prepared to forego his traditional moorings, while presenting a romantic story, through his chosen lane of creative journey.And this makes him, an acceptable film maker of romance, at all times.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Invincible Verbal Comedian of Tamil Cinema.



       Unlike farce,slapstick comedy and other types of physical comedy,the power of words captures the context, with intelligence and presence of mind.Timing and contextual understanding to fix humour, with relevance and rightness of focus, make verbal comedy an outstanding creative experience.Verbal comedy generates not only spontaneous humour but also comic situations, promoting the well being of a vast section of the audience.We can not of course, undermine the imaginative scope and dimension behind conceptualizing a proper context, calling for exposition of physically clumsy, ridiculous and rib tickling proportions of humour.However, it is an accepted fact that verbal comedy involves a vital contribution of commonsense in flashing instant humour. Appropriate word play, be it a one liner retort, or an exclusive dialogue formula within a skit, reflects originality and freshness in laughter promotion.It is as much difficult to devise a comedy subplot as it is to frame the main plot.If the film maker decides to go in for a full length comedy entertainer,the focus will naturally be completely be on the humour side.
      On the other hand, if it happens to be a comedy sub plot,one has to decide whether the sub plot should travel along with the main story narration or can take its own independent route, with the sole aim of providing comic relief without forming any link to the main story.For making a captivating comedy sub plot, it is not only the skit that matters, but also the committed contribution of the players on the screen, at the delivery point.It in this respect,verbal comedians like N.S.Krishnan,T.S.Dorairaj K.A.Thangavelu and the successive actors like Nagesh,Thengai Srinivasan, Surulirajan, Goundamani, Vadivelu,Vivek and Santhanam have taken the lead position at various times with their distinctly vibrant style and focus on verbal comedy.I have excluded J.B.Chandrababu because he ruled as an exclusive physical comedian, with the additionally extraordinary skills of dancing and singing, that took the audience to the zenith of enjoyment.
     Of  all the verbal comedians mentioned above, it was K.A.Thangavelu, who maintained a track record of clean and sweeping verbal thrust, in kindling laughter moments.The fact that he had been a performer with unshakable faith in the quality of his skit and in his capacity for taking the skit,heart and soul to the audience,installed his position firmly as a competent verbal comedian. K.A. Thangavelu was one, who was truly wedded to the skit, with no itch for deviation at any point. In fact, it was the quality and variety of his skit development,that affixed an ISI mark of presentation on most of his skits.That is why quite a number of his comedy scenes, were made into gramophone records, to reach many homes,for a repeat of the happier moments that they spent at the theatre.A few treasured samples in this regard are from the films Kalyana Parisu,Adutha Veetuppen,Arivaali,Kaidhi Kannayiram and Dheivapiravi.
     K.A.Thangavelu  started his verbal comedy fair, from the days of M.G.Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan. Though  he would have made more worthy entries with the Chevalier,his association with MGR also carried a significant impact in films like Chakravarthi Thirumagal,Alibaabaavum Naarpadhu Thirudargalum,Gulebakavali,Thirudaadhe,Arasilankumari, Enga Veettupillai,Nam Naadu and Uzhaikkum Karangal. It would be surprising that he played negative roles in the last two of the movies cited.With Sivaji Ganesan  he was effectively enrolled in several films that were great hits like Panam,Anbu, Ambikapathi,Amaradeepam,Vanangamudi,Mangaiyar Thilagam, Dheivapiravi Uthamaputhiran, Padikkadha Medhai,Irumbuthirai, Arivaali,Paasamalar,Thillaana Mohanaambaal and Galaattaa Kalyaanam.
     Of these,the comedy scenes from Amara Deepam,[remembered for his outstanding comedy show] Dheivapiravi [celebrated more for the Kadhaa kaalatchebam} Irumbuthirai,{as an underpaid mill worker} Arivaali{as a helpless husband trying to mould  his wife} and Thillaanaa Mohanaambaal {as Nattuvanaar}will refuse to leave the audience memory.As  bogus writer Bhairavan in Kalyana Parisu,as a private detective in Kaidhi Kannayiram and as a lover in the guise of an old man to win his love in Adutha Veettuppenn,the pranks and comedy manoeuvres of Thangavelu  conveyed a stamp of maturity in grasping the concept of humour.
     The other popular films of Thangavelu's comedy drive include Pathini Ddheivam, Karpukkarasi, Sowbagyavadhi,Sadhaaram,Missiamma,Vanjikkottai Vaaliban Maayaa Bazzar,Thein Nilavu, Meenda Sorgam, Manidhan Maravillai {all Gemini Ganesan films} Manjal Magimai and Enga Veettu Mahalakshmi starring A.Nageswara Rao. What  is unique about Thangavelu's comedy is his context awareness,word precision and timing of jokes without violating the yardsticks of decency in promoting laughter.It was always very interesting to watch him getting caught in a helpless situation and the frequent misfiring of his manipulative, escape mechanism.
    There was an effortless and impressive voice modulation in his dialogue delivery, with his clear bold tone embracing a shrill pattern, to indicate the final moment of defeat, confirming the failure of all his planned efforts to escape from a ticklish situation.It was this interesting journey through the vocal cords that made his humour  delivery, win strength and acceptance.Unlike Kalaivanar and Chandrababu, who sang at least one song in their own voice, in every film that they acted, Thangavelu was offered a song sequence in a number of films,though he could not himself, sing a song.Films like Rambayin Kaadhal,Naan Kanda Sorgam{in which he acted as hero}Kaidhi Kannaayiram,Irumbu Thirai,Maayaa Bazaar,Alibaabaavum Naarpdhu Thirudargalum, Vanangamudi Dheivapiravi,Manjal Magimai, Manidhan Maaravillai and Engal Veettu Mahalakshmi showed him singing either in the voice of Sirkazhi S.Govindarajan or S.C.Krishnan.The first two films in the list were noted for his centralized role performance with both humour and sobriety.
     During the later years of his acting career,Thangavelu performed compact and convincing characters as the father of girls, trying to outwit guys running after his daughters.Even in villain roles, he could effectively play second fiddle to the main villain.As a sidekick,he could make himself naturally ludicrous. Nevertheless, for all the roles Thangavelu played,it was his right and timely focus on words, that quickly drove him to the winning territory.Whether it was the main course of narration as in Adutha Veettuppenn, or a sub plot as in Kalyana Parisu and Arivaali, he always excelled with his commonsense  and competence for promoting humor.
    Thangavelu's  comedy track never failed to display an inbuilt force and vigour, amounting to the impact of bursting of crackers and this was always executed with a confident and convincing throw of words.There was ever a breezy touch in his comedy demonstration, as if humour  could emanate with the feather touch of a tennis ball with its speed,thrust and thud towards winning the game of laughter play, without unwanted hue and cry.It was a tender game of comedy that Thangavelu  played with words, that never hurt, but sent the audience to the peels of laughter.Certainly this splendid mark of  neat verbal comedy made him an invincible comedian.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

From The Chevalier Hierarchy.

      The word Chevalier became closer to the Tamil soil, only after Sivaji Ganesan,the legacy of Tamil Cinema, was awarded that title.The French word Chevalier means Knight.The French award, given in the name of Chevalier,was instituted in 1957 and it is an Order of Arts and Letters, awarded to those, for their achievements in and their propagation of, the field of arts and literature.Who in Tamil Cinema, other than Sivaji Ganesan,would have rightly deserved such a prestigious award?That Sivaji Ganesan became a Chevalier was a matter of pride more to Tamil film industry, than to the Samsonite hero.The fame of Sivaji Ganesan as an edifice of acting, is not a news to any one.It is a historic fact.But the Sivaji hierarchy,that is,the line of actors from the genes of that actor prototype,certainly deserves the focus it needs.
      As far as hierarchy is concerned,this blog has already thrown some light on the heirs of another colossal actor M.R.Radha, besides discussing the acting stuff of Prabu Ganesan and Karthik Muthuraman,under the caption 'Two Chips of their Old Block'.But now, the third generation actors in the Chevalier lineage, are slowly moving for a space on the big screen.This becomes a very interesting phenomenon, because it calls for a mood of comparison in terms of perfect role play and flawless display of character dimensions, in an all inclusive format of the acting grandeur of Sivaji Gnesan. I am sure, very often the second and third generation actors from the Sivaji Ganesan family, would have felt humbled by the ever performing exemplary actor, as the founding father of the whole gamut of acting.
     Ramkumar Ganesan and Prabu Ganesan,the two sons of the Chevalier, set their feet on the celluloid stage, at different times,the elder sibling in Aruvadai Naal in 1986 and the younger one four years earlier in 1982 in the film Sangili along with his father.While Ramkumar played the role of a Christian priest making a mark in Aruvadai Naal, starring Prabhu as hero, the latter's debut movie Sangili, was not a good start for him.However,it was Prabhu who could get into his father's shoes, despite the fact that his feet could not compactly fit into them.Whereas Ramkumar coolly withdrew from the race, after My Dear Maarthaandan, to reappear after a long time,as one of the four villains in Shankar's 'I'. 
      Prabhu definitely made his innings with a clear awareness of his comfort zones in acting.His inbuilt geniality in appearance and a voice pattern inherited from his father no doubt showcased him as a successful hero for nearly two decades.But he knows the fact that he is far behind his father, in maintaining the naturally imbibed  thumb rules  of acting, devoutly followed by the family patriarch.Acting ran as blood in the arteries of Sivaji Ganesan and he breathed acting as his life breath.Whereas, what Prabhu could achieve was a felicity in playing innocent characters, as in Chinna Thambi, Sethamizh Paattu and Vanna Thamizh Paattu, besides shuttling between sober and comic depiction of characters . His levels of maturity in acting, became more poignant once he started playing the role of an elder, which keeps him going with the flow.
     While Dushyanth Ramkumar stayed away after a couple of films, Shivaji Dev. Ramkumar seems to be still in the race.But it is Prabhu's son Vikram Prabhu who has started making his mettle after his successful debut hit Kumki, directed by Prabu Solomon.This young hero has sown his credentials, to sprout as an unruffled and natural actor, with an innate stuff to carve a niche for himself,in the race for survival on the big screen.But even here, there is a growing fear of seeing him more as a hero of  the thriller genre, rather than being blessed with opportunities for showing his capabilities, for playing a variety of roles.Starting from Ivan Vera Madhiri,Vikram Prabhu has been seen only in action thrillers like Arima Nambi and Sigaram Thodu. 
   His latest movie Vellakkara Thorai has proved to be a flop not because the actor is a misfit for the comedy genre but because of a very poor course of narration by Ezhil who gave a mega hit film like Thullaadha Manamum Thullum and made a good show of his directorial flair in films like Pennin Manadhai Thottu, Poovellaam Un Vasam Raajaa and Manam Kothi Paravai.The trouble with Vikram Prabu seems to be his fixation in playing roles with a natural frame of mind, rather than doing characters with a cinematic thrust, in body language and dialogue delivery, as his grandfather and father did.It is good to be natural in performing.But it is always more desirable to imbibe a vigorous gusto in presentation for a consistent screen image.Hope Vikram Prabu makes sure, that he reinforces the histrionic parameters for a greater thrust of the hero in him.  
     Vikram Prabu's growth as an actor, should be dynamic, challenging and inspiring, in the line of becoming a versatile actor; it is not only the director's job to make him become an achiever, but is also the actor's responsibility to choose characters calling for greater challenges in performance and portrayal. Otherwise,in a field of alarming competition, the race is going to be very tough and I am sure, this young talent, may not be unaware of the dangling threat to survival.Personally I believe, the future of the Chevalier hierarchy, rests more with Vikram Prabhu than others, to establish the fact, that he is not just like other actors who come and go, but is a promising guy, to make the posterity continue to glorify the Sivaji dynasty, not just for name sake, but for the base on which the hierarchy is built and the way it stands proud, as an eternal monument of the Chevalier substance and splendour.