I was lucky to be a regular movie watcher from my childhood days, thanks to a touring talkies run by one of my father's close friends.My love for movies got deeply interwoven to my regular activities more than a mere hobby. From P.U.Chinnappa's 'Aariyamala' to the most recently released films,movie watch has always been one of the most gifted experiences of my entire life.
Among the more than one thousand movies I would have have seen,the Tamil movies outnumber those in English,Hindi and Malayalam.At times,I have been a director's fan and on other occasions,I have been an actor's fan. The action bonanza, the directorial diligence in delineating themes events and characters, the overall cinematography,the melody and magnificence of music and the intelligent editing concepts, constitute the grandeur of a movie watching experience for me.The memories of my childhood days will always carry nostalgic imprints of the wonderful evenings I spent at the touring talkies,watching amazing films like P.U.Chinnappa's Manonmani and 'Jagadalapradaban',T.R.Mahalingam's 'Vedala Ulagam' N.T.Rama Rao's 'Padhaala Bairavi'and the ever great 'Chandralekha' and 'Vanjikkottai Valiban' from the incomparable Gemini Studios.At the touring talkies,a midst the too many intervals,with an intermittent supply of snacks, one could be casually transported to the exquisite world of fantasy and be a part of the events good and bad, happening on the screen.The hero on horseback,the chase and the run and the fencing fury displayed without effort, would keep one glued to the screen.In a country,just relieved from the clutches of imperialistic forces,bravery of kinds came to be personified and glorified as the main theme in films,as vibrantly as possible.
From costume to hair style,from the actor's gait to voice modulation,from the words uttered, to the vigour portrayed,every segment would reflect bravery in perfection.The ranting dialogues heard on the screen, would run into the veins of the audience and make them repeat the dialogues in the manner of the heroes.The royal costumes suited both MGR and Sivaji Ganesan,the two fabulous heroes of Tamil Cinema,who ran their show for more than three decades, from the Nineteen Fifties.But in delivering the ranting dialogues,Sivaji always excelled MGR;where as in style and fashion, and in displaying fencing ferocity, it was MGR who struck the mark.
Both the heroes remained as the darlings of the tinsel world.If one could admire 'Parashakthi' and 'Manohara' for the most impressive delivery of the fiery dialogues from the mighty pen of M.Karunanidhi,one could equally keep closer to the heart, movies like 'Gulebaghavali' 'Sarvadikari' ,'Marmayogi,,'Mandhirikumari' Malaikallan' and' Mahadevi' for the display of costumes and the grand show of speed,action and technical efficacy of Tamil Cinema at its incipient stage.
But beyond all this,it was going to showcase MGR as a prospective hero of the masses, with a sure, good Samaritan back up. Whereas, Sivaji was determined in his own style, to become an exemplary actor, capable of donning an infinite variety of roles, towards gaining glory for himself in particular and for Tamil Cinema in general.The stage was getting open for new genres of Tamil films.
My childhood had no specific preference for any type of movie or hero.I loved all kinds of
of movies because they had my evenings happily occupied and I could watch them for nothing. However,the many movies that I saw, seemed to rely mostly on the battle between good and evil through moments of joy and suffering experienced by the protagonists, very often in a royal background. At times, the same good vs evil show would reach me through the mythical compass.The latter version visualized in awe,in movies like 'Mandhiravathi','Sowbhagyavathi,' 'Maya Bazar' 'Padhala Bhairavi'and'Vedala Ulagam' is still capable of haunting my memories as extraordinary exhibits of a wonder world with its stupendous settings created beautifully, in the absence of supportive electronic devices, to which movie makers have easy access today. The physical ordeal experienced by the production units in making mega settings for movies like 'Chandralekha' and 'Vanjikkottai Valiban' would speak volumes of the grandeur of human imagination, respect for labor and dedication to creative norms with conviction and discipline.
I could let my newly fledged fancy take its wings to the strange caves of 'Alibabavum 'Naarpathu Thirudargalum',hear the heinous, serial laugh of P.S.Veerappa delivered in 'full- throated ease' and lock in my memory the music aligned to the movement of the horses in a line. I could spontaneously lift my thoughts to the forest of 'YaanaiValartha Vanambadi' and be there taking part in all the events on the screen, rather than simply watching the scenic sequences.I would be moved by the sufferings of the chief characters of the movies like 'NagaDevadhai' 'Pathini Deivam' [a film based on of Shakespeare's 'Winter's Tale']and 'Gunasundari' [based on Shakespeare's King Lear'].My pliable childhood fell under the active influence of all the happenings of the unreal world.
Soon, I became an aggressive movie goer with an acute craving to watch all movies released without getting into the need for quality that necessitates a visit to the theatre.I spent many more evenings at the touring talkies,most often with my kind elder brother, who would never hesitate to take me with him on his cycle, during his cyclic visits to the touring talkies.My attention was ever engrossed in seeing movies of different genres like 'Thilagam'Thirumanam' 'Aaravalli','Aayiram Thalai Vangiya Apoorva Chinthamani' 'Vijayapuri Veeran ' Pennin Perumai''Pathibakthi' 'Sadharam','Kuladeivam' 'Vanjam' and so on.The list would go on pretty long.'Ambikapathi' was one movie, that my brother and I would have watched several times just for listening to the wonderful music of G.Ramanathan. It was the songs in that movie that made us frequent our free trips to the talkies just to watch the song sequences.
With my passing into adolescence,my movie obsession got slowly redefined and I learnt to be choosy,confining my visits to themes, actors and directors of considered merit.The disappearance of the touring talkies was another natural factor that restricted my theatre outings. From touring talkies to the theatres, it was a journey longer and costlier.But still, it could not derail my urge for films and my unbounded trips to movie destinations.Those days,A.C theatres were unheard off in many towns. And the theatres were just updated locales of the touring avenues of films.The number of intervals was the same and the snacks were not different either. But the tone and tenor of the films was on the verge of a transformation.Dialogues were getting rid of their literary sanctity and the colloquial slang began to occupy the scene.This took the audience closer to the screen, making the unreal become more and more real.
It became clear that the society was ready for a change and film makers were preparing themselves to evoke the change.Social themes and family dramas, began to adorn the background of Tamil Cinema, hither too dominated by plots relating to kings and kingdoms.I could also understand that I was in the grip of the on-going changes in my pet film world. The years to follow, were going to throw fresh experiences that would make me reinvent myself as a film buff.
The advent of new thought waves and newer outlooks, moved Tamil Cinema to a state of critical appraisal and acclaim.The emergence of directors like K.Balachander A.P.Nagarajan, K.S.Gopala krishnan,Krishnan Panju and P.Madhavan facilitated the scope for positive and purposeful reviews of films. Consequently,a wide range of social themes and a variety of talents were getting ready to take the Tamil Film industry to more than its predicted heights.The black and white films were to continue for some more time and the impact they would create, was bound to be the significant indicator of the growth factor of Tamil Cinema.