Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Two Big B's of Tamil Films.

          They are not actors but makers of actors.They made themes,stories and characters as the most beautiful creative explorations of life.They deserve a unique place in the Tamil film industry for making it move on, at two different periods,in two different levels for an inclusive growth of talents jointly involved in the process of film making.Their creative dimensions were totally different;so were their attitudes and outlooks towards realizing their twin goals of exposition of existing social ethos and exaltation of their respective vision of the art of film making. One had an open and subtle audio vision agenda, had substance and depth, that would be dearer to the growing urban middle class.But the other man thought that his product should always evolve from the soil, that became his body and mind and he wanted to reach out to a vast  section of familiar people, who would also become the subject matter of his movies  This striking difference in approach, might be because of the generation gap that existed between them and the needs and priorities in their perception.But both did for the Tamil film society, what had to be done during their respective times. One is the ever invincible K.Balachander and the other the indomitable Barathi Raja.
       Though both of them hail from the rural side of Tamil Nadu, Balachander has generally been a man of the educated urban elite, not turning to the village side, in search of stories and characters. But the Theni man is mostly a true son of the soil, here and there, picking up one or two plots from the urban block that too for picturing themes of criminality and villainy.While Balachander first made his entry as a dialogue writer for films like 'Deivathai'  'Server Sundaram' and 'Neelavanam' the other B, straight away launched his directorial flight calling it a day never to fail. His very first film '16 Vayadinile' endeared him to the Tamil speaking world at large.
       Both these eminent directors are reputed for not sticking to a particular theme or way of presentation. Balachander could be an idealist at one spell and become an iconoclast in the next.His intelligence and sharpness of understanding of the basic core of film making, have always remained his amazing merits.It could be categorically said, that his first decade of film making was grandly on the side of the gloried edifices of the traditional mould. For instance,Truth as the most unshakable basis of life was emphatically told in his 'Punnagai' .The inseparable bond of the conjugal prototype, was adored in 'Iru Kodugal'. A platonic love story with shades of nobility of the human spirit, was the strength of narration in 'Vellivizha' . 'Major Chandrakanth' reaffirmed the significance of  modesty and chastity of  woman, as something that could not be compromised on any account. 
      While Balachander's 'Thanneer Thanneer' assertively fought for a highly genuine social cause,his 'Achamillai Achamillai' [both won National award] like his 'Aval Oru Thodarkadhai' Avargal and Manadhil Urudhi Vendum,focussed our attention on women's suppression and suffering, with a wonderful difference in depiction of the same issue in different  perspectives.His other great production 'Varumaiyin Niram Sigappu' truly pinpointed society's compunction in not taking into cognizance the gory consequences of poverty and unemployment.As a contrast, his later release Unnaal Mudiyum Thambi sowed the seeds of optimism and confidence building as the vital threads of survival mechanism. More than being a thoughtful and thought provoking director,he has always remained a sensitive and responsible human being, with an awareness of issues and concerns of individuals and their living environment.
     Quite often, Balachander's invaluable insight and intellectual appeal put him at an advantageous position in exposing effectively the socio- psychological predicament of humanity.He has let out the lighter side of his creativity with equal efficacy through his catchy story line and characters in films like 'Ethir Neechal' and 'Bama Vijayam.' His idea of the humour sense, was intelligently conceived and demonstrated, in his films 'Anubavi Raja Anubavi' and 'Thillumullu',It was really a tribute to music he paid in 'Ninaithale Inikkum' through a nostalgic blend of laughter and grief and later in Sindhu Bhairavi.While the former rejoiced over the grandeur of Western notes the latter was a poignant celebration of carnatic music and folk songs.
       This brainy director, who qualitatively spent a decade in exhibiting the perfect side of life, soon nosedived to drive home the other side of human perversion and aberrations.It all started with his film Arangetram that told impressively the sad story of a family girl taking to prostitution to support her mother and siblings. The film poignantly put forth the director's critical observation of the perverted mindset of the exploiting male and the oppressed female.Even in 'Aval oru Thodarkadhai' there were aberrations like neglect of family responsibilities by the male head,and the helpless woman protagonist taking over the role of the bread winner with her never terminating saga of suffering and sacrifice.Through these movies,the director tried to lift sex from its taboo perceptions and made it a topic of discourse.
      Then came his most controversial 'Aboorva Raagangal' with a vastly deviating story line of young adults craving for a marriage with persons older to be their parents. The movie created disturbing sensations, but won the National award as the best feature film of the year. Balachander's 'Thappu Thaalangal' released later, reveled in aberrations and social misdemeanor The wide reception for a consecutive show of  unconventional themes and characters, made him realize that the new trend he had created, was going to stay for long, to fulfill the new generation's dreams and perceptions on the creative front. 
    Unlike Balachander, BarathiRaja was making films on the good and bad precipitations of life in a succession.Initially his thrust  was on  rustic themes that were riveted to romance and the age old traditions of the village mode, in films like '16 Vayadhinile' 'Kizhakke Pogum Rayil','Niram Maaraadha Pookal' and 'Pudhiya Vaarpugal' . Then he shifted the focus to psychic malaise, criminality and political satire in movies like 'Sigappu Rojakkal' 'Tik,Tik,Tik' and 'Oru Kaidhiyin Diary'.His 'Alaigal Oivadhillai' and 'Vedam Pudidhu' boldly and poetically interpreted the pressures of religion and caste on individuals' right to choose their conjugal partners.Both the award winners, reflected an aesthetic evolution of the concept of love and its beautiful dimensions and the latter was rich in characterization bringing out the extraordinary acting potential of Sathyaraj as Baluthevar.
    While A.V.M's 'Pudhumaipen' under Barathi Raja's streamlined direction, brought forth the fiery spirit of feminist rage against undue male chauvinism and suppression of the basic rights of women, the earlier 'Manvaasanai' that introduced Pandian and Revathi to Tamil cinema, truly smelt the Tamil soil, known for sprouting values of a classic world order.
    The poet in Barathi Raja was ever vibrant and sensuously excited whenever he happened to deal with the romantic element and his fecund imagination bloomed with  unseen petals of  colourful flowers of romance. His most refined and felicitous expression of love in 'Mudal Mariyadhai' struck deeply the emotions of the audience as an ever enduring experience in film watching.It was the grand message of ideal love transcending the parameters of age,body and all other material considerations. But the love story of a rugged uneducated village youth for an educated school teacher in 'Kadalora Kavidhaigal' was an aggressive outburst of juvenile sentiments bound to nothing but love, to the extent of being obsessed.
    The major difference between the two big profile directors is their creative base.If the Balachander school grooms talents for a down- to- earth, experiential programme,the Barath Raja academy kindles emotions and elevates talents for a flying experience in the enjoyment of everything that is beautiful.It does not mean that the latter is promoting an escapist formula.The rural realities with their native slang,the large warmheartedness behind the smallness of exteriors, the petty  scuffles in the midst of big bonhomie,the family feuds followed by an exemplary spirit of cordiality are the usual attributes of a Barathi Raja movie.Films 'Kizhakku Cheemaiyile' and 'Pasumpon' are there to prove how realism finds a vital place in the scripts of Barathi Raja. But the  point is,the theme of romance being a predominant factor in most of his pictures,Barathi Raja capitalizes on his poetic ability to extol the romantic fervour to adorable proportions .He has his heroes and villains, at times, the community rituals and inter-communal clashes getting into the garb of villainy to thwart the glorious dreams of romance.His lovers would have failed to get united; but the impact of his romantic show has always retained the victory trophy. 
    Both the big B's are the proud makers of heroes and heroines by honing talents through demonstration and extraction.But K.B can be prouder for introducing Rajinikanth into acting in a new range of style that took its myriad wings to make him the Superstar today.The two directors have brought out some of the best acting fundamentals of Kamalahasan and Rajinikanth. However, KB can claim a bigger role for honing the acting patterns of the two top most thespians of the Tamil film industry, today.The romantic theme, which has gone into the making of many films of Barathi Raja, has attracted KB once a way as in 'Thaamarai Nenjam' 'Kaviyathalaivi',Sollathaan Ninaikiren' and Punnagai Mannan, which were all inseparably stuck to tragic undercurrents.
      Barathi Raja owes the richness of music in his movies, to the maestro Ilayaraja ;whereas, music and not the music director that has been part of the various inventive formulations of the  film making concept of Balachander. However he laid the main thrust on music in a few films like 'Ninaithaale Inikkum' 'Sindu Bairavi' and Punnagai Mannan. Barathiraja on the other hand, made music a vital segment of the aesthetic component of all his films.
   KB has been very sensitive to the negative side of human psyche particularly in matters of sex, which he did not hesitate to expose either suggestively or directly through his characters. As far as Barathi Raja is concerned, negative psychological factors were not his priority issue,except for his projection of a misogynistic character, in 'Sigappu Rojakkal'. Even in that film,the hero is finally shown as getting psychologically retrieved from the mania, by the nobility of his wife. His filming pattern has always been forthright,emotionally true,and poetically pervasive. KB would never forego his intellectual thrust in film-making in exchange for any other creative mechanism.The dialogues of KB would quite often move to  ratiocination, to prove the supremacy of the intellectual order. Barathi Raja would never allow his characters to get estranged from the main stream in speech and behaviour.
       The regular film watching group of the urban middle class should feel indebted to KB for having entertained them with films of quality with conviction and steadfastness.The entire rural population along with other film goers, should be grateful to BarathiRaja, for making them relive their routine on the big screen by enhancing the quality of their day-to-day dreams and real-life expectations.The positively winning argument is that, both these big men of the Tamil film industry, as makers of its destiny during their period of active film making, were firmly rooted to their creative norms and they never failed in their mission to make the celluloid medium, a powerful pathway to reach the masses. What took them closer to the audience, was their independent creative formulation,confident throw of their creative potential and celebration of their art experience, without pretense of any kind. It is this distinct characteristic that binds them together.

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