Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tamil Films on Myths, Mythologies and Spiritualism.





       Creative products are generally the outcome of fecund imagination. Even films taken on historical events and actual happenings in life, carry the impact of imagination in narration and delivery. Sometimes characters are also added or deleted, to suit creative convenience.Acceptability and audience support are the significant yardsticks. When it comes to taking a film on myths and mythologies, or spiritual themes and stories, imagination seems to play a vital role in deciding the dynamics of such a genre. Myths as such, are mostly a figment of imagination. But mythological films require certain epic characteristics to bring in,the necessary grandeur and sanctity in narration. Spiritual subject matter makes veracity and genuineness in narration, mandatory. From the Nineteen Fifties to Seventies, a good number of films were taken on these zones, because there was a lot of audience support for this type of films.
     My childhood memories of Tamil films abound in mind boggling myths. Those were days when films with a mythical base, were eagerly waited upon and enjoyed by every one, irrespective of factors of gender and age. Most of the films narrating myths, became great hits too.This is how I have saved in my memory gallery movies such Jagadhalapradhaaban  starring the initial decades’ super hero P.U Chinnappa, Paataala Bhairavi dubbed from Telugu with N.T.Ramarao as hero and A.V.M's Vedhaala Ulagam starring T.R.Mahalingam.The first among the three,sweetly narrated the tale of a youth falling in love with Indrakumari,Agnikumari,Nagakumari and Varunakumari. The supernatural element was rightly mixed with the effective comedy support of the veteran comedian N.S.Krishnan. I remember to have enjoyed the film to a great extent. Though the film was released in 1944,I saw it in the late nineteen fifties .The other film was Paataala Bhairavi, that was originally produced in Telugu and dubbed into Tamil. I remember it more as a serious type of film, with the image of sorcerer  still rattling my mind and the events in the movie depicting the separation of the hero and heroine with the element of sorrow knocking my nerves.That famous  duet song Amaidhi illaadhen Maname’ in the voices of Ghantasaalaa and P.Leela keeps haunting my imagination even now. Vedhaala Ulagam, opened up a happy- go- lucky mood as a joyous sojourn for children, and I thoroughly enjoyed the film.
     There are quite a few other myth- based films like Mandhiravaadhi, Naga Dhevadhai, Sowbagyavathi,Kanavanei Kan Kanda Dheivam,Boologa Rambai,Manaalane Mangaiyin Baagyam, and Mangaiyar Ullam Mangaadha Selavm. Geminini Ganesan was the hero of all the films excepting the first two and Anjalidevi played the heroine in the films other than the first three.The last in the list narrated the story of a mermaid and M.R.Radha, one of my pet actors also played an important role in that film. K.A.Thangavelu's Rambaiyin Kadhal was a humorous mythical film reflecting a tone of parody. The Telugu film industry appeared to be  imaginatively closer to myths and in this creative process they were setting trends for others to fall in line. The beautiful additions to the myth films list, came from the Telugu film world in the form  of fantasy films like Maya Modhiram and Jagan Mohini .As the latter was a magnificent hit starring Jeyamaalini,the younger sibling of the famous dancer Jothilakshmi, it was later remade with Nameeta playing the lead role. However the  remake resulted in a fiasco.
      Apart from myths, the two major epics the Raamaayanaa and the Mahaabaarathaa  with  their mythological interpretations came in the form of various films, focusing on the interlinked episodes of these epics.The earliest hit in this regard was, Abhimanyu, starring M.G.Ramachandran. Later, the revised version Veera Abhimanyu with A.V.M.Rajan and Kanchana playing as Abhimanyu and Vaksala,also came as an appealing film. Padmini Pictures’s ‘Karnan’ with Sivaji Ganesan doing the lead role made an impressive show under the direction of B.R.Pantulu.The film deserved a special credit for emphatically portraying the exemplary friendship between Duriyodhana and Karna in its proper form. Viswanathan Ramamurthy’s music was an extraordinary support for enriching the quality of the film.
     The other wonderful movie was Maya Bazzar. Besides Gemini Ganesan and Savithri in the lead roles, S.V.Renga Rao as Gadotkaja created a wonderful impact. In both Karnan and Maya Bazar, N.T.Rama Rao appeared as Lord Krishna. His appearance and performance added a great level of divinity in character delineation and for many fans of N.T.Rama Rao, he became the reincarnation of Lord Krishna. In Veera Abhimanyu, it was Gemini Ganesan,who portrayed that role with equal amount of dedication and efficacy.Maya Bazar which was first made in Telugu was then suitably recast in Tamil with Gemini Ganesan replacing Nageswara Rao, Nambiyar playing the role of Saguni and R.Balasubramaniyam being enrolled as Dhuriyodhana. Several other Tamil actors had replaced their Telugu counterparts in their respective characters. All these films were based on the Mahaabaarathaa .
    Samboorana Raamaayanam was another amazing film with N.T.Rama Rao, playing the role of Lord Rama and Padmini donning the role of Sita. Both were compact as divine embodiment and Sivaji Ganesan as Bharat, was very convincing. Despite its length, it was not tiresome to watch the film because the feel of genuineness in narration and the dedication of the whole creative body to a commendable mythical narration, made the film both an eventful and rewarding experience. No one can forget the powerful  performance of T.K.Baghavathi in the role of Raavanaa and the two songs of C.S.Jeyaraman,'Sangeetha Sowbaagyame’‘Inrupoi Naalai Vaaraai’ truly exhibited Raavanaa’s flair for music and projected Raavanaa more as a positive individual than a negative character.
    The subsequent film Lava Kusa on another canto of Raamaayanaa, was also worth watching and the song ‘Jagam Pugazhum Punya Kadhai Raamanin Kadhaiye’ is an immortal segment of the film.N.T.Rama Rao donned the role of Rama in this film too and Anjalidevi played the role of Sita.This film was originally made in Telugu and then dubbed into Tamil.There was also a film on Hanuman entitled 'Sri Raama Baktha Hanuman' and the movie dubbed from Telugu  reflected a profound divine feel in every frame.Similarly Baktha Markandeya was another spiritually exciting celluloid version of the famous mythology of Markandeya whose unquestionable devotion to Lord Shiva saved his life from the clutches of the Lord of Death, hell bent to cut short the devotee's life term on  the Earth.  
   AVM's Bagtha Prakalatha was another monumental movie on the mythological base of Hiranya -Kashibu,who was a an antagonist of the Vaishnavite creed and so, was not a worshiper of Lord Vishnu.It was solidly related to one of the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu and the myth came to illustrate the purpose of the Narasimha avatar that was meant to instruct and pinpoint the omnipresence and omnipotence of the Almighty. S.V.Renga Rao who played the role of King Hiranya was the fittest actor to play any mythological character and in that role he was a perfect bet.Child artist Roja Ramani was graceful as Prakalata and Anjalidevi adorned the role of Hiranya's wife and mother of Prakalata. Veteran Carnatic singer Balamurali Krishna was a great surprise in the character of Naradha. The song 'Jeevanum Neeye Ayya' was a major hit and the repetition of the song every time when Prakalata was ordered by his father Hiranya, to be killed and subsequently saved by Lord Vishnu, created a refreshing impact.
    Datchayakgnam was another mythological film on the story of King Datcha,the father of Datchaayini,one of the avatars of goddess Paarvathi. It gives an account of how Datchan arrogantly exhibited his irreverence to Lord Shiva and how he was punished for desecrating Lord Shiva besides reflecting the moral of a true conjugal life. R.S.Manohar who was an impressive stage artist and film actor,appeared as Lord Shiva and gave a neat performance.
    A good number of films have appeared on the significance of Lord Ayappa as a powerful Hindu deity with the sacredly integrated tenets of adherence to the penance undertaken by the Ayappa devotees during their holy trip to the Sabarmala temple.Besides the films on Lord Ayappa, those describing the spiritual discipline warranted for the devotees, have also drawn the attention of film makers.Swami Ayappan is one of the most popular movies known for its spirit of divinity.Similarly, the film 'Jesus' delineated the miracles and spiritual adventures of the Messiah.     
     In a different way the ace director A.P.Nagarajan began to throw more light on some Hindu mythologies pertaining to the Saivaite and Vaishnavaite sects of Hinduism. What were specially interesting about this series of films from the Vijayalakshmi Pictures’production house, was the animating narration,the level of credibility, the rich quality of script and dialogue, the concern for authenticity and the impeccable dedication to the overall creative process that includes characterization and choice of actors to play the characters. The films were  simultaneously instructive, enlightening and entertaining. In a series of audience expectation and fulfillment, this venerable film director directed films like Thiruvilaiyaadal,Saraswathi Sabatham,Kandhan Karunai, [from another production house]Thiruvarutchelvar and Thirumal Perumai. While the first four films dwelt on Saivaite events of myth and spiritualism, the last one spoke of Vaishanavite fervor.It could be called a golden period for Tamil Cinema, because more than anything else, it brought out the grandeur of Tamil Language and the brilliance of traditional music.Following A.P.Nagarajan,his close contemporary K.S.Gopalakrishnan, a powerful director of films on rural themes of family and social significance,also began to make films like Aadhi Paraasakthi and Dasaavadaaram. But these films did not seem to go well with the audience for want of the Tamil literary grandeur and gravity of mythical narration that remained as the fixed assets of A.P.Nagarajan.
    Luckily,A.P.Nagarajan had actors of epic grandeur like Sivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan, T.S.Balaiah, Nagesh, T.R.Maha- lingam, Savithri, Padmini and K.B.Sundaraambaal to ably fit into the characters concerned and add merit and might to such films. A.P.Nagarajan himself, did an awesome job by playing the role of the ancient Tamil Poet Nakkeeran and delivered  captivating Tamil dialogues with his scintillating voice. All these films were a remarkable audio visual treat and the role of Sivaji Ganesan as the Tamil saint Thirunaavukkarasar {Appar} will eternally glorify Tamil Cinema.
    Later APN also came out with a genuine and compact portrayal of the Tamil Saint Agathiar in the film ‘Agathiyar’ with play back singer Sirkazhi Govindarajan playing the lead role and afterwards a film on Kaaraikkal Ammaiyar. In a similar vein the most remembered films on spiritual individuals are Nandanaar {a 1942 film showing M.M.Dandabani Desigar as Nandanar},Haridas, presenting M.K.Thiagaraja Bahavadhar  in the title role of that saint –cum singer,Gemini Pictures’ Avvaiyaar  with K.B.Sundaraambaal in the most compact frame of  the renowned Tamil saint and poetess, Pattinathaar and Arunagirinadhar, both showing  TMS playing the main roles of the two materialists who turned to spiritualism,the notable film narrating the life and teachings of His Holiness the Adhi Sankarar, and Kavidhalaya’s ‘Sri Ragavendrar’ portraying Rajinikanth in the role of the holy spiritual guru,with utmost seriousness and veracity. All these movies have gone into the timeless archives of Tamil cinema, as qualitative narrations of spiritualism.
     Beyond all the films mentioned above, there is another list of films that  seem to carry the objective of reaffirming individual’s faith in God and religion with a view to projecting the conquest of the evil forces by the goodness in men and women as the acknowledged principle of the right course of living. The predominance of greed ,jealousy and the other deadly sins has to be eliminated by the omnipotence of God. Goodness should always prevail  and good people should not lose their essence of being good. Hence periodically, there have been films projecting evil on the one side and goodness on the other, with a view to demonstrating how ultimately, nobility takes over and justice is rendered to those tormented by the evil forces.
     It was M.M.A.Chinnappa Devar who initiated this process by his most popular films like Dheivam, Thunaivan,Thiruvarul and Vellikizhamai Vridham. The line of films in this category are Aadhi Parasakthi,Samayapurathaale Saatchi,Amman Arul,Namma Veetu Dheivam,Velli Radham, Amman, Raaja Kaaliamman, Thaalikaatha Kaaligaambaal, Kannaathaal and so on.It was with the same objective the film Annai Velanganni was released focusing on Christian sentiment and faith   
     Like various other genre of films, the movies on myths mythologies and spiritualism reach the targeted audience  with creative thrust and commercial viability.With the availability of large scale graphics technology it becomes easier now, than in the past,to envisage incredible exhibits that will feed one's imagination.People would have struggled a lot to conceive and execute trick shots for the mythical films that were produced in the past.Now electronic manipulations have exalted the scope of creating magnificence necessary for a mythical show. But what the audience always look forward to, is the infusion of freshness in narration, without giving room for repetitive ingredients that remove the thrill of film watching and keep them deprived of the spirit of entertainment as well as enlightenment.

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