Friday, December 21, 2018

The Immortal Screen Image of Avvaiyaar


    Tamil language can afford to be legitimately proud of its age old literary legacy.The chronological and voluminous content of Tamil literature is as great and vast as that of the literature of most other world languages. As far as poetry is concerned,the didactic nature and epic grandeur of Tamil Literature,are of a unique kind,with a galaxy of classics and life related precepts and maxims in single or double line order.Tamil literature has categorically and affirmatively laid down rules and directions of life,leading to ennobling goals for the creation of an exemplary society and illustrious race.
     Among those who have shown the pathway to glorious living,Avvaiyaar {a term which means esteemed/ respected woman} has gained an immortal place for enriching Tamil literature.The history of Tamil literature makes references to a Tamil Saintly poet called Avvaiyaar who is said to have lived during the 3rd century B.C.E playing a significant role as a poet of the Sangam literature period,besides being directly blessed by Lord Muruga,considered to be a special deity of the Tamil race.
   The History of Tamil literature also refers to another Avvaiyaar of the tenth century A.D who had contributed her high thinking maxims during the Chola Dynasty and shaped the Tamil society for enlightened destinations.Interestingly the term 'Avvaiyaar'in Tamil could even be interpreted to mean,"who is the old respectable woman?"{Avvai-elderly woman; yaar-who}.Tamil cinema has of course given us a combined image of both the Muruga devotee of the Sangam period and the instructive voice of the Chola Dynasty.But the actor who has squeezed out the essence of the venerable Avvai {old woman} has ever been K.B. Sundarambal, who alone has frequently donned the role of Avvaiyar and made us fix her profile with that of the ancient saintly poet.
    Kodumudi Balambal Sundarambal was both a stage artist and screen actor,in addition to being a wonderful singer with a clarion voice.She was a political activist during the Freedom Movement and became a member of the legislative council of Madras State in 1951 as a Congress Nominee.After a brief married life with her fellow actor S. G. Kittappa,who passed away six years after their marriage,she devoted the rest of her life to music and selective devotional roles in films.Her face with the sacred ash marks adorning her forehead,cleanly reflected sanctity and spiritual fervour. She was seen as Avvaiyaar at least in three films viz. Avvaiyar produced by Gemini Studios in 1953 and later in Vijayalakshmi Pictures' Thiruvilaiyadal and Kandan Karunai both directed by A.P.Nagarajan. Her earliest Tamil film entries were Nandanar,{1935}and Manimekalai {1940}.
    Some of the other notable films of K B S were Poompuhar {as Gavundhi Adikal} Maha Kavi Kalidas,Thunaivan,Karaikaal Ammaiyaar{ as Karaikaal Ammaiyaar,the distinguished devotee of Lord Shiva}and Thirumalai Dheivam{as a woman saint called Narayani}.The most extraordinary credentials of K B S were the spiritually enchanting looks and the magnificence of her voice.It is this voice which is still being heard and enjoyed despite her absence from this mundane world since 1980.The way she used to address Lord Muruga,carried the absolute essence of love,devotion and self-surrender to the deity whom she worshipped from the bottom of her heart.The same way,whenever she was seen addressing Lord Muruga as 'Muruga' her probing,poignant voice seemed to drive the audience into a spiritually melting process,creating an inexplicable quantum of ecstasy similar to a state of bliss,capable of evoking the communion of the human soul with the Brhaman.
    What a glorious moment it is listening to her stentorian voice,singing songs like"Mayilerum Vadivelane"{Avvaiyaar}"Gnanappazhathai Pizhindhu"and "Pazham Neeyappaa"{Thiruvilai yaadal}"Kaalathil Azhiyaadha Kaaviyam peravandha"{Maha Kavi Kaalidas}"Vaazhkai Enum Odam"{Poompuhar}and"Ezhumalaiyirukka Namakenna Manakkavalai"{Thiru Malai Dheivam}.Likewise, we would have enjoyed her songs like "Ayyane Anbarku Meyyane"and "Muthamizh Dheivame Vaa"{Avvaiyaar}Thappithu Vandhaanappaa"{Poompuhar}" Onraanavan Uruvil Irandaanavan"{Thiruvilaiyadal}"Senruvaa Magane"{Maha Kavi Kalidas} "Piravaadha Varam Vendum"{Kaaraikaal Ammaiyaar}"Ariyadhu Ketkin"{Kandan Karunai} "Gnaanamum Kalviyum"and "Koopitaa Kuralukku Yaar Vandhadhu"{Thunaivan} and ''Kelupaapaa''{Uyirmel Asai}. Besides film songs,she had also sung devotional songs of which I recall the classical number 'Thanithirundhu Vaazhum Thavamaniye"that I had heard during my early boyhood,from the the gramophone record player.
    K.B Sundarambal's songs are ringing in our ears as much as her divine looks are indelibly imprinted in our memory.She was one of those mighty musical voices of the Tamil soil,in the line of M.K.T Bhagavadhar,T.M.Soundarajan and Sirkazhi Kovindarajan,leading the lyrics by the force of voice clarity and perfection in accent.Tamil Cinema owes her a lot,both in terms of her inimitable vocal splendour and incomparable spiritual dignity,towards performing sacred roles.Above all,she will live for ever,not only as the screen image of the Tamil saintly poet Avvaiyaar,but will also be cherished in audience memory as the truest replica of that saintly poet,whose Aathichoodi and Kondrai Vendhan continue to govern the life of every individual, endowed with a fair knowledge of Tamil Literature.

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