Monday, December 2, 2019

The Factor of Disability,portrayed in Tamil Cinema.



    Cinema is an effective medium interpreting life's realities in terms of themes,events {both contextual and non contextual}and characters.In the treatment of above aspects,it is difference in narration,that lends an amount of variety and appeal.Sometimes the narration would lay a greater emphasis on events than on characters,or vice versa.The characters are usually weighed by their inherent elements of goodness and badness.Occasionally,the narration would also focus on the physical stature of characters,either as being physically stout,or vulnerable to disabilities on account of some bodily flaws,that draws a predicament to character delineation.
  The physical flaw may be one of colour or some sort of impediment such as a handicapped look or being visually challenged or hearing/speech impaired.If such a physical oddity falls on secondary or supporting characters,it usually goes unnoticed.Instead,if the physical flaw shadows the protagonist,it gains absolute importance,letting the audience emotionally empathise with the plight of the hero or heroine.Tamil cinema during its formative and following decades,effectively dealt with the trauma of the leading characters being laid up with a physical challenge,in the form of personal agony and social stigma.
   Tamil films specifically proved that more than social stigma,family prejudices and parental neglect made the physically challenged persons,victims of insult and disgrace,leading to a status of depression and insecurity.In 1962, P. Madhavan's Mani Osai narrated the tragic tale of a hunch backed youth,disowned by his wealthy father{well played by M.R.Radha},owing to reasons of stigma falling on the family as a curse. It was a poignantly pictured film with realities governing the core of narration and the flow of sentiments rooted to the ground.Last century's famous Kannada hero Kalyankumar gave a riveting role delivery,delving deep into the hearts of the viewers.The climax of the film showed the noble minded hero giving his pair of eyes,to his haggard younger brother{R.Muthuraman} before his death and the guilty father confessing to everybody,that the hunch backed hero was his elder son.The song Devan Kovil Mani Osai in the clarion voice of Sirkazhi S.Govindarajan,will eternally stay in the memory of those who watched the film,or heard the song,amazingly composed by the veteran musical duo Viswanathan &Ramamurthy.
   Four decades after the release of Mani Osai,there came another film on a hunch backed guy. This film Perazhagan {2004} produced under the AVM banner and directed by Sasi Shankar dealt with the subject in a humorous vein,making us feel that not all physically challenged people visibly let out their agonised feelings over their physical deformity.This film starring Suriya and Jyothika,both in dual roles,was a clean entertainer with Vivek and the hunch back Suriya with his protruding upper teeth,creating quite a few laughter moments,.The audience derived a lot of fun rising from the cheekiness of Suriya and the mocking tone of Vivek.The other interesting fact about the film is that,one of the dual roles played by Jyothika was that of a visually challenged woman.Besides this physically challenged pair,there was the other pair of a Sober Suriya and his fiancee,the fair looking Jyothika,who got killed in a road accident and whose eyes gave vision to the visually impaired Jyothika. Besides depicting deformities and mistaken identities,the film also threw light on the burdening pangs of deprivation of beauty and love.On the whole,the film had more fun to watch than sentiments to cry about.
    The AVM's mega production house had released two other films on the frustrations of being physically disfigured or deformed. Naanum Oru Penn directed by A.C.Thirulokchandar {1934] memorably portrayed the sufferings of the woman protagonist who was hated by her father in law for her black complexion.The film starring C.R.Vijayakumari in the leading role, gave her an opportunity for a stellar performance,drawing huge crowds to the theatres,for this singular reason.The song Kannaa Karumai Nira Kannaa{tuned by Sudadharsanam} in the captivating voice of P.Suseela,could be called another point of reference to the success of the film. S.V.Rengarao as the prejudiced father in law,gave a neat performance in his usual unique style of role delivery.
   AVM's other film Ramu brought forth the sufferings of a young boy{Master Rajkumar} who loses his power of speech following a shocking incident and regains it later.Incidentally, C.R.Rajakumari also played as a speech impaired woman,not happily received by her mother in law {M.V.Rajamma}in the film Kodimalar directed by C.V Sridhar.
   Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan had brilliantly demonstrated the tormented mindset of a physically challenged person with his incomparable stamp of spontaneity,originality,and substance. The immortal film Bhagapirivinai,showed him as a man with one arm invalidated following an electric shock,while trying to pull out a kite stuck on a live wire.Despite this handicap and the consequent shame and abuses thrown by others on this physical deformity,he demonstrated his strength of personality with robust energy.It was only during an occasion when he was not able to lift his child by himself,did he break down. However,the film ended on a happier note with the hero regaining his normal limbs after a another electric shock.
   Sivaji Ganesan was shown in Paalum Pazhamum as an eminent doctor losing his vision during the course of a medical research in a chemical laboratory.The presumed death of the doctor's wife on account of tuberculosis made the doctor strenuously research on a medicine to cure the disease during when the doctor temporarily lost his vision.In Muktha Pictures' Thava Pudhalvan Sivaji Ganesan suffered from evening blindness and the film beautifully showed how he struggled to hide this infirmity from his mother while at the same time suffering in the hands of an immoral woman,who exploited his helplessness and went on extorting money from him.The Chevalier also appeared as a victim of epilepsy in Raman Ethanai Ramanadi and performed his role in a way,gripping the minds the viewers and lasting in their memories with the imprints of his perfect role delivery
     Sivaji Ganesan was also portrayed as a speech impaired person in the film Valarpirai directed by Daasari Yoganand.It was a meek show of the hero silently undergoing the deep pangs of his speech disability.In P.S.V Pictures's Aalayamani he was a very rich man who would be bound to a wheel chair following a car accident.Previously his domestic servants used to admire his stylish gait and after becoming lame,he would ask them how stylish his gait was in his wheel chair, thereby symbolically expressing the throes of a disabled person.Incidentally,in all the above four films It was B.Sarojadevi who was paired with him as the female leading character.
   In 1969, there came Deivamagan, one of the masterpieces of the Chevalier,showing him in triple roles as father and twin sons.It was almost a cult film under the inspiring direction of A.C Thirulokchandar. Like Mani Osai, it was also a story of father who disowned his facially disfigured son.But unlike in Mani Osai,in Dheiva Magan the father who himself had a disfigured face,did not like to see a replica of himself constantly re experiencing all the tormenting moments of his life through his son suffering a similar disability.Luckily,the younger of the twins grew up as a handsome guy.In a particular scene,all the three characters would be shown being present in the same room,with the father writing a blank cheque for his disowned elder son,the play boy younger son thanking his dad for keeping a blank cheque ready for him and the hiding elder brother pleading with his father through his eyes,to give the cheque to his younger brother.
     It was one of the grandest scenes in Tamil cinema history and to see the Chevalier perform three roles with no trace of semblance in appearance or expression.Those were splendid days of Tamil cinema,governed by creative imagination and performance excellence,without the far reaching technical advancement and assistance that are available for making films today.How much the make up personnel would have worked hard to make the same actor appear in the same situation without an iota of similarity either in looks or in role play.The present generation of film making units should certainly look back in retrospect and salute their predecessors for the amount of perfection that they struggled to maintain in their projects.
    Arjun's Karna {1995} released 26 years after Dheivamagan also narrated the paternal neglect of a physically challenged son between the twins because of his legs becoming invalid.Years later the disowned son who turns a highly sought after advocate comes to the help of his mindless father and happy go lucky younger brother.Recently Radhamohan's Mozhi came out with a fine portrayal of a speech impaired woman of self esteem and uncompromising dignity powerfully projected by Jyothika as the leading character of the film.
    Kamalahasan was lame in Padhinaaru Vayadhinile {1977},visually impaired in Raaja Paarvai {1981} and was a dwarf by birth,caused by villains physically attacking his mother during her pregnancy, in Abhoorva Sagodhararkal {1989}.He excelled in all the three roles reflecting spontaneity and positive vibes,besides experiencing suppressed emotions resulting from his disabilities.While he was both docile and rebellious with a rustic exterior in Padhiraaru Vayadhinile,he exhibited dignity as a person without vision,being ill treated by his step mother in Raaja Paarvai.In Abhoorva Sagothararkal he delivered a classic performance as a dwarf undergoing the frustration of rejected love and revengeful ire,against those who killed his father and made him physically disabled.All these were wonderful shows of Kamalahasan.
   During these days of social advancement and civilized thinking, words like 'blind''dumb'and 'deaf' have all become pejorative terms,subject to disapproval.In order to establish the right of a human being to lead a socially respectable life,a lot of positive thinking is infused into familial and social perceptions of individuals,to avoid prejudices against persons laid up with some kind of shortfall in appearance, stature and movement,depriving them of the prospects of a normal life like others.This sensitive human issue bearing serious psychological implications,is being viewed with more considerate and refined attitudes,so as to build self confidence among the victims of disability and substantially motivate them to rise up as other physically privileged lot and see success notes in their lives,by achieving the impossible, setting aside their shortcomings. After all,how many of us live here,without any physical or psychological disability,at one stage or other in our lives!
   The welcome transition in personal and social outlook regarding physical disabilities,could be seen not only on the big and small screens but also in real life today.I have listed here some of the striking cases of disabled characters portrayed in Tamil Cinema.It is not the number that matters.It is the types of disabilities that do.In that case,this article I believe,has done some justice to its theme and purpose. 

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