Sunday, March 1, 2020

P. Bhanumathi the powerful Woman


     The early decades of Tamil Cinema mostly witnessed docile women on the screen.Cinema in general was dominated by men and Tamil films were no exception to this.However,during those years too,there were a couple of women who would time and again raise their feminist voice to vindicate the power of womanhood. Vijayanthimala and P.Bhanumathi were the two actors who through their exceptional force of performance would frequently try to surpass the role of men on the screen.It was a known fact that Vijayanthimala was a colossal classical dancer with invincible charm and performance potential,reflected in her nimble bodily movements.
    P.Bhanumathi on the other hand was not a good dancer but a prime performer of characters with a unique voice mould and sweet singing forte. In fact,Bhanumathi was a greater feminist than Vijayanthimala herself,because quite often one could see her raise her voice and try to rule over men.Though Telugu based Bhanumathi focussed more on Telugu films her Tamil entries were equally powerful to demonstrate her exemplary calibre of screen portrayal,singing attributes and capacity to compose tunes.
   Bhanumadhi stepped into Tamil Cinema as early as in 1939 during the pre independence period in the film Sandana Devan produced by Modern Theatres.Quite a few of her Tamil movies were either dubbed into Tamil or were Tamil remakes of Telugu films.Her first popular Tamil film was Rajamukthi with M.K.Thiagaraja Bhagavadhar.During the same period she acted one film each with N.S.Krishnan {Nalla Thambi}M.K.Radha{Aboorva Sagodhararkal} and P.U.Chinnappa{Rathnakumar}.Later she acted with the two  most popular heroes MGR and Sivaji Ganesan. Incidentally it should be mentioned here that while MGR in his later years of film career,took several women much younger to him as his screen pairs,it was P.Bhanumathi who was three years older than Sivaj Ganesan,joined him as his dynamic pair, in about eight movies.  
    Her films with MGR such as Malaikallan,Alibaabaavum Narpadhu Thirudarkalum,  Thaaikupin Tharam,Madurai Veeran, and Nadodi Mannan were memorable hits when compared to failures like Kalayarasi,Raja Dhesingu and the moderate historical film Kanchi Thalaivan. Similarly her entries with Sivaji Ganesan like Makkalai Petra Makarasi, Manamakan Thevai,Ambikapathi and Arivaali were received well while others like Kalvanin Kadhali,Rani Lalithangi,Rangoon Radha and Sarangathara could make only a very moderate impact.It was at this time she also did one film each with Gemini Ganesan {Sadharam} K.A.Thangavelu {as Rambai,in Rambaiyin Kadhal} and T.R.Mahalingam {as Manimekalai in Manimekalai}.She also joined the veteran Telugu actor A.Nageswara Rao for the two films Kaadhal and Kanal Neer. 
   Some of the unique films of Bhanumathi during the later years were Annai,Poovum Pottum  
Kattilaa Thottilaa and Pathu Maadha Bandham.Of these Annai produced under the A.VM Banner was an extraordinary movie, because it beautifully reflected the emotional turmoil of a mother,facing the predicament of losing her adopted son to his original mother.With S.V.Renga Rao and Sowcar Janaki,Bhanumathi almost waged an emotional war with an unrelenting possessive hold,over her adopted son. 
    Bhanumathi's jammed voice mould could be called both an asset and liability,whenever she became aggressively emotional in demonstrating her role play.Her Tamil was always under the influence of Telugu and it carried a remarkable singularity like the Tamil of Rajinikanth.Her last Tamil movie was Chembaruthi produced by the Motherland Pictures and directed by R.K.Selvamani.In this fabulous romantic film Bhanumathi donned the role of the hero's {played by Prashanth}grandmother.
     Bhanumathi was gifted with a wonderful voice capable of delivering musical notes with exceeding ease and nasal sweetness,that made her songs reach the ears of the audience as most soothing songs.Some of her splendid duet songs were from Ambikapathi {Maasilaa Nilave and Vaadaa Malare Thamizhthene for example}Thaaikupin Thaaram{Aahaanam Aasai Niraiveru ma}and from Makkalai Petra Makarasi {Poravale Poravale Ponnurangam} Thaaikupin Thaaram {Summa Kedandha Nelatha} and it was the stentorian voice of TMS that joined her for all these duets.Her other scintillating duet was Maasilaa Unmai Kaadhale with A.M.Raja for Alibhaabhaavum Naarpadhu Thirudarkalum.Her mesmerizing solo numbers were Azhakaana Ponnunaan {Alibhaabhaavum Naarpadhu Thirudarkalum}Kannile Irupadhenna {Ambikapathi} Poovaaki Kaayaaki Kanindha Maram Onru and Annai Enbaval Needhaana
{both from Annai}.
    P.Bhanumthi and her husband ran a production unit under the banner Bharani Pictures and  made Tamil films such as Kadhal,Kaanal Neer,Chandirani and Manamagan Thevai.Of these the film Chandirani was directed by Bhanumathi herself.This shows her versatility as an outstanding film celebrity.
    Natural emotions,spontaneous reactions and unadulterated role delivery were the unique traits of this multi lingual actor of the last millennium.Her looks reflected absolute self confidence and assertiveness of attitude, which made her the powerful woman of Indian cinema. Though her Tamil films were not many when compared to her contemporary actress Padmini, Bhanumathi did not fail to leave her indelible impressions as a versatile film personality.That she never used to bother about the presence of the ruling men of Tamil Cinema like MGR and Sivaji Ganesan,made her carry on her show on the screen as a self governed and screen governing actor and no other woman during her period could replace her in this regard.