Saturday, March 14, 2020

The invincible actor sisters of Tamil Cinema


   Tamil cinema may have in its archives famous films of actresses doing sister roles,such as Naan Valartha Thangai,Kalyana Parisu,Bhagya Lakshmi,Kulavilakku,Arangetram and Aval Oru Thodarkadhai.More importantly,Tamil Cinema is also known for its great list of actor sisters who have made the Tamil film industry flourish and reach new heights of glory and excellence.
   During the inception decade of Tamil cinema,there came three sisters on the Tamil silver screen,as sterling classical dancers and brilliant performers of characters of different kinds.They were originally called the Travancore sisters,because they hailed from the Trivandrum soil with their ancestral links well knit to the royal family.They were famously acknowledged as Lalitha,Padmini and Ragini.
  Initially,they were shown on the screen,only as dancers,because the earliest Tamil films were reputed more for songs and dances,than for action or continued delivery of dialogues.While all the three sisters were dancing together in a few movies,{Mandhiri Kumari,Devaki,Vanasundari and Ponni},it was Padmini who had significantly occupied the centre stage,both as a stunning dancer and amazing actor.Apart from her scintillating solo dance hits{for "Madhavi Pon Mayilaal" in Iru Malarkal ,for"Maraindhirundhu Paarkum" and "Nalandhaanaa" in Thillaanaa Mohanaambaal and for "Mannavan Vandhaanadi" in Thirumaal Perumai}Padmini had dynamically shown her extraordinary competitive spirit for dancing,not only with her elder sister Lalitha in many films but also with the other commendable dancer actor Vijayanthimala{Vanjikottai Valiban is ever a dance treasure staying indelible in our memory}and with MG.R in Mannadhi Mannan.Of the three, the youngest Ragini who died young, could make only lesser number of entries as a dancer,when compared to her two elder sisters.But as an actor,her contribution was as much considerable,as that of the eldest Lalitha.
  Of the more than sixty Tamil films in which Lalitha had appeared,a majority were those in which she did dancing with her younger sister Padmini or with Ragini .But she did a few solid roles of acting in films like Ezhai Padum Paadu,Oar Iravu,Kanchana,Ponni,Anbu,Ulagam Palavidham,Kaveri and Thookku Thhooki.The last four in the list were films of Sivaji Ganesan of which,Thooku Thooki would have got stuck in audience memory,on account of the role of a hateful,adulterous wife  that Lalitha boldly played and stamped her impression, in the character of a dubious woman.
   Like Lalitha,her youngest sister Ragini who was equally watched for her dance display in quite a number of films,did some memorable films like Thooku Thooki,Kalyanam Panniyum Brmmachari, Ellaam Inba Mayam,Uthama Puthiran,Bhagyavadhi,Punar Jenmam,Parthiban Kanavu,Parisu,Veera Pandiya Kattabomman,Navagraham{as gossip monger Akilandam}and Ezhai Pangalan{as the main heroine paired with Gemini Ganesan}.If Lalitha had a melting and mesmerising voice,Ragini had a stronger and sober tone.But it was the majestic and governing tone of Padmini which surpassed that of her sisters, by the power of which she could establish an immortal place in Tamil cinema,as the most dynamic pair of Sivaji Ganesan.
   Voice, dance and dauntless delivery of roles put Padmini,on the highest pedestal of the Tamil big screen,not only between her two sisters but also among her contemporary actors.She could rightly be called the darling among the three Travancore sisters.As her stellar position in Tamil cinema has already been discussed in other two articles in the blog, with this tribute to her, the article will move on to the other actor sisters of Tamil cinema.
   Almost during the same period of the Travancore sisters, there were other two actor sisters called P. Pandarbhai and P. Mainavadhi. Like the Travancore sisters these two were also inseparable in many movies.They were not celebrated dancers like the earlier trio,but were actors of a graceful and meek category,capable of casting the glory of womanhood, known for its submission,modesty and charm. Unlike the trio sisters who were from the Kerala soil,these two sisters were rooted to Karnataka.
    Pandaribhai takes the pride of being the first heroine of Sivaji Ganesan in Parasakthi, followed by films like Aval Yaar,Thirumbi Paar and Andha Naal with him.The Chevalier played negative roles as the Casanova  in Thirumbi paar and a traitor in Andha Naal and in both the films he invited the wrath of  the ever docile Pandarbhai.In Annaiyin Aanai,Pandaribhai was seen both as the wife  and mother of Sivaji Ganesan in dual roles,as father and son.Later this subdued actress adorned the throne of motherhood in celluloid form,showing profound love and compassion in films like Dheiva Thai, Thaayin Madiyil,Kaavalkaaran,Pudhiya Bhoomi,Raja,OruThai Makkal,Thava Pudhalvan, Dheiva Magan,Gowravam and many other films, besides taking the role of a paralysed mother in Rajinikanth's Mannan. In maternal roles, Pandarbhai formed a distinct place for herself as a venerable mother of Tamil cinema.
     Her sister Mynavadhi who shared screen space with heroes like Sivaji Ganesan{Kuravanji &Bommai Kalyanam}T.R.Ramachandran,{Anbu Yenge} S.R.Eshwar {Aaravalli,in the role of Alangaravalli}T.R.Mahalingam{ Maalaiyitta Mangai}and Prem Nazir {Vannakkili,Anbukkor Anni Naan Valartha Thangai}K.Balaji {Engal Kula dhevi}and Kuladheivam,was an incarnation of the grace and warmth of womanhood,represented by her next generation actress Sri Vidya. Tamil cinema pulled the audience into an exalting family experience,through the dignified presence of these two actor sisters Pandaribhai and Mynavadhi.
    During the late Nineteen Seventies and early Nineteen eighties Tamil cinema witnessed the emergence of three pairs of sisters,one pair from the tree of veteran actor M.R.Radha and the other pair once again from the Trivandrum region and the third team of siblings also from Kerala.They are Radhika and Nirosha,Ambika and Radha and Oorvasi and Kalpana. Among the three pairs,Radhika and Radha were introduced to the Tamil silver screen,by the eminent director of rural stories, P.Bharathiraja in Kizhakke Pogum Rayil and Alaigal Oivadhillai respectively.
   Oorvasi and Kalapna were the thespian products of K.Bagyaraj.Though Ambika was introduced by the director duo Deveraj Mohan,in their film Chakkalathi it was K.Bagyaraj who made her famous through his great film Andha Ezhu Naatkal.Whereas Nirosha had her first innings as Karthik's love interest in Manirathnam's Agni Natchatram and then moved on to act with Kamalahasan in Soora Samharam. and with Karthik Muthuraman in Pandi Naattu Thangam After her successful films Sendhoora Poove and Inaindha Kaikal with Ramki,she became his life partner.
    While Radhika became the very powerful female voice of Tamil cinema in the line of  Savithri, Oorvasi who got an award for her performance in her very first film Mundhaanai Mudichu,did a film with Kamalahasan{Andha Oru Nimidam}as his pair and a couple of films with Napoleon {Vanaja Girija and Ettu Patti Raajaa}and in V.Sekar's most known film Naan Petha Mahane with Sivakumar. After donning a few sober roles she turned to the comedy side by working with Kamal for his films Michael Madhana Kamarajan,Pancha Thandhiram and also as the wife of Nasser in Thennavan.She continues to don mother roles in many films.
   Incidentally,Kalapana who performed as the disliked wife of Bagyaraj in Chinnaveedu,did a similar role in Kamalahasan's Sathi Leelavadhi,as the unwanted wife of Ramesh Arvind. In both the films her fatness became a point of contention to be spurned as a wife. Oorvasi has been dividing her time between Tamil and Malayalam cinema.But Kalapana who contributed more to Malayalam cinema died an untimely death.
    From the list of actor sisters every one would accept the fact that Padmini,Pandarbhai,Radhika and Oorvasi made a substantial contribution to the Tamil film industry,when compared to their sister siblings.Padmini excelled her two sisters,both in the dynamics of dancing and magnificent delivery of roles. Pandaribhai became a longstanding character actor and inimitable screen mother. Radhika continues to make herself predominantly irreplaceable.Comparatively, from among the actor sisters listed here,it is Ambika and Radha who have made themselves equally invincible.Like Radhika ,both Ambika and Radha have acted one classic movie each,with Sivaji Ganesan.Both Vaazhkai and Mudhal Mariyaadhai were grand shows of conjugal supremacy and the peerless power of Platonic love, in their respective thematic content and manner of presentation.
    Like the Travancore sisters and like Pandari Bhai and Mynavathi,the two sisters Ambika and Radha have acted as sisters on screen too{Engeyo Ketta Kural and Kadhal Parisu}.They have also acted together in films like Vellai Roja,Idhayakoil and Anna Nagar Mudhal Theru. Both were successful pairs of Rajinikanth and Kamalahasan and both have acted with other heroes like Sathyaraj,Vijayakanth,Prabu,Karthik {Muthuraman},Sivakumar, and Mohan.
    If Ambika has in her kitty,most impressive films like Andha Ezhu Naatkal,Engeyo Ketta Kural Theerpukal Thiruthappalaam,Naan Paadum Paadal,Vaazhkai,Makkal En Pakkam,Sakala Kalaa Vallavan, Kaakki Sattai,Sakala Kala Vallavan,Uyarndha Ullam,Naan Sigappu Manidhan,Mr.Bharat and Padikkaadhavan,Radha too has an equal number of films like Alaikal Oivadhillai,Amman Koil Kizhakkaale,Oru Kaidhiyin Diary,Naan Mahaan Alla,Paayum Puli,Rajaadhi Raajaa Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu, Engal Chinna Raasaa and Muthal Mariyaadhai,all treasured in audience memory.The films listed here are not exhaustive with regard to both the sisters.
    But the list definitely contains their most important films.No doubt there was always a significant glamour component in Radha's portrayal of characters.However, she proved her excellent acting calibre,throwing tough challenges to her elder sister through her mighty roles,in Amman Koil Kizhakkaale,Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu and Mudhal Mariyaadhai.Among the actor sisters of Tamil cinema of different decades, one would instantly agree to the fact,that it it is Ambika and Radha who have always maintained a competitive edge between them, throughout their acting career. Between the two,Radha could easily take up tomb boy roles as she did in films like Pick Pocket, Chinnapadas and Anna Nagar Mudhal Theru.But Ambika too made the audience raise their eyebrows by indulging in boot legging and transporting bottles of spurious liquor,under the pretext of bogus pregnancy in Padikkadhavan.
   To sum up, all the actor sisters have contributed their individual might,through each one's level and capacity for performance.No one can be a match for Padmini,the paragon of  dancing and the delightful performer of roles,to become the characteristic protocol of womanhood,on the big screen.On the other hand, Pandaribhai will be remembered more as a mother than a heroine. Oorvasi and Kalpana set up a unique place for themselves,with a perfect grasp of  situational and farcical comedy contexts.Nirosha's contribution has been as much minimal as that of Mynavadhi. But Mynavadhi's enchanting looks and portrayal of roles could very well match those of Ambika,the embodiment of exquisite feminine grace. Radha could race with Radhika not only for being a product from the same school of Bharathiraja,but also by putting up a brave face against selective male arrogance.{One could trace the verity of this observation from their character delineation in Naane Raja Naane Mandhiri of Radhika and Amman Koil Kizhakkaale of Radha. Interestingly, both were Vijayakanth films}
  Nevertheless,Radhika is certainly one of the insuperable women of Tamil cinema for reflecting variety in performance through her roles in films like Ninaivu Chinnam,Oorkaavalan, Nallavanukku Nallavan,Kizhakku Cheemaiyile,Sigaram,Salangai Oli,Veera Thaalaattu and Jeans[as the virago wife of Nasser}.If Radhika is admired for her regular contribution to the small screen through her popular serials,Ambika has recently joined the bandwagon of renowned silver screen heroines,making their prominent presence in television serials. Naayaki is presently one of the highly received serials in which Ambika plays an important role.
    Beyond all this, if one has to confine to one pair of actor sisters and make an assessment,one could clearly and assertively declare that Ambika and Radha are the two invincible actor sisters of Tamil Cinema,in vying with each other to carve a niche for themselves ,with equal vigour and demonstration of strength,in their screen portrayal of characters.
{Note:- This article has excluded half sisters among actors.}

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