Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Two Mighty Voices and Their Voice Alikes.

     There were days when only native singers used to sing Tamil film songs and some of the singers were primarily actors and then singers.This is how the centre stage of Tamil film music was dominated and enriched by many, great film personalities like the actor singers M.K.Thiagaraja Baghavadhar, P.U.Chinnappa,T.R.Mahalingam, and the musical monarchs like T.M.Soundarajan, Sirkazhi Govindarajan,Thiruchi Loganadhan and Chidambaram Jeyaraman among men and the most illustrious women singers like M.S.Subbulakshmi, D.K.Pattammaal and K.B.Sundaraambaal. Then came an amazing line of fascinating singers who were not natives of Tamil Nadu but who could steal the hearts of the audience by their effective rendition of  Tamil film songs.The list would include great singers like A.M.Raja, Ghantasaalaa,P.B.Srinivas,Dr.Balamurali Krishna, P.Susila, Jikki,S.Janaki and so on.Music lovers and film fans in Tamil Nadu were under the spell of these wonderful voices.
     As the Tamil film industry began to grow in leaps and bounds,more and more fresh talents began to occupy the field of Tamil film music.Heroes like MGR and Sivaji Ganesan whose voices were genuinely identified with that of T.M.Soundarajan,when it came to song sequences in their films, mooted a change either intentionally, or as a mark of transition and as a result of this, the voice of TMS was replaced by two fresh voices, that were destined to rule Tamil film music for long.The two mighty voices belong to K.J.Yesudas and S.P.Balasubramanyan.
      In terms of time of entry into Tamil Cinema,K.J.Yesudas is senior to SPB. The song 'Neeyum Bommai Naanum Bommai' had already become popular leaving a mark of identity for Yesudas. But he laid his footing firmly in Tamil cinema only after he delivered the most popular songs like 'Adhisaya Raagam,Aaanandha Raagam' and 'Dheivam Thandha Veedu Veedhiyirukku' from the films Aboorva Raagangal and Aval Oru Thodarkadhai both directed by the most esteemed K.Balachander. But for SPB, the beginning itself was well marked and the very first song Aayiram Nilave Vaa was for the gigantic MGR film Adimaipenn. Of course,during the same time he became popular with the other,first recorded, mesmerizing song 'Iyarkaiyennum Ilayakanni' from the thriller film Santhi Nilayam and both these were duets, in association with P.Suseela. MGR began to simultaneously utilize the captivating voices of these two singers.
    It is a known fact that MGR was always very particular about the quality and richness of musical component of his films.That MGR endorsed the incomparable talent of these mighty singers and that these valued voices contributed significantly for the success of MGR films like Urimakkural, Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban,Netru Inru Naalai,Sirithu Vaazha Vendum, Pallaandu Vaazhga , Naalai Namadhe and Needhikku Thalavanangu,became remarkable events in Tamil Cinema.Songs like 'Avaloru Navarasa Naadagam', 'AngeVaruvadhu Yaaro Adhu Vasandhathin Theiro' and 'Paadumpothu Naan Thenral Kaatru' from the first two films and the title song from Naalai Namadhe,breezily and powerfully delivered by SPB and 'Vizhiye Kadhayezhudhu'{Urimaikkural} 'Onre Kulamenru''Poivaa Nadhiyalaiye'{ Pallaandu Vazhga},Neela Nayanangalil'{Naalai Namadhe] and 'Indha Pachaikilikkoru' {Needhikku Thalaivanangu} in the gripping voice of Yesudas, remain as the richest legacy of MGR film songs.
      The musical voices of these men contain an independently penetrating charm with a classic structure of clarity,vibration and width.There is a kind of spiritual grandeur in the voice of Yesudas that keeps him endowed with a calibre for dignified delivery of music.I still wonder how he was able to deliver a song like 'Thanni Thotti Thedivandha Kannukutti Naan' for K.Balachander's other critically viewed film Sindhu Bhairavi. The voice of Yesudas is imbibed with an unbeatable soothing profile and it can straight away pierce into one's soul with a kind of intimate access that no other voice is capable of.The musical nuances forming part of this sacred voice belong to a special category.The only drawback{ if one is emboldened to call it so}in his delivery of Tamil songs,is the lack of precision in the utterance of Tamil words like 'Kiliye' and 'Pillai' as experienced while listening to the songs 'Poovizhi Vaasalil Yaaradi Vandhadhu Kiliye Kiliye' and 'Pillai Nila'{ the latter  is from Balu Mahendra's Neengal Kettavai}.
     The voice of SPB on the contrary,is more open,with an innate force to flow and blow at one stroke.He has an invincible mark of clarity in his voice and it is a voice born with a quest and thrust for delivering words and musical notes without a hitch.He may not have the advantage of injecting vibration that is an inherent asset of the voice of Yesudas. But the force in the voice of SPB is like the down pour of the unfailing thick black clouds raining in torrents.The ever immortal Sangaraparanam song will speak of his might, for ever. He sings with full-throated ease and the sharpness and clarity of his Tamil accent is always a bonus to the listeners.
     K.J.Yesudas is ever a melody king exhibiting a peerless pattern of voice magnificence.Most of the Tamil film songs that he sang became a grand audio treat only because of his exquisite mode of rendition.To mention a few, songs like 'Sendaalampoovil' {Mullum Malarum} 'Pazhamudhircholai Enakkaagathaan' {Varusham Padhinaaru}'Nalla Manam Vaazha''{Oru Oothaappoo Kan Simittu giradhu}'Oora Therunchukittein'{Rajinikanth's Padikkaadhavan}, 'Annanenna Thambienna' {Dharmadhurai}are his amazing solo hits.Duets like 'Andhamaanai Paarungal Azhagu'{Andhamaan Kaadhali}'Malare Kurinji Malare'{Dr.Shiva}'Vizhiye Kadhaiyezhudhu'{Urimaikkural}}'Thenral Vandhu Ennai Thodum'{Thenral Vandhu Ennai Thodu}'Thanga Maganinru Singa Nadaipottu' {Baasha}and 'Maasimaasam Aalaana Ponnu'{Dharmadurai}are the eternal musical assets of Tamil Cinema.
    In the same way,SPB has given stunning songs like 'Pottu Vaitha Mugamo'{Sumadhi En Sundari} 'Kamban Emaandhaan'{Nizhal Nijamaagiradhu}''Unakkenna Mele Ninraai Oh Nanda laalaa' {Enakkul Oruvan}' Nalladhor Veenai Seidhu' {Varumaiyin Niram Sigappu} 
'Paadi Parandha Kili'{Kizhakku Vaasal}'Ilamaiyenum Poongaatru' {Pagalil Oru Iravu}{Sagalakalaa Vallavan}'Ilaya Nila Ezhugiradhe'{Payanangal Mudivadhillai} 'Sangeedha Megam'{Udhaya Geetham}'Koottathile Koil Pura' {Idhayakoil}'Manram Vandha Thenralukku Manjam Vara Neramillaiyo'{Mounaraagam} Vannam Konda Vennilave {Sigaram}and'Nalam Vaazha Ennaalum EnVaazhthukkal' {Marubadium} In fact, it would be an unending list of his masterly delivery of film songs, mostly under the felicitous musical composition of Ilayaraja,the venerable prophet of music.
     If K.J.Yesudas has delivered the immortal lullaby 'Kanne Kalaimaane',{Mooraam Pirai}SPB has given us the ever lasting melody "Kalayaana Maalai Kondaadum penne" in the film Puth Puthu Arthangal which would be more than a lullaby if heard at bed time.The former's memorable tribute to motherhood in 'Ammaavai Vanangaadha Uyirillaiye' {Mannan} is perhaps a sequel to SPB's 'Naanaaga Naanillai Thaaye'{Thoongaadhe Thambi Thoongaadhe}and 'Amma Amma'{Uzhaippaali}.
    Tamil film industry truly owes a lot to these two fabulous voices for their qualitative enrichment of Tamil film music.May be SPB's contribution would be more voluminous than that of K.J.Yesudas.The voice of Yesudas keeps us possessed by a kind of irreplaceable magical spell;the voice of SPB makes us energized and empowered with a driving gusto.What an incredible amount of emotional vigour and energy has been transmitted by powerful songs like 'Ennadi Meenakshi' {Ilamai Oonjalaadugiradhu} 'Unakenna Melei Ninraai Oh Nanda laalaa' {Enakkul Oruvan}'Ilamai Idho Idho'{Sagalakalaa Vallavan}'Vandhenda Paalkaaran' {Annaamalai} 'Naan Autokaaran Autokaaran'{Basha}'Adhaandaa Idhaandaa'{Arunachalam} 'Oruvan Oruvan' Mudhalaali' {Muthu}'Devuda Devuda' {Chandramugi}and 'Ballelakkaa' {Sivaji}.These are not only great Kamal and Rajini hits, but are also samples of the power packed numbers of SPB, demonstrating his immense capacity for breath control as truly noticed in the song 'Mannil Indha Kaadhalanri' from Keladi Kanmani in which he also displayed his extraordinary histrionic skill. If Yesudas has a delving voice SPB is endowed with a leading voice.It is a kind of swinging experience for the listeners between the dynamic voice of SPB and the devotedly soothing tongue of Yesudas. The film music album of these two grand singers is a treasure house, worth visiting for a repetitive aural exaltation.
      It is interestingly a rare phenomenon that these two voices permeate in a form of semblance and similarity in the rendition of two other playback singers who have also vitally contributed for the success and sustenance of sweetness in Tamil film music.One is almost a close disciple of K.J Yesudas earnestly following his voice line, in tone and spirit and that is the effortless melody maker Unni Menon and the other is almost SPB's voice replica,the clear- tongued Mano. The subtle difference between Yesudas and Unni Menon is the absence of the stronger notes of the former's magnificent extent of vibration in the tone and delivery of songs, of the latter.However,heard from a distance, a song like 'Pudhu Vellai Mazhai Ingu Pozhihinradhe'{Roja}rendered by Unni Menon would perfectly bring the voice of Yesudas closer to our hearts.
     Similarly, it is a great  experience listening to the felicity and magic of music, perceived in the most penetrating  songs like 'Kannukku Maiyyazhagu' {Pudhiya Mugam}Poeraale Ponnuthaayee' {Karuthamma}'Ennavilai Azhage'{ both from Kaadalar Dhinam}'Nadhiye Nadhiye' {Rhythm} 'Enge Andha Vennilaa'{Varushamellaam Vasantham}or the joyous numbers such as 'Maanaamadhurai Maamarathukiliye'{Misaarakkanavu}'Dhaandiyaa Aattam Aada'{Kaadhalar Dinam}and 'Minnalaippidithu'{Shajahan}.Starting from 'Pon Maane Sangeedham Paadava'{Oru Kaidhiyin Diary}Unni Menon's  voice has almost been carrying on a proxy parade for K.J.Yesudas both in terms of sweetness and the mesmerizing calibre of singing.His is a softer voice than that of Yesudas but its level of reach and audio impact is no way inferior to that of Yesudas. 
    Both the voices carry a healing touch to the extent of mellowing human emotions with grace and dignity.I have mentioned only a few songs of Unni Menon here.He has sung  under the music composition of the two musical stalwarts Ilayaraja and Rehman and he has been a favourite of film directors like Mani Rathnam and Vikraman. That he has sung most pleasing melodies for films like Unnai Ninathu, Priyamana Thozhi and Vaanathai Pola shows how much his voice has been valued by director Vikraman and his patronized music composer S.A.Rajkumar. If one listens to the musical flow of Unni Menon through a process of 'willing suspension of disbelief' one would faithfully and unquestioningly accept it as the infallible outcome from the vibrant voice of K.J.Yesudas. Like the inseparable Siamese twins, these two riveting voices are of an indistinguishable mould with a predominant clasp of human ears for compulsive listening, leading to spontaneous enjoyment.
     Mano's voice throw,clarity of diction and felicity of singing reflect undoubtedly,a near perfect duplication of an SPB rendition.The subtlest note of difference would be SPB's innate capacity for tongue twisting and voice churning like that of a precise mixing and squeezing equipment letting out the essence of what is being fed with in.It looks as though SPB's tongue would dance in tune with the syllables of the words and the words of the lyrics in accompaniment of the galaxy of instrumental notes.But Mano definitely has the raw voice of SPB and he shapes it as he likes it to be; beyond his self conscious efforts in this direction,the ultimate impact is the feeling of having listened to another song of SPB. This is how I mistook Mano's classic number "Thooliyile Aadavandha Vaanathu Min Vilakke" from Chinna Thambi for one rendered by SPB and even recorded it here in this article by mistake.Thanks to a reader's prompting, I stand corrected.
     Poor Mano,can not help his voice getting dissolved in the boiling Cauldron of the SPB vocal cords.Be it the soft numbers like'Nee oru Kaadhal Sangeedham'{Naayagan}'Malaikkoil Vaasalile'{Veera}"Pattuppoove Thottuppaaru' {Sembaruthi} 'Sandhana Maarbile Kungumam Dheindhadhe'  {Naadodi Thenral}'Ennavale Ennavale Engirundhai Needhaan'{Ninaithein Vandhaai}or the sprightly songs like 'Alli Alli Anaarkali' {Arunachalam} 'Thillaanaa Thillanaa"{Muthu} and "Ohoho Kikku Yerudhe"{Padayappa}it is just a hairline difference that could be noticed between Mano and SPB in their voice pattern and very often the debate continues in fixing the song with the voice of the original singer.
    After listening to such confusion in voice similarities,I would say that it is from Mano's voice and my son would say that it is in SPB's voice.Finally,sometimes I would be right and at times my son would score the point.Such a similarity in voice,would usually raise valid controversies, in fixing the identity of actors, during a course of listening to their dialogues, off screen. But here are two singers, whose voice and way of singing, make them both easily exchangeable on the platform of audition. Like SPB, Mano too has appeared on screen with an acting zeal and his role in Kamal's Singaara Velan stays memorable.But as a singer, Mano has sung songs mostly for Rajini films than those of Kamal. I have recorded here only a small number of Mano's songs from the exhaustive list of his Tamil filmography.This short supply is perhaps due to my inability to firmly differentiate a Mano song from that of SPB.
    These four great musical men, have crossed the linguistic barriers, both intrinsic and external and have meticulously and magnificently participated in the programme of patronizing Tamil film music through a genuine transmission of  energy and the power of music.The language of music is a firm ladder helping mankind reach newer heights of happiness and peace.What transpires vocally and instrumentally, might be the outcome of a human endeavour or the display of human talent, inborn and acquired.But there is always a pair of invisible hands operating from behind everyone and goading every human voice and hand, to play as it should.May be, that is why we say music is divine.The two mighty voices and their voice alikes, do have the backing of the invisible pair of divine hands, in driving them to the higher positions, that they have reached today.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Performance Hungry Hero.


      A majority of heroes perform as the directors want them to.A few heroes exceed the director's expectations,imbibe the spirit of the characters they do and finally end up in living the role bestowed upon them on screen.This is how Sivaji Ganesan very often performed and became the right model of acting for many other aspiring actors.At times, the audience came upon a deified hero like MGR, who generally made the directors direct him as he liked.But very rarely do we have the experience of watching some one with an insatiable quest for doing something different in each of their films.They always carry on an incomparable urge to try something impossible not bothering about the so called image factor.While Kamalahasan has already established his position as a film personality with an appetite for versatility,the only other hero who is ambitious about trying new layers of acting is Seeyaan Vikram.
    Vikram's modest beginning as a soft romantic hero, would not have projected him as a man with a huge agenda for acting and with unquestionable potential and credentials for moving up the acting ladder with self-made whims and convictions.Films like Meera,Ullaasam,Vinnukkum Mannukkum and Samurai would never be in his challenging list of roles.He should feel immensely indebted to an uncommon brand of director like Bala, for opening a broad gauge track and closing all level crossings simultaneously, so that a hero with a hidden treasure of exemplary acting zeal, could have his run fueled by nothing but the hardcore passion for acting. Sethu and Pithamagan were just a couple of sugar canes for a person with an elephantine hunger to perform.
   What makes Vikram different from others is his indifference to the concept of the hero image.If he had bothered about it he would not have taken up films like Sethu,Kasi and Pithamagan at the start of his career and Dheivathirumagal later. But it does not mean that he is unfit for the role of a full fledged action hero.His Dhil,Dhool, and Samy are perfect entertainers as amazing action films.The fact that most of the directors including Shankar,have not just stopped with one movie with Vikram shows how much trust they have reposed in his talent and how much they value his conviction for performing differently in each film. Bala, Dharani,Hari A.L.Vijay and Shankar are all there in the list as directors delighted by the performing vigour of Vikram that forced them to do another movie with him.Director Saran gave him an action bonanza with consummate juvenile gusto and the film Gemini that was released under the AVM banner, became a great entertainer.
   The amount of force and speed delivered by him in films like Dhool and Samy, his pointed underplay of emotions in the action genre of films such as Dhil,Gemini and Thaandavam,his unfailing grasp of vagaries and precision in seamlessly switching over to changed character delineation, in performing as a split personality in Shankar's Anniyan,his clean pass over from a casual and agile character mould to a sudden state of enforced dementia in Sethu and above all the silently delivered powerful role of an undertaker with inexhaustible love and revenge, in Pitha Magan will permanently mark him as a model actor with a mind full of fixations for multilateral performance.
      Like most other prominent heroes Vikram  too had to concede defeat in his ventures to prove himself as a valued actor.Movies like Arul,Bheema, Kandasamy and Rajapaattai were all moderate demonstrations of the hero's fight against the corrupt lobby or samples of gangsterism and did not speak good of the profound acting caliber of Vikram. Kaadhal Sadugudu was a breezy romance but even there, Prakash Raj stole the show with Vivek's comedy also taking the lead.'Maja' a moderate remake of the great Malayalam original Thommanum Makkalum,was also not on the expected line. The most hyped Raavanan that showed him as hero in the Tamil version and villain in the Hindi script did not bring in the expected result to boost either Vikram's performing zeal or Manirathnam's directorial stuff.
      But beyond all these common setbacks and failures,Vikram has never failed to impress as a unique type of hero willing to perform differently in everyone of his films.His impressive body language,graceful dialogue delivery,right perception of the different layers of emotion behind the nature of his character in isolation as well as its scenic fitment core,his readiness to be one hundred percent genuine to the role and the usual dancing and fighting abilities expected of a hero in standing, always put him on the leading side with a keen sense of professionalism and efficacy.Had he been an actor during the hey days of K.Balachander,he would have easily stolen the mind and spirit of that directorial genius.
      It is a known fact that many talented heroes are hard working,aspiring to achieve higher positions in their career,to stay permanently noticed and acknowledged as actors of merit.But the fire in Vikram is of a different kind, burning constantly,igniting his action engine towards remarkable destinations.Number of films does not matter for him.Hero image is immaterial for him.It is his craving to perform differently and excel in doing the job assigned to him without taking himself to the scuffle for limelight, that makes him an actor of singular mettle.His unrelenting desire to perform specially for a personal satisfaction, will always keep him in good stead. Reasonably tall and well built in physique,the performing spirit from with in, should always remain intact, to drive him to many more, award winning positions in his career.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Two Elder Sibling Directors of Tamil Films.

      Film directors belong to an extraordinary tribe of makers of myth and reality.Age is no criterion to excel in creativity.In the music field, we have the Oscar winner A.R.Rehman who began to fly high from his teen age.Tamil film directors have begun to rule the game usually from their early forties or may be from their late thirties.But there are two youngsters who started spreading their wings much early, to fly high with an incomparable creative zeal and capacity.Perhaps as a mark of coincidence,both these men have their film ancestry,inheriting the power and will to reign the centre stage.Of the two,one is the elder son of the noted film director Kasturiraja and the other is the elder son of eminent film editor Mohan.These two young talents are Selvaragavan and M.Raja. Both these directors have the other similarity of capitalizing their creative excellence mostly on their younger siblings Danush and Ravi respectively.
     Selvaragavan first wrote the script for the critically reviewed film 'Thulluvadho Ilamai',directed by his father Kasturiraja. His first directorial venture 'Kaadhal Kondein' became an instant success. Following this,he directed his younger brother for a couple of movies like 'Pudhuppettai' and 'Mayakkam Enna' and wrote the script for 'Yaaradi Nee Mohini' starring his brother but directed by Mithran Jawahar{who also directed the other blockbuster film 'Uthamaputhiran' of Danush}.Apart from these films Selvaragavan has directed the most hyped 'Aayirathil Oruvan', that became the second film of Karthik Sivakumar.The other most talked about film of this young director is the latest 'Irandaam Ulagam' starring Aaryaa and Anushka Shetty.In about half a dozen films, Selvaragavan has created a distinct position for himself as a director of fantasies and fascinating romantic extravaganzas.
     What makes Selvaragavan different from others,is his uniquely reflective approach to evolving themes and characters and narrating the story line on a fantasy track.The focus on psychological intricacies of the protagonists of his scripts and the narrative techniques he adopts towards displaying his all round compass of creativity,make us identify his dreams and aspirations as those of a rare kind of film maker.The human mind's flair for guilt and compunction and the extent of criminality that embraces psychic aberrations, find ample scope in Selvaragavan's subtle delineation of scenes and characters in films like 'Kaadhal Kondein' and 'Pudhuppettai'.
      However on the fantasy side,both in 'Aayirathil Oruvan' and 'Irandaam Ulagam',obstructions seem to take the audience by surprise and one wonders if the absence of an impressive link or sense of continuity is accidental or due to lack of perspective in narration.There is definitely an all pervading presence of exquisite visual aspects and freshness in presentation of scenic sequences, but beyond all these,there is a constant feeling that an exuberant creative formulation is going futile,not yielding the intended result.What would strike the mind of the audience is the concern and sympathy for a powerful creative film maker missing the mark, that he very much deserves.Is it a flaw in the genesis of the creative process, or an enigma of the parts of the process not contributing to its wholeness and totality, is a question remains unanswered.
    The other elder sibling M.Raja is an openly vibrant film maker concentrating purely on  the thrills of romance and family sentiment.His is a stuff meant for the larger audience, with an unfailing commercial formula in the line of Lingusamy and Hari. Starting from his first venture Jeyam,almost all his Tamil films have been Telugu remakes and except in 'Velayutham',it is his younger brother who made his debut in 'Jeyam' and became Jeyam Ravi, {to be differentiated from Nizhalgal Ravi}has been shown as hero.His second film 'M.Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi' was a sensitive family drama, unlike his first energetic show of romance in Jeyam. Besides bringing back Nadhiya to Tamil Cinema,his second film had Prakash Raj doing a powerful father character which he did again in Raja's 'Santhosh Subramanyan',a healthy family entertainer. Santhosh Subramanyan was a very decent film known for a powerful display of paternal responsibilities and filial inheritance of love and family sense.It celebrated the clean movie concept in all respects and became a crowning experience for this young director.
    His other film 'Unakkum Enakkum Something Something'that preceded Santhosh Subramanyan was equally demonstrative of the invincible family link. Raja's 'Thillalangadi',a remake of his Telugu 'Kick' effectively portrayed how the  innate spirit of adventure and longing for thrilling moments could drive an individual to the edge of enchantment and endangering predicaments.In most of Raja's films, either Prabu or Prakash Raj, made a dignifying mark in elderly, character roles.In all the films including  his 'Velayutham', Raja has unflichingly promoted his concept of making life a  self satisfying course of adventures and excitements,be it romance or a riveting family drama.'Velayutham' wonderfully dramatized sibling affection and intimacy in the line of Vijay's Thiruppachi, but the scenic displays were totally different from those of the Perarasu movie .Raja always guarantees that moments of continued entertainment will never be found wanting in any of his films. Unlike Selvaragavan who restrains the scope for comedy in his films, due to their introspective predominance,Raja opens the doors wide, for hilarious moments and consummate joy, mostly with comedians like Santhanam,Sathya and Soori, dominating the humour zone.It was only in M.Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi Vivek took care of the comedy side of a Raja film.
     As far as romance is concerned,Raja's focus is on the degree of excitement it generates for the lovers and the way it takes the romantic wagon to the family station,initially with resistance and opposition from the family members and then as an energizing addition of a new member to the existing family unit.In Unakkum Enakkum,it was a case of acceptance of a highly positive guy to the girl's side and in the other film Santhosh Subramanyam the boy's family took into its fold,an exuberantly positive minded girl,as an enthusing element.Whereas,Selvaragavan looks upon the romantic experience as purely a psychological drive,either enriching or disturbing the mind of the lovers with a poetic feel of joy,suspense,awe and at times even horror.
     M.Raja invites the audience with an open mind to watch his films and stay delighted for a while.Whereas, Selvaragavan is bent upon involving the audience in an introspectively valid, mystifying and demystifying cinematic experience.One wants to entertain with a hearty sense of light mindedness, geniality and exultation, while the other tries to offer tantalizing,possessing, couple of hours of show, of an incredible world in celluloid form.One has a pragmatic and down to earth formula for success and the other is devoutly abstract in narration.The flow of positive energy is the dominating element in Raja's films;but Selvaragavan's mode of narration can not help pulling him to the negative fathoms as a compulsive psychological push. It is finally the individual's choice, for the kind of show that one wants to watch and enjoy, being glued to the big screen,in one's frame of mind, for a self satisfying course of movie watch.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sophisticated Villainy in Tamil Cinema.


      William Shakespeare said'one may smile and smile and be a villain'.Be it reality or fiction, open villainy is always easy to deal with.Crude villainy is of course bloody,horrid and hateful; but the movie villains are admired or condemned depending upon their manner of exposition. Generally,the display of 'motiveless malignity'and suave,sweet coated villainy overpowers the human psyche to a great extent.World cinema in general has dealt with hidden roots of villainy with sophisticated exteriors involving charm and grace.But the thing is, not all actors would physically fit into deceitful villainy, with a comfortable facial leverage.English villains have always excelled in this regard.In Hindi cinema, late Pran was a monumental actor of concealed villainy by his well refined looks and standard of acting. But others like Premnath, Omprakash and Amrish Puri could easily delineate rude and open villainy. Prem Chopra could excel in both.I am not knowledgeable about the new generation villains of Hindi films.
     In Tamil, among the old timers,P.S.Veerappa always belonged to the open gang of villains. Though Nambiyar could be fairly called Tamil Pran, he has been both refined and rude on the screen and the latter mode was more visible in films like Kudiyirundha Koil,NaanAanaiyittaal, Pudhiya Boomi and so on.In reflecting sophisticated villainy S.V.RengaRao usually excelled in films like Annaiyin Aanai, Raaja {both Sivaji films} and Nam Naadu {MGR's}.S.A.Asokan was like Hindi Premnath.
     While most screen villains in Tamil Cinema have tried to be loud and noisy in displaying a particular mode of their histrionic ability for portraying villainy,some have maintained style, charm and sophisticated appeal that generally reflect a classic character of aristocratic scheming and execution of negative motives.Some are capable of combining both varieties as we have seen in the case of M.N.Nambiyar,Nasser,and Prakashraj. No one can forget Nasser's crudest form of villainy in Thevar Mahan. But the same actor gave a brilliant performance as a stylish villain in 'Olympian Antony Atham', one of the most popular Malayalam movies starring Mohanlal as hero.
     Prakashraj who mostly excels in loud verbal villainy of a powerful thug, as shown in films like Gilli, Poekkiri and Singam 1, showed his pep and style of a different attitude, in films like Aasai, Vaanavil and Vaanchinathan. But there are two villain actors, who have constantly reflected smiling and charming villainy of the high class, reflecting a frame of mind specialized in the art of killing with fake kindness.They are Late Raguvaran and the famous Kannada writer and actor Girish Karnard. 
    Interestingly, these two dynamic actors gave a joint performance of grand villainy, in films like Kaadhalan and Ratchagan. Raguran who was initially noisy in some of Rajini's earlier films, began to reach greater heights with his amazing performance in films like Puriyaadha Pudhir,Abhimanyu,Uthayam,Baasha,Arunachalam, Mudhalavan, Vallarasu and Baalaa. As a gangster head and as a prototype of the greedy power block, Raguvaran has rightly fitted into his role with a striking sense of precision and style,his husky voice carrying a singular pattern of modulation, adding charm and perfection to his performance.
      A highly original creative writer,an illustrious playwright and stage actor and a wonderful film actor that he is,Girish Karnard has fascinated my imagination to a great extent.I enjoyed reading and teaching his most popular play 'Hayavadana' {translated into English from his original version in Kannada} to my undergraduate students.My enjoyment of watching his acting skill in movies like Naan Adimai Illai,{A Rajinikanth film} Kaadhal Mannan {A Saran hit starring Ajith},Rajeev Menon's Minsaarakkanavu, Kamal's Guna, K.T Kunjumon's Ratchagan,Shankar's Kaadhalan and Vishal's Chellame made me feel that Karnard has the spontaneous ability for negative portrayals, combining style and refinement of the richest order.It is difficult to imagine him in a role of either a poor man or a middle class person.By his looks and body language, he cleanly represents a section of the wealthy tribe, known for snobbery,personal aggrandizement, power mongering and exploitation of the gullible.   
       Greed for money and clinging to norms of status building, as the innate traits of the pseudo aristocratic class, have been perfectly portrayed by Girish Karnard in the films cited.He truly brought out the fears of the tax evading rich, when raided by the tax regulatory authorities,in the film Chellame. In Ratchagan, he kills his half brother with kindness blended with venom, with a view to avoiding competition in acquiring the huge, ancestral wealth.In many of the other  films, he was a wealthy dad, recklessly trying to prevent the marriage of his daughter with an underdog, thereby exposing his reluctance to surrender his inherited status of wealth and nobility.
      Raguvaran and Karnard could rightly be called the standing models of sophisticated villainy in Tamil Cinema.The other actors who fall in this category are Kitti{Kamal's Sathya} Captain Raj{ Jeeva and Pick Pocket starring Sathyaraj} and Salim Ghouse {Vetrivizha, Chinna Gounder and Vijay's Vettaikkaran }.   


Monday, November 25, 2013

Tamil Actresses of Feminist Mould.



  The struggle of womanhood for its rightful position is age old. Human societies were and are mostly patriarchal in their base. The psychosomatic fundamentals have generally gone in favour of men playing a protective role over women. But very often, oppressive tendencies have prevailed in the form of exercising a power game resulting in women becoming toys, puppets and victims in the hands of men. There have been instances of resistance and movements, carried on towards establishing the legitimate rights of women, as individuals and citizens of equal merit and might. As the roots of feminism are world-wide, it has fascinated the creative imagination of several sectors including the world film body, that play a crucial role in forming and propagating path breaking social awakening movements. Every region in its cinematic version, has shown its keenness in framing themes and creating stories, that would expose the flaws of male chauvinism and the lawful claims of feminism. Tamil Cinema has never been lagging behind with regard to championing the cause of women. Apart from the script writers and directors, every generation of actors has had its spokesperson particularly among the actresses.
     Tamil films such as Penn,Adhisiapenn,Aduthaveetuppenn, Irumbuthirai, Vanji koottai Vaaliban,Sabatham,Mayor Meenakshi, Veettukku veedu, Arangetram, Avargal,Aval Oru Thodarkadhai Vaazhndhu Kaattugirein,Vidhi,Rudra, Pudhumaipen  and several others have either suggestively or openly, humorously or seriously laid the proper emphasis on the need for setting the ground for increased role performance of women both at home and outside, so that their position as independent living beings, is not just confined to a decorative contribution to one's life routine. As suppression of women and male domination are the two sides of the same coin, resistance to such negative trends had to shoot up first from the eligible fighters among women. Eligible fighters are those who develop a spontaneous awareness of their secondary positions in life and start reasoning out why it is so and how it should be set right. Again eligible fighters are those, who have an innate fire to resist and remove injustice in any form. Such fighters among women, become the torchbearers for others. Bold women are certainly an asset to their gender and tribe.
   Characterization of women in feminist films, is evolved with a pointed reference to the solid psychological fundamentals of  struggling and fighting womanhood; it is the justifiable reasons for the fighting frame of mind shown in a film that facilitate its instantaneous reach and acceptability with the audience. In addition to the story line and characterization, it is the choice of actresses for a feminist role, that makes the whole process enduring and gripping. Even during the earlier decades, when the right for survival was restricted in the name of colonialism, orthodoxy and conservatism, there were stories of upheavals and there were characters projected as incarnation of rebellion. There were actors and actresses who would conveniently fit into such roles. Among men there were many. But among women the number was small. One could easily think of an actress like P.Kannaambaa to play the role of Kannagi, a symbol of courage and conviction, fighting against an injustice done to her husband. A film maker of those days would not have thought of a meek looking M.V.Rajamma or M.S.Subbulakshmi to play that role.
    Be it Penn or Vaazhkai, Vanjikkottai Vaaliban or Irumbuthirai,it was Vaijayanthi- mala, the self conscious epitome of feminine individuality who would immediately capture the imagination of film makers as well as the audience as a woman warrior. That was why she was chosen to play the role of Princess Padmini of Chittor in the film Chittor Raani Padmini. Actress  Padmini  in spite of her most vibrant voice, could be considered only for reflecting grace, modesty and submission of womanhood.Where as, P.Banumathi,like Vaijayanthimala, would cleanly sweep as a woman firebrand and a leading voice of feminism. It was her unique revolting voice mode and pattern of dialogue delivery, that effectively fixed her, mostly in the character of a highly resistant woman. The other great actress who obviously maintained her proud position as a woman was J. Jeyalalitha. Both in appearance and style of acting, she constantly reflected the root of feminine independence. Most other actresses who would have chosen or been offered to play feminist roles would have justified only their performance in such roles and not as persons in their individual looks and bearing.
    Sujatha for instance, beautifully exhibited her fighting spirit in films like Aval Oru Thodar kadhai, Avargal, Vidhi,[as a lawyer taking up the case of the betrayed heroine played by Poornima Bagyiaraj}Vaazndhu Kaattugirein and Amaidhippadai. Hers has been a silent unyielding revolution and she did win her ground in feminist roles. However, in her appearance and manner and spirit of interactions, she would more be with a vast group of amazing actors like Savithri,Sowkar Janaki, K.R. Vijaya, {Her roles in Sabatham and Mayor Meenakshi showed what best a woman could do in fighting the criminal and the corrupt}Lakshmi,SriVidya and Revadhi. {who did a meaty role in Barathi Raja's Pudhumaipenn as a true representative of the feminist lobby}.
      Among the late entrants , actresses like Jeyachitra, Sripriya and Radhika, could by their looks and demeanour successfully equate themselves with eminent feminist performers like Banumathi  Vaijayanthimala and J.Jeyalaitha. In voice mould and force of dialogue delivery, these three actresses carried a similarity of style and sheen. Interestingly, apart from the termagant role that Radhika performed in Shankars's Jeans most of  the characters she portrayed were of a soft and sublime nature as seen in films like Kizhakkuchhemaiyile, Pasumpon and Keladi Kanmani. Sripriya  Jeyachitra [who is endowed with a roaring voice of the feminist mould],and their other contemporary [late] Fadafat Jeyalakshmi were never found lacking in the perfect delivery of courageous feminine characters in several films.
      All these women cozily reflect a devil- may -care attitude in donning roles meant for encountering challenges and ordeals and surmounting them with grit and determination. Thus a casual review of the position of Tamil film actresses would reveal the fact, that P.Kannaamba, P.Banumathi,VaiJayanthimala J.Jeyalalitha, Jeyachitra, Sripriya and Radhika are made of sterner stuff and are the fittest women to play feminist roles with vigour and credibility . ========================0=======================    

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thoughts of illusion and Emptiness in Tamil Film Songs.

     William Shakespeare the poetic and dramatic voice of mankind said 'Life is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing'.The staunch Biblical faith of Christianity is 'dust thou art and dust thou shalt be'.The philosophical mood of man quite often opens the flood gates to the rapid flow of thoughts on the ultimate nothingness of life.Lyricists writing for film songs have time and again travelled to the realm of illusion and nothingness as a scenic requisite or dramatic necessity.Tamil film songs abound in such reflections pushing the otherwise materialistic mankind to the edge of emptiness for a close glimpse of everyone's funeral as the culminating point of life.
     The objective of this article is to enlist and elucidate some such songs that drew the attention of film lovers at different periods.These songs were from the fabulous voices of different singers giving mood thrust to  lyrics penned by different lyricists at different times for different films.The first of this kind that kindled my imagination long back, was from the film Devadas starring A.Nageswararao and Savithri.The film was a tragic love story and the love lorn,dejected lover is driven to drunkenness and in his extreme mood of grief and despair he sings a song.The song goes like this
உலகே  மாயம்  வாழ்வே  மாயம் .
உலகில்  நாம்  காணும்  சுகமே  மாயம்.
உறவும்  ஊராரும்  உற்றார்  பெற்றாரும் ,
ஓடிடுவார்  கூடவாரார்  நாம்  செல்லும் நேரம்
  The song actually means that the world and life are just illusions and all  neighbours relations and parents will run away and will not join any one at their departure from this earth.This sad number in the voice of Ghantasala, was a heart rending one. K.J.Yesudas then sang a similar kind of song in the film Vaazhve Maayam and the song also begins 'Vaazhve Maayam Vaazhve Maayam' But the song of Yesudas was for a youth who was suffering from a terminal illness and hence was not in a position to marry the girl he ardently loved.The hero was Kamalahasan and the girl, Sridevi. 
  It was in the film Padha Kanikkai, there came the profoundly philosophical song in the mighty voice of T.M.Soundarajan. It was a realistic and thought-provoking song depicting the mood of compunction of an elder brother [played by Asokan] who lived as an insensitive reprobate, for quite long.The death of his father and the loss of one of his legs in an accident, activate his qualms and make him understand what life is.The heavily worded song is,
  வீடுவரை  உறவு , வீதிவரை  மனைவி
  காடுவரை  பிள்ளை , கடைசிவரை  யாரோ ?.
  The song says that when a man is dead,no one can accompany the body until it turns into ashes or becomes part of the soil.Relatives may take leave from home,one's wife will come up to the street and the son can  accompany  the body only till the cremation spot or funeral ground to perform his mandatory rites.The same idea is repeated in another film Mugarasi starring MGR and this song is also from the stentorian voice of TMS.
 உண்டாக்கி  விட்டவர்கள்  ரெண்டுபேரு;
 இங்கே  கொண்டுவந்து  போட்டவர்கள்  நாலுபேறு.
 கொண்டாடும்போது  ஒரு நூறு பேரு ;  
 உயிர்  கூடுவிட்டு  போனபின்னே  கூடயாரு.
  There was another memorable song in Avanthaan Manithan, that portrayed SivajiGanesan as an embodiment of humanism and empathy, being ever ready to part with anything he has, to others and not being able to say'no' to anybody.Endowed with a philosophic frame of mind,he could fully understand the base of emptiness of life and the ultimate nothingness, as the imperishable truth of life.It is with this solid understanding of life he sings,
    மனிதன்  நினைப்பதுண்டு  வாழ்வு  நிலைக்குமென்று;
    இறைவன்  நினைப்பதுண்டு  பாவம்  மனிதனென்று . 
Translating the idea it means,''man would think that life will last;but God would think man is a poor thing''
 S.A.Asokan,the last generation's noted villain-cum-character actor has sung in his own voice,the following song that emphatically reaffirms the inevitability of death and the truth of nothingness of life.
 எறந்தவன  சொமந்தவனும்  எறந்துட்டான்.
 அத இருப்பவனும்  எண்ணிபார்க்க  மறந்துட்டான்.     
 The song focuses on the irony that the man who carried the dead is also dead;but the living never realize this fact.
   K.Balachander's excellent film Neerkumizhi telling the sad story of a patient ailing with a fatal illness, forcefully put forward the truth of emptiness of life.The film starring Nagesh as hero, was one of the earliest and most qualitative films of the director.The song in the sterling voice of Sirkazhi Govindarajan, created an acute tragic feel, in the following words.
ஆடி  அடங்கும்  வாழ்க்கையடா ,
ஆறடி நிலமே  சொந்தமடா .
முதலில்  நமக்கெல்லாம்  தொட்டிலடா .
முடிவில்  காலில்லா  கட்டிலடா .
  The song categorically states that when the furore of man's life comes to an end his body can own only six feet of land.Man's life begins in a crib but ends up in a bier,a footless cot in away.
  Later came the melodious number in the soothing voice of Jeyachandran in the MGR film Needhikku Thalaivanangu.The scene of the song showed a beggar in a train singing in a desolate mood on the dreams and desires of humanity which is unmindful of the fact, that finally,it is the soil meant for one's burial, that counts.
எத்தனை  மனிதர்கள்  உலகத்திலே !
எத்தனை  உலகங்கள்  இதயத்திலே !
எட்டடி  மண்ணுக்குள்  போகும்வரை,
இந்த  கற்பனை  ஊர்வல  வாழ்க்கைமுறை .  
  Poverty and rejected love are perhaps the potential sources of underscoring the bubble theory of life.The beggar here says, that there are as many worlds in one's heart as there are as many men in the world.Until man reaches the eight feet pit as his final home, his dreams and desires continue. 
 The same way P.Susheela sings that immortal song 'Maalai Pozhudhin Mayakkathile Kanavu Kandein Thozhi' and the lines from the song given below will corroborate the ideas in the song of Jeyachandran.
இளமையெல்லாம் வெறும் கனவுமயம்
அதில் மறைந்தது சில காலம்;
தெளிவும் அறியாது முடிவும் தெரியாது ,
மயங்குது எதிர் காலம் .
'A major part of youth' says the song, 'spills over in dreams and the future remains as a blurred vision'.
   Most of the songs mentioned here belong to the old archives of Tamil film music. It is not that the new generation does not know or is not interested in these thoughts of what life ultimately is.But they also believe that life is full of thrills,pleasures and challenges and the conquest of one's dreams forms the greatest, concrete reality, before one's final parting happens.The new generation knows to go with the flow and the flow continues until the final spot that it has to reach. As the matter stands, every one knows that,
விட்டுவிடும் ஆவி  பட்டுவிடும் மேனி .
சுட்டுவிடும்  நெருப்பு  சூனியத்தின்  நிலைப்பு .
    the breath will go,the body will perish and emptiness will prevail in the case of every living being as the grand cosmic law.After all, the most imperishable truth of life is its perishable form .



Monday, November 11, 2013

The Two Handsome Tamil Comedians.

    At a time, when the theory that performing heroes need not look handsome is becoming an acceptable phenomenon,to talk of handsome comedians may sound paradoxical. However,let us give the individuals the tag that is reasonably due to them.I would also like to say categorically that this title is not intended to undermine the looks of other talented comedians of the huge Tamil film industry.To me the appearance of these two comedians, gives them a hero status, by certain conservative norms held so far, as a determined yardstick for developing a commanding screen image.The two comedians who would honour this title without prejudice to others, are Vivek and Santhanam.
     Both in terms of age and time of entry into the field of acting,Vivek is a clear senior to Santhanam by at least a decade and a half. Vivek also holds the proud position of being a K.Balachander  product.His first two films Manathil Urudhi Vendum and Puthu Puthu Arthangal directed by K.B made Vivek  establish a solid foundation for himself as an actor meant to reckon with. Particularly as a character with a loose tongue, he made his role distinctly memorable in Puth Puthu Arthangal. But what a meteoric growth it has been to Santhanam, after his firm entry in Manmadhan that made his earlier role in Kadhal Azhivadhillai insignificant.With in a decade, he has become the busiest ever actor to be seen almost in every other release, with small,big and selling comedy shows.Starting his film career with the renowned T.Rajender  and his son Simbu, Santhanam continued to act in Simbu's films like Kaalai,Vallavan,Vaanam and Osthi,the last two in this list showing him in the best comedy form. 
     The skit matters a lot for the success of a comedy scene, that takes the comedian closer to the audience for their continued acceptance and patronage.Gone are the days of decent comedy scenes, without any semblance of vulgarity and scatological connotation.We do not know if the decline in quality of humour is due to an itch to satisfy the audience mood, or the inherent calibre of the comedians themselves.Quite often, even decent comedy providers like the duo Goundamani and Sendhil  resorted to  toilet humour as though comedy could generate only in the rest rooms. Vivek  and Santhanam are no exception to this kind of comedy presentation. Vivek's comedy scenes were particularly undesirable in the film Shajahaan and Santhanam periodically takes his humour  skit to the toilet side.
     Both Vivek and Santhanam  have excelled in verbal comedy by taking their fellow comedians and sometimes even their team heroes for a ride.In the same spirit, they have allowed themselves to be bullied and exploited by their fellow comedians as Goundamani  very many times, let Sendhil make him a scapegoat.Incidentally, it should be mentioned here, that both Vivek  and Santhanam have acted in a few movies, without any significant scenes for a meeting point.Some of the films in this list are, Ajith's Kireedom,Suriya's Singam2 and Vinay's Jeyamkondan. But they did have a meeting ground in Sundar C's Veeraappu. Both these comedians have contributed solidly to the comedy spirit of Sundar.C. In films like Naam Iruvar Namakkiruvar,Unakkaaga Ellaam Unakkaaga, Ullam Kollai Pogudhei, Sandai, Auyudham Seivom and Aindhaam Padai  Vivek added wonderful moments of laughter.In the same manner, Sathanam made his mighty humour shows, in movies like Rendu, Kalakalappu and the most fabulous comedy film Theeyaa Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru. 
     Not less than twenty five popular films could be recommended for a healthy and happy watch of Vivek's intelligent and appealing comedy scenes.Unlike Santhanam,Vivek has effectively demonstrated his strength for mimicking several great actors of the last generation like Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan,M.R.Radha M.N.Nambiyar  and later his own contemporary heroes like Rajini and Kamal.No one can forget his parodying the court scene of Sivaji Ganesan's  debut film Parasakthi and then the Sivaji- Radha platonic love episode in Mudhal Mariyaadhai. Srikanth's Paarthiban Kanavu scored an additional point for repeated audience view because of Vivek's  parody of the famous scenes from Mudhal Mariyaadhai. He has also mimicked the voices of Rajini and Kamal  and their style of dialogue delivery.Some of the films of Kamal that he has parodied are Guna and Nayagan.
     Vivek has the time sense and aptitude to include song and scene sequences from other films relevantly to his own comedy scenes, as he pointedly did in Dhool and several other movies. Vivek was found doing an amazing job in the line of N.S.Krishnan, by performing comedy with social sense, with deliberate inclusion of messages of social awakening through comedy scenes. This is how he went on to impress the audience by his clean performance in films like Kaadhal Sadugudu,Youth,Samy,Thirunelveli  and quite a few other movies.
     Besides these films,the other movies of Vivek  that would go a long way into the memory interiors of the audience are Run, Pennin Manadhaithottu,Kadhal Mannan, Dhool, Minnale, Poovellaam Un vaasam, Perazhagan Azhagi,Dum Dum Dum, Sandhitha Velai,M.Kumaran S/o Mahalakshmi, Thirumalai, Kushi, Middle Class Madhavan,Whistle,University,Anniyan, Thenkasipattanam, Thambikku Indha Ooru,Sivaji, Uthama Puthiran of Danush, and Singam1. One can hardly ignore Vivek's hilarious comedy ride with Vadivelu,  in films like Pongalo Pongal, Looty and Manadhai Thirudivittai .
     Santhanam too has in his kitty more than a dozen great films out of his numerous rapid releases,that  would vouchsafe his capacity to tickle humour. However, unlike Vivek's continued flow of humour generating dialogues,Santhanam can be proud of  his one line verbal strokes that would spontaneously augment the comedy feel with  utmost relevance to sense of timing.Some of the historic comedy scenes of Santhanam are from films like Siva Manasula Sakthi,Boss Engira Baskaran,Oru Kal Oru Kannaadi, Velayudham, Kandein Kadhalai, Theeeradha Vilaiyaattuppillai, Thillaalangadi, Settai, Thaandavam [very sensible play of humour to the extent of taking out the patience of the police officer played by Nasser}, Mirattal, Naan Yee,Kanna Laddu Thinna Aaasaiyaa,Raja Rani, Vanakkam Chennai and the three films Siruthai,Saguni and Alex Pandian in which he carried on the taunting team celebration of comedy with Karthik Sivakumar.
   The similarities between these two comedians have certain significant traits.Both are quite often loud mouthed because comedy needs audible delivery of dialogues more than any other segment of cinema.Both are fair complexioned with a kind of charm in their appearance that helps them have a pleasing reach with the audience.Both have a flair for dancing and Vivek  in fact donned the role of a dance master in Kushi .Both have acted with all leading actors including the Superstar and both have not so far shared the screen space with the world class hero Kamalahasan. Santhanam would perhaps be a happy man now, looking forward to the scope of sharing screen space with Kamal, in the proposed film Uthama Villain, to be directed by Ramesh Arvind. Both Vivek and Santhanam have been directed by Shankar  but not by Manirathnam.
    But the rocking note of difference between the two, is the most cherished sense of continuity and coherence in the comedy skits meticulously developed and delivered by Vivek, that seem to be invariably void in the one- liner- bound comedy drive of Santhanam. I personally feel that Vivek has an inspiring spirit of latent humour like the noted, other commendable comedian S.V.Sekar. But unlike S.V.Sekar,  who has a sense of control over his comedy delivery,Vivek appears to be more unbridled in enjoying his job of making others genuinely laugh for a while,without any reservation. 
    Vivek's  comedy could be compared to the traditional mode of poetry composition;whereas, Santhanam's comedy track could be equated with the free verse category.To me, Vivek seems to be a perfect combination of N.S.Krishnan and K.A.Thangavel Whereas, Santhanam appears to travel on the track of Goundamani without the support of a soul-sustaining companion like the innocently mischievous Senthil, boosting the energy levels of not only the comedy mood of Goundamani, but also that of the audience.But to carry on the laughter wagon evenhandedly,without a solid team mate is not that easy. It is in this respect, Santhanam gains his winning streak.
   As far as the comedy track of new wave Tamil Cinema is concerned,one could notice the obvious absence of female pairs for the present day comedians, unlike T.A.Madhuram M.Saroja and Manorama{ and Madhavi too} joining hands with the best comedians like N.S.Krishnan, K.A.Thangavel, Chandrababu ,Nagesh and Thengai Srinivasan of the previous generation.Starting from Goundamani, the new generation comedians have mostly been playing humour games without female partners.Nevertheless,Tamil film industry should really be proud of being endowed with a galaxy of talents in all areas, more significantly, in the ever important comedy side of screen play and presentation.In this regard,these two handsome comedians definitely hold an important place. 



Monday, November 4, 2013

The Namesakes of Tamil Cinema.

     Tamil Cinema has witnessed the strange phenomenon of namesakes occupying distinct positions as actors directors and music directors.These names have been distinguished either by their initials or some sort of prefixes and suffixes for gaining an independent identity.I do not think any other Indian film circle would have witnessed such a phenomenon to this enormous proportion.
    Though MGR,the three letters, became the heart throb of Tamil film fans and the Tamils in general, the name M.G.Ramachandran of the mass hero, had to be distinguished from T.R.Ramachandran, the hero -cum comedian and T.K.Ramachandran, the bold eyed villain, of the same  period. V.C Ganesan and R.Ganesh became  Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan with their prefixes adding a state of grandeur to their similar names.While K.R.Ramasamy was an actor-singer carrying a singular voice frame,V.K.Ramasamy established himself as a stable actor meant for a longer, louder and larger space in Tamil Cinema.Besides these two,there was another Ramasamy who had acted as comedian and villain's henchman and was popularly known as Friend Ramasamy,with that positive prefix.The other interesting fact about namesakes is about the two noted film personalities T.K.Baghavathi and T.S.Baghavathi, of whom the former was a powerful male actor and the latter a dynamic woman playback singer. 
    P.U.Chinnappa was known as a powerful hero with a great throw of his singing voice and acting vigour. His films Aariyamaala,Manonmani and Jagadhalapradhaaban are still fresh in my memory as my childhood treasures. M.M.A. Chinnappa Devar with his community suffix added to his name, had a greater role to play in Tamil Cinema as a famous producer, director and stunt master. M.K.Radha was a vibrant hero, making himself memorable through his clean performance, in films like Aboorva Sagodharargal, Samsaaram and Chandralekha. But M.R.Radha’s wings as an actor of versatility, flew high for more than a quarter century, stealing the hearts of Tamil film fans.
    Veteran director K.Balachander and actor-cum film maker S.Balachandar were contemporaries in Tamil Cinema. However, the former was to become the powerful voice of Tamil Cinema, for several decades.The latter who had acted in about ten films that include popular ones like Devaki,Penn,Dr.Savithri and Maragatham, was rated with esteem for making four critically reviewed films such as Andha Naal, Avana Ivan,Nadu Iravil and Bommai. Besides, he was a highly talented musician with an extraordinary flair for playing the Veena and he came to be known as Veena Balachandar. Similarly,between K.S.Gopala- krishnan and V.Gopalakrishnan,one retained his success formula as a valued director and the other held his estimable position, as a high quality actor. S.P.Muthuraman the renowned director of many Rajini films has also directed a couple of films of his namesake, actor R.Muthuraman. 
   D.Balasubramaniam and R.Balasubramaniam were notable actors, playing villain roles in the Nineteen forties and fifties.In the Nineteen Seventies, there appeared the stupendous singer S.P.Balasubramaiyam, who with his rolling tongue and charming  clarity of voice, enslaved the music lovers. His  histrionic ability has also been proved effectively, by his endearing performance in films like Kadhalan, Keladi Kanmani,Ullaasam and so on.
     This trend of same-name-personalities, seems to continue even now, with the mass hero Vijay being differentiated from Thalaivaasal Vijay with the prefix of a film title,Pa.Vijay the lyricist-cum actor,Arun Vijay the actor son of the illustrious character actor Vijayakumar and A.L.Vijay the promising film director. Besides, we have Nizhalgal Ravi and Jeyam Ravi with their first,film titles preceding their names.To avoid confusion between the two Karthiks,the senior is called Karthik Muthuraman. Similarly, the music maestro's son and music director, is called Karthik Raja. While Suriya,the elder son of Sivakumar has established his position as an enchanting hero,S.J.Soorya,the noted film director of Ajithkumar's Vaali and Vijay's Kushi has also apeared as hero in a few films.We also have two Srikanths, one introduced by C.V.Sridhar and the other, a soft romantic hero, who made his debut, in Rojaakkoottam. It would be an unfair thing for the new generation film watchers, to forget the contribution of the former Srikanth, who created waves as hero, villain and character actor, through his brilliant performance in films like Aval, Thanga Padhakkam, Sila nerangalil Sila Manidhargal and Oru Nadigai Naadagam Paarkiraal.
    Mohan,Poovilangu Mohan [named after the film Poovilangu in which he acted]and Mohan Sarma are the other namesakes, of whom the first in the list remained as a very popular and busy actor  for a decade or so,winning the hearts of his fans, as an unrelenting romantic hero.While the noted comedian Senthil is almost a home name,a hero with the same name is to appear on the big screen, after establishing his position as a TV serial hero in Vijay T.V's one of the most popular serials,Saravanan Meenakshi.    
     Among women, there were P.Banumathi, the dauntless heroine of the last millennium  and M.Banumathi who played first as heroine and later as second level actress. Padmini the dynamic heroine and ebullient dancer saw her name sake Kutti Padmini, who rocked as a child artist but failed to sustain her position later, as a heroine. There was another Kumari Padmini, who played as hero’s sister in a few movies and disappeared. M.S.Subbulakshmi the noted Carnatic singer, who is known for her fabulous voice,had her less popular namesake, S,D.Subbulakshmi an actress of the last millennium. While B.S.Saroja was paired with MGR in his earlier movies, M.Saroja who played as comedienne, later married K.A.Thangavel and settled down into family life. The other E.V.Saroja with her great dancing credentials had acted with MGR, Sivaji and Gemini. With her grace and acting ability she also became the most chosen actress for the films of T.R.Ramanna. 
    G.Varalakshmi and S.Varalakshmi were contemporary actresses who adorned Tamil big screen initially as heroines and later in powerful mother roles. G.Varalaksmi's performance in films like Aaravalli and Gulebahavali was known for charm and grace. However, in the role of a mother, S.Varalakshmi wielded great power and energy, in films like Panamaa Paasama Poovaa Thalaiya and Needhikku Thalaivanangu. G.Varalakshmi of course, gave a convincing performance as a wealthy and arrogant mother, in A.V.M's Kuzhandhaiyum Dheivamum. Both P.K.Saraswathi C.K.Saraswathi were old timers in the Tamil Tinsel world. Of the two C.K Saraswathi will ever stay remembered as the most cruel stepmother and mother-in law on screen. Whereas, Bagyaraj with his bonhomie,gave prominence to C.R.Saraswathi who played a memorable role as the hero's stepmother in Enga Sinna Raasaa..
    I do not think the name sake syndrome is so prevalent in Indian Cinema of other languages. However, beyond the similarity in names, it is the individual’s personal attributes and merits that bring them closer to the audience as MGR,Sivaji Ganesan,Gemini Ganesan, M.R.Radha, VKR,Vijay, Banumathi and Padmini.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Infinite Thespian Voices of Tamil Cinema.

     The recorded voices catching synchronously the lip movements of actors, generate dialogues of different hues for a theatrical show.This would make everyone awe inspired by the magical process of blending audio visual operations that constitute the foremost concept of  film making.It is this stage of film making, that successfully transfers the import and significance of a scene of action to the audience.The voices of heroes,heroines ,villains, comedians and character actors delivered off screen, would fascinate the audience as an aural treat, based on their sense of appeal and harmony with their body language.Truly speaking,each human voice is made of easily identifiable marks of tone and vibration,though some voices carry the nearest similarity in reach and a few voices are also capable of mimicking others' voice frames.
    For quite long, most of the heroes and heroines reigned the movie world with their singing core and dialogue delivery. Most often the singing component in their voices would carry a dominating impact and hence the dialogue delivery would reflect a musical attitude of intonation as found in the sonorous and scintillating pattern of dialogue delivery of MKT Bagavadhar, P.U.Chinnappa ,T.R.Mahalingam, the renowned comedian N.S.Krishnan and K.B.Sundarambaal. However, this factor underwent a drastic  change in the Nineteen Fifties, when actors without singing talent began to occupy the scene. There began to emerge,voices of distinct frame and vibration carrying an influence of individuality and voice throw, for an invisible reach with the film goers. 
    Roaring quite often like a lion, letting out a plethora of human emotions in their original form, and making a stentorian effect with clarity and masculine vigour, the voice of a mighty Tamil hero, ruled the ears and hearts of men and women, for several decades on the big screen. His Tamil accent  and genuineness of local dialects were so infallible that it was always a pleasure to listen to his grand and masterly delivery of dialogues. That is the immortal voice of Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan, who lived as the icon of Tamil Cinema, during his entire acting career.
   A Dravidian voice with its force of thrust and power of charisma  guided and controlled the Tamils not only inside the talkies and theatres but outside too, in towns and villages alike, by drawing crowds, like the sky drawing clouds for a full rainy season. It was a leading voice, transforming myths into reality, forming  dedicated fan clubs from the audience and later converting die hard fans into the electorate. It was the magnificent voice of a three lettered legend called MGR. Prior to the day when his full throated voice was stunted by a gunshot as well as after the mishap, this splendid voice ever remained as the symbol of success.  
   The other clarion voice with an emphatic sense of dynamism and dramatic variation was that of S.S.Rajendran and it could positively wield a winning effect towards enlightenment and aesthetic appeal.Besides his, the easily identifiable and meritorious male voices of those days were the enchanting romantic tongue of Gemini Ganesan,the mellifluously distinct tone of Muthuraman, the emotion- packed voice of AVM Rajan, the harsh, villainous voice of P.S.Veerappa with its serial cruel laugh, the singular intonation in the  dialogue modulation of M.N.Nambiyar with a little bit of Malayalm base, and the rough and soft medley in the voice frame of myriad mouthed M.R.Radha. The voice of OAK Thevar, a villain actor of fame of the last millennium, had a majestic appeal with a potential both for a roar and a mellifluous ease.  
    The memorable nasal effect in the voice mold of K.R.Ramasamy and S.A.Natarajan would haunt the ears of the audience even after they left the theatres. S.V.Rengarao had a vibrating voice that could hit,penetrate into and soothe the mood of the audience at one go. V.K.R was naturally identified by his loud open voice. 
  Between the TKS brothers,Bhagavathi had a squeezing voice but Shanmugam had a forcefully open voice deliberation. T.S.Balaiah was vested with a distinct tone and mannerism that could create an endearing effect with the audience be it a villain or comedian or character role he performed. S.V.Subbiah's voice carried a peculiar pattern of tone modulation that reflected robustness and grace. 
   Later, the force in the winning voice of Jaishankar and the gruff element in the voice  structure of  Ravichandran transmitted genuine energy and freshness that made them both, wonderful additions to Tamil Cinema. While Sivakumar’s tone reflected innate grace,Sathyaraj never failed to create a taunting effect by his set pattern of dialogue delivery, besides infusing a kind of shivering, coupled with speed as his natural voice characteristic, whenever  he happened to deliver emotions such as anger and rage.The ever excited, forceful voice modulation of late Manivannan,the hearty team mate of Sathyaraj,was proved to be a lovely treasure for the listeners.The distinctly jarring,jammed voice of Bagyaraj  greatly contributed to his winning streak.
    In the mid Nineteen Seventies,Tamil film watchers were introduced for the first time, to an amazing voice of alien charm, that came to embrace their emotions with an unheard of gusto and vibration and that was the stylish voice component of Rajinikanth, whose refreshing gusto in voice thrust, became one of the many unusual factors about him that went on to make him the Superstar. Speed, force, and the majestic appeal in intonation, are the invincible intricacies of Rajini’s classic celluloid voice. The ruling force of his voice resembles that of Sivaji Ganesan but the charisma it carries is similar to that of MGR. Kamalahasan the close contemporary and the true actor prototype, is well known for his capacity to meddle with his voice for a variety reach, adding to his zeal to come out with something creatively different, in all his ventures. The variety in his voice play, is just a sample of his tremendous versatility as an actor.
    Among the heirs of actors, Prabu’s voice quite often reminds us of his great actor-father Sivaji Ganesan; whereas, Karthik Muthuraman hardly made any one feel that he has inherited the voice of Muthuraman. To some extent, like Kamalahasan, he too resorts to tongue twisting while delivering dialogues. Of the two sons of Sivakumar, the elder one’s voice goes more perfectly with that of his father and the younger son has imbibed a kind of taunting voice frame in the manner of Sathyaraj. Simbu's voice has retained a separate identity never falling in line with the emotion packed,native voice pattern of his father T.Rajender.
   The immaculate clarity and force in the voice of Vijay, is a vital factor adding up to his victory march. Ajith’s graceful voice is in the line of Sivakumar’s. Among the new generation villains Prakash Raj continues to enjoy the benefit of his loud and open voice throw.[Late] Raguvaran’s husky, manipulative voice  had been his major asset. The effortless voice modulation of Nasser has helped him with a distinct composition of his own.
   The voices of leading Tamil comedians have also been a mixed lot with each one claiming a unique appeal from behind the screen.The persuasive voice of Kalaivaanar N.S.K,the straight bold and simultaneously amicable voice of K.A.Thangavel and Thengaai Seenivasan,the piercing tone of T.S.Dorairaj,the juggling and rolling voice of Chandrababu,the jingling throat of Nagesh, the husky bass voice of Surulirajan, the rustic mold of Gaundamani,the mischievous voice frame of Senthil,the pleading voice of Vivek,the whimpering,wailing tongue of Vadivelu and the boldly taunting and bullying tone of Santhanam, have all been keeping the comedy track of Tamil Cinema, as a cascade of entertainment flowing in varied degrees, with a galaxy of talents. 
   Among the early,leading actresses, T.R.Rajakumari had a titillating voice and S.Varalakshmi had a nasally powerful and clear voice. Anjalidevi's soothing tone was always a special attraction and Pandaribai could effortlessly pour out grief in full form, through her sorrow generating voice. As far as the leading heroines of the previous generation were concerned, it was the voice of Padmini that was built of bold, clear and impressive parameters to strike a specific emotional identity with the audience. 
  Banumathy could be called a female Rajinikanth in making her voice reach human ears, with singular charm and speed, surpassing native imperatives. While Savithri had a soft but firm voice frame,the shrieking, prattling voice of B.Sarojadevi, contained a mesmerizing charm. K.R.Vijaya’s voice consisted of a modestly endearing emotional appeal raising its level wherever it became necessary. Vanisri had an openly sweet voice similar to that of the famous singer P.Suseela. 
   The sobre and sorrow laden voice of Sowkar Janaki and the ever grumbling voice access of Jeyanthi made them both a special category of actresses.Clarity, force and nativity strength proved to be the dominant factors of the voice of M.N.Rajam Vijayakumari and Manorama. The voice of J.Jeyalalitha used to shuttle between fascinating feminine glory and ruling ecstasy. Laksmi always carried a subdued charm in her voice, deliberately suppressing its reach in emotionally choked performances.
   While Sujatha's voice was a combination of suppressed female pride and feminist resistance, the uniquely graceful element in her voice, was the asset of Sri Vidya. Among the new arrivals of the Nineteen Eighties,the boldest voice was that of Radhika, that was formed of a perfect mix of innocence and bravery, similar to that of Sri Priya and Jeyachitra. The siblings Ambika and Radha reflected  different voice frames in terms of openness and clarity. The former's voice was soft and firm, while the voice of the younger sister was gracefully clear and appealing.A tone fluctuating between a firm grip and an out-of-control shriek, affords the voice of Revathi its unique tag of identity.The self suppressed deepness in the voice of Ramya Krishnan is capable of shunting between modesty and pride with a clear note of equilibrium.
   Gone are the days when the voices of heroines were received and identified as a distinct attributes of the over all acting range of every woman. Today, with borrowed voices doing the great task of dubbing, one of the salient features denoting the identity of actresses is becoming a fading trend. However,neither the film makers nor the audience can ignore the fact, that dialogues recorded in one's own  voice are certainly the major contributory factor for actors and actresses gaining a legendary status in their respective positions.