Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why is Rajini The Superstar? {one hundredth article of this blog}


     Astronomically, stars are ‘balls of gases’ and they glitter, transmit light,heat  and energy, and reflect different shades of colour depending upon how they are and what they are made of. Prominent persons in their respective fields are called stars, mostly because of their brilliance of character display and level of achievement, as well as, their quality of performance. In this way, we can say, there are stars of humanity shining independently, or forming a galaxy in every sphere of human activity.
    More than in other fields, in the larger-than- life sky of the world of cinema, there are stars shining from time to time, passing on their grandiose stuff to many, with whom they come into contact, through the big screen. These stars are generally distinguished language-wise, because it is through what they say and how they say it, they transmit their inherent and acquired degree of energy. Besides,it is their so called self - styled body language, that affixes on them, a status of individuality and distinct appeal.
   While world cinema is diversely rich and vast with its infinite cluster of stars,Tamil cinema has super imposed its position by the transmission of immeasurable quantum of emotional energy, periodically generated and perfectly delivered,by a good number of invincible actors to their passionate recipients.There were once two high energy transmitters like MGR and Sivaji Ganesan. One became a leader of the people and the other became the historic monument of acting. 
    But Tamil film audience has never acknowledged any one as a Super Star, until the emergence of Rajinikanth. So the questions here are, why Rajini alone could attain this title and what is special about him that made him a superstar, when his own contemporary,a world class actor and one time team mate on screen, Kamalahasan, is not called so, despite his amazing variety of talents and creative magnificence .
   Well, right answers to these questions are difficult to find, because it is a mysterious phenomenon and one cannot easily reason out the inscrutable determiners of an individual’s providentially fortunate position.There could be as many interpretations as possible, from each one’s imagination and understanding. My own understanding of this colossal actor, makes me equate him to the Sun, the closest star to the earth that transmits immense light, heat and energy and becomes a life preserver on this planet. 
     Rajini is called the superstar because,he has the unusual charisma and gusto, to stimulate and sustain warmth and love in those who watch him on the screen.It is an inspiring kind of charm that will penetrate into the psyche of the audience and remain there for long.From milkmen to auto drivers, the spirit of Rajini has beautifully permeated into their emotions and comfortably settled down with them as a part and parcel of their routine.
   The inextricable magnetic appeal in his look and demeanor, the never- seen -before body language, the electrifying vibration in tone, the charmingly  peculiar Tamil accent in dialogue delivery, the stunning levels of speed and agility in performance and the overall animating mode of acting, have carried him closer to the vast majority of the Tamil audience, irrespective of age,gender, community and religion.All these characteristics put together in a grand scale, made him a hero of special category and it is this special placement that made him a superstar.
    One who is loved by most children,deserve a special place in society. Jawaharlal Nehru  beyond his statesmanship and politically high position, found solace in the company of children and his consummate love for children transformed his birthday, into Children’s day. In a different way, Rajini is an actor enjoying the genuine love and affection of toddlers and grown up children, to a great extent. Rajini himself, with his innate flair for clean humour, exhibits a child -like temperament and may be, this attribute of innocence displayed beautifully on screen quite often, makes him spontaneously establish a rapport with children.The emotional bond between  Rajini and children, has perhaps continued when the last generation’s children became adults.
     The equations that Rajini has constantly reinforced with teenagers, adults and senior citizens,have reflected multi layers of frenzy, appreciation and patronage by way of natural responses. Rajini’s off screen image of himself being what he is, only improves his star status, in an impressively contrast mould. As a person, he is not bothered about his complexion or appearance.Whereas,as an actor, every time he is physically reborn with greater charm and juvenile vigour. The difference between a modest,true- to- life person and a sparkling splendid actor, exists at so massive a level, that one could hardly believe if it is Rajini the man who transfigures himself into that gigantic stature.
    The other indisputable fact is that Rajini is not just the Superstar but a great actor of depth and dynamism.His first appearance in Aboorva Raagangal would not have certainly made any one think that he would next appear as an anti hero and strike every body’s fancy with an unexpected,fitness and  force of performance in Moonru Mudichu. K.Balachander his mentor, tapped his hidden levels and caliber of acting in negative roles, in films like Avargal,Thappu Thaalangal and Netrikkan {in dual roles, of course}.The same director could also trace the humour fountain in Rajini and capitalize it in Ninaithaale Inikkum and Thillu Mullu. 
     Though later on, Rajini acted in a number of films of K.Balachander's Kavidalaya Production house, the film Raghavendra {Rajinikanth's one hundredth film} that depicted the superstar in the title role of that spiritual character, deserves a special place among Tamil movies,in terms of genuineness in appearance and veracity in portrayal, without causing any desecration to a holy man's life history.Besides, Rajini fitted himself into that character with utmost authenticity and dedication.
    As rugged manliness and rough and tough exterior were an inspiring source of attraction of Rajini, many film makers exploited him during the early years of his career.Some of them did it conventionally and others used him meaningfully.After Balachander, it was S.P.Muthuraman who understood Rajinikanth inside out, as an actor.Like P.Neelakandan who had directed the maximum number of films of MGR, S.P.Muthuraman takes the proud position of directing Rajinikanth for maximum number of movies. J,Magendran,Barathiraja,Rajasekar,P.Vasu A.Jeganathan Manobala,and K.S.Ravikumar are the other great makers of Rajinikanth films. All these directors could be said to have rightly understood the intrinsic quest in Rajini, for solid role performance. 
    Among the earlier Rajini films, the most notable ones {other than Balachander’s}were, Dharma Yudham, Bhuvana Oru Kelvikkuri,'Engeyo Kettakural, Aarilirundhu Arubathuvarai, Mullum Malarum,Jaani and Murattukkaalai. His ruggedness continued to dominate in these films as well as his other moderate success shows like Kaali, Kazhugu, Raanuva Veeran, Ranga, Anbukku Naan Adimai, Tahimeedhu Sathiyam, and Thai Veedu. The last four in the list and the most popular Annai Oer Aalayam and Dharmathin Thalaivan, were from the Devar Films Circuit.
    People who were watching Rajini’s stable growth and sterling performance in these movies as well as in other films like Nallavanukku Nallavan,Naan Mahaan Alla and Naan Sigappu Mandhan were simply overwhelmed by a combined show of Sivaji Ganesan and MGR in one actor and at times, he would try to surpass them too, by his refreshing style of acting.As years passed, the number of films increased. Big banner production houses like the AVM Studios,Sathya Movies and Sujatha Cine Arts continued to enroll him in most of their movies. I do not think any other hero would have staked a voluminous claim of roles in films under the AVM banner, like the Superstar. 
     Again it was the song ‘Super Staaru Yaarunnu keitta Chinna Kuzhandhaiyum Sollum’ in AVM’s Raja Chinna Roja that endorsed and propagated his image in this regard. Apart from Nallavanukku Nallavan, the other fine films of Rajini under this big production unit were Murattukkalai,Paayum Puli, Mr.Barath, Manidhan,Ejamaan and the latest Sivaji. Similarly the most successful films of Rajini with Sathya Movies were, Moonru Mugam,Raanuva Veeran, Oorkaavalan, Thangamagan and the blockbuster film Baashaa and Panakkaran.K.Balaji under whose Sujatha Cine Arts Movies,Rajini acted in the most celebrated film Billa,{which was later remade in two parts with Ajith as hero} chose him regularly to play the lead, in other films like Thee,{Amitab's blockbuster Deewaar}and Vidudhalai [a remake of Hidndi Qurbani}
    While director Suresh Krishna brought out the fire in Rajinikanth in his action-cum family dramas like Annamalai  Baasha, the other powerful film maker [late] Rajasekar focused on both the humour and gravity components of Rajini’s roles in films like Maaveeran,Thambikku Endha Ooru,Maappillai,Padikkaadhavan and Dharmadhorai {the last one carried a tragic undertone and reestablished Rajini’s power of role delivery}.Rajini has also worked with the two top most directors of the new generation like Manirathnam and Shankar. His characterization in Thalapathi was poignant and gracefully impressive, on account of its simultaneously breezy and powerful narration.
    While Shankar’s Sivaji was a mammoth display of style,humour, emotion and social awakening, his Endiran resurrected old memories of Rajini’s exceptional flair for villainy. K.Bala- chander’s Production house continued to patronize Rajini for films like Pudhukkavidhai, Siva, Velaikkaran,Annamalai, Mappillai and Muthu. While K.S Ravikumar gave the two hits Muthu and Padayappa, Sivaji  Films  can be proud of its Rajini starring hits such as Mannan and Chandramugi, both directed by P.Vasu who has also made Rajini's other popular films like Panakkaran, Uzhaippaali and Kuselan.The other remembered  films of Rajini are J.Magendran's Kai Kodukkum Kai,Naan Adimai Illai of Dwarakish, Sundar C's wonderful Arunachalam,Kodi Parakkudhu from Barathiraja, the Silver Jubilee hit Rajathiraja of R.Sundarajan,P.A.Arts Productions'Guru Sishyan  and Suresh Krishna’s Veera and Baba.
    Almost all the heroines were a perfect match for Rajini though actresses like Ambika, Radhika, Radha,Kushbu and Meena{who had once acted with him as a child artist} have frequently been paired with him.His most favoured actor to do the villain in his movies would perhaps have been the uniquely talented[late]Raguvaran. As far as character actors are concerned, Vijayakumar seems to have always formed part of many Rajini films followed by V.K.Ramasamy. Rajini appears to have enjoyed a fellow feeling with all the prominent comedians starting from Goundamani down to Santhaanam but he has obviously been more at home with Janakaraj who has joined his company in a lot of films. Rajini himself being endowed with a top class comedy sense, his team spirit vigorously revealed with Goundamani in Pathinaaru Vayadhinile,Uzhaippaali,Mannan and Baba, with Janakaraj in Rajaadhi Raaja,Baashaa, Annaamalai,  Padikkadhavan, Veera, and Arunachalam,with Sendhil in Muthu, Arunachalam and Padayappa,with Vadivelu in Chandramugi and with Vivek in Sivaji,needs a special mention.  
    Rajini as an actor, has a stuff like the Himalayas and a major part of his acting potential still remains underutilized. It is the proven success formula of a Rajini movie that keeps selling, in the hands of quite a number of eminent directors.Catchy Rajini brand dialogues have considerably added great significance to the audience cherished title 'superstar'. However,very often, prolific film watchers like me, would earnestly long for the reemergence of the stunning depth and power of role performance of Rajini, witnessed years ago, in his qualitative films directed by J. Magendran or K.Balachander.Today, no doubt, Rajini has reached an  astronomical  height, having thrown and tackled challenges of all kinds, during an acting career spread over a period of a little less than four decades.His image, primarily as a valued human being and then as superstar remains perfectly intact.
   Be it a cigarette or a cinema villain, Rajini can handle anything or anybody, in a way that he alone can do it. Any one can imitate him in voice and style, but no one can equal him. He is the grandest star among stars and that is why he is the Superstar. Also,he is the Superstar because he has conquered human imagination at home and abroad, with an indefinable spell of possession and possessiveness, the reason for which, he himself may not know. Before I conclude, I should record this known fact.Tamil is not the mother tongue of Rajinjkanth;nor was it the mother tongue of MGR.One ruled the Tamil emotions as an actor and an astounding political leader.The other, glows in the hearts of the Tamils, as their one and only Superstar.  


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tamil Films on Mythologies and Spiritualism.





       Creative products are generally the outcome of fecund imagination. Even films taken on historical events and actual happenings in life, carry the impact of imagination in narration and delivery. Sometimes characters are also added or deleted, to suit creative convenience.Acceptability and audience support are the significant yardsticks. When it comes to taking a film on myths and mythologies, or spiritual themes and stories, imagination seems to play a vital role in deciding the dynamics of such a genre. Myths as such, are mostly a figment of imagination. But mythological films require certain epic characteristics to bring in,the necessary grandeur and sanctity in narration. Spiritual subject matter makes veracity and genuineness in narration, mandatory. From the Nineteen Fifties to Seventies, a good number of films were taken on these zones, because there was a lot of audience support for this type of films.
     My childhood memories of Tamil films abound in mind boggling myths. Those were days when films with a mythical base, were eagerly waited upon and enjoyed by every one, irrespective of factors of gender and age. Most of the films narrating myths, became great hits too.This is how I have saved in my memory gallery movies such Jagadhalapradhaaban  starring the initial decades’ super hero P.U Chinnappa, Paataala Bhairavi dubbed from Telugu with N.T.Ramarao as hero and A.V.M's Vedhaala Ulagam starring T.R.Mahalingam.The first among the three,sweetly narrated the tale of a youth falling in love with Indrakumari,Agnikumari,Nagakumari and Varunakumari. The supernatural element was rightly mixed with the effective comedy support of the veteran comedian N.S.Krishnan. I remember to have enjoyed the film to a great extent. Though the film was released in 1944,I saw it in the late nineteen fifties .The other film was Paataala Bhairavi, that was originally produced in Telugu and dubbed into Tamil. I remember it more as a serious type of film, with the image of sorcerer  still rattling my mind and the events in the movie depicting the separation of the hero and heroine with the element of sorrow knocking my nerves.That famous  duet song Amaidhi illaadhen Maname’ in the voices of Ghantasaalaa and P.Leela keeps haunting my imagination even now. Vedhaala Ulagam, opened up a happy- go- lucky mood as a joyous sojourn for children, and I thoroughly enjoyed the film.
     There are quite a few other myth- based films like Mandhiravaadhi, Naga Dhevadhai, Sowbagyavathi,Kanavanei Kan Kanda Dheivam,Boologa Rambai,Manaalane Mangaiyin Baagyam, and Mangaiyar Ullam Mangaadha Selavm. Geminini Ganesan was the hero of all the films excepting the first two and Anjalidevi played the heroine in the films other than the first three.The last in the list narrated the story of a mermaid and M.R.Radha, one of my pet actors also played an important role in that film. K.A.Thangavelu's Rambaiyin Kadhal was a humorous mythical film reflecting a tone of parody. The Telugu film industry appeared to be  imaginatively closer to myths and in this creative process they were setting trends for others to fall in line. The beautiful additions to the myth films list, came from the Telugu film world in the form  of fantasy films like Maya Modhiram and Jagan Mohini .As the latter was a magnificent hit starring Jeyamaalini,the younger sibling of the famous dancer Jothilakshmi, it was later remade with Nameeta playing the lead role. However the  remake resulted in a fiasco.
      Apart from myths, the two major epics the Raamaayanaa and the Mahaabaarathaa  with  their mythological interpretations came in the form of various films, focusing on the interlinked episodes of these epics.The earliest hit in this regard was, Abhimanyu, starring M.G.Ramachandran. Later, the revised version Veera Abhimanyu with A.V.M.Rajan and Kanchana playing as Abhimanyu and Vaksala,also came as an appealing film. Padmini Pictures’s ‘Karnan’ with Sivaji Ganesan doing the lead role made an impressive show under the direction of B.R.Pantulu.The film deserved a special credit for emphatically portraying the exemplary friendship between Duriyodhana and Karna in its proper form. Viswanathan Ramamurthy’s music was an extraordinary support for enriching the quality of the film.
     The other wonderful movie was Maya Bazzar. Besides Gemini Ganesan and Savithri in the lead roles, S.V.Renga Rao as Gadotkaja created a wonderful impact. In both Karnan and Maya Bazar, N.T.Rama Rao appeared as Lord Krishna. His appearance and performance added a great level of divinity in character delineation and for many fans of N.T.Rama Rao, he became the reincarnation of Lord Krishna. In Veera Abhimanyu, it was Gemini Ganesan,who portrayed that role with equal amount of dedication and efficacy.Maya Bazar which was first made in Telugu was then suitably recast in Tamil with Gemini Ganesan replacing Nageswara Rao, Nambiyar playing the role of Saguni and R.Balasubramaniyam being enrolled as Dhuriyodhana. Several other Tamil actors had replaced their Telugu counterparts in their respective characters. All these films were based on the Mahaabaarathaa .
    Samboorana Raamaayanam was another amazing film with N.T.Rama Rao, playing the role of Lord Rama and Padmini donning the role of Sita. Both were compact as divine embodiment and Sivaji Ganesan as Bharat, was very convincing. Despite its length, it was not tiresome to watch the film because the feel of genuineness in narration and the dedication of the whole creative body to a commendable mythical narration, made the film both an eventful and rewarding experience. No one can forget the powerful  performance of T.K.Baghavathi in the role of Raavanaa and the two songs of C.S.Jeyaraman,'Sangeetha Sowbaagyame’‘Inrupoi Naalai Vaaraai’ truly exhibited Raavanaa’s flair for music and projected Raavanaa more as a positive individual than a negative character.
    The subsequent film Lava Kusa on another canto of Raamaayanaa, was also worth watching and the song ‘Jagam Pugazhum Punya Kadhai Raamanin Kadhaiye’ is an immortal segment of the film.N.T.Rama Rao donned the role of Rama in this film too and Anjalidevi played the role of Sita.This film was originally made in Telugu and then dubbed into Tamil.There was also a film on Hanuman entitled 'Sri Raama Baktha Hanuman' and the movie dubbed from Telugu  reflected a profound divine feel in every frame.Similarly Baktha Markandeya was another spiritually exciting celluloid version of the famous mythology of Markandeya whose unquestionable devotion to Lord Shiva saved his life from the clutches of the Lord of Death, hell bent to cut short the devotee's life term on  the Earth.  
   AVM's Bagtha Prakalatha was another monumental movie on the mythological base of Hiranya -Kashibu,who was a an antagonist of the Vaishnavite creed and so, was not a worshiper of Lord Vishnu.It was solidly related to one of the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu and the myth came to illustrate the purpose of the Narasimha avatar that was meant to instruct and pinpoint the omnipresence and omnipotence of the Almighty. S.V.Renga Rao who played the role of King Hiranya was the fittest actor to play any mythological character and in that role he was a perfect bet.Child artist Roja Ramani was graceful as Prakalata and Anjalidevi adorned the role of Hiranya's wife and mother of Prakalata. Veteran Carnatic singer Balamurali Krishna was a great surprise in the character of Naradha. The song 'Jeevanum Neeye Ayya' was a major hit and the repetition of the song every time when Prakalata was ordered by his father Hiranya, to be killed and subsequently saved by Lord Vishnu, created a refreshing impact.
    Datchayakgnam was another mythological film on the story of King Datcha,the father of Datchaayini,one of the avatars of goddess Paarvathi. It gives an account of how Datchan arrogantly exhibited his irreverence to Lord Shiva and how he was punished for desecrating Lord Shiva besides reflecting the moral of a true conjugal life. R.S.Manohar who was an impressive stage artist and film actor,appeared as Lord Shiva and gave a neat performance.
    A good number of films have appeared on the significance of Lord Ayappa as a powerful Hindu deity with the sacredly integrated tenets of adherence to the penance undertaken by the Ayappa devotees during their holy trip to the Sabarmala temple.Besides the films on Lord Ayappa, those describing the spiritual discipline warranted for the devotees, have also drawn the attention of film makers.Swami Ayappan is one of the most popular movies known for its spirit of divinity.Similarly, the film 'Jesus' delineated the miracles and spiritual adventures of the Messiah.     
     In a different way the ace director A.P.Nagarajan began to throw more light on some Hindu mythologies pertaining to the Saivaite and Vaishnavaite sects of Hinduism. What were specially interesting about this series of films from the Vijayalakshmi Pictures’production house, was the animating narration,the level of credibility, the rich quality of script and dialogue, the concern for authenticity and the impeccable dedication to the overall creative process that includes characterization and choice of actors to play the characters. The films were  simultaneously instructive, enlightening and entertaining. In a series of audience expectation and fulfillment, this venerable film director directed films like Thiruvilaiyaadal,Saraswathi Sabatham,Kandhan Karunai, [from another production house]Thiruvarutchelvar and Thirumal Perumai. While the first four films dwelt on Saivaite events of myth and spiritualism, the last one spoke of Vaishanavite fervor.It could be called a golden period for Tamil Cinema, because more than anything else, it brought out the grandeur of Tamil Language and the brilliance of traditional music.Following A.P.Nagarajan,his close contemporary K.S.Gopalakrishnan, a powerful director of films on rural themes of family and social significance,also began to make films like Aadhi Paraasakthi and Dasaavadaaram. But these films did not seem to go well with the audience for want of the Tamil literary grandeur and gravity of mythical narration that remained as the fixed assets of A.P.Nagarajan.
    Luckily,A.P.Nagarajan had actors of epic grandeur like Sivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan, T.S.Balaiah, Nagesh, T.R.Maha- lingam, Savithri, Padmini and K.B.Sundaraambaal to ably fit into the characters concerned and add merit and might to such films. A.P.Nagarajan himself, did an awesome job by playing the role of the ancient Tamil Poet Nakkeeran and delivered  captivating Tamil dialogues with his scintillating voice. All these films were a remarkable audio visual treat and the role of Sivaji Ganesan as the Tamil saint Thirunaavukkarasar {Appar} will eternally glorify Tamil Cinema.
    Later APN also came out with a genuine and compact portrayal of the Tamil Saint Agathiar in the film ‘Agathiyar’ with play back singer Sirkazhi Govindarajan playing the lead role and afterwards a film on Kaaraikkal Ammaiyar. In a similar vein the most remembered films on spiritual individuals are Nandanaar {a 1942 film showing M.M.Dandabani Desigar as Nandanar},Haridas, presenting M.K.Thiagaraja Bahavadhar  in the title role of that saint –cum singer,Gemini Pictures’ Avvaiyaar  with K.B.Sundaraambaal in the most compact frame of  the renowned Tamil saint and poetess, Pattinathaar and Arunagirinadhar, both showing  TMS playing the main roles of the two materialists who turned to spiritualism,the notable film narrating the life and teachings of His Holiness the Adhi Sankarar, and Kavidhalaya’s ‘Sri Ragavendrar’ portraying Rajinikanth in the role of the holy spiritual guru,with utmost seriousness and veracity. All these movies have gone into the timeless archives of Tamil cinema, as qualitative narrations of spiritualism.
     Beyond all the films mentioned above, there is another list of films that  seem to carry the objective of reaffirming individual’s faith in God and religion with a view to projecting the conquest of the evil forces by the goodness in men and women as the acknowledged principle of the right course of living. The predominance of greed ,jealousy and the other deadly sins has to be eliminated by the omnipotence of God. Goodness should always prevail  and good people should not lose their essence of being good. Hence periodically, there have been films projecting evil on the one side and goodness on the other, with a view to demonstrating how ultimately, nobility takes over and justice is rendered to those tormented by the evil forces.
     It was M.M.A.Chinnappa Devar who initiated this process by his most popular films like Dheivam, Thunaivan,Thiruvarul and Vellikizhamai Vridham. The line of films in this category are Aadhi Parasakthi,Samayapurathaale Saatchi,Amman Arul,Namma Veetu Dheivam,Velli Radham, Amman, Raaja Kaaliamman, Thaalikaatha Kaaligaambaal, Kannaathaal and so on.It was with the same objective the film Annai Velanganni was released focusing on Christian sentiment and faith   
     Like various other genre of films, the movies on myths mythologies and spiritualism reach the targeted audience  with creative thrust and commercial viability.With the availability of large scale graphics technology it becomes easier now, than in the past,to envisage incredible exhibits that will feed one's imagination.People would have struggled a lot to conceive and execute trick shots for the mythical films that were produced in the past.Now electronic manipulations have exalted the scope of creating magnificence necessary for a mythical show. But what the audience always look forward to, is the infusion of freshness in narration, without giving room for repetitive ingredients that remove the thrill of film watching and keep them deprived of the spirit of entertainment as well as enlightenment.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Might of the Modern Theatres.

     This blog already carries an article on the two grand old production houses, the Gemini Studios and the AVM Pictures and another on the Devar Films Unit. From the mid Nineteen Thirties,there existed another  film making  giant called The Modern Theatres. Unlike most other film production units that were based in the then Madras, this mighty film producing enterprise was located in Salem. This may be because its founder T.R.Sundaram hailed from Thiruchengodu near Salem and hence  proximity  and the natural beauty of Yercaud would  have been the governing factors for establishing the Studio at Yercaud Road in Salem, so that, out door shootings could be carried on without unnecessary expenses. Its founder T.R.Sundaram being a field-oriented dynamic individual, his business predictions proved him right. From the mid Nineteen Thirties, the Modern Theatres began to produce movies with a foremost thrust on the entertainment factor. Stories of crime, suspense,speed and adventure were the singular characteristics of the Modern Studios and with this consistent formula they ruled Tamil Cinema, successfully for more than four decades.The James Bond concept of detective fiction that became an exciting phenomenon in the English film world, was made an acceptable formula in Tamil and was executed effectively in Tamil movies, by the Modern Theatres.
   The might of Modern Theatres could be gauged from their choice of powerful actors like, P.U.Chinnappa, M.G.Ramachandran,Sivaji Ganesan,S.S.Rajendran,and later Jai Shankar and Ravichandran. Manonmani, the historic epic and Uthamaputhiran {Which was later remade by Venus Pictures  with Sivaji Ganesan in dual roles}were their earliest hits with P.U.Chinnappa as hero. With Uthamaputhiran, Modern Studios took the credit of taking the first Tamil film with  a hero playing dual roles. Mandhirikumari, Sarvadhikari  and Alibabavum Naarpadhu Thirudargalum were the fabulous  films of this film circuit, that increased the popularity of MGR as a budding mass hero and the third in the list became the first colour film in Tamil. [taken in Geva  colour]. 
   Sivaji Ganesan’s Thirumbipaar and Illarajothi were the most talked about films ,the first one showing Sivaji in a negative role after his debut film  Parasakth that portrayed him as an electrifying performer in a positive character.S.S.Rajendran’s Kumudham was an award winner and like Mandirikumari and, Alibabavum Naarpadhu Thirudargalum,Kumudham,was also considered to be a musical hit. SSR’s other films with this film house were, Petra Maganai Vitra Annai again known for a few melodious songs and Kattu Roja in which[ late] Padmini returned to acting after her marriage. Malayalam Hero Prem Nazir’s Vannakkili became a run away hit for the Modern Pictures, because of several great songs and R.S.Manohar’s impressive show of role play.
    R.S.Maonohar almost became a patronized member of the Modern Theatres family, after Vannakkili. Quite a lot of successful films like Kaidhi Kannaayiram,Vallavanukku Vallavan, Vallavan Oruvan, Iru Vallavargal, Chitrangi,Naangu Killadigal, Ethirigal Jaakikiradhai, Justice Viswanathan and Karundheil Kannaayiram, had Manohar playing the hero or second hero or villain. Similarly, from Iru Vallavargal Jai Shankar became close to the Modern Theatres doing hero in  the role of a Tamil James Bond in many films of which Vallavan Oruvan and CID Shankar need a special mention.If my memory is right Jaishankar's final innings with the modern theatres were Edhirigal Jakkiradhai and  Thedivandha Lakshmi. Ravichandran did a creditable film, Justice Viswanathan of the Modern Theatres. Among  the old movies, the other crowd pulling films of The Modern Theatres were, Aayiram Thalai Vaangiya Aboorva Chindhaamani,Thigambara Saamiyaar, Aaravalli,Engal Selvi, Sugam Enge and the fairly known Konjum Kumari that introduced the amazing comedienne Manorama as heroine.
    What made this film production unit hold its ground was its deep rooted understanding of the audience mood and its conviction in delivering the goods to match audience expectations. It might appear that the base of their film making process remained the same for most of their films. For that matter, every production house has certain well defined objectives and operational modalities towards forming a specific identity for them. Film making being another business, commercial  fundamentals become the pre-determiners in running the organization.
     The Modern Theatres, like the big AVM banner and the profit bound Devar films circuit, could sustain their victory march only because they could read before hand, the changing trends among Tamil film goers, who are always far ahead in making assessments about the quality of films released from time to time. The audience knew that if they went to the theatre to watch a film of the modern theatres, their time would be well spent, as far as entertainment aspects were concerned. It was known to them that exclusive family sentiment,heavy romantic element and a full time comedy show, would not be there in a film of the Modern Theatres. But they were sure that, no Modern Theatres’ film would disappoint them, as far as the action segment was concerned.
     Moreover , when compared to other production houses it was the modern theatres that  popularized the speed quotient in films so as to keep the audience not being bored. The detective element as a vital factor in arresting crime, was handled beautifully, in many a film of the modern theatres and Jai Shankar perfectly fitted into the role of a CID officer. There would be the  all pervading thriller feel,  duly supported by the chase and run scenic sequences. Romance and a little bit of family sentiment and comedy substance were adequately mixed, to make a film engaging and worth watching.
    The other wonderful feature of a Modern Theatres film, was its quality based music support effectively provided by eminent music directors like G.Ramanathan,K.V.Mahadevan and Vedha. The third name in the list owes his popularity with the Tamil music listeners chiefly through his tie up with the Modern Theatres. Valuable actors like S.V.Rengarao,M.N.Nambiyar, P.S.Veerappa, M.R.Radha, K.A.Thangavelu, A.Karunanidhi and graceful heroines like Madhuridevi,B.S.Saroja P.Banumathi,  Padmini,Savithri,Rajasulochana,Mainavadhi, Vijayakumari,L.Vijayalakshmi Pushpalatha and Lakshmi have all joined this banner at least once in their career to play a leading role.
    Personally, I would have seen not less than twenty films of the modern pictures and I continue to cherish in my memory  films such as the earliest Thigambara Saamiyar showing Nambiyar  as hero, Aaaravalli depicting a tale of gynocracy, the lengthiest movie both in title and duration, Aayiram Thalai Vaangiya Aboorva Chinthaamani and the old SSR film Petra Maganai Vitra Annai. Along with these films,the three MGR hits  and others like Vannakkili and Kaidhi Kannaayiram  were my childhood treats. Kumudham and Kaattu Roja became my teenage pet films. I have watched later all the Jai Shankar films as well as the A.V.Rajan and Pushpalatha starring  Chitraangi.
     My all time favourite songs of Modern theatre films are ‘Vaaraai Nee Vaaraai’ and ‘Ulavum Thenral Kaatrinile’{the amazing duets of Tiruchi Loganathan and Jikki from Mandhirikumari} ‘Maasilaa Unmai Kaadhale’ { in the melodious voice of A.M.Raja and P.Banumathi from Alibaabaavum Naarpadhu Thirudargalum}'Sithhaada Kattigittu' {The most popular group song of S.C.Krishnan and others from Vannakkili} ‘Oeraayiram Paarvaiyile’ {TMS  solo hit from Vallavanukku Vallavan}'Kallile Kalai Vannam Kandaan’{the solo  scintillating number of Sirkazhi Govindarajan}‘Ennai Vittu Oedipoega Mudiyuma’{the great duet of Govindarajan and P.Susheela} and 'Maamaa Maamaa Maamaa'{the eternally relevant TMS chorus},all from Kumudham,'Naan Maloroedu Vilaiyaada’{the lovely duet of TMS and P.Susheela from Iru Vallavargal} and Palingunaal Oru Maaligai. {the ever titillating melody of L.R.Eswari from Vallavan Oruvan.}The immortality of these songs is purely due to the excellent musical composition of  G.Ramanathan, S.Dakshinamurthy,K.V.Mahadevan and Vedha.
     Films that sustain in our memory are marvelous samples of creativity. Those who made such films deserve a distinct place in the hearts of the viewers.The Modern Theatres will ever remain as the most powerful film production house  with a kind of enchanting might of creativity. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Stray Thoughts on Some Names of Tamil Film Characters.

     Shakespeare the world’s outstanding Playwright would say that there is nothing in name. A rose is a rose because we call it so. Names are just identity tags. Parents find pleasure in naming their kids who later on question the acceptability and appeal of their names. Whatever be the intricacies and contentions involved in a person getting his name,it is very much an interesting fact, that certain names attain a unique status because of their strangeness or distinctions they carry. This is more so with regard to the names of characters in films.
    Ironically, villains  in Tamil films have got sweeter and nobler names like Parobakaaram {Charitable Service } and Parisutham  { Immaculate }.The cruel womanizing character played by S.V.Rengarao decades ago, in Annaiyin Aanai was called Parobakaaram. The seemingly pious but truly fiendish character portrayed by Calcutta Viswanathan in Vellai Roja was known as Parisutham. Otherwise, some of the usual names of villain characters in the Tamil movies of the last century were  Bhairavan,Mayaandi, Marudhachalam, Nagappan, Pakkiri and Sengodan. The latest unusual name was Vellingiri that adorned the villain role of Theingai Seenivasan in the film Thangamagan. Bhavaani,[ Udhayam, starring Nagarjun] Kannabiraan {Captain } and Maasilaamani [Abimanyu} are some noble names of villain characters played by[late]Raguvaran.The first name in this list is that of a holy river in Tamil Nadu,the second is named after Lord Krishna and the third name means on who is free from filth or dirt in mind.
   The other two recent thugs were Kaasi played by Lal alias Paul Michael in Sandakkozhi and Kasimedu Aaadhi portrayed by Suman. in Sankar's blockbuster Sivaji. Director Perarasu gave fancy names for the villain characters in Thiruppachi as Saniyan Sagada, Pattaasu Balu and so on. Some times, even  an unimportant character like that of a cart driver would become catchy by the way his employer would call him.This is how M.N.Nambiar the magnificent Tamil villain on screen made the name of his cart driver Maadasaamy in Nenjam Marappadhillai live long. It was interesting to watch Nambiyar’s cart moving, the moment he shouted out ‘Maadasaamy’
    There were some non-human names too.R.S .Manohar’s character in Modern Theatres’ Vannakkili was called Poochi and the name of a dwarf in Mundhaanai Mudichu was Thavakkalai. Mayilu and Myna became fascinating names of heroines of the films Padhinaaru Vayadhinile and Myna.Minnal was the name of a character forming part of a comedy sequence that showed Vadivelu on a bride seeing mission in Sarath Kumar's film Maayee. Jil Jil was the fancy name of the comedy queen Manorama in Thilaanaa Mohanaambaal. There were also funny names like Sappaani and  Parattai adorning the characters of Kamalahasan and Rajinikanth in Barathi Raja’s Pathinaaru Vayadhinile.
     The other crude name that called for refinement was that of Sembattai, a villain’s henchman in AVM’s Ejamaan. Mambattian has been both the title of a movie and name of the chief character. Same was the case with Padayappa, Iranyan and Sullaan. In fact, these are mostly rural names and one could always be naturally fascinated towards rural names unlike those with an urban flavour. This is how even an ordinary character like that of Vadivelu in Devar Mahan,was immortalized by the name Esakki. Film villains have also carried their place names such as Vaalpaarai Varadhan {Rajaathi Raaja}
   Arukkani of the film Gopurangal Saivadhillai was another unusual name.The Valli sisters known as Aaravalli, Sooravalli, Alangaravalli, Singaaravalli and Chithravalli became memorable  names of the film, bearing the first name in the list Aaravalli as its title.
    Sivaji Ganesan made the most common names of some of his pairs live long by the way he addressed them. Some of the common names like Shanthi {Paalum Pazhamum} Paarvathi {Uyarndha Manidhan}Sumathi [Thirisoolam} Savithri {Vietnaam Veedu} Mohana {Thillaanaa Mohanaambaal} and Latha {Vasantha Maaligai}are remembered because of the way they were addressed by the stentorian voice of Sivaji Ganesan. Sivaji Ganesan’s emotion packed voice brought a special charm to the names, by the sentimental thrust he gave to them. The beauty with Sivaji Ganesan is that, he would make even the names of his friends in his films popular, by his passionate address pattern.The way he called Gopal [played by S.A.Asokan} in Uyarndha Manithan and Lawrence [Major Sundarajan] in Gnaana Oli is still ringing in my ears.
     Was it not a pleasure to watch Vadivelu telling Anand Babu in the film Aadhavan, that in his native village he was doing the job of tying banners and when he moved to Calcutta he thought that it was proper to add 'ji' to his 'banner' routine and call himself Bannerji because that name is popular in Calcutta.In a recent movie {Ethir Neechal} it is found that the hero's name Kunjithapaadham,puts him at the receiving end, following which he is forced to change his name into Harish,that finds favour with all. However, in the end he restores his given name after understanding its sacredness.
    These are just a few samples of how some names of characters in films stick to our memory. Reasons for remembering names of characters may be weird. Nevertheless,it is true that there is something in a name that surpasses the rules of both imagination and reality.There is a lot of pleasure in breaking the norms of normalcy and naming characters with an extraordinary flair for fancy and fact.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Tribute to the Two Namesakes of Tamil Film Music. {V.Dakshinamoorthy /S. Dakshinamurthy.}

       Venkateshwara Dakshnamoorthy and Susarla Dakshnaurthy are names that are not only celebrated with high esteem in the film world of South Indian languages but are also mistaken for each other by the music album makers  of the websites, on account of they being namesakes. Both these music composers could be called close contemporaries and both of them crossed ninety years of age, though theTelugu music genius died a year earlier. The death of the nonagenarian V.Dakshinamoorthy on 2nd August 2013, would make the Malayalam music field more grief stricken than others.
     For lovers of music the initial V.  means venerable.So immaculate was  V.Dakshinamoorthy’s  capacity for composing music that he could pass on the integrated layers of dignity and dynamism of notes with poise and purity.This Alappuzha born  soul of music ruled Malayalam cinema for decades, ending up with his last Malayalam film Mizhikal Saakshi. He had been a voluminous composer of music for Malayalam films. But this article restricts its space to a couple of Tamil films for which his music added a status of dignity and sobriety.
    Small is always beautiful. ‘Less is more’ is a pregnant poetic maxim. The Tamil movies ‘Nanda En Nila and ‘Oru Othaappoo Kan Simittugiradthu’  speak of what a great stuff that V.Dakshina- moorthy’s music is made of. The two glorious songs ‘Aandavanilla Uladamedhu, Aasaigalilla Idhayamedhu’ in the high sounding voice of TMS and‘Nalla Manam Vaazhga  Naadu Poetra Vaazhga'mellifluously delivered by the ever soothing voice of  K.J.Yesudas  are enough to perpetuate the memory of that noble soul .
      S.Dakshinamurthy, whose contribution to Telugu and Tamil film music was considered to be  significant, is more familiar for the Tamil audience, because of the fabulous songs he composed for  most popular films like Valaiyapathi, Yaar Payyan, Mangayar Thilagam,and Alibaabaavum Naarpadhu Thirudargalum..The lovely lullaby ‘Neelavanna Kanna Vaadaa ‘sung by Balasaraswathi  in Mangayar Thilagam, the sorrowful melody ‘Suyanalam Peridha’ {Yaarpayyan} vibrantly presented by Ghantasaala  and all the exotic songs from ‘Albaabaavum Naarpadhu Thirudaigalum’, particularly the  mesmerizing duet’ Maasilaa Unmai Kaadhale’ of A.M Raja and P.Banumathi as well as the other solo numbers of P.Banumathi will continue to enthrall us, as long as music is closer to human ears.
   These two contemporary musicians preserved the quality of traditional music and made their contribution  to Indian cinema competitively remarkable.Their space in Tamil Cinema was comparatively much less than that of others.However in terms of quality and musical immortality they seem to hold a very strong position. Especially,the Carnatic  music base and devotional intensity of V.Dakshinamoorthy, would make his  loss carry a bigger impact, because of the fact that he lived long and made himself ever relevant and needed to the Malayalam film industry.This article is a tribute to both the music composers  and a special homage to  Venerable Dhakshinamoorthy.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Racy Film Maker of Action and Family Drama.


        Speed and tempo are the most vital segments of world cinema.To mix speed with family sentiment in equal proportions and to provide an action sequence that does not sag at any point is not that easy for a film maker. That too, to produce a quality film with all these attributes for a delicious audio visual treat,deserves special recognition.While people like Dharani, A.R.Murugadas and K.V.Anand have excelled in the action genre movies with revelant speed, they could not be considered for inclusive treatment of substantial family sentiment in their films released so far. But Lingusamy has come out with a sweet mix of action and family sentiment with remarkable tempo in films like Run,Sandakkozhi and Vettai besides giving us a full length family drama interwoven with tempo and quality in Aanadam. Ezhil and Saran have always carried certain amount of juvenile gusto in their direction that hardly ever missed to display a graceful mix of speed and grace.
      Beyond these great names in Tamil film industry, there is one ace director who  has consistently  maintained unfailing speed in all his dozen films released so far, be it a family drama or police story or stories relating to events of rural base. That is the highly energized film maker Hari, who has given us great hits like Saamy,Aaru,Arul,Aiyya, Vengai, Singam 1 and 2.
     The most striking nature of Hari’s films is the fast changing scene sequence that remains as a qualitatively integrated driving thread, without any trace of dragging the events to their natural culmination. The suspense ridden twists that are sprinkled through out the narration, with calculated breaks between each twist ,become the chief attracting component of every Hari movie. The consistent identity mark of Hari’s films is the controlling whip in the hands of good elements, who happen to be the family head or the village chieftain or an honest and rightly determined police officer. The other notable feature is the vigorous team spirit running evenly as a continuous process of the whole action sequence as if it were a grand sports event, say, a tug-of-war between good and evil.One could always notice the team mates cherishing the tempo of the game as the most vital characteristic, adding merit to their involvement in the totality of the progressive course of events.
    When it comes to narration of  police stories, Hari has proved himself as a self starting ignition switch, pushing  from behind the whole process of justice-rendering participation of the protagonists, protecting the victims of wrong doers.Samy and Singam 1 and 2 are the powerful police films he has made and all the three have carried an ISI mark with regard to the qualitative inclusion of the action parameters and the sudden, sensible turn-around  that forms part of a police story interestingly told. The comedy addition in these films, became a strengthening subplot for the main story and it was Vivek and Sandhaanam who intelligently carried on the comedy show, with social messages and personal whims respectively.The stiffness and rage aptly displayed by Vikram and Soorya in Police uniform combined with their stunning action verve in eliminating the evil designs of the opponent, pointedly contributed to the special effect of Hari’s direction of these films.
     The titles chosen for Hari’s films are quite interesting too. Except Thamirabarani, all other films made by Hari carry two syllable titles like Thamizh, Kovil, Aaaru, Saamy, Arul, Singam, Seval Aiyya and Vengai. Barring Kovil and Thaamirabarani,the other titles are hero-centric. The single syllabled Vel is the title of his other movie. His short titles seem to symbolize speed and titles like Singam, Seval and Vengai in particular are a mark of the potential fighting spirit and ferocity in destroying the enemy.The other hidden thrust may be the impact of the underlying rural nature of his themes and story composition. Almost all these titles would reveal the significance of the village order and way of life, prevalent in the interpretation of family and social values focused by the director. One could feel the absence of urban touch in narration, reminding us of the films of K.S.Gopalakrishnan of the last millennium.In most films of Hari the prominent thrust has been the youngsters' reverence for elders with unquestioning submission as one could find in Arul Thamirabarani,Ayya and Vengai in particular.
    A special mention has to be made about Hari’s Aiyya , for treating a noble theme in a classic style, by narrating beautifully the interrelated events of a neat story line, with suitable twists in action, so as to make it an enjoyable movie from beginning till end .It is this film that brought out Hari’s directorial capacity for poignant delineation of characters. Sarathkumar’s distinguished performance in dual roles, made the film an extraordinary hit with Prakash Raj and Napoleon adding substantial support for a grand collective show.The climax of the movie showing redeemed PrakashRaj surrendering himself in all humility, before the ennobling spirit of the old Aiyyathurai[Sarathkumar],was a sweet reminder of the great antique maxim ''nobleness enkindleth nobleness’’.
    As far as family sentiment is concerned Hari has beautifully exhibited the endearing note of family intimacy and filial submission to paternal supremacy in films like Samy,Arul,Ayya and Vengai besides focusing father son attachment in Sami and Vengai. In 'Arul', Hari showed the prejudices of a father against one of his sons based on a circumstantial misunderstanding. Veteran character actors like Vijayakumar,Vinuchakravarthi,Radha Ravi,Rajkiran and Nasser have delivered their father roles with a governing temper of discipline and dignity. 
    Hari's latest hit Singam 2, has also significantly retained the speed factor though most of the characters appear for a short while as visitors, without making any remarkable impact.While Sandhaanam memorably entertains with his comedy support in a couple of scenes Vivek appears a bit late, only to remind us of his better participation in Singam1. This sequel film, stands up only because of the dedicated roaring of Sooriya. The events seem to happen in a hurry not to stay effectively in our thoughts.For me, the earlier version scores a higher ranking on account of the more meticulous narration of scenes and events.The villains in Singam 2 made me long for Prakash Raj and I thought he himself could have donned the role of Rehaman with a different make up.I  have always swallowed with a difficulty the plight of seeing Rehaman as a villain, because in my opinion, he still remains as the chocolate boy of Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal of K.Balachander. But for Sooriya, the speed factor alone would not have given Singam 2 the run that it is eligible for, now. Hari could have also pruned the length of the movie.
   Every film director is made of a qualifying frame of mind to focus life’s cherished principles and perceived realities, through their chosen creative mode of celluloid presentation. Some are passionate about reaching a selective audience base with an artistic perspective. Some are down to earth and keep their approach ever targeting the larger audience, looking for a skit and narration that conquer their imagination at jet speed, so as to make them feel that their time spent at the theatres, was very short .Hari belongs to the latter group of directors,who can hardly afford to ignore the 'speed and tempo concept' of making films.He can be rightly called the consummate maker of action, speed and family drama.