Friday, March 21, 2014

Filmstars and Politics.

       When George Bernard Shaw said that politics is the last resort of scoundrels,he would not have meant that persons from other walks of life are unfit to cherish ambition for a political career.In fact,politics has also been the bastion for many intellectuals and right thinking people, who have made it a field for fair play.Whatever be the motive for an individual's entry into politics,it is one's personal charisma and popularity that determines one's success and survival as a politician.  
      A few decades ago,when the political leaders in India,earned distinct positions through their selfless service and honest handling of vital issues,popularity was not viewed as a means for meeting political ends; but it emerged as the end result of selfless service, rendered to people through a track record for honesty and personal integrity. However,during the process of political evolution,concepts began to change and a platform other than political,became necessary for taking the new ideas closer to people with a view to revolutionizing the  society in tune with the changing trends and attitudes..
    The drama stage became one such platform and stage actors began to play pivotal roles in casually indoctrinating the changing values to the common man and thereby  absorbed the imagination of  the audience through a spell of''willing suspension of disbelief''.Tamil society in particular, which was always known for its profound  admiration for theatrics and effective portrayal of character types, used to be carried away by a kind of star worship and image idealization  to the extent of identifying the actor with the role he played.
      The transition from the stage to the celluloid world, made things easier for the actor to create for himself, a screen image,much more improved and periodically updated by human imagination and technology advancement. An actor consistently playing  the role of a  good Samaritan or of an upholder of women’s liberation and social emancipation,could always magnify his star image and get emotionally fixed in the hearts of a glorifying audience.One who is constantly shown as a staunch fighter of corruption in public life, gets the maximum recognition.Such a hero's popularity always grows by leaps and bounds and the adored hero, eventually looks for other avenues  to perpetuate his image, during his lifetime.Politics is most often looked upon by film heroes,as the right ladder for achieving a place of prominence and the MGR formula comes in handy for them, for a smooth journey from stardom to politics.
      M.G.Ramachandran affectionately called and remembered as M.G.R is a legendary name both in films and politics. Many of the political  aspirants from stardom today, seem to be drawn to his hero formula as an entry ticket to catch people's imagination, in terms of their   democratic ideologies for exemplary governance and collective well-being. But there are two important facts that will make the MGR legacy difficult for exact emulation. Firstly, MGR's growth as a star and politician, was a simultaneous process well established by a symbiotic link between the two fields that he most dynamically represented. Secondly,MGR' star image was groomed with the objective of rationalizing  the society for a dramatic change, through an existing political party of which he was a member.The later developments leading to MGR’s    formation of a new political party and the repeated success stories that followed, added fresh fascinating chapters to the political history of Tamil Nadu.S.S.Rajendran was the other hero of this period who was an active promoter of the Dravidian Movement and he was successful in politics as a member of the legislature.However,he knew the limits of his political capacity and personal popularity and did not develop greater ambitions in this regard, despite the fact that his Tamil accent always remained an endearing aspect and carried an influencing appeal.
      Many heroes in the South Indian film industry, were inspired by the M.G.R model and were drawn in to the political arena, only to be  rewarded partially or rejected with a drubbing at the hustings. Even a classic actor like Sivaji Ganesan,who was a close contemporary of M.G.R , failed miserably at the political front.Similarly, the God image of  N.T Rama Rao could not help him remain as  the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh for a longer period. Chiranjeevi,the gloried Telugu hero,started a new political party but soon merged it with the congress party, at the opportune time. Malayalam super star Prem Nazir and the Kannada demi - god  Rajkumar were the wise political drop outs.Kerala being a land of freethinking people,who know to keep each individual in their respective place,would hardly think of resorting to a hero worship programme. Prem Nazir knew this factor and wisely avoided any serious political move from his side.
    However in Tamil Nadu, a soil potentially vulnerable to emotional exploitation,people would keep themselves ever ready to give a chance for political aspirations to fructify from the film front. Ms.Jeyalalitha, whose long term film association with MGR helped her develop interest in politics,has not only reflected a charisma almost similar to that of MGR,but has also proved to be a perfect competitor of her political rivals, by a sheer capacity to wield a controlling whip over the Dravidian break away party, launched by her political senior.She seems to sustain the power game, through a kind of courage, that she alone is capable of.
    In the north, quite a few Bollywood actors and actresses joined political parties and became MPs and MLAs sharing the spirit of their own film popularity and the prevailing victory mood of the political parties.But rarely any big star like Sunil Dutt, Amitab Bachan,Raj Babbar and Satruhun Sinha was inclined to start a party of their own.May be, they rightly understood the difficulties involved in running an independent political outfit.From the South, Soundharya joined the BJP but unfortunately she died in a plane crash.Vijayashanthi is doing her round in politics,representing different parties at different times. Jeyapradha has also been active in politics for quite sometime.
     Quite a few from among the present day popular heroes in Tamil,have been working out a magical shift from stardom to politics with a blind faith in converting their committed fan base into a political core group.They do not want to leave their luck untried, perhaps because of their belief, that, fallacy might become fact any time and what had happened to M.G.R  might happen to them too.This is how heroes like Ramarajan,Vijayakanth and Sarath Kumar began to show a keen interest in politics.Ramarajan in fact began to follow each and every mannerism,makeup and costume sense and theme focus of MGR, in all his movies and finally became an MP for a brief spell,representing the AIADMK party founded by MGR.Even now he is campaigning for this party's candidates, contesting the upcoming parliamentary elections.While Vijayakanth and Sarathkumar have launched their own political parties, the former is aggressively moving coins, with the fond hope of becoming the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, one day or other.Other actors like Vagai Chandrasekar,Nepoleon and Comedian S.V.Sekar have also evinced keen interest in politics and contested elections to become MLA or MP. 
      The power of popularity breeds tendencies of narcissism and creates greed for more power, generated by public acclaim and accumulation of wealth made possible, through the invincible charm of the tinsel world.The star image spontaneously boosts one's self image and makes one crave for undeserving recognition of merits that one does not possess.As most of the mega stars are just the product of the director's creative imagination and professional control, the other side of what they really are, becomes known to the people,only when they  are noticed as,off- screen performers of political or social roles of their own making. So long the stars twinkle in the wonder world, they look awesome and admirable. But once they start gliding from their fancy mountains to the valley of reality,some of them begin to glare.Above all, the political ambition of any film star is nothing but the outcome of hero worship and the deifying attitude of their much excited fans.The fans would do better by letting their heroes twinkle from where they are,like diamonds in the sky.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fine Family Dramas in Tamil Cinema.

      Family dramas on the big screen,if presented neatly and with conviction,create a mind blowing impact much more than other genres.This is because,an individual's life, gains greater significance only in relation to one's association with others, in the form of one's family or society.Of the two, it is the family that generates,supports and fulfills an individual's dreams and aspirations and supplements one's character formation, for one's own benefit as well as that of humanity at large. That is why fiction and films dealing with family formulations,patterns and emotional intricacies, win over readers and audience preference, more overwhelmingly than other forms of creative excellence. The Tamil soil with its deep rooted emotional moorings,has embraced family dramas with great enthusiasm and involvement.Tamil films released from the Nineteen Fifties  to the Seventies, simply excelled in family dramas, through brilliant narration and spirit of authenticity, because those were decades of sentimental celebration of family love and unity.The perfect bond of well founded joint family institutions,existed purely on the solid fundamentals of respect for  elders, inherent attitudes of mutual love,tolerance at all levels and readiness to sacrifice anything,anytime. Invariably, only these themes formed the base of a vast number of films, dealing with family drama during that period.
     There were primarily,films discussing only the family factors without incorporating any other element such as romance,friendship,crime and social concepts.There were also others, relating the above said external aspects to the family environment,thereby focusing on how conflicts were caused in the family routine,by characters and events not directly linked to the family foundation. Directors like A.Bhimsingh and the duo Krishnan Panju, cleanly excelled in the narration of pure family themes,characters and events.There were also Telugu directors doing a remarkable job in the depiction of family themes and stories.My childhood memories of family oriented films,take me to the days of watching films like Kudumba Gowravam and Devar Film's Vazha Vaitha Dheivam both starring Gemini Ganesan,Sivaji Ganesan's Makkalai Petra Magarasi,MGR's Thaikkuppin Thaaram {another movie from Devar Films},Kuladeivam, directed by Krishnan Panju, Engaveettu Mahalakshmi of A.Nageswara Rao, and the two long titled films 'Thaayai Poela Pillai Noolaippoela Selai' and 'Maamiyaarum Oru Veettu Marumagale'.
     All these films released during the Fifties,beautifully and firmly projected precious family sentiments and values that constituted the quality of life those days.Most of these films also at times, went out of the family fold, to meet events and characters that were mandatory for socializing and strengthening interactions with the world.But there was one movie of this particular decade, that became a standing model of the family edifice, with an underlying vital thrust on the stronghold of the joint family system and that was the movie Baagappirivinai,directed by A.Bhimsingh.This film had all necessary ingredients to evolve into a fine demonstration of family experience,and struck everybody's imagination by its richness of narration and magnificence of characterization.Amazing actors like Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan,Sarojadevi,M.N.Nambiyar, T.S.Baliah, S.V.Subbiah, C.K.Saraswathy and above all the exuberant actor M.R.Radha, made the film a monumental revelation of the joint family stronghold, cherished intensively by a value bound generation.
    Sivaji Ganesan was of course, the natural choice to play the protagonist of the family drama because he truly fitted himself into characters carrying the load of emotions and sentimental layers, reinforcing the base of such films.It was the element of grandeur in his acting,that helped Sivaji Ganesan to make a serial success show,as the one and only hero of Family drama.The other fact is the omnipresence of A.Bhimsingh, as the most acceptable narrator of family drama, on account of his creative potential to present precisely  scenic sequences that could create a lasting impact.This is how, he made exemplary films worthy of family watch.As the trend continued during the Sixties, there were many of his hits like Paava Mannippu, Padithaal Mattum Poethuma,Bantha Paasam, Pazhani,Paar Magale Paar and so on.Gemini Studios'Motor Sundarampillai would also rightly belong to the category of  fine family dramas.The later releases of Sivaji Ganesan's films like Baratha Vilas,Thanga Padhakkam andThirisoolam also contained a lot of family emotions though these films had other vital aspects of life to deal with.
   Interestingly,like Baagapirivinai, during the Sixties,there was another blockbuster that carried the family sense, heart and soul into the mind of the audience and this movie Padikkaadha Medhai, starring Sivaji Ganesan and directed by A.Bhimsingh, became an instant success because of the natural role performance of Sivaji Ganesan, S.V.Rengarao and P.Kannaambaa.It was an eventful film in the career of Sivaji Ganesan and a timeless reflection of the greatness of Tamil Cinema.Each and every scene of this film, would remain as an unforgettable life experience for the great lovers of family drama.
   Two other outstanding films of Sivaji Ganesan on family emotions are, Vietnaam Veedu and Vaazhkai,released during different decades.Both these films discussed poignantly the fall out of family unity, arising out of filial selfishness and ingratitude.The first one was the story of a very prestigious man called Padmanaban, who cherished the longstanding values of the family bond and was a model of dignity,discipline and dedication to exemplary family norms.With his much devoted wife Savithri,{played by the fabulous actress Padmini}Padmanaban simply extolled into the height of glory as the vital pillar of the family, but finally fell dead, not being able to withstand the load of privation and disappointment.The latter film Vaazhkai bordered on a similar story line, pictured the amazing growth of a man from scraps to success, with the strength and support of his wife {played by Ambika}but was finally left alone by his sons, whose selfishness finally took away the life of his noble wife.
    Though social revolution was the chosen field of MGR,he too became a substantial part of many family films such as Kudumbathalaivan,Periya Idathu Penn,Neethikkuppin Paasam, Panakkaara Kudumbam, Panam Padaithavan, Naan Yei Pirandhein and a few more films like OruThai Makkal and Thaikkuthalaimagan,However, as far as MGR was concerned,the spirit of justice was of paramount importance for him and he could not let it down for the sake of family emotions.It was true that MGR also played here and there, the role of an affected and sacrificing member of a large family;but it was Sivaji Ganesan who created a tremendous impact, as a character falling a prey to  the schemes and strategies of other characters in the family fold and finally turning into an embodiment of sacrifice.There was certainly a cathartic sense in the role performance of Sivaji Ganesan and he never failed to create a heart rending effect of family drama, causing tears to flow naturally from the eyes of the viewers.
   What made the family dramas capture the sensitivity of the audience was the all pervading spirit of goodness, imbibing tendencies of tolerance and sacrifice,as something essential for promoting the well being of the family cluster.The good elements in a family, will always act as a catalytic force strengthening and protecting each layer with concern and care.Quite often, the good elements would be subjected to exploitation and humiliation and it was at this juncture,the mood of tolerance would set in, to carefully avoid any kind of eventuality, leading to the disintegration of the unified segments of the larger family dispensation.
    The greatness of a family drama, relies mainly on its structure of nobility and goodness kept in compact form, by emotions of love and affection.The fifties and sixties were a golden era, honouring the highness of family unity, as part and parcel of healthy and happy living.The sacrifice note was poignant in films like Paava Mannippu,Bandha Paasam, Pazhani and Padikkadha Medhai. Apart from A Bhimsingh,veteran directors like K.Balachander {His films such as Arangetram,Aval Oru Thodarkadhai and Bama Vijayam} and K.S.Gopala krishnan{Movies like Vaazhayadi Vaazhai,Kan Kanda Dheivam,Kulavilakku}truly brought home the value of family unity and the spirit of sacrifice both seriously and humorously.Even a renowned director like B.R.Pantulu,who tried his hand on a variety of subjects like mythology and history,also dealt with a family theme in his film Namma Veettu Lakshmi.Later a credible and valued director like Visu successfully handled many family stories ,of which AVM's Samsaaram Adhu Minsaaram tops the list.
    During the Seventies as well as Eighties, there were wonderful family dramas like Aarilirundhu Arubadhuvarai,Padikkaadhavan and Dharmadhurai all starring the Superstar in the role of a sacrificing elder brother. Rajini's performance in these films was as much convincing as that of Sivaji Ganesan clearly transmitting the changing trends in emotional vibrations of the new generation.It is strange that Rajini's close contemporary and versatile actor Kamal did not evince much interest and involvement in family drama, though a couple of films like AVM's Per Sollum Pillai and K.Balachander's Unnaal Mudiyum Thambi projected him as the central force of family stories.Perhaps an actor like Kamalahasan with a rationalistic mindset, does not believe in sentimental exhibitions in role performance.
    Even during the new millennium, we came upon an extraordinary film like Lingusamy's Anandam that fascinatingly narrated a joint family story, with all its intricacies and nuances, laying considerable emphasis on the longstanding family values like tolerance,flexibility and unrelenting faith in the trusted family member, be it an elder brother, or a younger one.Mutuality prevailed as the most significant aspect of this catchy story with clean perspectives. Ananadam was definitely the new millennium gift of  the Tamil  Film industry, to those who continue to cherish family norms.Besides this Lingusamy treat, there were two delightful family films each, from the hands of M.Raja and Mithran Jawahar.The former's Unakkum Enakkum and Santhosh Subramanyan and the latter' Yaradi Nee Mohinand and Uthama Puthiran took us to a new family environment,with members of larger families, enjoying each and every moment of living together.However,romance was the core of these family dramas.The other emotional family film, with a rural background was, Mayaandi Kudumbathaar.
    Old or new,family dramas hardly fail to reach the audience favour, with an exceptional quality of fineness and perfection.The story background may carry great joyous moments like Baamaa Vijayam,Santhosh Subramanyan and Uthamaputhiran, or sad and sorrowful sequence of events as seen in Bagapirivinai,Padikkadha Medhai,Kulavilakku and Aarilirundhu Arubadhuvarai. Some will shuttle between lighter and heavier emotions as we witnessed in Aval Oru Thodar kadhai  and Anandham. Whatever be the mode of presentation,family oriented films without deviating from the mainframe, with a bird's eye view of romance or social events, have struck a solid note on our memory lane with sensitive,aesthetic,exalting and realistic creative dimensions, to last for a lifetime. Family dramas on the whole offer us, the finest moments of film watch.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Smart Major of Tamil Cinema.


       There are a few highly esteemed actors of Tamil Cinema, known specially for their impeccable and forceful dialogue delivery.Among the heroes, no one has so far replaced Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan, in this regard.But among character actors, it was actor Sundarajan popularly known as Major Sundarajan, who could effortlessly occupy that prestigious position of an actor capable of delivering dialogues with utmost clarity,power and enormous reach.One could say without any trace of exaggeration, that it was Major Sundarajan who came closer to Sivaji Ganesan as a mighty performer both on stage and on screen.The other known fact is that it was that immortal hero who remained as the soul mate of Sundarajan.
       Sundarajan would have started his career with T.M.Soundarajan's Pattinathaar and become popular with his noticeable performance in Server Sundaram. But the proud prefix 'Major'that adorned his name after his much talked about stage play Major Chandrakanth{A play of the eminent director K.Balachander which was later made into an unforgettable film,by him}that put him firmly on the thespian journey, destined to go on for long, with merit and grandeur.Major Sundarajan must have felt immensely grateful at least to two people in the Tamil Film industry.One was his actor model Sivaji Ganesan and the other was the most dynamic film maker K.Balachander.
    Nearly one third of the Major's films would have been with Sivaji Ganesan. Of these, the most memorable and the closest to the hearts of the ardent fans of Sivaji Ganesan were, Gnana Oli, Ethiroli,Uyarndha Manithan,Gowravam, Thangapadhakkam,Kalthoon,Unakkaaga Naan, Dr.Siva, Engirundho Vandhaal,Vasantha Maaligai and Avanthaan Manithan.In Ethiroli he appeared as a blackmailer of Sivaji Ganean and proved his mettle and capacity for nagging the hero, to the extent of pushing his victim to the edge of frustration. In Gnana Oli, Sundarajan played the role of a cop and bosom friend of the hero, a vengeful murderer, escaping arrest by the police.It showed Sundarajan beautifully reflecting the sentiments of friendship and a sense of duty with a clear balance of mind.In Uyarndha Manidhan, Sivaji and Sundarajan were again shown as friends from childhood,who would meet later to cherish their childhood days in retrospect.People would have hardly forgotten the eternal number 'Andha Naal Gnabagam Nenjile Vandhadhe' that gloated over a grand model of friendship between them two.In Unakkaaga Naan,the major played the role of a manipulative capitalist father of Sivaji Ganesan, demonstrating his capacity for performing a scheming,self-centred business man.
    His other films with that mighty star include, Raja,Anbaithedi,Thiagi,Sangili,Dr.Siva Engal Thanga Raja,Padugappu and Simma Soppanam.Their team spirit in films,was in fact firmly based on a sentimental foundation, with emotions of friendship and family spirit pouring fourth like a flooding waterfall. The duo, successfully carried on an era of highly dramatic human relationship in celluloid form and exuberantly fixed their performing gusto, in the minds of the audience. No two actors would have so cleanly swept human emotions, with such invincible theatrical thrust, as these two epoch-making individuals. It was a historic association between two actors and they definitely created history of many kinds. 
   Director K.Balachander's success as film maker, mainly reflected his rare acumen in spotting out right talents and mould them in the fittest form, so as to transform his chosen men and women, into remarkable artists of stuff and merit.Not all could fulfill his expectations and live up to his yardsticks and norms of film making.But those who came under his creative scanner, did fulfill his expectations and lived up to his dreams and aspirations.Two great actors who fall in this category were, Nagesh and Major Sundarajan.The trio[the two actors and their passionate director] made many success stories like Major Chandrakanth, Naanal, Neerkumizhi,Edhir Neechal,Navagraham and the ever watchable Baamaa Vijayam. Major Sundarajan consistently enjoyed a similar team spirit with Nagesh as he had with Sivaji Ganesan.
    Major Sundarajan was compact both as a character actor and villain.Though he always excelled in character roles,as a villain he made a singular mark, in films like Naanal,Enna Mudalaali Sowkyama, Billa and Andha Oru Nimidam. Among the production houses,big banners like the AVM Pictures, Devar Films and Sujatha Cine Arts, quite often inducted this highly talented actor for meaty roles.Like many other actors who were closer to Sivaji Ganesan,Sundarajan also did not frequently share screen space with MGR.But his roles in MGR films like Rickshakaaran and Thedivandha Mappillai,need a special mention.Among the next generation actors,Sundarajan was comfortable with both Rajinikanth and Kamalahasan.
    Before I conclude,it must be stated here that Major Sundarajan's film career was prefabricated by many dramas and stage shows and in this respect he truly belongs to the line of great actors like the TKS brothers,S.V.Sahasranamam,V.S.Raghavan and R.S.Manohar. One could clearly see the impact of the stage on the screen, in the form of  clear pass over of dialogues and body language from live shows to celluloid formulations.Sundarajan definitely belonged to the tribe of dedicated performers and he rightly deserves a place in the line of grand masters like V.K.Ramasamy, S.V.Rengarao, T.S.Balaiah S.V.Subbiah and M.R.Radha.