Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Venerable V.Nagaiah.

      Tamil Cinema has benefited a lot by the extensive contribution of actors,directors, producers and music composers from its most fraternal Telugu Film industry.Among heroes, there were N.T.Ramarao,A.Nageswararao and Suman who have adorned significant roles in Tamil films.But among character actors,after S.V.Rengarao,it is V.Nagaiah,the veteran actor who comes to our memory, as an actor performing modest and respectable roles, with flawless perception and portrayal.
    V.Nagaiah is significantly an old timer whose cinematic appearances were clearly meant for a clean and perfect reflection of life's most cherished value supporting systems, such as self dignity in poverty,absence of arrogance in wealth,love for fellow human beings and conviction in one's perception of what is right and what is wrong.In addition to these, there always predominantly came up as one of his top priorities,his unflinching faith in god and the spiritual fundamentals, attached to god realization.All these attributes made him a venerable actor, upholding the grandeur of both Telugu and Tamil Cinema.
    The uniqueness of V.Nagaiah was his shaking but firm voice modulation.His voice had the singular capacity to squeeze out sorrow and the pang of suffering.Perhaps that was the reason why he was chosen to play a vital role in Ezhai Padum Paadu,a film based on Victor Hugo's novel ''Les Miserables''.He was a perfect fit for playing the righteous person in any context,be it as a spiritual head or as the organizer of an orphanage as he did in films like Dheiva Magan, Saraswathi Sabatham, AVM's Ramu and so on.My memories of this dignified actor, takes me to my childhood days of watching films like, Pennin Perumai,Tenali Raman and Sarvadhikari.
    Like most other character actors of the last century,Nagaiah had also acted more number of films with Sivaji Ganesan.Even among the films mentioned above,excepting Sarvadhikari,the other films were those, starring either Sivaji Ganesan or Gemini Ganesan or both.Two of his other MGR films I remember are,Parakkum Paavai and Nam Nadu.Whereas, he has a list of Sivaji Ganesan films like VanangamudiEdhir Paaraadhadhu,Ellaam Unakkaaga,Ambikapadhi,Alayamani,Valar Pirai,Paava Mannippu,Pachai Vilakku, Shanthi,Iru Malargal,Saraswathi Sabadham,Thillaanaa Mohanaamabaal Naan Vanangum Dheivam,Kai Kodutha Dheivam,Dheivamagan and Iru Dhuruvam.With Gemini Ganesan,besides Ramu,he has acted in films like Kanavane Kankanda Dheivam and Karpagam. Nagaiah has also acted in mythological films like Sampoorana Ramayanam,Lava Kusa,Bhaktha Markandeya and Datchayakgnam.
    Like S.V.Rengarao.Nagaiah was the special favourite of director K.S.Gopalakrishnan.While S.V.Rengarao always sported an aristocratic look,Nagaiah would be a perfect bet for donning the role of a wealthy man{ Pennin Perumai and Karpagam]or a pauper, looking for justice{in many films including MGR's Nam Naadu}. He would serve with modesty and rule without arrogance.He would have rarely performed a hateful character.His eyes would always transmit a sense of piety and poise.His voice vigorously combined elements of firmness,empathy,grief and serenity. Over- acting was never a part of his dictionary of character display.For him, Cinema was like a spiritual process.He was one of those rarest actors, who adored the film field, with utmost dedication and commitment. He made himself a venerable actor, not only by his looks and manner of acting, but also by his continued reverence for Cinema, as if it was a temple of learning.In this particular respect, Nagaiah out beats all other actors of his generation and those who succeeded him.


Monday, June 9, 2014

The Conjugal Core of Tamil Cinema.

Vietnaam Veedu.



      'Conjugal core' is a term used for interpreting the base and structure of husband and wife relationship that carries deeper emotional,familial,cultural and other contextual parameters such as the religion one belongs to and the country one lives in.In a multi-lingual and diversely cultural country like India, one could not find an identical pattern of relationship.It will differ from family to family and from society to society.But above all, it is the deeply personal, mutual compatibility and mutual love and respect between a man and a woman that determine the emergence and exuberance of a healthy conjugal core.Cinema on the whole,can not exist without touching upon both the external and intrinsic layers of this fundamental human phenomenon.Tamil films have effectively and proudly carried on, a mighty show of man woman relationship not only through the channel of love, but also through that of the most enduring relationship between spouses.
     Today, the existence of man woman relationship, encompasses newer dimensions created by the ongoing developments such as dating,feminism,women empowerment and so on.Ego projections goaded by the equality syndrome,misconceived notions such as priorities of mutual chemistry and wavelength seem to interrupt the normal course of married life. The need for home routine adjustments on a daily basis,vastly tells upon the conjugal core, besides the usual stray intrusions of fear of the other person coming in between spouses.Joint family system being mostly out of the picture,the spouses as individuals, do not fall victims of nuisance caused by other family members.However, they fall a prey to their own whims and vagaries that tend to throw humps on the road,thwarting the smooth journey of the conjugal vehicle.Beyond all these perceptions, the fact remains that the sentimental stuff of the conjugal side is greatly missing in husband and wife relationship on account of the inevitable pressures of the hunt for money, to make living easier and comfortable,whether happier or not.As such, the conjugal core has to follow the new precept of 'go with the flow' instead of 'live under the roof of love'.
    The sentimental pillars of the family foundation, remained pretty firm and sturdy,during the last century and the Tamil films released from the Nineteen Fifties till the close of the previous millennium, proved to be relevant to the ground realities and laudably showcased the symbiotic rudiments of husband wife relationship.The emotional rapport between husband and wife, became the main topic for discussion on the big screen and the spouses were quite often portrayed as backup providers, in times of each one's emergency for support.
   It was an actor like Sivaji Ganesan who became the fittest role model for picturing the husband in a variety of formulations.As the proud male head of the family{PaarMagale Paar,Baratha Vilas Motor Sundaram Pillai,Uyarndha Manidhan},as an affectionate and sympathetic husband {Paalum Pazhamum,Kulama Gunama,Vietnaam Veedu,Thirisoolam,Vaazhkai},as a jealous and suspicious spouse{Deivappiravi,Nichaya Thaamboolam,Aalayamani},as a henpecked or humiliated husband{Padithaal Mattum Poedhumaa,Bale Pandia},as a man caught in between a devoted wife and an ex-lover{Irumalargal},as a helpless husband between two wives{Thenum Paalum} as a laggard and vagabond life partner{Bagyavadhi,Punar Jenmam,Thanga Padhumai and Iruvar Ullam} as a husband becoming a victim of low caste inhibitions{Savaale Samaali} and above all as a husband taming a wild wife{Arivaali and Pattikkaadaa Pattanamaa},Sivaji Ganesan would have adorned the numerous shades of the conjugal lot with apt and awesome portrayals. Joining hands with glorious female team mates like Padmini,Sowcar Janaki,Saroja Devi,K.R.Vijaya and J.Jeyalaitha.In fact,he made the Tamil big screen a home and the events on the screen passed on as real life happenings.
    However, Sivaji Ganesan's best conjugal stories were,Paar Magale Paar,Paalum Pazhamum, Vietnaam Veedu,Iru Malarkal,Baratha Vilas,Pattikkaadaa Pattanamaa,Thirisoolam. and Vaazhkai.Though Thirisoolam was a little more melodramatic,it was a film that poured forth the heaviness of emotion so naturally that it made the audience get involved in the whole gamut of emotional outbursts.The outstanding fact here is that more than all other heroes of his time and after, it has ever been the presence of Sivaji Ganesan on the Tamil big screen that has made stories on the conjugal core carry their due impact on the viewers.As MGR always performed roles with an eternal juvenile gusto,he was rarely seen doing a strong character in any conjugal story.but the greatly remembered films of MGR in this category are Kaavalkkaran,a rare kind of MGR film that portrayed beautifully,the deeper layers of conjugal bond,Nalla Neram,that showed an animal loving husband and an animal hating wife as two conflicting sides of the conjugal foundation and Naan Yein Pirandhein that pictured delicately, the predicament of a married man with children falling under pressures, to hide the facts of his marriage and act as a bachelor for the sake of his poverty ridden family.
    Next to Sivaji Ganesan the other actors,who compactly fixed into the husband's role were Gemini Ganesan,R.Muthuraman and Sivakumar.Gemini Ganesan's best would be Iru Kodugal and Sivakumar's Sindhu Bhairavi and Badragali will stay remembered.But after Sivaji Ganesan,one could place Muthuraman as a unique hero in the role of a family head.Like Gemini Ganesan {Vaazhkai Padagu,Kalathur Kannammaa,Parthaal Pasi Theerum etc.} he was a good choice for playing the character of a suspicious husband as seen in films like Nenjirukkum Varai and Raman Ethanai Ramanadi.His other three wonderful films that pictured him as an egoistic and uxorious husband were Sondham,Sooryagandhi and Dheerga Sumangali.I would rate director A.C.Thirulok Chander's Dheerga Sumangali starring R.Muthuraman and K.R.Vijaya, as an amazingly told conjugal story,with profound depth of emotions and conjugal intimacy to adorn the historic gallery of Tamil Cinema.
     The most remembered climax of the movie showing the husband and wife dying together, following a cardiac arrest, illustrated they way they lived as husband and wife and loved each other with a true spirit of give and take.The emotion-packed narration and the exalting role performance of the hero and heroine put the film supremely on the higher ladder of Tamil Cinema that has a special place for presenting themes and stories with utmost veracity and perfection.In the same line Sivaji Ganesan's films like Vietnaam Veedu and Vaazkkai celebrated the grandeur of wifely devotion and the soul making conjugal routine between ideal spouses.While in the first,the prestigious head of the family falls dead,in the latter,the devoutly supporting wife of a man cherishing self-dignity is seen breathing her last,not being able to withstand her husband's tormenting issues.In both the films, filial ingratitude turned viral so as to uproot the conjugal foundation.
     It was a period when the audience mood was always in favour of refined narration of man woman relationship be it a love story or the one on the conjugal track and it was ever upbeat at the emotion generating performances, relating to family life.The social fabric in India in general and Tamil Nadu in particular, remained intact without being influenced by external factors especially, those emanating from globalised trends and outlooks.
     Among the heroes who succeeded Sivaji Ganesan and Muthuraman, it was Rajinikanth who like the Chevalier,earnestly took up roles of husbands revealing the different layers of the male mind.This he did wonderfully,at the very beginning of his career.He was a forgiving husband in P.A.Arts Pictures's Engeiyo Keitta Kural,a womanizing husband in K.Balachander's Netrikkan,a rogue husband in Gayathri,a sadistic husband in Avargal,a reformed and passionate husband in A V M's Nallavanukku Nallavan and a grooming husband in Sivaji Productions'Mannan'.Of these, Nallavanukku Nallavan, stays as an unforgettable presentation of conjugal core, portraying a very loving and understanding husband and wife,played brilliantly, by the Superstar and Radhika, the most powerful actor daughter of M.R.Radha.It was again a tragic tale showing the wife as dead,at the end of the movie thereby pushing the husband into the pit of pathos.
    When it comes to the role of women in films on conjugal themes,the most common feature has been the meek portrayal of wives devoted to the domestic responsibilities. Padmini and K.R.Vijaya were frequently offered such characters. Sowcar Janaki and Jeyalalitha, have also donned such roles in films like Padikkadha Medhai,Uyarndha Manidhan,Paar Magale Paar,Seetha and Sooriya kanthi.But these two great actresses, have also represented the case of rebellious wives craving for feminist independence in movies like Pudhiya Paravai, Panam Padaithavan,Pattikkaadaa Pattanama and Kanavan. The new age of Tamil cinema,has come out with an impressive delineation of suppressed and neglected wives, through exemplary films like Barathi Raja's Pudhumaipenn and Balu Mahendra's Marubadium and in both the films Revathi revealed her amazing capacity for acting, as a mighty and modest wife of selfish and domineering husbands.
    K.Balachander's movies like Avargal,Achamillai Achamillai and Manadhil Urudhi Vendum also dynamically narrated the plight and power of ill treated wives.Whereas,K.S.Gopalakrishnan's Saratha came out with a totally different conjugal story,of an impotent husband earnestly making attempts for a remarriage of his wife and the traditionally devoted wife stoutly rejecting the move. Subtle narration of the ripples caused in the conjugal life of couples, on account of a man or woman crossing the life of spouses, either before or after marriage, became the talking point of films like Manirathnam's Mounaragam and Balu Mahendra's Marubadiyum.
     During the recent decades,Tamil Cinema has definitely explored the various possibilities for refreshing the Industry through new ideas and revision of creative fundamentals, with the stunning support of technology and technical imagination.But have we ever come across soul sustaining narration of interpersonal relationships that guarantee the ennobling part of human life?The themes are as much conflict ridden as the world is.But the peace and sacredness of privacy and the sense of belonging that constitute the conjugal core, are hardly represented in the celluloid form.In the name of freshness, there is quite a lot of adulteration and mixing of creative modes, that do not belong to us.Let us import technology;but let our instinct be always ours,Indian and Tamil for the foremost part.Shall we ever truly revisit our conjugal core,in all uprightness and sentimental closeness?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Thriller on a Different Track.

    A thriller is generally a film of suspense, mystery and action segments, narrated in an eerie and stunning mode, duly supported by its relevant music component. In this regard, the Malayalam film 'Drishyam' released by the end of 2013 could not be called a thriller. But the sudden turn of events on screen, incorporating an action segment, slowly building up a mood of gripping tension, that binds the audience straight to their seats, makes the film being classified as a thriller on a different track.
    An unruffled start, shows a docile Mohanlal found time and again, watching movies on the television at his cable TV office located in a village. Then come a few neatly pictured scenes of family routine, highlighting Mohanlal’s character as a hard working orphan, being blessed with a loving wife and two daughters and this gives an impression as if we are watching yet another family drama, taking us on an unusually slow pace. This appears to be a deliberate approach to give least room for any guess of  thrilling developments- in- waiting for Mohanlal and his family.The only hunch for some untoward happening in the offing, is felt by the periodical, conflicting interactions that take place at the local teashop, between Mohanlal and a selfishly exploiting cop{aggressively portrayed by the usually comedy prone actor Kalabhavan Shajon}.
    The sailing is smooth for Mohanlal and his family, until an unexpected incident crosses the way of Mohanlal’s elder daughter when she is allowed to participate in a nature camp arranged by her school. A video of the girl taking bath, secretly taken by a crooked camp mate, by using his mobile phone, triggers the subsequent tension moments of the film. The notorious teen ager who is the son of a woman police officer, blackmails Mohanlal’s daughter with the video clipping, trying to exploit the situation. This leads to the helpless and unpremeditated killing of the boy by the girl and what happens after this, makes the film a kind of thriller, hitherto not watched on the big screen.
    What makes the film distinct is the way a calm Mohanlal handles the situation, his regular movie watch visuals, promptly helping him come out with a perfect recipe,to save his family, from getting entangled in the case of murder of the boy.With flawless manipulation of events and records and with a psychologically tricky extraction of favourable endorsements from all witnesses, he surmounts hurdle after hurdle, of the police investigation process, which has been pictured without any cinematic input.It is a sort of realistic investigation experience we undergo. The resilient cooperation of the family members in executing Mohanlal’s intelligent retrieval programme, is another milestone and each one including the little younger daughter, crosses it with excellent equanimity and poise, as if nothing abnormal had happened in the family.But still something goes awry with the whole exercise, when the younger daughter who under intolerable conditions, budges to police torture, leading to an unexpected climax. 
   Nothing is unnatural here. Nobody overdoes the job. There is no unwanted intrusion of sound and fury. Asha Sarath as the Police Officer adequately expresses her emotion as a loving mother and Siddique as the boy’s father delivers a dignified role. Meena as the wife of Mohanlal is subdued and well tuned to the character of an emotionally strained mother. The most positive aspect of the movie is its intelligently carved mode of narration, with extraordinary compactness in each frame.There is no deviation from the core of a familiar story line, being treated with freshness in presentation. 
    Mohanlal the conventionally blown up hero in varied styles in different films, is confined to a real life character mould. Here he silently excels in essaying the role of an ordinary husband and father, rowing happily his small family boat, but,getting stuck all of a sudden, by the blow of a tsunami type of horrid occurrence, that keeps him frozen with life chilling consequences.He conquers the demands of the role with his customary acting exuberance. Drishyam on the whole, resembles a ripple free lake, but at the same time it causes, extraordinary ripples in the minds of the viewers.The film should be duly credited for its commendable editing, by seamlessly blending the change over of scenic sequences with unique aesthetic layers, throughout its narration. To conclude, the movie seems to open up a new track for the travel of the thriller vehicle. Director Jeethu Joseph deserves a worthy recognition for this track change, in a thriller show.