Sunday, July 13, 2014

Two Contemporary Comedians With Their Popular Prefixes.



      Actors taking a prefix to their names is not anything new to Tamil Cinema.Even among heroes we have some, taking their first film before their names.This is how Jeyam Ravi and Nizhalgal Ravi differentiate themselves.We have several other actors like Vennira Aaadai Murthi,a felicitous comedian known for his bilabial pranks and names like Oruviral Krishna Rao,Vennira Aadai Nirmala,Pasi Narayanan and so on.There are a few actors with a fancy prefix with their names like Bakkoda Kadher,Omakuchi Narasimhan,Thayirvadai Desigan Bonda Mani etc.
   But I am referring here to the two fabulous comedians of the Nineteen Sixties to Eighties called Thenagai Srinivasan and Suruli Rajan who were wonderful contemporaries in terms of age and their active period of participation in Tamil films.The prefix Thengai seems to have preceded Srinivasan on account of his role as a coconut seller in a stage play.But Rajan takes the name Suruli because of his native place near the Suruli Falls.Unfortunately, both these comedians did not live long to continue to provide comedy for a vast section of their admirers.
   While Thengai Srinivasan is remembered for his bold eyes and cutting voice,Rajan's singular hoarse voice pattern would be lingering in the ears of the audience, perpetually celebrating his comedy sense. Thengai Srinivasan's comedy waves surged to reach the portals of famous production houses like the AVM Studios,Sujatha Cine Arts,Sathya Movies and Dhandayudhabani Fims, besides being closer to stalwart heroes like MGR,Sivaji Ganesan,Jai Shankar,Muthuraman,Rajinikanth and Kamalahasan.Suruli Rajan would have rarely shared screen space with MGR but has been a part of many films of Sivaji Ganesan, Jai Shankar,Rajinikanth and Kamalahasan. If Thengai Srinivasan was the favourite of director K.Balachander,Suruli Rajan was patronized by A.P.Nagarajan T.R.Ramanna and R.Thiagarajan of Dhandayudhabani Films.
    Unlike Suruli Rajan,Thengai Srinivasan quite often turned to play villain roles with pomp and power, in films liken Muthuchippi,Malathi,Mayanguhiral Oru Maadhu,Dharma Yudham,Sattam En Kaiyil,Annakkili and Thangamagan and as villain's sidekick in some films which include Padikkaadhavan.It was a crude form of villainy that he performed in these films similar to that of Nagesh in Aboorva Sagodhargal. 
  Some of his most popular comedy shows were teamed up with Rajini for films like Moonru Mugam and Thillu Mullu. He would have done almost equal number of films with Rajinikanth and Kamalahasan. His other great Rajini films are,Anbukku Naan Adimai and Billa. His well known Kamal films are Meendum Kokila, Andha Oru Nimidam and Sakalakala Vallaban. But one of his brilliant and spontaneous comedy shows was in AVM's Kaasedhaan Kadavulada with R.Muthuraman and Srikanth and the song sequence ''Jambulingame Jadaadharaa''would speak volumes of the power of humour that Thengai Srinivasan was capable of delivering.
  The other two films in a similar category were Jai Shankar's Ungal Viruppam and Kalyaanamaam Kalyaanam.The most memorable films of Suruli Rajan are Naan,  Moonrezhuthu,Thirumalai Thenkumari, Vaa Raaja Vaa,Kankatchi, Murattukkalai, and Maanthoeppu Kiliye. The last in this list in which he performed the character of a potential miser,created hilarious moments to become a historic comedy performance.
   Both these comedians evinced a clear preference for decent and purposeful comedy without ever stooping to vulgarity either in their gesticulations or dialogue delivery.Like the veteran actor V.K.Ramasamy,both these comedians were fit for playing the characters of Accountants of Wealthy families or the sidekicks of landlords.Again like VKR,Thengai Srinivasan did characters prone for mischievous deliberations as he successfully delivered in films like MGR's Rickshakaaran and Sivaji Ganesan's Thiagam. However,unlike Suruli Rajan,Thengai Srinivasan here and there appeared in very serious roles and the best in this frame was Kaliyugakkannan in which his action came closer to that of Sivaji Ganesan in Gowravam. The extraordinary characteristic of Thengai Srinivasan's acting calibre was his veritable sense of sobriety, in doing character and villain roles, giving a picture totally different from that of a comedian.
    Though Thengai Srinivasan's contribution is marked by volume and versatility,Suruli Rajan's acting range and quality can not be underrated.Both these comedians reigned at a time, when Nagesh's career was ebbing and K.A.Thangavel was rarely playing comedy roles.They could be credited on their independent merit of dedication to acting in general and to the comedy zone in particular.They lived at a time when creativity was not running short of originality, or put under the pressures of the new age concepts of humour. Both these comedians could essay roles, with a perfect understanding of the rural and urban audience,though Suruli Rajan could easily fit into the rural pockets and Thengai Srinivasan to both the city and village mood.Above all, the greatest asset of both these comedians was their capacity to promote comedy without any semblance of artificiality.It is in this respect their contribution to Tamil Cinema,remains remarkable and and worthy of remembrance.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Heroes on the Comedy Track.

     A hero on screen, should be an all rounder.He should be ready not only to play antihero and character roles, but should also reveal his flair for humour. But some like MGR, might not have been ready for doing villain roles.In fact, I do not remember MGR doing any strong comedy roles other than in 'Sabash Maappile'.Though he has certainly provided contextual comedy scenes in a few films,he has always remained a serious hero focusing on his pet themes of social justice, equality and uplift of the poor and downtrodden.Whereas Sivaji Ganesan who excelled in all kinds of roles, was a very impressive performer of comedy in a number of full length comedy films like Thenali Raman,Manamagan Thevai,Sabash Meena,Arivaali, Bale Pandiya,Oottivarai Uravu and Galattaa Kalyanam besides providing scenic sense of humour in several films.As in all other characters,Sivaji as a comedian, was lovable and enjoyable either in isolation or in company with outstanding comedians like J.P.Chandrababu,T.S.Dorairaj,K.A.Thangavelu and Nagesh.
    Gemini Ganesan,the close associate and contemporary of Sivaji Ganesan was also good at comedy though his pet area was always romance.Films like Maaman Magal,Yaar Paiyyan, Missiamma,Manidhan Maaravillai and the first half of Kalyana Parisu with his jovial moments with K.A.Thangavelu, showed him as a perfect bet for comedy.However,it was R.Muthuraman,the other contemporary and preferred companion of Sivaji Ganesan, who was capable of spontaneous and convincing comedy play, in big hits like Kadhalikka Neramillai,Kasedhan Kadavulada, Oottivarai Uravu,Veettukku Veedu,Edhir Neechal,Bama Vijayam and so on.Muthuraman was an endearing actor and he casually impressed the audience by his roles of fake innocence,which he wonderfully displayed in the movies mentioned above. Jaishankar who came later was fit for playing not only serious cop roles but also for generating spot humour in many films like Bommalaattam,Aayiram Poi, Kalyanamaam Kalyanam,Veettukku Veedu,Ungal Viruppam, and Poova Thalaiya. Ravichandran,the other hero of this period who was introduced in Sidhar's major comedy hit Kaadhalikka Neramillai was a more serious actor who could provide comedy only in association with other actors,preferably comedians like Nagesh,Cho Ramasamy and Surulirajan. The other hero who would feel uncomfortable with comedy is Sivakumar.
    Who could say 'NO' to Rajinikanth's self- styled sense of humour ebulliently unleashed in most of his films? His very mannerisms even in stunt scenes, would send the audience to the height of laughter.He could create hilarious moments either with a fly as he did in Velaikkaran or a cobra as found in Thambikku Endha Ooru [While perusing a sexually exciting magazine] and Arunachalan [while dealing with a restive guest small in size, at a marriage] or a monkey as seen in Arunachalam. No one can forget the scene in Chandramugi showing the superstar freezing Vadivelu with a ghost story.It was almost similar to the scene in Kaghalikka Neramillai with a similar context of thriller narration by Nagesh to win over T.S.Balaiah. But Rajini's facial expressions would have definitely made Nagesh humbled. Rajini's boundless comedy fervour was witnessed in several movies like Adhisiappiravi,Rajaadhi Raja,Dharmathin Thalaivan,Dharmadhurai,Padikkadhavan, Uzhaippaali, Mannan and Sivaji.He had teamed up with all comedians like Goundamani, Sendhil, Janagaraj, Vadivelu,Vivek and Crazy Mohan.Above all,he is a hero capable of independently generating comedy spirit.His Thillu Mullu directed by K.Balachander was a blockbuster comedy, that called for a remake with Siva as hero.The humour sense in Rajinikanth seems to be intrinsic and may be that is why, all children love him more than any other hero.
    Rajinikanth's contemporary Kamalahasan being a versatile performer,has immensely established his extraordinary capacity for being both farcical and intelligently humorous on a number of occasions.He has a vast list of films like Singara Velan, Michael Madhana Kamarajan,Kadhala Kadhala,Tenali,Panja Thandhiram,Pammal K.Sambandham,Sathi Leelaavadhi, Avvai Shanmugi and Vasool Raja MBBS. Besides these amazing comedies,Kamalahasan has been a regular provider of comedy sense even in some serious films like Viswaroopam,Aboorva Sagodharargal and so on.
Comedy comes to him as naturally as any other genre and whenever he joins the company of great comedy makers like Crazy Mohan,he goes to the extremity of humour with a feel of exuberance and at times, he even outshines the most professional comedians.Kamal has definitely maintained a brilliant track record of successful journey through comedy.
   Prabu and Karthik are the other two heroes good at comedy.Though Prabu could not excel his father Sivaji Ganesan as an actor, his cheeky innocence has generated humour without a hitch in films like Chinna Thambi,Chinna Maappile,Charlie Chaplin,My Dear Maarthaandan Mr.Madras and Vietnam Colony.But Karthik has ever been a true chip of the old block,that is his father Muthuraman. For him Comedy is a cake walk and he celebrates each and every movement of his, while taking part in a comedy skit.His body language, dialogue delivery and facial expressions perfectly fit into the comedy mould and he has never failed to utilize the golden opportunities for making the audience laugh.Films like Ullathai Allithaa,Mettukkudi,Luckyman,Pistha,Mouna Ragam and Harischandra will definitely make him an astounding hero on comedy track.
   Among director turned heroes,Bagyaraj and Pandiaraj could make a special impact on the big screen,by their sheer, self ridiculing, funny moments.While Bagyaraj would combine comedy and seriousness in perfect cocktail mode,Pandiarajan's serious play would also create laughter ripples because of his physical smallness and peculiar tone that quite often undergoes strain in dialogue delivery and it is this characteristic strain that enriches the humour component of the scene.Both are wonderful makers of comedy of manners.The other director turned hero Sundar.C is an exemplary maker of farce and contextual comedy but as a hero performing comedy,he has to depend upon other great comedians like Vivk,Vadivelu and Santhanam to evoke memorable laughter moments.
   Between Vijayakanth and SarathKumar,the latter would be a better choice for comedy, because Vijayakanth like MGR is of a serious brand, bound to the action segment relating to social amelioration. Sarath's comedy side would have happily entertained his fans in films like Janakiraman, Thenkasi Pattanam,Arasu and Yei.The other hero Sathyaraj, has proved his humour sense in his own unique style, in movies like Nadigan and Maman Magal.Among the younger generation heroes, Vijay has been more convincing on the humour side than others.Comedy scenes from films like Thiruppaachi,Vettaikkaran and Velayudham have substantially proved his ability to cause laughter.Among new comers,Shiva and Vemal are fit to perform as comic heroes.
    Among Malayalam heroes Mohanlal ,Jayaram and Prithviraj have been successful on the comedy track with their looks and manner of dialogue delivery taking their fellow comedians for a ride. Jayaram in particular is capable of generating moments of laughter by his appearance and unique style of dialogue delivery both in Malayalam and Tamil.He has joined Kamalahasan's band wagon of high end comedy twice,in Tenaly and Pancha Thandiram.Most of his Tamil films as hero or second hero were hardly lacking in spot comedy. Vijay's Thuppakki was the latest addition in this aspect.But there is one Malayalam hero who has been beaming on the comedy side with limitless vigour for transition of moods and flow of laughter in almost all his films and that is Dileep.No one can beat him in this regard. Dileep and Comedy are inseparable.Be it physical comedy or verbal humour Dileep has been invincible on the humour track and he has always made it a perfect blend of action and comedy in all his films.He deserves a special place in comedy zone.
   Tamil and other language films have a long list of talented comedians providing enjoyable comedy, through a sub plot either relating it to the main plot or carrying on the sub plot as an independent portion of a film.But heroes joining the comedy show for fun or doing a full length comedy film, would always be a different kind of experience for the audience in general and for their fans in particular.That is how the movies listed above and others like Siva Manasula Sakthi,Boss Engira Baskaran Oru Kal Oru Kannaadi,Theeya Vela Seiyyanum Kumaru and Kalakalappu have hit the screen with a bang and entertained the audience to the fullest extent.In fact, it is always good to see the comedy prone heroes do a round on the comedy track. Even here, some are born great and some achieve greatness.The most acceptable and commendable heroes as comedians in Tamil would be, Sivaji Ganesan,Muthuraman,Rajinikanth,Kamalahasan and Karthik.