Friday, November 14, 2014

Tamil Heroes in Contrast.


   The concept of hero and hero worship in Tamil Cinema, is at least as old as MGR and Sivaji Ganesan. Till then it was an age of actors, donning roles as heroes.Though there were tall actors like M.K.Thiagaraja Bhagavadhar and P.U.Chinnappa, making a lot of indelible impressions as heroes,it was just an act of greasing the paint, with dedication for playing roles with conviction, talent and utmost involvement.There were fans, but not serious fan clubs as such, functioning with a spirit of frenzy and rivalry.It all started with the dominant heroes MGR and Sivaji Ganesan, whose tenure in Tamil Cinema, was impressively long and magnificent.With their performance levels,popularity and fan club expansion, growing every day with  charisma,the duo became two monumental heroes of Tamil Cinema.
    It so happened that they began to lead the industry, with their individual preferences dominating at all levels, resulting in a kind of bipolar thrust on the end result of Tamil film making.In short,these two giant-like heroes could influence Tamil Cinema, with their respective pulls and pressures, to the extent of transforming it into an inspiring,profitable and mind blowing field. But at the same time, they were generating sometimes without their knowledge, discordant and contradictory responses from film viewers.Ultimately, a new trend of assessment theory was evolved to build an off -screen image for the two heroes,leading to a potential mood of contrast.Passions very often used to run riot, among the hard core fans of the two heroes, making their  fan clubs as diagonally opposite forums, running with an inherent fire of prejudices and antithetical goals
     Whether it is politics or cinema,two people being equally and simultaneously popular, is a conflicting  situation, causing a serious predicament for the performers and their followers or fans. May be, the persons at the the centre  stage are themselves forced to a create  a mood of divergence among the followers or audience, for promoting their personal agenda.Or may be, the audience  are divided in their preference,appreciation and adoration of the heroes.Personality cult affixing adorable star status, does not come that easy to all heroes.It is out and out a deserving phenomenon.If there are half a dozen heroes at a time, quite often it is just two heroes, who turn the mood of the audience into frenzy with both values and vagaries forming a special bond between the hero and his fans.But the vital truth is that the two heroes of a period, become makers of an environment of contrast and war front as their bond established with their  fans, intensifies into a kind of mania.
     Tamil film industry has solid memories of the segregated fans of MGR and Sivaji Ganesan. It is not only an obvious fact that MGR and Sivaji stopped sharing the screen space after the single film Koondukkili, but is also known history that they were always politically in different blocks at different periods,not sharing the dais with levels of comfort and intimacy.MGR's Dravidian lenience and Sivaji's  Congress affiliation made them as heroes with opposite political fundamentals.Even in acting, MGR was ever a good Samaritan while Sivaji  was for all waters.If MGR was image conscious ,Sivaji was  a field player.It was his personal charisma and his pioneering social formula of film making  that made MGR not just a hero, but a life model for many,particularly the poor and the down trodden.But for the Chevalier hero, whose body and mind were naturally and inseparably bound to acting,the film fans' love for him, was born of admiration for what he was worthy of,in a classic way.In simple terms,it could be said that  MGR inspired as an exemplary model of social and human values and Sivaji   stood as the embodiment of the versatile human emotions and intelligence, on screen.
     MGR was rather choosy in accommodating other heroes in his films. Sivaji Ganesan  on the other hand, had a free mind, in encouraging competitive participation of  heroes like SSR, Gemini Ganesan, R.Muthuraman and various junior heroes like Jai Shankar,Ravichandran,A.V.M.Rajan, Sivakumar, Rajinikanth  Kamalahasan and Satyaraj.But MGR would have taken the senior heroes into his fold once a way and not let others like Jai Shankar,Ravichandran and Rajinikanth join even once in his films. Even Kamalahasan   has joined MGR only as a child artist, in  his early film Ananda Jothi.The MGR formula of film making was out and out hero- oriented and it was the cherished objective of an MGR film maker, that an MGR film should  exclusively reflect the image of a Saviour,  devoted to the well- being of the masses.In doing so,it was thought that the purpose should not get diluted by the participation of other heroes.
   Whereas Sivaji Ganesan, looked upon Cinema as a medium for extracting the best creative potential of every individual in their respective zone associated with the making of a film.The Chevalier not only enjoyed competition but also viewed every hero, as meritorious individual, capable of giving their best, for the successful outcome of a film.In other words, Sivaji Ganesan's concentration was always on the scope and dimension of the role assigned to him and he would always view his performance as well as that of others in ensuring a qualitative output.Off screen image of Sivaji Ganesan, was always a sequel to his onscreen contribution.
    Among the immediate successors of MGR and Sivaji Ganesan  there was an element of contrast between Jai Shankar and Ravichandran in their outlook of hero image and attitudes towards role performance.But these two contemporary heroes were amenable to each other and would have acted together in films like Naangu Suvargal,Kaadhal Jothi,Akkarai Pachai and later in Arunachalam.Their fan base was restricted and Jai Shankar  seemed to have enjoyed greater fan support than Ravichandran. Both were fit for family drama and action films and both shunned taking part in mythological films. Jai Shankar was  particularly well made for detective roles which he performed with pep and style. Moreover, career- wise Jaishankar   was certainly gifted with a consistent support base of production units such as the Modern Theatres, the AVM banner,Devar films and Citadel Pictures{which introduced him as hero in Iravum Pagalum}.Being low profile heroes when compared to the titanic MGR and Sivaji, the scope for contrast between Jai Shankar and Ravichandran was also considerably less.
    After MGR and Sivaji Ganesan it is Kamalahasan and Rajinikanth who created a flutter as heroes of gusto and contrast.Unlike all other heroes, these two contemporaries have created a track record of joint show in a number of films, though not at so large a level as the two mighty Malayalam heroes Mammootty and Mohanlal. From Moonru Mudichu, it was a dynamic and beautiful show of contrast that the audience could witness in the duo. Rajini like Sivaji Ganesan,did not hesitate to do villain roles. He was raging with fire and fury in Kamal's  films like Moonru Mudichu, Avargal and Padhinaaru Vayadhinile.
   Like MGR and Sivaji Ganesan,these two heroes have sufficiently vindicated the fact, that an analysis of heroes in contrast, requires certain significant factors that necessitate such an analysis .In spite of a couple of negative aspects like dark complexion and thinness in body frame, Rajinikanth struck a note pf difference as a unique kind of hero, with charm and enhanced degrees of vibration, that could inspire audience mood, movie after movie.Be it sentiments or action or negative projections {even in the latest Endhiran} Rajini stands out as a colossal actor hitting the screen, as a hero of exuberance.His caliber for deeper role performance was cleanly established even at the start of his career in films like Buvana Oru Kelvikkuri,Thappu Thaalangal,Engeyo Kettakural and Aarilirundhu Arubadhuvarai. It is his amazing body language and tone vibration that transformed Rajinikanth from a hero to a Superstar through distinctly successful delivery points, on a non stop basis.
     Kamalahasan  who grew up as an extraordinary hero along with Rajinikanth,began to hone his skills with an aggressive mindset to achieve the impossible at every attempt.He threw a lot of surprises by his unequal bold ventures at all levels of film making, donning common and uncommon roles with zeal and dedication, that included a special focus on make up manuals taking away his personal identity as an actor and hero and making him endowed with a total genuineness of the character he performed.The greatly heart warming thing is, the way both Rajinikanth  and Kamala hasan casually ignore the fact of their being grand heroes with a strong fan base.They seem to care very little for their off screen image.However,the  major difference between Kamal and  Rajini is the way they have dedicated themselves to the film industry.While Rajinikanth is a director' actor, ensuring the victory of the film through his dedication, involvement and participation,Kamal struggles with all his might and dedication, to take a new avatar every time, as a performing hero with an innate force, that drives him to newer destinations.
   Prabu Ganesan  and Karthik Muthuraman  the next generation heroes of the same century,have acted together in more than half a dozen films.Being the sons of Sivaj Ganesan and R.Muthuraman who had always maintained significant rapport between themselves,the wavelength of Prabu and Karthik  matched well and both recorded creditable innings in their career as heroes, that went on unaffected for nearly two decades.The chubby and genial Prabu and the nimble and neat performer Karthik confined their fan base without any visible bickering.
    Between Vijayakanth  and Sarathkumar,the former's fan base, grew by leaps and bounds, to the extent of grooming larger political ambitions in the line of MGR. Sarathkumar  too has his political outfit and as heroes both Vijayakant and Sarathkumar  have been successful in family roles and as cops with indomitable bravado.These two heroes were hardly ever on a war path.Nor did their fan clubs resort to any negative moves against one another. Sathyaraj a  contemporary hero of Vijayakanth and Sarathkumar has established his position more as an actor of stuff, performing villain,hero and character roles in an inimitable way.He has not been drawn into any contrast with other heroes.In this respect he is like Gemini Ganesan and R.Muthuraman of Sivajiganesan team and Sivakumar of  the days of Jaishankar  and Ravichandran
    The  latest heroes in contrast are Ajith and Vijay who have both crossed the magic number of fifty films, through a promising show of brilliance in performance. Both these new generation heroes have their hardcore fans' association, with their intense priorities and prejudices.Both these heroes have shown their mettle for sentiments romance and action.Under eminent film makers like Fazil,Siddique, A.R.Murugadoss,S.J Surya and many others,Vijay has  grown as a hero of singular merit and capability displaying his performance ability and dynamism in singing and dancing.He has given many box office hits and enjoys more popularity with children.
   Ajith  has scaled his progress from an ordinary, modest romantic hero, to a high profile action hero capable of playing powerful negative characters, as don and gambler with consummate style and grace.While Ajith is  lacking in  the dancing vigour and easy delivery of emotional outburst, Vijay, seems to be not bothered about lip synchronization in song sequences even at  close shots. Vijay's energy levels are definitely on the higher side, because Ajith  mostly resorts to a graceful and subdued show of his acting ability.Ultimately, the fans have to choose between the high voltage colorful show of Vijay and the breezy,feather touch demonstration of role play by Aith.
   Many heroes come and go.Not all stand up for a sustained career, making repeated entries for a mind blowing performance.Even mega heroes like MGR,Sivaji Ganesan,Rajinikanth and Kamalhasan have given failure films here and there.But it is their films that have failed and  not they as heroes.They have always succeeded in collecting their ardent fans  to the theatres, to watch their failed films at least once.There was a time when theatres were the only avenues of entertainment and during those times, the theatres with the life size cut outs of these hero giants, made a mighty mark, whether the films succeeded or flopped.But now, with DVDs of films being made available soon after the release of a film,every home becomes a theatre  without banners and cut outs of the grand scale heroes.
   Fans  make comparison and contrast  of their loved heroes either through the theatre  route or at their home terminus, through their electronic connectivity.The picture of contrast keeps changing from time to time ,only in pattern  but not in its spirit of affinity and fellow feeling, instinctively shown by the fans to their pet heroes.Before I complete this article,it should be mentioned  that only heroes who have acted in more than fifty films, have been included here, for a contrast.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Nightingale of Tamil Cinema.

      Nightingale is a bird adored for its capacity to sing beautifully and powerfully.Many poets have sung in praise of the Nightingale for its melodious voice.John Keats one of the noted romantic poets in English, has paid rich tributes to the bird in his poem''Ode to a Nightingale''.He calls the nightingale''light winged Dryad of the trees''and ''immortal bird''born to sing in ''full-throated ease''.There are a few human voices,with utmost sweetness and felicity in enthralling music lovers, through a perfect rendition of  timeless songs.Among playback singers, once a way, we come across gifted voices of extraordinary charm adorning the film industry.This is how female voices like Latha Mangeshkar and P.Susheela have established a grand status as playback singers.
     Tamil Cinema in general and Tamil film music in particular, is greatly indebted to P.Susheela for her mighty and monumental contribution,as a playback singer of fascinating felicity and immaculate charm in her voice.Starting from the Nineteen Fifties,she became the one and only female Tamil playback singer, with an extraordinary ability to combine clarity,force,sweetness and symphony in any song that was offered to her.She has been endowed with  splendid vocal cords to enchant, energize and enthuse the listeners irrespective of the language in which she sang.
     Though P.Susheela started her film career in the early Nineteen Fifties,her hey days in Tamil Cinema were between 1960 and 1985.Some of her earliest solo hits were 'Unnai Kan Thedudhe' {KanavaneKankanda Dheivam} 'Azhaikkadhe Ninaikkadhe'{Manaalane Mangaiyin Baagyam} Unakku Mattum'{Manapandal}'AalayaManiyin Osaiyai Naan Kettein','Kadhal Siragai Kaatrinil Virithu'{'Aalayamani}Athaan Ennathaan'{Paava Mannippu} 'Ettadukku Maaligaiyil Etrivaitha En Thalaivan'{Paadha Kaanikkai} 'Kangaikkarai Thottam' {Vaanambaadi}'Maalai Pozhudhin Mayakkathile'{Bagya latchumi} 'Kangal Enge Nenjamum Enge'{Karnan}'Paartha Gnabagam Illayao'{Pudhiya Paravai} 'Ninaikka Therindha Maname' {Ananadha Jothi}'Sonnadhu Needhaanaa'{Nenjil Oer Aalayam} 'Unnai Naan Sandhithein' [Aayirathil Oruvan} 'Unnai Kaanaadha Kannum Kannalla' {Idhayakkamalam} and'Kannan Varuvaan Kadhai Solluvaan' {Panjavarnakkili}.
      P.Susheela was the busiest playback singer in all South Indian languages and her busy schedule did not ever deter her vigorous spirit of performance that legitimately resulted in winning awards at the state and national level.It is a proud fact that she was the first woman playback singer to win the national award for her most captivating rendering of the song 'Naalaiyindha Velaiparthu Odivaa Nilaa'for the AVM block buster film Uyarndha Manidhan that also happened to be the 150th film of Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan. Incidentally, she got the State Govt.award too,for the same song.
     The next national award she won, was for her highly sprightly and energy loaded song 'Sittukkuruvikkenna Kattuppaadu' from Malliyam Rajagopal's most successful film Savaale Samaali,another Sivaji Ganesan film.This beautifully composed song, both in lyrical beauty and musical richness, celebrated the grandeur of freedom and it was the nightingale's voice that seemed to liberate every music lover, from the entanglement of 'the weariness the fever and fret'of life. Hearing this great song in the incomparable voice of P.Susheela was an exalting experience. What a free flow of breeze it was and how forcefully Susheela's voice infused the gist of freedom as an ennobling experience. Susheela again got the Tamil Nadu State Government's award for singing the sweet number'Brindhaa Vanathukku Varuginrein' in Sivaji Ganesan's Latchumi Kalyaanam.Far beyond these numbers, there were a few immortal songs, that P.Susheela sang for a few dance sequences with songs such as,'Mannavan Vandhaanadi'{Thiruvarutchelvar} 'Nalandhaana' and 'Maraindhirundhu Paarkum Marmamenna' {both from Thillaanaa Mohanammbaal}
      P.Susheela's best duets were with T.M.Soundarajan.Songs like"Mullai Malar Mele'{Uthama Puthiran}'Naan Pesa Ninaipadhellaam' {Paalum Pazhamum}'Malarndhum Malaraadha'{Paasa Malar}'Anru Vandhadhum Adhe Nilaa' {Periya Idathu Penn}'Thottaal PooMalarum'{Padahotti} 'Aadaludan Paadalai Serthu'{Kudiyirundha Koil}'Poomaalaiyil Oer Malliagai'{Ootty Varai Uravu}'Vizhiye Vizhiye Unakkenna Velai',and 'Chinnavalai Mugam Sivandhavalai'{both from Puthiya Bhoomi} are a few samples of the immortal numbers in their most matching combination of voices. Almost every song she sang with TMS was a right and ripe combination of the female voice with that of the male,not going out of tune at any stage.
      The TMS/P.Susheela duets were of a classic brand, because both were known for established norms of voice pattern, voice clarity,vocal thrust and precision in pronunciation of words.Their voices travelled along on the musical track with one hundred percent fusion calling for repeated hearing.The other male voices with whom Susheela's elegant voice occasionally joined were those of P.B.Srinivas{'Paal Vannam Paruvam Kandu'from Pasam' and 'Ennaruge Neeyirundhaal' from Thirudaadhe were outstanding pieces of meldy and sweetness},A.M.Raja {'Thingalurangiya Pothum Thenralurangiya Podhum' from Petra Magana Vitra Annai would remain as an immortal number}Chidambaram Jeyaraman{'Vinnodum Mugilodum' from Pudhayal was simply exuberant} Sirkazhi Govindarajan {Sirikkinraal Inru Sirikkinraal from Nallavan Vaazhvan was a pure piece of soothing melody}and S.P.Balasubramanyan{ several beautiful duets particularly 'Aayiram Nilave Vaa' from Adimai Penn and 'Iyarkaiyennum Ilaya Kanni' from Shanthi Nilayam need a special mention}.
      Apart from her mind blowing solo songs, sad melodies and duets,there is a galaxy of joyous numbers that came to dominate the audience imagination.Some of the songs that actually stole our hearts and keep the scenic sequence also lingering in our memory are' Theidinein  Vandhadhu' {Oottivarai Uravu}''Aadai Muzhudhum Nanaya Nanaya''{Namnaadu} 'Kannan Ennum Mannan Perai Solla Solla' 'Ammammaa Kaatruvandhu Aaadai Thottu'{ both from Vennira Aadai}'Sithirai Maadham Pournami Neram' {Raman Ethanai Ramanadi}'Renga Renagaiyya'{Varumaiyin Niram Sigappu}and 'Oraayiram Naadagam Aadinaal {Sumathi En Sundhari}.Besides these most valued songs, there were a few beautiful numbers that P.Susheela sang with other female singers like L.R.Eswari and Jamuna Rani.Songs that need a special mention in this category are,'Thoodhu Sella Oru Thozhi Illaiyena'{Pachai Vilaaku} 'Malarukku Thenral Pagaiyaanaal'{Enga Veettu Pillai}both with L.R.Eswari and 'Punnagai Mannan Poovizhi Kannan'{Iru Kodugal }with Jamuna Rani.
     As a playback singer P.Susheela was leading Tamil film music nearly for three decades .It was a tone capable of conquering human emotions with a spontaneous reach that made her deliver her notes, with utmost confidence, ease and magnificence.With an incomparable voice sweetness, she sang powerfully and beautifully, not only film songs, but also religious songs like 'Maanika Veenaiyendhum Maadhevi Kalaivaani' and 'Idaividaa Sahaaya Maadha,Inaiyilaa Dhevamaadha' to be broadcast frequently on the AIR even before she became popular as a playback singer.The charismatic appeal in her voice throw, was inimitable and she sang with full throated ease to transport human imagination to 'magic casements and fairy lands' like the nightingale that enthralled John Keats.It is in this unique respect,she became the nightingale of Tamil Cinema.