Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Antiheroes of Tamil Cinema.


Courtesy,The Hindu.



     A hero is one who occupies the central position and plays a pivotal role.A villain represents the   negative force against norms of goodness and works against the interest of the hero.But at times, there are central characters playing the main role with negative inspirations.We call such characters ant-heroes.Starting from the days of street shows and stage plays, we have come across such negative protagonists attracting the attention of creativity.This is how plays and films centralizing negative characters like Raavanan,Dhakshan,Dhuriyodhana from Hindu mythologies became impressive shows drawing the attention and appreciation of a vast section of the audience.To some extent the epic hero Kovalan could also be called an anti hero because of his disloyalty to his devoted wife Kannagi. One could find many other instances of negative heroes being popularized through dramatization and filming.Films in general and Tamil Cinema in particular, could be seen as being instrumental to the aesthetics of making anti heroes.
     An anti hero as presented on the stage and screen is usually a pest to one's family,society and country.He could be a womanizer,a rogue husband,a street rowdy,a drunken lout,an anti social or even a terrorist.No one could forget the worst kind of negative role that the veteran M.R.Radha magnificently performed in Rathak Kanneer that was one of the grandest shows both on stage and screen.As a virulently mischievous youth and as a crudely humiliating husband with little qualms, Radha made his role in that classic movie,inimitable and invincible.Ratha Kanneer was truly a celebration of the anti hero both in character formation and delivery and the entire credit for its massive victory naturally went to M.R.Radha.I think Tamil Cinema has hardly ever come across an inspiring prototype of the negative hero after that.
    No great Tamil heroes have shunned the temptation for starring as an anti hero.Perhaps,MGR could be an exception.For that matter, even MGR had played a negative character in one of his earliest movies 'Saalivaahanan',in which Ranjan was the main hero,Later when M.G.R.played dual roles in films like 'Neerum Neruppum' and 'Ninaithadhai Mudippavan' one of the two characters carried  negative implications.A similar example in dual roles was that of Sivaji Ganesan in the most famous film 'Uthama Puthiran'.MGR's  negative role was that of a sibling hater in 'Neerum Neruppum',and later he performed as a gangster head with pep and perfection, in 'Ninaithadhai Mudippavan'.In fact, between MGR and Sivaji Ganesan,the latter had no obsession for always playing as the incarnation of virtue as MGR was fond of.This was wonderfully reflected by the powerful negative role performed by Sivaji Ganesan in Koondukkili,the one and only film wherein the two top heroes shared screen space with equal importance.
   Sivaji Ganesan did not mind playing the negative hero in films like 'Thirumbi Paar' and 'Pennin Peumai',at the beginning period of his career, after making his very first film 'Parasakthi' a blockbuster,in an amazingly positive role.The Chevalier as Parandhaaman, created indelible impressions as an anti hero,in Thirumbipaar. Sivaji Ganesan was a womanizer in 'Thirumbi Paar',a sibling beater in 'Pennin Perumai' and a venomous twin brother in 'Uthama Puthiran'.He had also performed as a drunken or irresponsible husband in movies like 'Punar Genmam' and 'Thanga Padhumai'.
    Gemini Ganesan who always played soft and romantic roles,performed brilliantly as the Casanova under the exemplary direction of K.Balachander in 'Naan Avanillai'. Previously Gemini was seen as a gangster head in Modern Theatres' Vallavanukku Vallavan'. In both the films, Gemini Ganesan vibrantly proved that he could do an anti hero role, with a flair for killing with fake kindness.The popularity and fascinating grip of Naan Avanillai got so stuck to the mind of film makers that decades later it was remade in two parts  with the same title and Jevan donned the role of Gemini Ganesan with equal charm and negative thrust.
    R.Muthuraman  who was a close associate and contemporary of Sivaji Ganesan spontaneously played an anti hero, both in soft and rebellious frames, in single and double hero  films like 'Avalukkenru Oer Manam','Namma Veettu Dheivam' and 'Maanavan'.Among the next generation heroes,Jai Shankar and Ravichandran appeared only as positive heroes except that Jaishankar played a negative role in the twin hero based film  Panjavarnakkili from K.Shankar's Saravana Films. Sivakumar effectively donned the role of a deceitful protagonist in films like Saaindhaadammaa Saindhaadu and Bhuvana Oru Kelvikkuri ,with Kamalahasan and Rajinikanth, respectively.
      Today's world class actor Kamalahasan came as a flirt and womanizer in a couple of films like 'Sollathaan Ninaikirein' and 'Pattaam Poochi'. Subsequently, as a misogynist Kamal gave an awesome performance in BarathiRaja's 'Sigappu Rojaakkal'.The other two heroes who impressed in the role of a psychic misogynist, were Pratap Pothan {Moodu Pani} and Mohan {Nooravadhu Naal}Mohan had also come as a happy go lucky youth flirting with many girls in Sujatha Cine Arts Silver Jubilee hit Vidhi.  How he dodged the heroine and ditched her was beautifully pictured in that film.Here the heroine was not cowed down, but took up the legal fight with the help of a woman advocate and exposed the hero's negative side with clear evidence.
     The only hero who boldly and confidently took up negative roles frequently,was the Superstar. Moonru Muduchu,Gayathri,Thappu Thaalangal, Avargal, Billa and Polladhavan,were milestones in Rajinikanth's career and in all the six films [three by K.Balachander] his character formation saw different dimensions of the negative profile.As a ruffian,as a male chauvinist and sadistic husband,as a rowdy element,as a gangster and as a money lorn thug, it was a hateful list of roles offered to him and he performed all the roles,as the personification of evil, not bothering about his image.In fact, his image got a boost after his veritable and distinct performance as a baddie. In a double role as father and son,the voluptuous elder out beat the meek youngster in Balachander's Netrikkan.
     Recently,in a robotic role in Shankar's Endhiran, Rajinikanth rebuilt his lost empire of the anti hero. His villainy in Barathi Raja's Padhinaaru Vayadhinile,made him more of an anti hero than a proclaimed villain. Rajinikanth in short, could be called the best anti hero of Tamil Cinema.The other bold anti hero of Tamil Cinema is Sathya Raj who is equally undeterred by the compulsions of a positive hero image.His commendable role performance as an elderly hero with negative fundamentals in movies like Mudhal Vasantham,Pagal Nilavu and Amaidhippadai, will stay as imperishable assets of  Tamil Cinema.
     While Vijayakanth exuberantly performed negative roles such as a self obsessed,vindictive male, in films like Naane Raja Naane Mandhiri and Amman Koil Kizhakkaale, Prabu  conveniently escaped the itch for doing the antihero,though some of his earlier roles belonged to the uncouth category. Kartik Muthuraman the ever sparkling actor,performed a power packed vengeful role in Kan Simittum Neram. Baghyaraj also did a hatefully negative role in Kanniparuvathile.
     Among the new generation actors,Vijay was seen in 'Priyamudan' as a self bound romantic, to the extent of claiming by hook or crook, the girl he loved.Later Vijay was seen as a powerful negative element, in one of the two characters he played in Azhagiya Thamizh Magan. Ajith simply enjoyed his roles as a gambler and gangster head in Billa 1 and ll,and Mangaathaa. Besides these, Ajith had wonderfully performed earlier, as a wolfish twin brother in S.J.Surya's Vaali. Both Vijay and Ajith have powerfully carried on their negative shows, with energy and style. Barath was seen in a negative role in Chellame,as a psychologically pervert youth. Jeeva played brilliantly the character of a crooked,insensitive,guy with a lust for money in the film Yee .Nitin Satya and Nanda came as self centred and sadistic husbands in Satham Podadhe and Eeram,respectively.The chief characters played by Vijay Antony in Naan and Sudeep in Naan Yee were full of negative vibrations.
       The charm of  negativity is a unique product of creative imagination.This is how Satan is pictured as charmingly ensnaring Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden.In fact it is Satan's character that affords a splendid dimension to Milton's Paradise Lost. Salman Rushdie's ''The Satanic Verses'', carried a mesmerizing effect, as much by its title, as by its content.As we all know, the positive side of life is a straight course,like the Gandhian path.But the negative exit with its zig zag ramifications, offers a vital scope for variety and complexity, like an integrated circuit with its opening and end points, not being perceptible to the common man's eye.The negatives of life, encompass an abnormal and extraordinary punch and it is this punch in the character development of anti heroes, that drives home an extraordinary appeal.This peculiar aspect keeps the audience, frequently enamoured of the darker side of what life is about and how one  lives it.The anti heroes of Tamil Cinema, are thus made up of sterner stuff,  as men capable of hurting with a gusto and getting admired for their way and style of hurting.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Fascinating Film Maker is No More.

     Ameerjan,a noted film maker of the Nineteen Eighties and Nineties has passed away.He would have directed more than a dozen movies,of which Poovilangu,Vannakanavugal and Siva were for the Kavithalaya banner.The fact that he was closely associated with Director K.Balachander is solid proof of his creative stuff. Ameerjan as a film maker is known for mixing romance with ruggedness and crime.Unlike other directors,his two chosen heroes were Murali and Karthik,though he gave the two hit movies Siva and Uzhaithu Vaazhavendum with Rajinikanth and Vijayakanth as heroes respectively.
    One could see an all pervading adventure element in all his films.Of the five films he worked with Karthik,Vanna Kanavugal, Dharma Pathini and Unnai Cholli Kutramillai came out with good reviews.In all these films romance and crime coincided with a prominent upscale of male ruggedness as the charming factor beautifully displayed by the amazingly talented hero Karthik who excelled in such roles in films like Mouna Raagam and Agni Natchatram.The other two films Natpu and Vanakkam Vaadhiyaare were not that much spoken of.
   Ameerjan introduced Murali as hero into Tamil Cinema with a telling story and character in Poovilangu.Along with this soft romantic hero who is no more today,he also introduced Kuyili as heroine,in the same film.This movie with a catchy and subtle title,became a hit. It also introduced another actor called Mohan,who is popular as Poovilangu Mohan doing solid roles in television serials,besides acting in films.After this film, Murali remained as Ameerjan's pet in his other films like Pudhiyavan, Vannakanavugal,Ilankanru,Thulasi and Kurumbukkaaran.
   Ameerjan's contribution to Tamil Cinema may not be voluminous.But it is validly qualitative and aesthetic in terms of entertainment value.His clear narration and adept mixing of romance with masculine charm and feminine glory could be ever spoken of as the most salient features of film making.He is not just a noted film maker nut a neat creator.The fact that he has joined the brain of Kalakendra and Kavidayala production units' K.Balachander, not only during the latter's life time but also,soon after the latter's death, for an eternal association with him, is a great matter of coincidence to talk about.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Four Different Films of MGR and Sivaji Ganesan.



       Mudhal Mariyaadhai

      It is a known fact that every actor has a distinct style of acting.Between MGR and Sivaji Ganesan the former was an outstanding action hero and the latter was an all rounder.But both had their trademarks in acting, with regard to their body language,dialogue delivery and style of emoting. Even in song sequences one could perceive the uniqueness in lip synchronization,movement of limbs and manner of  gait that would clearly differentiate a Sivaj film from  an MGR film because the former was known for perfect matching of his lip movements for the delivery of songs.
     However,at times as a matter of rarity,there would come one or two films that would focus popular heroes in a totally different frame and vibration, that would completely take away the familiarity and formula of acting of the actors and present them as some one fresh from the oven, or as new born.There are specifically a couple of films of the two heroes, that made the audience taken aback, by the presence of an unusual MGR or an unseen Sivaji Ganesan in their characterization, portrayal and performance.The films for discussion in this category are MGR's 'Paasam' and 'Petraalthaan Pillaiyaa' and Sivaji Ganesan's 'Deepam' and 'Mudhal Mariyaadhai'.
      'Paasam' was an R.R pictures' film, released in the early Nineteen Sixties. R.R.Pictures T.R.Ramanna would have produced more than half a dozen films, with MGR as hero.Besides these,this ace director takes the credit for directing MGR and Sivaji Ganesan together in the one and only movie, 'Koondukkili'. R.R.Pictures' films like 'Gulebagaavali','Periya Idathu Penn' 'Pankkaara Kudumbam' 'Parakkum Paavai' and 'Panam Padaithavan' were mega hit MGR films, well known for their action component and music quotient.But 'Paasam' was a totally different type of film, with an unusual story line, picturing MGR, as a disappointed lover for the first time.
     Though the action segment and musical richness of an MGR film were not missing in 'Paasam' too,MGR's hairstyle, make up and mode of acting,were distinctly memorable. There was a tragic undercurrent passing on, through out the narration,culminating in the death of the hero,on seeing the dead body of his mother.Except the song 'Ulagam Pirandhadhu Enakkaaga' celebrating the spirit of self-actualization,the MGR formula of stimulating the audience with optimism and the gusto of hope,was absent in Paasam.
  While M.G.R was emotionally drawn towards Sheela,she would be in love with Kalyankumar and Saroja Devi would be seen devoutly in love with MGR. Caught in this emotional web of one side love M.G.R for the first time was seen as a character building malice against Kalyankumar,for winning over the heart of Sheela.Driven by negative emotions M G.R would join the hands with M.R.Radha in implicating Kalyankumar,in a false theft case.All these events happened in the film without both Kalyankumar and MGR knowing the fact that they were brothers and were  the sons of  villainous M.R.Radha who had betrayed their mother and left her in the lurch.
     The play back voice of P.B.Srinivas  for MGR, for the love duet ''Paal Vannam Paruvam Kandu''  in a dream sequence cherished by Sarojadevi,was also a different experience.{The other MGR song sung by P.B.Srinivas was ''Ennaruge Nee irundhaal'',another duet  for the film Thirudaadhe}T.R.Raja kumari an earlier pair of MGR, acted as his mother and M.R.Radha as his brutal,unseen father.The all pervading tragic intensity, made the film reach only a selected section of the audience.Though it was considered a failure movie, Paasam has perfectly left indelible impressions of the subtle shades of acting that MGR was capable of. As the ardent fans of MGR always wanted him to be a winner and a transmitter of positive energy, they could not accept him in a tragic skit. But to me,this is an unusual childhood treasure from the MGR movie list.
    Krishnan Panju's ''Petraaldhaan Pillaiya'' was a beautifully carved film with delicate touches, reflecting the hero's longing for a kid.MGR wonderfully displayed an invisible vibration as a paternally anguished soul, with an easy flow of innocence, that he had effectively portrayed earlier in 'Enga Veettu Pillai'.Songs like 'Nalla Nalla Pillaigalai Nambi'and 'Sellakkiliye Mella Pesu' are eternally enchanting numbers from the masterly musical composition of M.S.Viswanathan.For the first time, MGR demonstrated his power for playing a character dipped in the pangs of grief. He truly brought out a man's profound love for a child.
     The difference in narration was achieved by reducing the action element and romantic segment that were considered to be the regular features of an MGR film.The other notable aspect was the role of M.R.Radha, as a benevolent brother of the heroine, played by Saroja Devi.However, unfortunately, after the release of the film, there came the news of Radha shooting down MGR and the latter surviving the attack. After a substantial period of hospitalization, with a marginal setback to his vocal cords, MGR returned as a robust hero and came out with many blockbusters like Kaavalkaaran, Adimaipenn, Namnaadu, Urimaikkural, Rickshakaaran and Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban, However, Petraalthaan Pillaiyaa will ever be remembered for projecting MGR in new form and for its qualitative narration of a different story line that made history both on screen and off screen.'Paasam' and Petraalthaan Pillaiyaa' in my perception, would ever remain as two extraordinary MGR films.
   K.Balaji was one of the prominent makers of Sivaj films and they both enjoyed longstanding rapport and comfort levels in working together.It was more than a quarter century association between Sivaji Ganesan and K.Balaji and they would have done more than a dozen films together. Among all their joint ventures,Deepam a remake of the Malayalam  film Theekanal [starring Madhu] was like an unruffled stream, speaking of initial vagaries of the hero superseded by serene love and noble layers of character formation.
       It was a film with a great story base with pangs of despised love and devotion to sibling attachment with profound tragic undercurrents culminating in the death of the hero.The clean role performance of Sujatha,Vijayakumar,S.V Subbiah,Major Sundarajan and Nagesh added strength and quality to dignified display of characterization.What was different here, was the soothing course of acting by Sivaji Ganesan, without trying to be melodramatic, as he would normally do when it came to emotion packed characters There was the usual fascinating style of Sivaji's acting, but it was differently fascinating, with the charm of poise and dignity. Ilayaraja's  music with its overflowing richness in songs like 'Poovizhi Vaasalil Yaaradi Vandhadhu' and 'Andhapurathiloru Maharaani', delivered unique numbers of a totally different Sivaji Ganesan film.The phenomenal force of acting and leonine delivery of any role, that were familiar to the audience as the innate assets of Sivaji Ganesan, were not unnecessarily  blown up, in this aesthetically well made movie.In other words,it was the modest portrayal of events that conquered the imagination of everybody.This distinct film released in 1977,was directed by K.Vijayan, who had worked both with Sivaji Ganesan and K.Balaji for many films.
       Eight years later,there came P.Barathi Raja's Mudhal Mariyaadhai with the proclamation ''Imayathudan Inaigirom''{We are joining the Himalayas}with a straight reference to the zenith of histrionics that Sivaji Ganesan stood for.However, ironically, the Himalayas was presented not in its usual colossal profile but in its height of modesty,poise,self dignity and child like frame of mind with a consummate touch of nobility.There were certainly serene love stories experienced on screen earlier, in films like Devadas,Nenjrukkumvarai,Avalukkenru Oer Manam and Annakkili.But here,it was the tale of love of a man in his mid fifties and it was not just love, but more than that.It was an all inclusive compass of friendship,love and companionship surpassing the physical and sexual boundaries.It was out and out a realistic narration, with the characters sublimating the concept of love and the actors realizing the sublimity of love in all earnestness and exalting attitude. Barathi Raja would have made many successful love stories, but Mudhal Mariyadhai was the most captivating of them all.
      Simplicity and realism were the hallmarks of this film and Sivaji Ganesan who always excelled in exploring new dimensions in acting,was visibly curtailed by the director's whip to walk and talk as the director wanted him to do.The Himalayas yielded to this artistic necessity or perhaps he thought it was yet another chance for him, to explore a fresh field for acting and took up the challenge as usual. The result was, watching a completely different Sivaji Ganesan, as a middle aged man harassed by his wife, with his suppressed breath easing out, in the presence of another woman, who was the epitome of dignity,warmth,compassion and a clean frame of mind.
      Even small scenes that would have passed off insignificantly,arrested the attention of the audience.This is how,the two women {the hero's wife and his companion}were shown as serving food in two different ways, the wife, as squeezing her nose out and then serving food without washing her hands and the other woman, as washing her hands first and then serving food.The other wondrous scenes are those of the hero's companion collecting beads on a grey hair of the hero and the hero trying to lift a huge stone and finally succeeding in that mission, in order to defeat the challenge thrown by his companion.
   Above  everything, it was one of the most decently told love stories not crossing ever, the thumb rules of such a narration.The climax scene showing the hero in his death bed, with his body making a sudden jerk,at the moment of his cherished woman companion on parole, setting her foot on his soil, formed the core of delicate presentation.On the whole, it was a special love story totally different from all other love stories of Barathi Raja himself and it made its special effect due to each and every refreshing aspect, especially that of a subdued, and meek Sivaji Gaesan winning the show, at the behest of a vibrant director, breathing in the air of Tamil Cinema, in order to breathe out the grandeur of nativity.