Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Film Maker of Crime,Justice and Punishment.


     To be consistently focused on a particular theme and genre is the mindset of some film makers. This is how A.Bhimsingh specialized on family drama and K.S Gopalakrishnan and Barathraja chose to set their films on the rural stage.In a similar way,director S.A.Chandrasekar loved to portray a huge galaxy of crime and punishment,in different forms,both within and outside the legal parameters. Starting from his very first film Sattam Oru Iruttarai,he has been concentrating on this most vital aspect of human life with storyline and action fitting the ambiance of criminality and justice in a variety of style in exposition.
   In exhibiting the world of crime and justice Vijayakanth became his right hand hero, fighting crimes with fire, sheen and gusto.Vijayakanth was not just the hero of his first film but nearly twenty of his films.Apart from Sattam Oru Iruttarai. some of their significant joint journeys on the road to justice were Sivappu Malargal,Sattam Oru Vilaiyaattu,Jaadhikoru Needhi, Needhiyin  Marupakkam, Enakku Naane Needhipathi, Needhikku Thandanai,Rajanadai,Rajadurai, Saatchi and Vetri,the last one produced by P.S.Veerappa,the last century's pride of villainy in Tamil Cinema.
   Even their other two popular films Sendhoora Paandi and Periyanna. were not free from their struggle for goodness and justice though these two films carried the romantic element of young heroes like Vijay [son of this director] in the former and Soorya in the latter.One could say that it was S.A.Chandrasekar who shaped the early film career of Vijayakanth.The other fact is like P.Neelakandan who directed a large number of MGR films,it is S.A.Chandrasekar who has directed Vijayakanth's role performance in a maximum number of movies.It should also be mentioned here that for the film Needhikku Thandanai, it was the DMK leader Dr.M.Karunanidhi who wrote the story.
    S.A.Chandrasekar's film journey with his son Vijay, consisted of romance,crime and punishment.  'Once More' was perhaps the only film, from the father and son combination, which was an exclusive tale of freak romance and had the pride of enrolling Sivaji Ganesan and  B.Sarojadevi, in meaty roles, pleasantly recalling their romantic experiences of the Ninteen Sixties' famous film Iruvar Ullam, directed by the most renowned film maker L.V.Prasad.
   All the other films of Vijay such as Nalaya Theerpu, his debut film as hero,and others like Vishnu, Deva,Rasigan,Maanbumigu Maanavan,Nenjinile and Aadhi showed the hero fighting injustice besides doing romance.But unfortunately,excepting Thamizhan, for which S.A.Chandrasekar wrote the screen play,almost all the films of Vijay directed by his father, did not do well at the box office. No doubt films like Aadhi,Nenjinile and Vishnu were all fast in narration and were not of the boring category.But it is a bitter truth that Vijay who takes the credit for giving the maximum hits among the younger heroes,could not play the hat trick in the case of his father.
   The most talked about film of S.A.Chandrasekar was the Superstar's blockbuster, Naan Sigappu Manidhan.It was a consummate narration of crime and justice neatly presenting the gruesome plight of a college professor who had to take law in his hands, to punish a most crooked and brutal anti social gang.The fascinating addition of Bagyaraj in the role of a private detective{ as CID Singaram}  was an added telling point, for the entertainment component of the film.The grandeur of the movie and its title were so deeply imprinted in the minds of the audience and the film makers that the same title was recently used for a Vishal movie, to treat an altogether different story line. S.A.Chandra Sekar's film had Sathyaraj playing the villain and Ambika as the pair of Rajinikanth.Released in the mid Nineteen Eighties, the film not only drew huge audience to the theatres, but also received very positive reviews.
     Like 'Once More' there were a couple of pure romances from the creative kitty of this director. They were Vasantharagam{another Vijayakanth film}and Nenjirukkumvarai.Pandhayam was also a love story but it was action packed. Some of his latest popular releases were Sattapadi Kutram and Touring Talkies.S.A.Chandrasekar has directed about eighty films of which I have included all the important films here.Besides being a reputed director, S.A.Chandrasekar is the proud father of a very talented mass hero, who has made victory as his trade mark, besides his name itself symbolizing victory.But the point here is that S.A.Chandrasekar has constantly made his thrust on a society, free from crime and illegality. In this respect, he could be fairly called the most prominent director of films, based on the core of crime and punishment.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Status of Heroines in Tamil Cinema..



    There is a famous saying in English literature, that Shakespeare the most renowned dramatist, has in his plays, no heroes, but heroines .This statement is perhaps the outcome of the fact that in many plays of Shakespeare,the women protagonists are more resourceful and inspiring, than the men characters.But in Tamil Cinema, the approach to women characters has generally been the other way round. The status of heroines in Tamil Cinema has hardly been ever different from that of Indian women in general and Tamil women in particular.
    Starting from the inception of the Tamil film industry, heroines were always on a slippery or unstable ground, when compared to heroes.The industry has mostly been hero-centric, with some heroes found dominating the stage, more than others.We have come across all time heroes, as well as short time heroes.But as far as heroines are concerned, a majority of them would not have reached the fifty films mark.Even before reaching that magic number, many of them would have been pushed to the role of elder sisters and mothers of  the all time heroes.
    This is how actresses like Pandaribai,G.Varalakshmi,S.Varalakshmi and even T.R.Rajakumari were seen within a short span of time as elder sisters and mothers of heroes and upcoming heroines. Except G.Varalakshmi,the other three heroines later acted as the mothers of MGR. Among the senior most actresses,excepting  Padmini, others such as V.N.Janaki, B.S.Saroja, Madhuri dhevi T.R.Rajakumari and P. Banumathi could not dream of doing at least fifty movies as heroines in Tamil.All these women were either married off and left the scene, or remained contented with roles other than that of heroines.
   The number of films released during the Nineteen forties and fifties, were considerably less than those released later.Perhaps this would also have restricted the opportunity for the heroines to maintain a stable position in the industry.Though competitions were much less then,because of film acting being considered as a taboo or even a stigma,some of the actresses like P. Banumadhi, Vaijayanthimala,Anjalidhevi and Padmini could make greater innings than others,because of their singing or dancing calibre. Of these women, Vaijayanthimala could find a permanent place in Bollywood, after doing not less than a dozen films in Tamil with the topmost heroes of Tamil Cinema, like MGR,Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan.
     Padmini who achieved stardom in Tamil Cinema also had a meaningful stint in Hindi films. Padmini  was perhaps the first heroine, who found a status for herself as a longstanding heroine in the Tamil film industry.This was because,her contemporary heroine P. Banumathi was shuttling between Telugu and Tamil films, making a more vital impact on Telugu cinema,as  her mother tongue being Telugu. Anjalidevi was also in a similar position.
    After Padmini,it is known to all those well versed with information on Tamil films, that it was four other actresses who found an enviable place in Tamil Cinema, as the most outstanding heroines.They were,Savithri,Sarojadevi,K.R.Vijaya and J.Jeyalalitha. All the other heroines, despite some of them being greatly talented and being award winners, have stayed way far behind these four women.One of the vital objectives of this article is to throw light on the mettle of  some such heroines, whose contribution to Tamil Cinema could have been brief but solidly memorable.
    The value of a heroine till the mid Seventies, was in fact measured by their ability to withstand for a longer period, as the favoured heroines of MGR and Sivaji Ganesan.MGR's pet heroines from the middle Nineteen Fifties were,P.Banumathi,Sarojadevi,Jeyalalitha, Manjula and Latha. Here and there he would have made some adjustments for other heroines like Savithri K.R.Vijaya and Vanisree. Whereas Sivaji Ganesan had a huger list of heroines, with himself being cast as hero.Besides his most frequent heroines like Padmini,K.R.Vijaya and Jeyalalitha,he would have been paired with' heroines like Sowkar Janaki, Devika, Vanisree, Manjula and Usha Nandini,He would also have opted for younger heroines like, Sujatha, Srividhya,Sripriya, Saritha,Ambika and Radha.
    However,in spite of domination of heroes and hero based stories, once a way, there came films based on the importance and achievements of women.There were hits like Penn,Adhisia Penn, Adutha Veettu Penn,Naanum Oru Penn, Pudhumai Penn,Mangaiyar Thilagam, Bagyalakshmi, Kalathur Kannamma,Annai,Chithi,Kula Vilakku,Namma Veetu Lakshmi, Vaani Raani, Thaamarai Nenjam, ,Mayor Meenakshi,Vandhaale Maharaasi Avalukkenru Oer Manam, Aval Oru Thodar Kadhai and so on.There were also movies bearing women's name as titles such as Devaki,Dr.Savithri,Saratha, Karpagam, Malathi, Vaijayanthi IPS Pavithra and Bhavani.All these films distinctly and poignantly, presented the struggles and accomplishments of different types of women making a tremendous mark, both at the domestic fold and in their career field.The variety in story and character formation, handled with imagination and intelligence, by amazingly qualified film makers, made these films a wonderful treat for the viewers.
    Moreover, unlike MGR, in many of the Chevalier's films, the heroines would not remain as mere  glamour pieces but would substantially emote to claim their valued position, as heroines adorning meaningful roles.Films like Mangayar Thilagam, Iru Malargal,Kai Kodutha Dheivam, Engirundho Vandhaal,Savaale Samaali,Sivagaamiyin Selvan,Thillaanaa Mohanaambaal and Mudhal Mariyaadhai would prove the fact that Sivaji Ganesan would ever like to draw a line for competition and appreciate the talent of the heroines exhibited well in his films.
    Actresses like Devika and Vanisri made a telling impact on the Tamil audience for more than fifteen years, though they would not have ruled Tamil Cinema with more number of films,like K.R.Vijaya and Jeyalalitha.No one can forget Devika's sterling performance in films like Nenjil Oer Aalayam, Aandavan Kattalai,Karnan, Sumaithaangi and Vaazhkai Padagu.She had also acted in films like Paava Mannippu, Annai Illam,Muradan Muthu,Anbukkarangal,Pazhani and Bale Pandia with Sivaji Ganesan. The only movie she did as MGR's pair was Aanandha Jothi.She was known for admirable charm and grace, always fond of reflecting beautifully, the spirit of submissive womanhood.She could not be thought of playing feminist roles and she was a fascinating pair of Sivaji Ganesan,Gemini Ganesan and Muthuraman Notwithstanding her enchanting looks and subdued acting skills, she could not reach the status of heroine stardom.
    The other vibrant and  ebullient performer Vanisri deserves a commendable place for her remarkable performance in films like Uyarndha Manidhan,Vasantha Maaligai,Vaani Raani and Kulama Gunama.Resembling Savithri, in appearance and acting style, to a great extent, she was a perfect match for Sivaji Ganesan though she would have paired with Jai Shankar in more number of movies.She had also been the heroine of MGR, in films like Kannan En Kaadhalan,Thalaivan and Oorukku Uzhaippavan. But she is remembered for her exuberant performance in Balachander's beautiful films Velli Vizha and Thaamarai Nenjam[in which she and Sarojadevi as intimate friends, were trying to outwit each other in giving up their love interest for the sake of the other].She was a sparkling and sprightly performer, but unfortunately she focused more on Telugu films like P.Banumadhi.
    There were a few other heroines, who made a brief but brilliant stint in Tamil films.Take for instance,the National award winner Oorvasi Saradha, whose remarkable role performance in Thulaabaaram still remains green in our memory.In reflecting the mood of anguish and agony she remained unbeatable.Starting from Kungumam,she was seen growing up the ladder of acting, with an extraordinary strength to emote beautifully and powerfully. She acted as the younger sister of both Sivaji Ganesan{Gnana Oli}and MGR{Ninaithathai Mudippavan} and was last seen as the unwed mother of the Superstar in AVM's Mr.Bharath.
   There were two great Kannada artists who made a striking mark in the minds of the Tamil audience. They were Barathi Vishnuvardhan and Jeyanthi.The latter was a Balachander favourite and performed amazingly with the able guidance of her mentor, in films like Edhir Neechal, Punnagai,Iru Kodugal,Velli Vizha and Baamaa Vijayam. She could adeptly handle comic and grief stricken roles with equal efficacy and found a lasting place in Tamil Cinema, through her short but scintillating verbal throw and display of emotions. Her ever grumbling tone with a nasal touch, was her special asset.
    Bharathi was a perfect pair of Jai Shankar and Ravichandran. If B.Sarojadevi resembled Vijayanthi mala to some extent,Bharathi looked like Sarojadevi. Though she could not attain the dream girl status,Bharathi made a sterling performance in Avalukkenru Oer Manam,under the ace direction of Sridhar.She was the second heroine in MGR's Nadodi and was paired with Sivaji Ganesan in T.R.Ramanna's Thanga Surangam. But her Tamil dialogue delivery could not escape the intrusion of her mother tongue Kannada.She was also a favourite of the Malayalam film industry and made a striking role performance in Mohanlal's Narasimham.
   Saritha and Archana whose black complexion did not deter their classic levels of acting,were wonderfully groomed by directors like Balachander and Balu Mahendra.While Saritha got an an award for her unique show in Agni Saatchi,her other Balachander films like Achamillai Achamillai and Thanneer Thanneer were great hits.Later she did a remarkable role in Sivaji Ganesan's Keezh Vaanam Siakkum as the latter's daughter-in-law.Her belligerant performance in Mouna Geedhangal would have been a tough challenge for Bhagyaraj, the most cheerful face of Tamil Cinema.ForArchana,the award for her performance in Balu Mahendra's Veedu, was a highly deserving point.Both these women overcame their shortcomings in appearance by an admirable delivery of emotion -packed and refined performance of well- marked characters.
    Sowkar Janaki who also belongs to this category of less glamorous heroines, was never lagging behind men in her portrayal of highly challenging roles.In most of her roles, as Sivaji Ganesan's pair,she could noticeably give him tough times, in competing with him, in films like Padikkadha Medhai,Paar Magale Paar,Motor Sundaram Pillai,Paarthaal Pasitheerum and Uyarndha Manidhan.She would also have been a challenge for  Veteran K.Balachander in casually creating records  both as a sobre and comic performer in films like Iru Kodugal, Kaaviya Thalaivi, Edhir Neechal,Bhaama Vijayam and Thillu Mullu.I would call her an encyclopedia of acting, because her performance was a combination of modesty and arrogance,love and hatred,humour and grief.
    Kaanchana,whose beauty earned her a rightful place in Tamil Cinema,has acted with MGR, Sivaji and Gemini,though in MGR's films she was only the second heroine.Her best show was in movies of the thriller genre such as Adhe Kangal,Saanthi Nilayam and Ponnu Mappillai. Sivantha Mann with Sivaji Ganesan could be called her biggest show of performance with utmost reach.She was also good at the comedy spot, in films like Kaadhalikka Neramillai, Bhama Vijayam and Utharavinri Ulleva.She was the greatest scoring point of the mythological film Veera Abhimanyu.
     Lakshmi the other great performer, did not just remain a glamour piece though some of her earlier films with Sivakumar, Jaishankar and Ravichandran carried the glamour stamp.But she has to her credit, films like Jeevanaamsam,Mannippu,Kannippenn,Nootrukku Nooru, Veettukku Veedu, Akkarai Pachai,Unakkaaga Naan,Thiaagam and the most magnificent list of movies like Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal,Oru Nadigai Naadgam Paarkiraal,Sirai and Samsaaram Adhu zminsaaram.No other actress can display a mood of suppressed emotions as enchantingly as Lakshmi.Even Sujatha and Sri Vidhya will occupy only the second position in this regard.
    Successive heroines like Sujatha,Srividhya, Jeyachitra Sumithra,Sridevi and Sri Priya held the stage for more than a decade as popular heroines of Tamil Cinema.Of these Sridevi created a magic spell in Kamalahasan's films like Padhinaaru Vayadhinile, Moonru Mudichu,Sigappu Rojaakkal, Varumaiyin Niram Sigappu, Moonraam Pirai[one of her best roles] and Vaazhve Maayam.She would have acted the maximum number of films with Kamalahasan as Padmini and K.R.Vijaya did with Sivaji Ganesan. But later she moved to Bollywood to succeed the dream girl status of Hemamalini,for a while.Excepting Dharma Yudham and Jaani,her films with Rajinikanth were more on the glamour side.May be, if she had stayed back with the Tamil film industry she would have attained a place equal to that of K.R.Vijaya and Jeyalalitha. Her prominence in Bollywood literally pulled her away from Tamil Cinema,
    Though Sujatha and Sripriya firmly stuck to the ground realities of acting,Sujatha like Sri Vidhya and Sumithra took up mother roles faster and Sri Priya who after a dozen big entries with Kamal and Rajini almost bade goodbye to Cinema.Similarly Jeyachitra was a part of quite a few successful films of Jai Shankar [mostly comedies] and Sivakumar [Sollathaan Ninaikirein Ponnukku Thanga Manasu and Vellikkizhamai Viradham need a special mention]left the centre stage after a decade of busy acting schedule, to reappear later as the arrogant mother of heroines in a couple of films.
     From Nineteen Eighties onward,there was an exodus of actresses claiming special heroine status based on looks, aptitude and motivation for performance in terms of grace, glamour, emotion and courage .Some of them like Ambika, Radha, Radhika, Revathi, Meena, Kushbu, Simran and Jyothika got themselves imprinted in the minds of the audience as favourites and passionate symbols of woman- hood. Other actresses like Sulakshana,Sukanya, Poornima Jeyaram, Suhasini, Ramya Krishnan Suvalakshmi, Devayani and Kausalya, who made themselves compactly impressive in traditional roles, soon settled down in family life or moved to other film industries like Malayalam or Telugu. Sulakshana's Thooral Ninnupochu, Sukanya's Walter Vetrivel and Chinna Gounder,Poornima's Darling Darling and Thanga Magan,Suhasini's Gopurangal Saaivadhillai and Sindhu Bhairavi, Suvalakshmi's Aaasai and Devayani's Kaadhal Kottai and Suriya Vamsam are their special entries not only for their personal remembrance but for the memory of the Tamil audience.Several others like Sneha and Trisha known for their cute looks of feminine fitness have not yet made any special impact on account of yet wanting to do roles of significance and value.
    While Ambika's initial, innings were similar to that of Sri Vidhya, she had more opportunities to perform well, in films like Sakalakala Vallaban,Andha Yezhu Naatkal,Naan Paadum Paadal, Padikkadhavan and Vaazhkai,the film in which she was paired with Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan, Radha who created a telling impact in her very first film Alaigal Oivadhillai continued her journey on the glamour side with actors like Rajinikant,Kamalahasan,Karthik and Sathyaraj. But the film Mudhal Mariyadhai with Sivaji Ganesan established the fact that she was an excellent actor supported by strength of emotions and feminine independence.Her other great film was Engeyo Kettakural with Rajinikanth,at the initial spell of her acting career.
     Rathika was literally a firebrand during the beginning period of her acting journey.But her subdued acting grandeur got a face lift in films like Ninaivu Chinnam,Poonthotta Kaaval kaaran, Nallavanukku Nallavan,Sippikkul Muthu,Thaavani Kanavugal,Keladi Kanmani, Kizhakku Cheemaiyile, and Pasumpon.Her fiery acting stamina, was beautifully displayed in films like Oorkaavalan,Poisaatchi and Jeans. 
    Revathi ,one of the finest R heroines of Bharathiraja,could be called an outstanding performer like Lakshmi,with regard to suppressing emotions but at the same time setting her firm ground of powerful feminine stand well understood, through her focused  role delivery. Films like Man Vaasanai,Pudhumai Penn,Kizhakku Vaasal,Mouna Raagam,Devar Magan,and Marubadiyum are the hallmarks of her power of feminist grace expressed either clearly or in a subtle style.At the same time, films like Oru Kaidhiyin Diary and Punnagai Mannanan would demonstrate her capacity for smart portrayal of roles.In reflecting pathos she would stand out as  the best, in films like Kai Kodukkum Kai and Vaidhehi Kaathirundhaal.
     Simran and Jyothika are the other two impressive heroines of Tamil Cinema.Simran was of course more on the glamour side but in expressing suppressed anguish and anger she has expressed a special identity for herself through films like Thullaadha Manamum Thullum, Vaali,Kannedhire Thonrinaal, Arasu,Ezhumalai and Natpukkaaga.Her proven dancing credentials were an asset to Tamil cinema like those of Ramba.Jyothika has ever been her original stuff in powerful delivery of emotions and dialogues in the line of Savithri and K.R.Vijaya. Her performance in Chandramugi, Mozhi and 36 Vayadhinile, are her best scores.She is one actress capable of evoking a mood of self dignity of womanhood in the midst of grief and a sense of longing for being accepted for what she deserves, as an individual, rather than as a woman treated on conditions of gender equations.
     Kushbu has  been adored in Tamil Nadu as a wonderful actress of brilliant charm and glamour and her roles in films like Chinna Thambi,Annamalai,Varusham 16,Kizhakku Vaasal Naattaamai and several others have made her part and parcel of the Tamil soil, though her origins belong to the Northern part of India. Meena a distinguished  heroine of sweetness, charm and mellowed mode of acting, has been a fascinating part of Tamil Cinema from her childhood.As a child artist,she won the hearts of the audience, through her captivating performance in Anbulla Rajinikanth, as the Superstar's fan and later co starred with him, in films like Ejamaan,Veera and Muthu.Her enchanting appearance could be tagged to her roles in films like Sethupathi IPS, Maaman Magal,Muthu,Avvai Shanmugi and Harischandra.As a modest character she has been fine in Bharathi Kannamma,Oru Oorla Oru Rajakumari and Aanandha Poongaatre.She has sufficiently proved that she is a right mix of grace, modesty, sweetness and glamour.Malayalam Cinema has been meaningfully utilizing her talents and her latest entry in this regard, is her charming and impressive role play in Drishyam.
    Whereas Roja and Ramba have been categorically on the glamour track, though the former has come out with creditable performance in films like Unnidathil Ennai Koduthein,Maakal Aatchi and Vallal.The new millennium has a long list of newer addition of heroines getting into the groove of genuine carry forward the objectives of Tamil Cinema to more challenging heights and greater glory.Two dynamic actresses whom this blog would like to glorify are Fadafat Jeyalakshmi and Soundarya,who died young.
    Though the world is by and large in the grip of macho might and grip,many women have shown that they are as great as an MGR or Sivajiganesan,a Rajinikanth  or Kamalahasan a Vijay or Ajith.But most of these heroines could not see their one hundredth film as heroes do. What we need is a frequent release of purely heroine- oriented films, with a  hearty thrust on the prominence of womanhood, in forming the story base and characters that could outshine the role of heroes.
    But such things happen rarely, like oasis in a desert.It is the lack of adaptability for and acceptance of,what a heroine deserves, that pulls her down to the secondary position.That is why, we have no heroines but heroes. That is why, we have not frequently come across immortal heroines like Padmini, Savithri, Sarojadevi, K.R.Vijaya and Jeyalaitha.It is this immortality that will give meaning and status to the heroines of Tamil Cinema.Otherwise the status of heroines will stay where it is,just on the cosmetic line of film making, adding fleeting moments of glory to the physical side of womanhood, at the cost of its emotional and intellectual niceties.