Thursday, March 2, 2017

Treatment of the Theme of Competition, in Tamil Films


     Competition is a healthy yardstick for measuring human excellence, reflected in performance of knowledge,skill and talent.When it comes to the exposition of creative confidence and revelation of substance,competition holds a very important position.Films have quite often visited the theme of competition in a particular field of activity, between  individuals talented in the same field,for a realistic assessment of how much the individuals are capable of in achieving their creative goals and how they do it differently and more competently than others.It may be in the form of a lyrical or musical or dance competition or a song contest as a stage performance.Some times the competitive vigor would form a vital part of the story as the main or sub plot.The objective of this article is to focus on such competitive contexts in Tamil Cinema, witnessed by the audience as a separate unforgettable event, or as the main theme of the whole movie.
    Decades ago the historical Tamil film "Tenaly Raman"abounded in lyrical competitions between Tenaly Ramakrishna,who had the most creative brain to counter poetic challenges from anybody,and a wide section of poets, notorious for their creative arrogance. Sivaj Ganesan as Tenaly Raman excelled in every scene with his flair for creativity, evenly mixed with mischief.It was a perfect film in terms of its aesthetic dimensions and dedication to presentation of historical details.The film directed by B.S.Renga came out both in Telugu and Tamil and was released in 1956.In the Telugu version A.Nageswara Rao donned the role of Tenaly Raman. The other fact to be mentioned here is that all the  verses meant for competition were either spoken or read out and not sung by the participants.    
    Within a decade, two more films were released celebrating scenes of music competitions with challenging lines thrown to each other by the competing voices.Both were Sivaji Ganesan films. The first one Bale Pandia which hit the screens in 1962 contained a scene of hilarious competition between Sivaji Ganesan and M.R.Radha and both of them were shown as singing the song "Neeye Unakku Enrum Nigaraanavan".The four pillars of the song that made it a monumental scene of the film were,the lines of great Kannadasan,the stentorian voice of T.M.S in association with M.Raju,the exquisite musical composition of Viswanathan and Ramamurthy and the delightful demonstration of singing by Sivaji Ganesan and Radha. Even now, the great song reverberates creating sweet memories of a laugh -it-out competition.
     Fifteen months after this Padmini Pictures' film,the audience had the pleasure of watching a scene of musical contest between Sivaji Ganesan and Sharadha in the film Kungumam produced by Sivaji Ganesan's home production unit, the Rajamani Pictures. The song "Sinnanjiriya Vannapparavai" from the magnificent voices of TMS and S.Janaki was considered to be a grand show of music under the composition of the veteran music composer K.V.Mahadhevan.The high pitch notes of the song as in Neeye Unakku Enrum Nigaraanavan,was the most impressive aspect of the song. S.Janaki,the queen of high pitch notes made the song live long.
    Then came the unforgettable film called Vaanambaadi starring S.S.Rajendran and Devika. The film was produced by the illustrious lyricist Kannadasan and directed by G.R.Nathan. Released in 1963,the film had dialogues and screenplay by well known writer Valamburi Somanathan It was a beautiful film known specially for its rich musical quotient,depth of story line and portrayal of characters.In that memorable film, there came a poetry competition in which the hero and heroine would participate and render their competitive verses through the presentation of a song that would begin as follows."Aan Kaviyai Vellavandha Penn Kaviye Varuga" The audience would have come across the aesthetic deliberation of vigorous competition through words that would have both entertained and enlightened their imagination. Incidentally,it was K.V.Mahadhevan who composed music for this song too.
    Two important films included dance competition scenes as a part of the story line and this particular portion made the two films fit for  more enjoyable watching.One was the MGR starring Natesh Arts' Mannaadhi Mannan{1960} wherein the ebullient mass hero vied with the enchanting dancer Padmini to make the contest vigorous and worthy.But the best in the history of Tamil Cinema was the stiff competition between Vyjayanthimala and Padmini in Gemini Studios' Vanjikottai Vaaliban{1958} that beautifully projected both the dancers trying to outshine each other through their stupendous show of dancing potential.It created the most brilliant film -watching experience for the audience, stamping memories of an incomparable presentation of an art form, in its consummate proportion.
    Scenes showing competition between song and dance were equally exciting for the viewers in quite a few other films.The most remarkable scene in this context was the one shown in Sivaji Ganesan's Irumalargal in which Padmini was found doing the peacock dance for the song Madhavi Ponmayilaal Thogaivirithaal.The mighty voice of TMS,the dancing energy levels of Padmini and the equally fitting lip movements and body language of Sivaji Ganesan made the scene an inexhaustible visual treat. A similar contest between dance and vocal grandeur was witnessed in K.S Ravikumar's Padayappa showing the Superstar and Remya Krishnan in duet -cum- dance  competition for the song Minsaara Kanna. Though it could not be matched with the previous categories of classic performance it was truly entertaining.
    The greatest attempt at showcasing the competitive spirit between individuals bound to their career aspirations and performance ability was strikingly made in the film Thillaanaa Mohanaambaal directed by the A.P.Nagarajan reputed for his traditional fervor and cultural moorings.The whole movie was a tug of war between a Naadhaswara Vidhvaan Sikkal Shanmugasundaram,played by Sivaji Ganesan and the classical dancer Mohanaambaal portrayed by Padmini.Apart from being a romantic narration, the film poignantly drew the two artists to their highest level of competition towards establishing the supremacy of the two arts that they professed. A.P.Nagarajan's  other film Saraswathi Sabadham delineated the high spirited competitions among the goddesses ,Saraswathi Lakshmi and Shakthi to prove which was the most powerful force on mankind among knowledge,wealth and bravery.The very title of Sivaji Ganesan's most successful films like Savaale Samaali, Pattikkaadaa Pattanama,Rajinikanth's Mannan and Kamalahasan's Savaal carried the intrinsic layers of competition which were dynamically dramatized through powerful dialogues and action core.While the first three were challenges thrown between conjugal pairs,the last was a jovial tug of war between two brothers,separated in childhood.
    Apart from competitions of these kinds,there were some special movies focused on bets and challenges between the protagonists and other characters over issues and problems of life and the prevalence of justice and truth.Two special movies that dealt with conflicts between the power of wealth and the fight for self dignity were K.S.Gopalakrishnan's Panama Pasama and K.Balachander's Poova Thalaya. Though both the films appeared to be thematically identical there was a lot of difference in the treatment of the theme, course of events under narration and mode of characterization, thanks to the direct narrative approach of K.S.G and the subtle directorial perceptions of K.B.Interestingly in both the films, it was S.Varalakshmi the veteran actress, who effectively donned the role of the rich and raucous mother-in-law
    Similarly,women were shown as demonstrating the strength  of truth against falsehood in films like Sabatham and Mayor Meenakshi. In both the films the woman protagonist who fought for truth was K.R.Vijaya and the face of falsehood was represented by T.K.Bagavadhi in the former  and V.K.Ramasamy in the latter. K.R.Vijaya carried a similar battle against the untruth of the capitalist force in the film Enna Mudalaali Sowkiyama and in this film Major Sundarajan played the role of the capitalist.Films like Vaazhndhu Kaatugiren, Vaazhvu en Pakkam and Pudhumai Penn delineated the feminist force confidently competing with male domination In this regard, Sujatha Cine Arts' Vidhi' was a wonderful movie in powerfully presenting how women could fight a tooth and nail battle to prove that they were wronged by a male dominated society..
    The gusto of rivalry between the erring father and the redeeming son was the main focus of AVM's Mr.Bharath. Both Satyaraj and Rajinikanth as father and son energetically demonstrated the extent to which they could go, in out beating the other's objective.While the father's goal was absolutely negative the son's end point was born of justice and redemption.It was an excellent display of the competitive mood  permeating throughout the course of narration that included the most memorable song sequence "Ennamma Kannu Sowkiyama?"{"Hi my dear,are you all right?"}Rajinikanth's another film that depicted the competitive note was Netrikann in which Rajinikanth played  dual roles as a notorious womanizing father and a decent and respectable son.Unlike other action movies or family dramas films on challenges and competitions would transmit higher levels of tempo and enable the audience to enjoy the high voltage drama, provided the film had a strong skit emphatically narrated through the role play of a powerfully suitable cast.