Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Last Century's Sparkling Child Artistes of Tamil Cinema.





Child artists of cinema, generally bring cheers to the audience, because of their fine flashes of innocence and their beautifully formed performance skills.Tamil cinema has always been beaming with child talents taking the audience by surprise.In the current scenario exposure to theatrical experience is easier for children thanks to the availability of television channels. Today,children make wonders as singers,dancers, speakers and actors.But in the last century things were not easy, because stage and cinema were the only options available.Under these restrictive circumstances, there grew young performers bringing remarkable credit and name to Tamil Cinema.Among boys,there were Kamalahasan,Master Rajkumar,Master Sekar,Master Sridhar and Master Prabhakar. The notable child artists among girls were,Kutti Padmini,Roja Ramani, Baby Sridhevi Baby Shakhila,Baby Rani and Baby Indhira. Of these,excepting Kamalahasan and Sridevi,others are remembered only for their childhood performance.
    Kamalahasan's childhood cinema days, were evenly divided among the top stars of those days.As a child artiste, he acted one movie each with Sivaji Ganesan{Paarthaal Pasitheerum} M.G.R {Ananda Jodhi} and S.S.Rajendran
{Vaanambadi}.He did his first film Kalathoor Kannama and later Padhakanikkai with Gemini Ganesan. His passion for thespian excellence was firmly rooted to these films with clarity and force in dialogue delivery.There were also noticeable symptoms of independence and aggressiveness,towards taking him inseparably closer to the celluloid mode, as an uncompromising actor.His creative voice was deeply imprinted for future promises.
    Master Rajkumar gave a stunning performance as the dumb and deaf son of Gemini Ganesan in A.V.M Pictures' mega hit family drama Ramu. So natural was his plight as the speech and hearing impaired, that it reflected the ripeness of a radiant performer.Master Sekar who was introduced in M G R's block buster film Kudiyirundha Koil, later acted in MGR's Annamitta Kai and Idhaya Veenai.He had also done a role in Sivaji Ganesan's Vani Rani. Master Sekar showed extraordinary dynamism in acting and made a couple of films like Anadadhai Anandan and Manippayal  live in the memories of film goers on account of his impeccable  performance.The first one was an AVM release and was based on Charles Dickens' famous novel Oliver Twist. Sekar played the title role of the orphan boy Oliver in that film.The  second film was a Sathya Movies' release and ran successfully because of its thematic content and story value. Sekar rightly fitted into the main role and received accolades for his sprightly show. Besides these, his role performance in the film Kattila Thotila was also noteworthy. 
   Master Sridhar was the most graceful child artiste and so he became the frequently preferred actor, for roles in mythological and spiritual films such as Karnan {as Meghanadhan}Kandan Karunai {as child Muruga} Dasaavadhaaram{as Prince Laksmanan}Nambinaar Keduvadhillai, Mupperum Dheviyar and Vetri Vinayagar{as Naradhar}.Introduced in the Veenai Balachandar film Avana Ivan, he continued to act in films like Marakka Mudiyuma,Kurathi Magan, Panathukkaaga and Krodham.
 Master Sridhar did one of his best roles in the film Dheiveega Uravu starring  Jai Shankar and Devika.As a responsible and protective adolescent elder brother of his little sister, Master Sreedhar exceeded everyone's expectation in a splendid role play. Sridhavar was known for his elegant acting with soft and controlled delivery of dialogues  contrary to Master Sekar, whose force of dialogue delivery was ever a clean sweep.Incidentally both Master Sridhar and Master Sekar had acted as the sons of Sivaji Ganesan and Vanisri in the memorable film Nalladhoru Kudumbam.
   Master Prabhakar was of a mischievous brand, who cast lasting impressions by his chuckle and cheeky delivery of dialogues.He created a special place for himself through his meritorious performance in the two A.P.Nagarajan films Thirumalai Thenkumari and Va Raja Va.He was an endearing child artiste and it was his lovely looks and demonstration of pranks that took him closer to the audience.He joined Master Sekar in Anadhai Anandan and Master Sridhar in Marakka Mudiyuma. His other important entry is for the film Engalukkum Kalam Varum. 
  There was another male child artiste called Pakoda Kadher who generated roars of laughter as the thumb sucking  son of a Brahmin couple, [played by the most talented comedy script writer and actor A.Veerappan and Achi Manorama},frequently demanding the snack Pakoda, in the great road comedy film Madras to Pondicherry. His fatness and sluggish way of talking fetched him a unique place, as an extraordinary child comedian.It was my personal opinion that his looks and acting mode were similar to those of the burly comedian T.S.Dorairaj.
   Among the girl child artistes Sridhevi who established fame as an award winning actress of grace and charm, could reach Bollywood status, glorifying the throne of stardom.Her performance with Kamalahasan and Rajinikanth created records of kind.But the two boy roles that she donned as a child artiste in Thunaivan{as Child Muruga} and Nam Naadu {as the cute younger brother of Kutti Padmini }will be specially remembered for the charm and glory of innocence.
   The other five child artist girls are celebrated more for their roles as amazing performers of  childhood grandeur.Of these, Kutti Padmini who started acting as a three year old kid in Abalai Anjugam went on to act nearly fifty films until her mid thirties.Her most remembered  films as child artiste are Dheiva Piravi,Nenjil Oer Aalayam, Kaathirundha Kangal {as young Savithri in dual roles} Avana Ivan, Pasamalar, Navarathiri,Asai Alaigal,Naam Namnadu,Motor Sundaram Pillai,Sadhu Mirandaal and the ever outstanding Kuzhandhaiyum Dheivamum. 
    With her bold eyes and devil -may- care dialogue delivery,Kutti Padmini always cast a spell of her roles with consummate energy and fascinating perfection.Several grown up actors were found wanting in courage, to tackle her invincible grasp of role delivery.If as a pathetic girl laid up with a fatal illness, she brought tears in Nenjil Oer Aalayam,as an ebullient character in Nam Nadu,Sadhu Mirandal  and Kuzhadhaiyum Dheivamum,her boldness created a sense of awe and surprise. No one can forget the way she bullied her grandmother G.Varalakshmi in Kuzhandhaiyum Dheivamum.In dual roles, she clearly marked a note of difference in performing the role of twins.She could rightly be called the most invincible child artiste of Tamil Cinema.
     Unlike Kutti Padmini her close contemporary Roja Ramani was an incarnation of docile and subdued feminine passivity.Though she performed as a grown up actress in films like Vayasu Ponnu and M.G.R's Neethikku Thalai Vanangu [both were great films}it was her role performance as a child artiste in films like Iru Malarkal,En Magan,Edhiroli and Enga Mama that would stand to her credit.Incidentally,all the four were Sivaji Ganesan films.Besides these, Roja Ramani stole our hearts by performing the role of the boy,Praghaladha son of Hiranya Kasibu in the A.V.M film Baktha Pragaladha, dubbed into Tamil from Telugu.Very cute and nonchalant she was,saying 'narayanamantram' purposely to irritate Hiranya who was a proclaimed hater of Lord Vishnu.When anyone thinks of Prkaladha it would be the profile of Roja Ramani that would stand before them.
     The other child artiste Baby Shakeela with her beaming eyes and brilliant dialogue delivery was a treat to watch, in films like Iru Vallavarkal Enga Veetu Pillai,Kannithai, and Kuzhandhai Ullam. Her prattling Tamil  was an added attraction to her cute looks.As Nambiyar's kid and MGR's niece, the way she showed fear for her father and love for her maternal uncle, was an inimitable sample of toddlers performing roles, with ease and spontaneity.But the same kid reflected exemplary courage and vigor in a boy role as R.S.Manohar's son in Modern Theaters' Iru Vallavarkal. It was the same way Baby Rani essayed her roles in the films Kuzhandhaik kaaga and Kanne Papa.Following them,there came Baby Indira whose acting dynamism was equal to that of Kutti Padmini in terms of sharp looks and sharper utterances, performed brilliantly in films like Kadavul Mama,Doctoramma,Pinju Manam,Thaliya Salangaiya, Unakkaaga Naan, Unmaiye Un Vilai Enna and Idho Endhan Dheivam, to mention a few.Later as a grown up actor she was seen in the films of Bhakiyaraj and Rajinikanth. She is another child artiste to find a lasting place in the archives of Tamil Cinema.
     As I said earlier, in the contemporary world  we have a large line of child artistes doing excellent rounds in various fields of talent exposition.Today the openings are many and the contenders for excellence are also many. I have purposely left out today's prominent actors Meena and Simbu, who were also once commanding child artists.This is because, they belong to the succeeding generation and  my focus is only on the child artists of the Nineteen Sixties and  Seventies. I would have left out a few names here, due to lapse of memory.I would have referred only to a few films of the proud children of Tamil Cinema.I think my forgetfulness has to be apologetic for these omissions.Barring Kamal and Sridhevi, who have established an immortal place for themselves in the broad spectrum of Indian cinema, all the others mentioned in this article, remain today a forgotten lot.Hence,I make this article  a singular tribute from my side, to those less remembered but greatly talented child artistes of Tamil cinema, of the last century and I record  my tribute as a special memento to them,on this year's children's day. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Impersonation of Characters in Tamil Cinema.


      Themes of Cinema are mostly based on what happens to man and society or what is made to happen by them.Human imagination grasps a particular theme,depending upon the film maker's interest and evolves it into a process of narration,with events and characters.In making up a story,some times there may be more themes being put together by the narrator,either for the sake of necessity or convenience.For instance,a theme like impersonation,may become the core of a story that warrants it,or an intermingling layer to support another main theme,either as an indispensable factor,or an additional feature of entertainment.Impersonation has been handled as an effective theme in Tamil Cinema,from its inception.
      Impersonation can happen in cinema as it happens in real life,for fun,or for furtherance of one's motives.Though impersonation and disguise are two different things, impersonation also at times seeks the help of disguise,if the dramatic situation makes it mandatory.If characters have to hide their original identity as a precondition,then they have to get into the identity that they have to represent.On the other hand, if the identity of the character that is impersonated,is not known to anybody and if it has to be established through  some identity marks such as a tattoo or a mole, disguise becomes an unnecessary exercise.
     For instance, an action thriller like the film Naan directed by T.R.Ramanna and released in the mid Nineteen Sixties was a great hit,because of the theme of impersonation necessitated by its story line,focusing on the return of the son of a rich man, lost as a kid years ago whose identity could be established only by the presence of a big mole on his back. Knowing this fact, three youths attempt to impersonate as the lost son, by creating an artificial mole on their backs.While one of them comes with pecuniary motives  the other two, come just for fun or for the purpose of detecting  the whereabouts of the original son.The interesting twist of the story is that the real son is hidden somewhere by one of the three impersonators and his gang.It was a movie with sense and suspense and was received very well for its tempo and the way the theme of impersonation was handled, besides its rich quantum of entertainment.The film also had a huge cast of energetic actors like Ravichandran, Jeyalalitha, R.Muthuraman, Nagesh, S.A.Asokan,R.S.Manohar and Manorama.
     A newer movie of this millennium with the same title Naan showed music director Vijay Antony, impersonating one of his co-passengers on a bus,who is killed among many others in a major  road accident that the bus undergoes.As Vijay Antony luckily escapes with minor bruises, he uses the ID card of the dead fellow passenger and  fixes his photo there,in order to settle down in life, through his false identity.The remaining course of events of the film illustrates the inevitable curse of impersonation that the hero has to suffer, by way of compunction and humiliation.. 
      A similar story line of the earlier Naan,was found in one of Rajinikanth's early hits Adutha Varisu produced by Dwarakish and directed by S.P.Muthuraman.In this film it was the legal heiress to a rich Zameen lost in her childhood,who had to be impersonated, by the greedy relatives of the queen of the Zameen and in this process, the hero [played by Rajinikanth} unwittingly helps the gang by bringing a nomad girl {Sridevi}to impersonate as the legal heiress.As usual here too, it was a tattoo mark that was relied upon to establish the identity of the Zameendar's lost daughter.However as a twist in the story, it is later known that the person who impersonates is the true heiress to the Zameen.The hero then gives up his bounty hunting habit and decides to safeguard the interests of the heiress as well as her zameen.
    Twins impersonating each other either for the sake of rivalry or concern for the other twin,has been witnessed as one of the regular features in several films.The rivalry might be due to an itch for snatching power and position from one's twin brother or sister.It might also be due to the fact that both the twins would have fallen in love with the same person.The first category was beautifully pictured in Venus Pictures' Uthama Puthiran' wherein,the twin princes of a kingdom fight for the throne,one with a bad character brought up by the maternal uncle and the other struggling to gain control over governance, to restore the kingdom and its people from ruin.
    Sivaji Ganesan in dual roles, brilliantly performed as twins with their distinctly contradictory characteristics of wickedness and nobility. M.N.Nambiyar as the notorious maternal uncle,did a neat job for his role.The story line had a perpetual appeal so as to revisit it in a humorous perspective,through another film.This humorous version of the same story was filmed by Simbudevan, with Vadivelu playing the lead and it also carried an amusing title called Imsai Arasan Irubathi Moonraam Pulikesi,In both the films, impersonation was resorted to by both the twins, raising the tempo of narration to exciting levels.
    Impersonation for the sake of one's love interest became an interesting factor of films like Kaathirundha Kangal, and Vaali. While in the first  film it was the heroine as one of the twin sisters who impersonates, in Vaali it is the hero,who as the elder twin with his evil mind, attempts to molest his younger brother's wife.Whereas in Kaathirundha Kangal  one of the twin sisters makes use of the situation favorable to her and marries her twin sister's lover,whom she too loves.But she undergoes the trauma of guilt to a great extent and is forced to face the consequences of the suppression of the fact of her impersonation.
    A sense of barbarity prevailed in films like M.K.Radha's Aboorva Sagodhararkal and its later version of M.G.R's Neerum Neruppum,taking one of the two brothers on a devilish track,with temptations for impersonation.Whereas in films like Enga Veettu Pillai,Vaani Rani, Kudiyirundha Koil ,Irulum Oliyum and Thoongadhe Thambi Thoongaadhe, it was the good intention of one of the twins to save the other from their sufferings and unfavorable environment that formed the crux of impersonation.In these cases, impersonation became an inevitable solution to the problems faced by one of the twins,by helping them to restore their rights of identity,as well as the dignity in their position that they deserved.In Kudiyirundha Koil, it vitally helped one of the twins to redeem the other from the gangster world.
   Similarly,persons looking alike happen to get into the position of the other,in order to save them from an unjust imprisonment or unexpected sudden death.Films like Maattukkaara Velan, and Rajadhi Raja showed one of the two persons looking exactly alike, helping the other to come out of a critical position in their life.Whereas in Sandhitha Velai,of two guys looking alike,one of them has to replace the other,as per the other's request at death time,and carry on the latter's business and look after his family, living everyday on tenterhooks.
    There are cases of impersonation caused by the vagaries of individuals refusing to adhere to the parental yardsticks of discipline.Such a treatment of impersonation, was handled both deftly and hilariously, in films like Sabash Meena and Ullathai Allithaa.Both the films were super hits of comedy shows with Sivaji Ganesan joining hands with Chandrababu and Karthik Muthuraman with Goundamani, opening the gates to  incessant bouts of laughter.At times,men and women have to impersonate in each other's gender either for necessity or for the sake of humor.In films based on royal stories either the heroine or her female aid would go in the guise of men depending upon exigencies that warranted such an impersonation.This has regularly happened in Tamil cinema,during its formative years, as an effective dramatic necessity.
    Whereas,men have stepped into the profiles of women to fulfill their objectives of romantic celebration, or family reunion.Impersonation for this purpose was focused in films like Aanazhagan,Maaman Magal  and Avvai Shanmugi.In the first two films Prashanth and Satyaraj resorted to impersonation to get closer to their women, whom they loved. While in the first Prashant got into the guise of a young woman in Maman Magal Sathyaraj had to impersonate as the mother of the hero {himself} to move closer to his woman. However, in Avvai Shanmugi, Kamalahasan disguises himself as an elderly female aid and goes to the house of his wife, who is seeking a divorce from him.The movie fascinatingly showcased Kamal's pranks and earnest efforts in getting reunited with his wife and daughter.Both Maman Mahal and Avvai Shanmugi took the audience to the height of laughter with Avvai Shanmugi surpassing the other.
   Satyaraj impersonates in another movie as an old man for the purpose of getting a job in an estate.This was beautifully pictured with a lot of humor creating instant laughter.The film Nadikan robustly created hilarious moments, with Satyaraj and Goundamani teaming up as the most competitive deceptive guys. Kamalahasan's Kadhala Kadhala,was almost a hilarious ride of rib tickling impersonation.There was also a solid case for serial impersonation,in the film 'London'directed by Sundar.C. In this film with immense scope for comedy, impersonation contributed to frequent bouts of laughter,while at the same time taking an old, visually challenged couple for a ride.
   From my memory,I could recall some notable instances of the deft handling of impersonation in Tamil Cinema, reflecting a variety of creative perceptions. From what I have recalled, one could understand that the concept of impersonation, has widely attracted the creative imagination of Tamil film makers.It is also an indisputable phenomenon, that this specific theme has equally inspired the audience to a great extent, as an enchanting dimension of their film watching experience.