Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Classical Trinity of Music, in Movie Mode.


     Tamil Cinema has not only travelled far ahead, on ever-changing highways and exits, but has also deviated to a considerable extent,from the cherished dimensions of themes,both in story line and music.Today,film music has become more unconventional than even themes of story lines and their narrative techniques. Everyone is quite sure that today's film music will hardly outlive its time, because of its ephemeral ingredients.But the epic grandeur of Tamil film music, still holds good on account of its classic foundation, firmly rooted to Carnatic music.In fact, the effervescence of music began to rule Tamil Cinema, from the pre-independent years, dating back to the early Nineteen Forties.There existed mighty voices of men and women making Tamil cinema relevant, more on account of vocal music than anything, including the script and its narration.
    Among women there were three monumental voices with a peerless wield of range and throw, immensely reverberating the essence and excellence of Carnatic music. Of the the three women,the first two were born during the same decade{1910 to 1920}and the third was born in the next decade{1928}.They were Madhurai Shanmugavadivu Subbulakshmi, Damal Krishnasamy Pattammaal and Madras Lalitangi Vasanthakumari, who were proudly called the Female Trinity of Carnatic Music.
     With no knowledge of Carnatic music,besides having been born much later, when compared to them, I really stand at a point of disadvantage to speak about their myriad musical  mastery. But actors like MGR and T.R.Mahalingam were also born during the two decades cited and this blog carries articles on them.So I decided to adorn my blog with a tribute to these three  women, with an exclusive reference to their contribution to Tamil Cinema, which was purely a sequel to their dedication to Carnatic music.I thought I could speak of them in my own way with my limited scope and knowledge of these early musical charmers of Tamil Cinema.
    The point of difference that keeps the first two singers on the one side and the third musical voice on the other, is not only a span of ten years, but also the fact that while the first two women chose to sing only for five and a dozen movies respectively, the third singer would have succeeded them as playback singer, for nearly one hundred films that include her Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada entries.The other notable fact is that of these three women, it was M.S.Subbulakshmi who acted as the heroine of five great films, Sevasadhanam, Savithri, Sakuntala,Meera and Meerabai {Hindi remake of Meera}of which the last three were directed by the eminent American director Ellis. R. Dungan. 
   M.S.S was called 'the queen of music' by Pandit Nehru,the first Prime Minister of India.She was an awardee of several titles including the most coveted Bharat Ratna that gloriously crowned her in 1998,six years before her demise.Her probing voice pattern,mastery over Carnatic music and her most enviable singing ability made her an outstanding performer of all times.God seemed to speak to the human soul through her divinely dignified voice, not only in her perfect delivery of Venkateswara Suprabhatam,Vishnu Sahasranaamam,Bhaja Govindam, and Kuraiyonrumillai Maraimurthy Kanna, but also through her felicitous singing of film songs like'Kaatrinile Varum Geetham''Brindhavanathil Kannan Valarndha''Giridhara Gopala'{all from Meera}and"Engum Nirainaadha Brammhame '{Shakuntala}.
     My most favoured songs of M.S.S are,'Kuraiyonrumillai Maraimurthy Kanna'and 'Kaatrinile Varum Geetham'.The latter, I believe, would neatly transport us into a world of absolute  ecstasy.There is a deep sense of longing reflected at the beginning of the song, with the nuances of the fabulous voice, travelling through multi layers of emotions and culminating with a state of union with Peace.It is a kind of song that pierces the soul and heals it with simultaneous hitting and soothing notes.What more can a God sent voice do, other than absolving one's mind of all its curse and offering it consummate joy, parallel to bliss?A voice becomes a legend with its inner rhythms, rightly laid by the breath of divinity.It is this spiritual intricacy that has made the voice of M.S.Subbulakshmi, the most desired of all voices and the one closer to the threshold of the Sanctum Sanctorum.
    The voice of D.K. Pattammaal is on the other hand bound to the soil, as one purifying the air we breathe in,the water we drink,the earth we are born on and the fire that passes through our emotions.Moreover,her perfect and exquisite rendition of Pallavis, rightly earned her the title Pallavi Pattammaal. If M.S.S could sing to the ears of God,D.K.P could lift her voice up to the skies and sing in praise of her country and the national flag.Hers was a bold patriotic voice and hence the songs of Maha Kavi Subramanya Bharathi, gained greater impetus and the power of patriotism,through her inspiring voice.
    Apart from her song 'Dhesa Sevai Seyya Vareer'{Thiyaaga Bhoomi},which was written by Kalki R.Krishnamurthy, the other patriotic songs like 'Vetri Ettu Thikkum''Aaduvome Pallu Paaduvome'{Naam Iruvar},'Thoondir Puzhuvinaipol'{Vedhala Ulakam} and 'Bharatha Samoodhaayam Vaazhgave'{Vaazhkai}were all from the mighty pen of poet Bharathi, whose poetic cry for freedom,feminism and patriotism would ever remain not only as the beautiful part of Tamil literature, but also as the documentary evidence of the poetic fervour of nationalism. The other immortal song of Bharathi that Pattammaal sang was,'Theeraadha Vilaiyaattu Pillai' {Vedhaala Ulagam}.It is a still mystery how all the songs dedicated to Kanna {Lord Krsina} are supremely pleasing to the ears.This one in particular from DKP's scintillating voice, would remain as the earliest and most delightful piece,sung in praise of Kanna.
   Interestingly Pattammaal has also sung the song 'Vaishnava Janato' for Kamalahasan's Hey Ram under the musical composition of the music prophet Ilayaraja and she subsequently made her artistic contribution to the 'Jana Gana Mana Video Album' composed by the A.R.Rehman, the Oscar winner.It was no wonder that DKP too was a recipient of the PadmaVibushan, Sangeedha Kalanidhi,Sangeedha Saraswathi and quiet a few other awards.
    M.L.Vasanthakumari,the junior most among the three, was a singer with a stentorian voice mould.She could vigorously sustain her position as an invincible play back singer, for nearly two decades.She had a governing voice among the three singers,with which she could effectively compete with male singers like C.S.Jeyaraman,{'Kaani Nilam Vendum Parasakthi Kaani Nilam Vendum'from Andaman Kaidhi and'Manjal Veyil Maalaiyile' from Kaveri},T.M.Soundarajan {'Aadaadha Manamum Undoe',from Mannaadhi Mannan} Sirkazhi S.Govidarajan{'Mohana Renga Ennai Paaradaa' from Maamiyaar Mechiya Marumagal,'Aadum Arul Jodhi', from Meenda Sorgam and the light minded song 'Manasukkulle Marachuvaikka Mudiyalle' from the film Thilakam} and with V.N.Sundaram {'Chinnanjiru Kiliye Kannammaa' from Manamagal}.In all these songs referred to, she would have proved to be a tough challenger for the male voices.Particularly the song 'Aadaatha Manamum Undoe' would show a marvellous merging of the male and female voices in seamless unison and would ever remain as an impeccable song.
     The most exciting solo songs of MLV are 'Ayya Saami Avoji Saamy'{Ezhai Padum Paadu} 'Kadhavai Saathadi' {Ratha Kanneer} 'Aadal Kaaneero','Senthamizhaa Ezhundhu Vaaraayo' {both from Madhurai Veeran},'Konjum Puraave' {Thaai Ullam},and 'Kalaiyodu Kalandhadhu Unmai'{Mannaadhi Mannan}.MLV's songs with other female singers were equally popular with the audience those days.With P.Leela MLV sang the immortal song Ellaam Inbamayam {Manamagal}.She joined Radha Jeyalakshmi for the soothing number Olipadaitha Kanninaai Va Va{President Panchacharam}and with Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi she rendered  the fabulous song 'Varukiraal Unaithedi' for the great Sivaji Ganesan film Thanga Padhumai. 
    MLV would have sung the maximum number of songs in films like Raja Mukthi,Manamagal, Raja Rani,MandhirikumariThai Ullam,Maamiyaar Mechiya Marumagal and a couple of more films. The ruling voice of MLV has fittingly conquered the musical kingdom of Tamil Cinema, by her forthright grasp of lyrics and dynamic rendition of the musical notes, to the extent of making her songs, eternally fascinating.Her consistent and remarkable career of  playback singing, certainly deserved more awards than a mere Padmabushan. But her voice will be heard enchanting the ears of music lovers, with robust vibration.
   What has been said here in this brief article, is not going to supplement in any way, the status of the classical trinity of music, which has solidly established its indisputable brilliance,through peaks of performance and perfection.But it is just a modest attempt or a spec of the vast sky of the grandeur of music, perceived, rejoiced and remembered through the decades and is going to last, as long as human ears are open to the musical notes of the exalting, angelic voices.Today, we have words without music, or music without words.There are creditable lyricists and commendable music makers.But somewhere something goes wrong, either depriving the lyrics of the merit they deserve, or distracting music from the precious goals it wants to reach.There is a huge galaxy of singers with enormous potential, to reach out to the audience.Unfortunately, the end result does not outlive the period of its delivery. Under these circumstances, this article has given me a chance for revisiting the awe inspiring and resplendent relics of our traditional portals, by recalling memories of the classical trinity of music.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Male Chauvinism in Tamil Cinema..

       Among the popular themes meant for emphatic narration through the film medium, male chauvinism has been as much in focus as feminism.Tamil cinema has projected the power of feminism both vociferously and vibrantly through several films like Penn,Pudhumai Penn,Vaazhvu En Pakkam,Vaazndhu Kaatukirein and the most recent 36 Vayadhinile. In the same manner,ever since the beginning of Tamil cinema, the negative factors of male chauvinism have also been significantly and substantially portrayed as the evil face of men casting a blot on the mirrors of the family and society.The face of the male chauvinist might be that of the villain or even the hero.But cinematic imagination has never failed to expose its deplorable sight,both in long and closeup shots.
     The moment one thinks of the male chauvinist in Tamil Cinema,there appears the ruthless face of M.R.Radha either as a domineering,or as an ill-treating husband.How naturally he performed the role of a reckless wastrel and wayward husband, showing brutal indifference to the feelings of his wife, in films like Nalla Idathu Sambandham and Ratha Kanneer. Both Sowcar Janaki and Sriranjini,were found to be mere puppets in the hands of this masculine warlord.Rudeness became the synonym of Radha,in these films and he essayed these roles with a devil-may-care attitude and an itch for debauchery.
     Was it not the role of a powerful male chauvinist that he portrayed in K.S.Gopalakrishnan's most critically reviewed film Sithi?As the father of grown up children as well as a kid in that film,Radha was looking for a second wife,after the death of his first wife and brazenly married the socially disadvantaged Padmini,just for the sake of fulfilling his sexual desires.It was one of the most dynamic films of Radha and confidently did he expose the ugly face of the male chauvinist. Padmini would plead with him to escape from his chauvinistic moves and hardly would he ever budge to her pleading. As a dominating husband and wife beater, Radha was always invincible.
     Next to M.R.Radha it was the Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan, who tried to assert male superiority in quite a few films like Motor Sundarampillai,Paar Magale Paar,Baratha Vilas and Dheiva Magan.In all these films it was the impact of wealth coupled with the arrogance of being the male, that brought out the effective inner layers of his characterization.However, in Sivaji Ganesan's display of male chauvinism,one could always notice an inherent weakness of the ultimate surrender of the male to a kind of emotional cauldron, that would purify the character of the male and  evolve it into a form of dignified manhood.
      In other words what Sivaji Ganesan would largely portray as the male chauvinist, was a kind of male pride strutting and fretting and finally hitting the ground realities,through a reforming late realization.Most of the characters he played in family dramas,were those of a male patriarch, with the majesty of heading the family tree,with its roots of gentle and soft emotions ultimately getting warmed up,to a strengthening family bond.In this respect,Sivaji Ganesan's Male Chauvinist roles never failed to stamp their positive image of the hierarchic and esteemed position of the male,as the head of the family. Such a spirit of patriarchal supremacy was vibrantly reflected in the role delivery of great actors like S.V.Rengarao and S.V.Subbiah.
      R.Muthuraman,the close contemporary and intimate fellow actor of Sivaji Ganesan,also poignantly demonstrated the element of male chauvinism, by his inspiring performance in films like Veettukku Veedu,Dheivam,Sooriya Kandhi,Sondham and Raman Ethanai Ramanadi.Dheerga Sumangali was another film in which his character beautifully combined the traits of an uxorious and chauvinistic husband.As a dynamic, chauvinistic husband Muthuraman's roles always travelled between the male supremacy of Sivaji Ganesan and the male arrogance of M.R.Radha.
     Rajinikanth was seen as a repulsively erring male chauvinist in films like Thappu Thaalangal and Gayathri.Vijayakanth did such oppressive characters in films like Naane Raaja Naane Mandhiri and Amman Koil Kizhakkaale.But excepting Gayatri, in the other three movies the heroes were made to realize their negative inner self and set positive goals for a new lease of life. In Gayatri, it was the role of a confirmed, nasty villain that Rajinikanth played, indulging in a trade of  wife- selling.
    The present trends are very much against the male chauvinist.The male would not be shown as undermining the rightful claims of the female, in any field, at the cost self esteem of the female.Characters such as misogynists, sadistic males and the Casanovas, come and go on the big screen,on a selective basis.But in a civilized world, heading towards gender equality norms,feminism appears to be a more acceptable term than male chauvinism.Hence male chauvinism is doubtlessly becoming an old theme in cinema,though in real life, male chauvinists still do exist as vocally,as feminists.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Brief time Hero of Buoyancy and Style.

      Tamil Cinema was once dominated by a small group of heroes staying strong for a longer period with lasting fame and fan base.The list could be easily bifurcated as first line and second line heroes.The first position was held by MGR and Sivaji Ganesan for a quarter century to be joined later by Jai Shankar and Ravichandran.While S.S.Rajendran and Gemini Ganesan held the second place during the period of the former,Sivakumar held the second position with Jaishankar and Ravichandran. Muthuraman was the second level hero,both during days of MGR/Sivaji Ganesan and Jai Shankar/ Ravichandran.
     But these second level heroes also gave quite a lot of hit films as main heroes,with quality and richness in presentation.The only difference was in the fan base and the large scale audience support that went with the first level heroes.Otherwise, all these heroes had their unquestionable individual positions in the film industry and they also remained busy throughout their film career.However, most of these actors could not be said to have commanded the Tamil film industry, as MGR and Sivaji Ganesan did.
    During those decades of restrictive scope for an acceptable hero,there came in the early Sixties a brand new hero of style, charm and appeal,as a refreshing breeze.In appearance,costume sense and presentation, he was a trend setting hero showing his dynamic skill in fencing,horse riding and sprightly portrayal of character.That was the most impressive C.L Anandan,who unfortunately had his brief stint as hero and was soon pushed to villain and character roles.
    After doing supportive roles in films like 'Thandhai' and 'Senkottai Singam',C.L Anandan was born as a fascinating agile hero,in Citadel Films''Vijayapuri Veeran', directed by Joseph Thaliath Jr.The film became an instant hit,because of Anandan's new appeal in body language,hairstyle,costume fitness and the speed he exhibited in horse riding and fencing.For those who were watching all the while,the unique show of MGR in royal costumes and his nimble display of mounting on horses and sword swirling,Anandan dawned on the big screen,with a new wave of dynamism. 'Vijayapuri Veeran'became a box office blast and gave immense promise of a new arrival into Tamil Cinema.
    Unfortunately, the next two films'Rathinapuri Ilavarasi'and'Kongu Naattu Thangam'did not continue the starting magic spell of the new hero,because both the films were moderate shows.Then came the most memorable 'Veera Thiruman' from the AVM banner. With this film A.C.Thirulokchander who wrote the story for 'Vijayapuri Veeran' became a director, to continue his journey in film making for a couple decades, giving us many great films with Sivaji Ganesan as his chosen hero. 
    Anandan regained momentum and the movie became a special treat, with the scintillating music of Viswanathan Ramamurthi. Songs like 'Roja Malare Rajakumari' and 'Padaatha Paatellaam Paadavandhal' in the voices of P.B. Srinivas,P. Suseela and S. Janaki are still making rounds, soothing our ears with their  eternal  musical richness.The song 'Vethalapotta Pathini  Ponnu' rendered by TMS with a group of added voices,set a new trend in group song composition. Anandan paired with Kumari Chachu, took the film to its expected romantic heights with charm and grace.The film firmly got fixed in audience frenzy and found a lasting place in the archives of Tamil Cinema.
   After this film there was another period of lull because the nearly half a dozen films of Anandan that followed 'Veera Thirumagan' did not do any miracle at the theaters. Films like 'Sengamala Theevu','Neeyaa Naanaa','Kubera Theevu','Kaattu Maina', 'Naanum Manidhan Thaan' and 'Magale Un Samathu' were mere additions of numbers into Tamil Cinema.Soon this small time hero of style and charm, was sidelined and was compelled to move to character or villain roles.As his stout body form was fitter for villain roles, he did more villain roles or that of a villain's henchman .He had acted in Jai Shankar's films 'Yaar Nee','Ponnu Maappile''Athai Magal','Manasaatchi' and 'CID Shankar'. 
    He also appeared in Ravichandran's'Edhirigal Jaakiradhai' 'Ninaivil Ninraval' ,'Naangu Killaadikal' and'Moonrezhuthu' Interestingly, Ananadan who initially appeared to be an alternative for MGR in royal roles, was found to play either villain or character roles in MGR films like'Thani Piravi' and 'Neerum Neruppum.' Later Anandan also appeared in Rajinikanth films such as 'Naan Potta Savaal' 'Thanikkaattu Raja' and 'Adutha Varisu'. He also appeared in a character role in Vijayakanth's 'Sendhoora Poove'.Action King Arjun's'Thaaimel Aanai' was the last film of this small time hero.
     Be it a hero or villain or character actor,C.L Anandan hardly failed to stamp his image as an exclusive actor of style and charm.His sharp looks,alluring smile,awesome speed and lively delivery of roles, never failed to make indelible impressions.This exceptional actor would ever stay strong in the memories of those, who had a chance to see him as hero on the silver screen.