Sunday, April 15, 2018

Bala's Throes


      Not all film makers are concerned about the pain of living.Even if they are concerned about life's deeper layers of agony, not all film makers consciously fill up their skits with solid roots of psychic turbulence, originating against  human and social disorder. K.Balachander used to move here and there to themes of human aberration and social crookedness in  his films like Avarkal, Arangetram and Thappu Thaalangal.The same Balachander delivered fine family dramas like Iru Kodukal,Bama Vijayam and Poovaa Thalaiyaa  and clean movies like Punnagai,Velli Vizha and Kaviya Thalaivi. His sense of humour was compact in several films like Edhir Neechal and Bama Vijayam. But some film makers can hardly extricate themselves from the pressures and pangs of the wrongs of life,of whom Bala leads the others by his consistent focus on the depressing social realities.
    Starting with his famous film Sethu that gave Vikram his sobriquet Chiyan,Bala has trodden on the thorns of life as an unpretentious builder of sordid towers on the big screen. Sethu narrated the sad tale of a rugged and macho youth making aggressive overtures to a timid and orthodox girl and both falling victims to the villainy of fate,thy guy being pushed to a mental asylum after a brutal attack by anti social elements and the girl committing suicide caused by depressions of untold love and anguish over her mentally deranged lover. It was a heart rending film, passing through phases of  robust routine of college  students,rare depiction of romance and crude villainy throwing the hero into unpremeditated madness .
   The most redeeming factor of the film was Ilayaraja's music.Both the piercing number Enge Sellum Indha Paadhai and the vigorous Gana Karunkuyile energetically choreographed for the dance sequence of yesteryear dancer Jothilatchumi formed an integral part of the immortal film.For that matter, all songs in the film were good. Besides securing several awards,Sethu became a tremendous success and  paved the way for Vikram  transforming into a specially performing actor. 
    Bala's next film Nanda was a pathetic narration of patricide on provocation, caused by filial devotion to mother and revolt against domestic violence.It was a great opportunity for Surya to prove his extraordinary mettle as an actor and he made the best use of it.The worst part of the story was that the mother for whose sake the son killed his father, hated her son for his brutal act.The hatred continued even after the son was let off from the reformatory after the stipulated period of juvenile confinement.The disowned son turned into a thug and finally met his end in the poisoning hands of his mother and dying in her lap.The significant comic relief provided by Karunas,could not in any way bring down  the tragic intensity of the theme and its tormenting narration.This film was also an award winner.
     Pithamagan the third film of Bala inducting the heroes of his first two films, was the story of an undertaker and a delinquent youth, both meeting in jail and developing deeper layers of friendship,much of it going unsaid.Both the heroes performed very well and Surya's beaming show of banter and mischief in association with Lila, created some exciting moments of film watch only to culminate in the most unexpected and gory death of the former in the hands of a born criminal {performed by Mahadhevan}.Vikram's partial underplay of emotions followed by bouts of ferocity, made his character evolution,a unique  process and consequently the whole movie got pushed up to an unusual category, to become eligible for awards.
     Bala's other film Naan Kadavul,a traumatic tale of enforced beggary under the inhuman clutches of its operators as profiteers, coupled with the nightmarish fact of the hero being an aghorie {performed impressively by Aarya}was a disturbing saga of human suffering,Only an audience with  a selective frame of mind  could withstand the horrid terrains of cruelty and gruesome social disorder, possessing the big screen. Bala's poignant perception of the  human and social deformities has proved to be an onslaught on the psyche of the audience despite the fact that Bala is so true to his creative purpose of exposing the darker side of life.Like the earlier films of Bala,Naan Kadavul also won awards. 
    Among  his other films like Avan Ivan,Thaarai Thappattai and Paradesi,the first one had a lot to reflect on the side of human deviation such as bigamy, half brothers and the murkier dimensions of the mind, with adequate additions of abnormal comedy.Both Arya and Vishal brought credit to their acting, though the latter outperformed the other,looking different with a deformed eyesight. Thaarai Thappattai was a horrid story of the street dance performers and their umpteen sufferings, ending up in the death of the female protagonist. Paradesi is a burdensome tale of bondage, taking us back to the pre independence years, with atrocities  of suppression and forced conversion dominating the scenario.It is a Dickensian kind of narration of poverty and mindless exploitation of the underdogs.This film was also an award winner. While Sasikumar and Varalakshmi Sarathkumar made their characters stay in memory in Thaarai Thappattai, the young Adharva struck a perfect note of involved role delivery in Paradesi, in the line of his unique actor father, Murali.
    Bala's latest film Naachiyaar has come out as an impressive action show, taking singer-cum actor G.V.Prakash Kumar to exuberant levels of acting.It is surprising that Bala's films could also be entertaining with energizing action segments.So breezy and beautiful is Bala's  narration that I could find myself travelling through the narration scene by scene.The film deals with the now prevalent rape conundrum afflicting women, not excluding even minor girls and kids.Bala has approached the issue in a different perspective,depicting the grandeur of innocent, all giving love of a teenager, in contrast to the dirtiest, sex oriented mindset of a rotten section of the male.
    My only grudge against Bala here, is that the titular, best performing woman Jyothika,could have been given some more space to steal a greater show of her talent capable of expressing emotions, in their authentic and characteristic pattern.However,being an ardent, action film watcher, I would rate Naachiyaar as the most vibrant of all the films of Bala, because the negative side of humanity is far less shown here, than in his other films.
    On the whole,Bala has been fledged with distinct wings to fly into zones forlorn by most other film makers.It needs greater courage to consistently stick to the Macabre mode choosing a variety of themes that could hardly leave the audience undisturbed.Getting awards for one's films almost every time is also not an easy task.The all pervading tone of irony and pungent satire projected through the dialogues of his films is another asset of his peerless stamp of creativity.Above all,the fact remains that Bala's throes are born of the inner urge to expose the evil side of humanity without any excuses.It is equally true that he devoutly throws the throes into the heads of his specially targeted audience, to keep them perpetually awe struck and unnerved.It is like passing the pain to others, at their preference.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Sterling Younger Brother of Sridhar

                                                     { Homage to C. V. Rajendran.}


       C. V. Rajendran,one of the stylish Tamil film makers, is no more.His elder brother C.V.Sridhar who was associated with Tamil Cinema as a story and dialogue writer from 1954, directed and released his first block buster film Kalyana Parisu in 1959.Among his entries as a story and dialogue writer,Enga Veettu Mahalatchumi,Yaar Paiyyan,Amara Dheepam and Uthama Puthiran were very successful and their success was also due to the weight of his story and dialogues. C.V.Rajendran first joined Sridhar's creative crew, as an Assistant director for the famous Hindi film Dil Ekh Mandhir and worked in this capacity for nearly half a dozen films starting from Nenjam Marappadhillai to Nenjirukkumvarai, directed by Sridhar. Then C.V.Rajendran independently directed his first film Anubhavam Pudhumai, starring R.Muthuraman and Rajashri.
     Like his brother Sridhar,C.V.R was also fond of the acting calibre of Muthuraman.But unlike his brother who gave greater preference to Muthuraman than Sivaji Gabesan,and did a couple of films with MGR too, C.V.Rajendran never worked with MGR but soon shifted his focus on the Chevalier and went on to make more than a dozen films with him,starting from Galaattaa Kalyaanam to Vaazhkai. C.V.R's most prominent films with Sivaji Ganesan were Galaattaa Kalyaanam {remake of a Malayalam film},Raja,{Hindi Johnny Mera Naam}Needhi{Hindi Dushman}En Magan{Hindi Be Imaan} Sivakamiyin Selvan{Hindi Aaradhanaa}Vaani Raani {Hindi Seeta Aur Geeta}Unakkaaga Naan{Hindi Namak Haraam}Ponnoonjal, Manidharil Manickam, Sandhippu {Hindi Nazeeb} and Vaazhkai{Hindi Avataar}.His less popular Sivaji Ganesan films were Sangili{Hindi Kaalicharan} and Thiaagi. It is the unprecedented victory march of this duo that made me include C.V.R's contribution in my earlier article 'The Main Makers of Sivaji Movies"posted in my blog some time ago.
     C.V.R's other memorable films were Pudhiya Vaazhkai,Veettukku Veedu {both with Jai Shankar and Muthuraman},Maalai Sood Vaa, Ullaasa Paravaikal{both with Kamalahasan} Garjanai {with Rajinikanth}Raaja Veettu Kannukutti,Anand{both with Prabu}and Chinnappadas with Sathyaraj.One could find A.V.M Rajan and Muthuraman in quite a few well known films of this sleek director.The distinct dimension of C.V.R's  art of film making was the inclusion of  slapstick comedy and rib tickling romance blended with moderate action quotient.As a Sivaji Ganesan director,he carefully avoided the element of sentimental melodrama of A.C.Thirulogchandar,the sober sensibility of P.Madhavan and the family emotions of A.Bhimsingh.
     As most of C.V.R's films on Sivaji Ganesan were Hindi remakes,his filming process was almost a ready made journey and what he had to do was to add some Tamil cultural substance to his tone of narration. His inherent skills of film making were explicit through his breezy touches of comedy,love and action as  beautiful moments of film watch,especially in his great films like Galaattaa Kalyaanam,Raja,Veettukku Veedu,Vaani Raani and Ullaasa Payanam. While his Nil Kavani Kaadhali{another Jai Shankar film} and Chinnappadas were casual action films, Raaja belonged to the exuberant mode. Vaani Raani was almost a street show. En Magan was a serious and sincere adaptation of the Hindi original.His unique piece of tragedy was Vaazhkai,with a genuine and realistic portrayal of events and characters. Sumathi En Sundari and Ponnoonjal were exciting tales of romance enriched by the enthralling numbers Pottuvaitha Mugamo{rendered in the captivating voice of SPB during the earliest decade of his career, for Sumathi En Sundhari}and Aakaaya Pandhalile{an immortal duet in the voice of TMS and P.Susheela for Ponnoonjal}.Unakaaga Naan was a grand show of friendship surpassing filial requirements.
      C.V.Rajendran started his career of film making in the line of his elder brother reputed for  his extraordinary concepts of love and humour. But he slowly moved from this track to carve an individual status and position for himself. Luckily a vibrant producer like K.Balaji with an innate love for remaking films from other languages,joined hands with him and they both remade more than a dozen films without letting down the core of the original or the expectation of the Tamil audience.Their team spirit  precisely reflected a perfect grasping of the thumb rules of remaking other skits and it worked out very well.Consequently C.V.R proved to be the sterling brother of Sridhar in learning the art of making films and learning to make it as rightly as possible.There is no doubt that Tamil Cinema will cherish in its archives the wonderful contribution of this great director and the fact that a world class hero like Sivai Ganesan continued to patronize C.V.Rajendran is enough proof to speak of the grandeur of this film maker, who is no more today.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Two Charming Heroes of Tamil Cinema


       To be unique is to be distinct.In every field we have distinct men and women.When I say unique heroes I mean those belonging to a specific category, not simply stamping a special path in acting, as MGR and Rajinikanth or not like Sivaji Ganesan and Kamalahasan who are known for adorning the very profession of acting, by their galaxy and grandeur of role performance.What I mean here is, some persons are different from their colleagues and coevals in an all inclusive frame, that incorporates one's parentage, family and social background, educational aspects,individual charm and then their levels of performance in a particular field.When it includes similarities, such as the spot from where they begin their career and the roles in which they are cast,it makes the comparison of such personalities more interesting and worthwhile.It is in this singular perspective, I think of bringing R.Madhavan and Arvind Swamy together on a joint focus.
     It is quite interesting to note that both Madhavan and Arvind Swamy were born the same year and same month.The former is just a couple of weeks older than the latter.Both hail from fairly well to do families.While Madhavan's parents are former executive heads of the industrial and banking sectors, Arvind Swamy's father is a noted industrialist.As far as their educational background is concerned, Madhavan is an Electronics graduate with a Masters in Public Speaking;whereas Arvind Swamy holds a US Master's Degree in international business, following his graduation in commerce from Loyola College, Chennai. However,Madhavan who grew up in Jamshedpur and Mumbai, had his school and college education in the Northern States and also holds the special pride of having undergone training with the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.Apart from their elitist background the fact remains that Arvind Swamy is an entrepreneur with a flair for modelling.Both Madhavan and Arvin Swamy share the credit of occupying the small screen in compering T.V.shows and conducting programmes such as Neengalulm Vellalaam Oru Kodi respectively.
     Though they started their career in Tamil Cinema during different periods,both were introduced with a chocolate boy image, by the ace director Mani Rathnam.While Arvind Swamy stepped into Tamil cinema at the age of 21, as the half brother of Rajinikanth in Thalabathi in 1991, Madhavan embraced the Tamil big Screen only in the new millennium {2000},straight away as the charming hero of Mani Rathnam's illustrious romance Alai Payudhe.Madhavan continued the dream boy image in films like Minnale Ennavale, Parthaale Pravasam,Jay Jay,Run,Dum Dum Dum,Priyasakhi,Ariya,Priyamaana Thozhi and so on.He also had quite a few memorable action films in his kitty, like Thambi, Edhiri, Rendu , Vettai and Vikram Vedha.Some of his unusual films were Kannathil Muthamittaal,Ayudha Ezhuthu,Guru,{all Mani Rathnam films}Anbe Sivam,Nala Thamayandhi,Yevano Oruvan, Vaazhthungal and the horror film Yaavarum Nalam.
     Arvind Swamy's initial innings were with Mani Rathnam. Following Thalabadhi,he teamed up with the aesthetic film maker, for greatly credited movies like Roja and Bombay. Both these films carried his romantic image of charm and grace which he continued later, in En Swaasa Kaatre and Rajiv Menon's unforgettable romance Minsaara Kanavu.He was also the hero of Indhira, directed by Suhasini Manirathnam. Unlike Madhavan,Arvind Swamy had frequent spells of hiatus from acting.After several years he appeared in Manirathnam's Alai Paayudhe in 2000 and again in this director's failure film Kadal.Some of the other films of Swamy like Thaalaattu and Pudhaiyal were not received well by the audience.But he was reborn again with a revitalized profile, in M.Raja's Thani Oruvan with an enchanting,negative role package.The film was a grand show and made him come back to Tamil cinema with a big bang. It was followed by Bogan in which he once again joined hands with Jeyam Ravi.
     One could see a lot of underplay and subtle ecstasy, in the performance of Arvind Swamy whether he dons the role of a hero or villain.He is ever an actor with well regulated moves in his body and a remarkable control in his utterances of dialogues.He is an embodiment of visual grandeur in romantic sequences, with the felicity of imagination governing his role play, portrayed with perfect elegance as we witnessed in Bombay and Minsaara Kanavu. There would be romantic breeze gliding through his face, reflecting a beautiful blend of shyness, innocence and consummate joy,whenever he is shown falling in love.In Minsara Kanavu,when Prabu Deva is sent to Kajole as a proxy wooer,the amount of imagined romantic vibrations that Arvind Swamy silently exhibits on his face, was a classic visual treat to the audience.As a lover Arvind Swamy certainly scores a bit higher than Madhavan, because his face becomes a map of the integrated dimensions of love.
     On the other hand, the energy levels of Madhavan are always higher. He is ever a robust performer with an aggressive and emphatic tone delivery, coupled with a kind of proclaimed macho dominance in deliberation to the extent of putting others in a spot. Even the intermittent shaking vibration in his voice, animates his dialogue delivery by creating a turbulent throbbing effect. His romantic journey is also on tough tracks never letting down his fighting instinct.It is this vital side of the romantic, that came to his grip, in films like Run and Ariya.At the same time he is equally capable of revealing the softer side of romance, delicately displayed in Alai Paayedhe,Jay Jay,Paarthaale Paravasam and Priyasakhi. 
    Besides this, Madhavan's splendour in doing the role of a police officer has been shown in two extremes, one as a chicken hearted guy in kakhi uniform in Vettai and the other, as the 'brave new heart'of the cop without wearing kakhi, in Vikram Vedha.There is ever an attitude of determination and forbearance in Madhavan, with which he takes his characters closer to the heart of the audience, as he did in Thambi and Irudhi Chutru.As a restless and self prone youth in Anbe Sivam his character had a lot to learn from Kamalahasan,the main hero of the film. The immaturity of the character he played was very much in contrast to the character of a responsible husband of an understanding wife[beautifully played by Jyothika}in Priyamaana Thozhi.These films are samples of Madhavan's capacity for travelling through different zones in acting.
     On the emotional side Madhavan could explode spontaneously, unlike Arvind Swamy whose low profile emotional show, ever remains his singular asset.Though Madhavan has tried a negative role play in Manirathnam's Aayudha Ezhuthu,he has not been that impressive as Arvind Swamy who did  his negative role in Thani Oruvan by cutely mixing venom with warmth.Both Madhavan and Arvind Swamy are reputed for their English accent and it is no wonder that recently a Whatsapp message showing Madhavan delivering a lecture in an American University went viral. Madavan's proficiency in English has enabled him to act in a couple of English films.{Inferno,Nothing but Life}.His native familiarity with Hindi, has made him do a score of Hindi movies of which Three Idiots is very popular. As close contemporary heroes of Tamil cinema,both Madhavan and Arvind Swamy belong to an elite class of actors, with their distinct attributes and performance levels, that would hardly keep them off the centre stage of the celluloid world.