Friday, May 18, 2018

An Actor with a Creamy Layer Stuff


        Actors are of different brands.Some would perfectly fit into the aristocratic mould.The profile of S.V.Renga Rao was made for this frame. Some would remain as unbeatable paupers. No one can beat V.Nagaiah in this category.A few would combine both  the profiles as S. V. Subbiah did and T.S.Balaiah did.An actor like the vibrant V.K. Ramasamy stood as the exemplary voice, reflecting the mean mindedness of a section of the rich and the poor, while at the same time personifying elements of nobility and generosity in some of his role plays.Film lovers can validly include names such as S.V.Shasranamam T.K Bagavadhi,V.S.Raghavan and V.Gopalakrishnan in this list.These were actors other than heroes,who formed the creamy layer of Tamil Cinema of the last century.As this blog carries independent and comparative articles on all these actors excepting the last name,the present article would proudly place on record the greater vibes of acting material frequently demonstrated by this, not much talked about, actor.
     The span of acting of this veritable actor,was spread over five decades between 1947 and 1997.He began with the role of an office boy at the age of fifteen, for the Gemini Pictures' famous film Miss. Malini and ended up with his final performance in Thadayam released in 1997.This actor had never blown up his credentials but revealed them to the best of his abilities and quietly passed away,five months after the release of his last film.What was specially great about him was the huge list of film makers and heroes, with whom he shared his time and performance potential.He was as much a favourite of K.Balachander as he was with Sridhar and K.S.Gopalakrishnan.So was he with A.P.Nagarajan the famous maker of mythical and  spiritual films.The other film makers who fondly made use of his refined acting stuff were, A.Bhimsingh,P.Neelakandan,S.Balachandar,C.V.Rajendran,S.A.Chandrasekaran and K.S.Ravikumar.
     V.Gopalakrishnan has acted with the all prominent heroes like M.G.Ramachandran,Sivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan,Muthuraman,Sivakumar,Jai Shankar, Rajinikanth, Kamalahasan, Karthik Muthuraman,Vijayakanth and Sarathkumar.He has acted almost equal number of films with both MGR and Sivaji Ganesan.With MGR his bulk of movies were in the final spell of the hero's acting journey and it started with the film Idhayakani and went on up to Inrupol Enrum Vaazhka.I first saw this actor on the big screen in the film Aaravalli in the role of Prince Abimanyu.Though the film was released two years before I was born, I happened to watch it,as a boy of ten,when the film was screened in a local touring talkies twelve years later.Some of his popular films I cherish in memory are Nenjirukkumvarai,Galaattaa Kalyaanam, Neerkumizhi, Punnagai,Nootrukku Nooru,Naalai Namadhe,Needhikku Thalai Vanangu,Pallaandu Vaazhga, Kilinjalkal,Raanuva Veeran and Thee.
    Unlike most other character actors, V.Gopalakrishnan has appeared as a Christian in quite a number of films.Some of the Christian names he carried in films were Thomas in Thulasi Maadam, Robert in Nootrukku Nooru and Naalai Namadhe Joseph in Velli Vizhaa in David Kilinjalkal and Prof.Peter in Paarvaiyin Marupakkam.He was an extraordinary actor with both theatrical and screen sense and could precisely take himself to playing any professional role, such as doctor {Kalangarai Vilakkam,Naan Yen Pirandhein and Ninaithadhai Mudippavan} Jail Warden {Pallaandu Vaazhka}advocate {Chakravarthi}Public Prosecutor {Saavi} Judge {Sattathin Marupakkam}.
     All these professional roles he performed with dignity and grace [at times even with negative tint]and redefined the characters with his proficiency in English and Tamil. In this context, it should be mentioned here that he was a post graduate which was a rare phenomenon to prevail among actors those days.His accent and stress upon dialogues be it English or Tamil, proved the fact that his acting was the sum and substance of the creamy layer brand. Interestingly the same actor could casually perform the role of a taxi or cab driver as he did in S.Balachandar's Bommai and M.G.R's Needhikku Thalai Vanangu.Another distinct trait of this actor is his flair for comedy as witnessed in Galaattaa Kalyaanam.
    Here is an actor,who would have acted in nearly 400 films encompassing Tamil, Telugu and Hindi,but would have been seen only in restrictive space and scope in many of them.It would have been very difficult for him to stay strong and surpass adverse currents pushing him out of the mainstream concept of holding up one's place and keeping it unforgotten in the field of one's choice. But V.Gopalakrishnan succeeded in this by establishing the ground and playing it safe with constant grip and control of his position as an actor.This determination and power of hold, will itself prove the fact, that he was an actor of the creamy layer category.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Neelu's Nasal Touch


     R.Neelakandan,aka Neelu was an exuberant stage and film actor,who like late N.Mathrubootham,created a special track of comedy parade,with sustained and calculated role play.He was a passionate player of roles both on stage and on the big and small screens.Acting came to him like child's play and he would be making himself a butt of ridicule,with an effortless and extraordinary sobriety on his face and a kind of noisy deliberation to hit humorous goals.He was closely associated with the satirical comedian Cho Ramasamy and later had a significant share of space in the comedy moments created on stage, by Crazy Mohan and his group.
  For me,the most treasured role of Neelu on screen was in K.Balachander's film 'Nootrukku Nooru' in which he appeared as a rigorous professor of Mathematics and fell a victim in the hands of a batch of mischievous students.In a particular scene in that film,Neelu would be found teaching Calculus and every time when he would try to get up from his seat with the fond words"Now coming to Calculus,"he would struggle to extricate himself from the gum pasted chair, prepared by his students as a mark of revenge.One could obviously notice the discomfort coupled with humor,effectively displayed by this wonderful comedian.
   Neelu was in fact a special favourite of K.Balachander and no one can forget his impressive performance as the public prosecutor in the film 'KaviyaThalavi'arguing on behalf of the prosecution in a case of murder committed by Sowcar Janaki,who happened to kill her wayward,drunkard husband M.R.R.Vasu, to save the future of her daughter born of him. 
    Some of the other films in which he made a significant impact of comedy were Aayiram Poi,Mr.Sampath, Gowravam,Velum Mayilum Thunai,Mohamed bin Tughlaq,Sabatham,Sooriya Vamsam,Kamalahasan's comedy blockbusters Avvai Shanmugi,Kaadhala Kaadhalaa and Pammal K.Sambandham.Besides these popular films,he will also be remembered for the television serial Enge Brahmanan.
   Neelu carried on his comic roles with well meaning gestures on his face, signifying a sane sense of humour,sticking to the yardsticks of decency.His nasal tone delivery and the way he would meddle with it rhythmically,with his intrinsic love for Carnatic music,were his special assets.
   Neelu would certainly remain as one of the most cherished comedians of his times.In his death,Tamil audience have missed a greatly endearing comedian.However,audience memories of this ardent actor, will also push his name with dedication,into the golden archives of Tamil cinema,as a treasure to posterity,for nostalgic recalls and reviews.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Tamil Cinema's Stamp of Nobility


     If one wants to know what nobility is,it is shortly the will of an individual, to mark a selfless journey for 'oneself,' towards living solely for others.Cinema glorifies nobility,when a film maker employs a noble vision of life and humanity.Today, humanity is inextricably technology bound.It is so much obsessed with technology,that even its creative wings carry abundant feather touch implications.There is always an explicit difference between what and how men are and what and how they should be.The last century's creative imagination seemed to have been anxious about what and how mankind should be.Hence,it evolved themes, characters and events,revolving around the redeeming and cathartic factors of life.It expected the wrongs of life, to be corrected by right living models, reflecting nobility as an inseparable part of living.
    Consequently,though right and wrong existed side by side,right won over wrong,with exemplary ethical foundations and their relevance to life, through characters and events.There was a lot of admiration for noble qualities,such as selflessness,forgiveness , generosity and an overall respect for the goodness of men,as seen in their behaviour.Tamil cinema celebrated noble themes,stories and characters.Characters very often outlived the story contexts, because of their intrinsic importance and deeper depiction.This article intends to recall through indelible memory bytes,such persons of nobility,who passed through the Tamil big screen,to deserve a standing ovation and an eternal preservation in memory.Their memories perpetuate the truer marks of nobility on the minds of the audience,so as to make them live like such characters,in their own real life.
    The earliest incarnation of feminine nobility,was portrayed by late Padmini in L.V,Prasad's noted film Mangayar Thilagam,as the wife of Sivaji Ganesan's elder brother,played by S.V.Subbiah. The title of the film itself is a beautiful image of the brilliance of womanhood and hence it could be rightly called a heroine oriented film. My childhood memories are stuck to the selfless woman protagonist of the film,who would decide not to have a child of her own,lest she should be constrained to deviate from her affection for her husband's motherless little brother.The little boy would grow up to manhood{played by Sivaji Ganesan},get decently employed and would continue his love and devotion to his sister in law, whom he considered as his mother.But after his marriage,things would change.The new comer, as most women are,would treat her husband's sister-in law with utter disregard and jealousy.Afterwards,she would deliver her son but would not care much for the kid.Nor would she allow her sister in law to handle her child.
   The climax of the film showing the selfless woman dead,would certainly have made the audience,particularly the womenfolk, leave the theaters with a tank load of tears.Both Padmini and M.N.Rajam played their roles amazingly well,but the nobility of Padmini's character became a monumental piece of memory. Though I saw the film as a six year old boy, some scenes from that film{especially the lullaby song scene"Neelavanna Kannaa Vaadaa"in the mesmerizing voice of R. Balasaraswathi Devi}still stay strong in my memory.
    As sacrificing sisters,many women would have cast deep impressions of nobility on the sub conscious minds of the audience.Characters such as the younger sister role played by Saroja Devi in Kalyana Parisu made by Sridhar and that of the all giving elder sister character, the same actor played in K.S.Gopala krishnan's Kula Vilakku, are treasures of the character evolution theory,followed and practised by film makers, purely for the purpose of ennobling mankind.Similar elder sister characterization became emphatic in the role delivery of Sujatha, in Aval Oru Thodarkadhai and by Pramila in Arangetram, both films made by the most intelligent film maker,K.Balachander. 
    The next unique stamp of nobility in character, was effectively displayed by late Sujatha in the most popular film Annakkili.As Annam{Swan}she carried on with ease and ecstasy, the character of a simple village girl,falling in love with a school teacher and bearing all the brunt of disappointment and abuse of others.She would finally give up her life for the guy whom she serenely loved,by saving him and his family from a major fire accident and falling a victim of the very same accident.It was altogether a tale of Platonic love and the woman's character looked like gold being put into fire for assessing its quality.
     Among men,almost all the roles that MGR tactfully took over, belonged to a kind of trade mark nobility, of a mother devotee, an adorer of women and a selfless worker for the welfare of the downtrodden and the depressed sections of society.But the one grandest role he performed was that of a noble youth,who would forgive all wrong doers and thereby transform their character from evil to good.At the end of the film,all wrong doers would be redeemed from their negative profiles and would call the hero,the rarest among the rare.The magnificence of the gist of forgiveness was beautifully shown in that epic level film called Aayirathil Oruvan.MGR as Manimaran, stole the hearts of everybody, in that blockbuster movie made by B.R.Pantulu.
    Some of the tall roles that Sivaji Ganesan performed,projected him as an ever shading  branch of the family tree.He was frequently shown as a selfless lover thinking and doing good to the woman he loved, or as an exemplary friend spreading the fine aroma of beautiful friendship.As Rengan in Padikkadha Medhai and as Renga Dhurai in Rajapart RengaDhurai,he really stood as the colossal tower of nobility reflecting the voice of truth,selfless ness and sacrifice.So naive was his role performance in 'Padikkaadha Medhai',that as an innocent orphan,cherishing his personal loyalty to his adopting parents, both in their best and worst times,he showed how naturally one's love and loyalty should uprightly stand up and symbolize nobility,from its roots to its heights.Can any other actor perform this kind of role with such  natural vigour and genuine emotion, is ever a moot question.
    In family dramas Sivaji Ganesan was shown as a sacrificing elder, or youngster,in many films of which Baaga Pirivinai, Bandha Paasam,Pazhani and Padithaal Mattum Podhumaa, created a special impact.In demonstrating the sacrificing spirit of friendship, Sivaji  excelled in films like Paarthaal Pasitheerum, Nenjirukkumvarai and Unakkaaga Naan.In the last film stated here, he would go to the extent of shaming his father by going to jail, for the planned murder of his soulmate [Gemini Ganesan} arranged by his capitalist father.In Nenjirukkumvarai and, Deepam,Sivaji Ganesan exemplified the spirit of immaculate love transcending all material levels and culminating in the total surrender of body and soul.The death of Sivaji Ganesan in Deepam and Nenjirukkumvarai, created deep pangs of sorrow for his ardent fans.
     But the noblest ever role Sivaji Ganesan performed was that of a rich man who considered the very purpose of his life was to part with all that he had,for the sake of others and enjoyed an inner delight of giving away everything to others and prayed to God not to keep him alive,the moment he had nothing to give. Kanna dhasan's thought provoking lyrics and M.S.V's soul sustaining music took the nobility of the hero to supreme levels of character idealization.At the end, when the hero died after giving away his last personal belonging, it created a heart rending effect of an unusual film watching experience.
     The character of Sivaji Ganesan remained as the embodiment of nobility in Avanthaan Manidhan,invigorating a kind of awakening in every one,about the grandeur of leading one's life as an extraordinary human being, symbolizing the essence of what life is and how it should be lived.I would rate this film as the magnum opus of nobility in human life.The latest film Muthal Mariyaadhai which showed Sivaji Ganesan marrying his uncle's daughter who had gone astray, for the sake of maintaining family dignity,was a special film, picturing middle age Platonic love,but could not be called a film bearing a singular thrust on the nobler side of character formation.However,the character of Sivaji Ganesan,certainly upheld the precept of dignity and self esteem, very much in accordance with the title of the film and its suggestive meaning.
     In taking up roles of a special positive human being,the other hero Gemini Ganesan,was never lagging behind his coevals and contemporary heroes.Two of his films could be rated very high in this particular category.One was Sridhar's Sumaidhaangi and the other was K.Balachander's Punnagai.In the former,he was the pathetic younger brother sacrificing everything including his love, for the sake of his selfish family members and ultimately embracing priesthood,to find peace and dignity in the rest of his life.
    In Punnagai,his character appeared as the edifice of truth,not  letting him deviate at any point of time in his life,from his core ideology, that truth alone should prevail in one's life and truth alone would make one's soul attain bliss.In this clean movie, he married a wronged, unwed mother and made it a point to tell his wife's son,that he was not his son's biological father.Gemini Ganesan who was always identified by a fascinating softness in role delivery, performed both the characters with perfect charm, grace and dignity.His softness firmly established the principle of noble living,as a mandatory requirement for human survival.The other less noticed film of Gemini Ganesan that portrayed him as a noble character, was Ezhai Pangalan.
    During the passage of time the noble features of life slowly began to occupy the back seat.The films of Jai Shankar and Ravichandran were usually of the action genre and did not seem to create any memorable impression with themes of nobility. Whereas,Shivakumar's roles in Sollathaan Ninaikiren and EniPadikal carried the essence of nobility.
    Rajinikanth's films like Aarilirundhu Arubadhu Varai and Muthu resurrected nobility as a vital part of human life.While the first film reiterated the dignity of a scarifying mindset,the second film eulogized nobility  through the impressive character evolution of the father role of Rajinikanth.This mind blowing  character represented the supremacy of the surrender of one's wealth,for the sake of a given word and thereby emphasized the fact, that there should be a sense of Gandhian triple purity in thought word and deed,towards attaining nobility.The distinguished film maker, K.S.Ravikumar,could be proud of making a special film of this genre.
     Director Vikraman has also focused on the nobler side if humanity through his impressive delineation of themes and characters, in almost all his films.Some special hits from his direction in this regard were, Poove Unakkaaga,Soorya Vamsam, Unnidathil Ennai Koduthen and Vaanathai Pola. 
    Now a days,nobility is a weakening factor everywhere, including the celluloid world. Personal aggrandizement and suppression of others for self promotion, are the hallmarks of human behaviour that we witness everywhere.Either we become victims of negative patterns of behaviour,or we ourselves behave as negative propagandists.Heavy themes are unpalatable for the imagination and acceptance of a generation,that wants to go with the flow,like thin wafer biscuits,temporarily satisfying the taste buds and fading like marginal clouds in the vast sky.
   A lot that we see,hear and read,is either no news or bad news. Life has become a package of peripheral realities dipped in artificial emotions and affected behaviour. There is an obvious presence of touch-and-go course of events,not making any credible impact on the routine of a majority of people.The sparks of Nobility seem to stay as memory chips.Perhaps some future generation may restore the vibrant flow nobility in their veins .Till then,let those who have vitally lived under the roof of nobility, keep masticating its remnants,by activating their nostalgic nerves.