Friday, December 21, 2018

The Immortal Screen Image of Avvaiyaar


    Tamil language can afford to be legitimately proud of its age old literary legacy.The chronological and voluminous content of Tamil literature is as great and vast as that of the literature of most other world languages. As far as poetry is concerned,the didactic nature and epic grandeur of Tamil Literature,are of a unique kind,with a galaxy of classics and life related precepts and maxims in single or double line order.Tamil literature has categorically and affirmatively laid down rules and directions of life,leading to ennobling goals for the creation of an exemplary society and illustrious race.
     Among those who have shown the pathway to glorious living,Avvaiyaar {a term which means esteemed/ respected woman} has gained an immortal place for enriching Tamil literature.The history of Tamil literature makes references to a Tamil Saintly poet called Avvaiyaar who is said to have lived during the 3rd century B.C.E playing a significant role as a poet of the Sangam literature period,besides being directly blessed by Lord Muruga,considered to be a special deity of the Tamil race.
   The History of Tamil literature also refers to another Avvaiyaar of the tenth century A.D who had contributed her high thinking maxims during the Chola Dynasty and shaped the Tamil society for enlightened destinations.Interestingly the term 'Avvaiyaar'in Tamil could even be interpreted to mean,"who is the old respectable woman?"{Avvai-elderly woman; yaar-who}.Tamil cinema has of course given us a combined image of both the Muruga devotee of the Sangam period and the instructive voice of the Chola Dynasty.But the actor who has squeezed out the essence of the venerable Avvai {old woman} has ever been K.B. Sundarambal, who alone has frequently donned the role of Avvaiyar and made us fix her profile with that of the ancient saintly poet.
    Kodumudi Balambal Sundarambal was both a stage artist and screen actor,in addition to being a wonderful singer with a clarion voice.She was a political activist during the Freedom Movement and became a member of the legislative council of Madras State in 1951 as a Congress Nominee.After a brief married life with her fellow actor S. G. Kittappa,who passed away six years after their marriage,she devoted the rest of her life to music and selective devotional roles in films.Her face with the sacred ash marks adorning her forehead,cleanly reflected sanctity and spiritual fervour. She was seen as Avvaiyaar at least in three films viz. Avvaiyar produced by Gemini Studios in 1953 and later in Vijayalakshmi Pictures' Thiruvilaiyadal and Kandan Karunai both directed by A.P.Nagarajan. Her earliest Tamil film entries were Nandanar,{1935}and Manimekalai {1940}.
    Some of the other notable films of K B S were Poompuhar {as Gavundhi Adikal} Maha Kavi Kalidas,Thunaivan,Karaikaal Ammaiyaar{ as Karaikaal Ammaiyaar,the distinguished devotee of Lord Shiva}and Thirumalai Dheivam{as a woman saint called Narayani}.The most extraordinary credentials of K B S were the spiritually enchanting looks and the magnificence of her voice.It is this voice which is still being heard and enjoyed despite her absence from this mundane world since 1980.The way she used to address Lord Muruga,carried the absolute essence of love,devotion and self-surrender to the deity whom she worshipped from the bottom of her heart.The same way,whenever she was seen addressing Lord Muruga as 'Muruga' her probing,poignant voice seemed to drive the audience into a spiritually melting process,creating an inexplicable quantum of ecstasy similar to a state of bliss,capable of evoking the communion of the human soul with the Brhaman.
    What a glorious moment it is listening to her stentorian voice,singing songs like"Mayilerum Vadivelane"{Avvaiyaar}"Gnanappazhathai Pizhindhu"and "Pazham Neeyappaa"{Thiruvilai yaadal}"Kaalathil Azhiyaadha Kaaviyam peravandha"{Maha Kavi Kaalidas}"Vaazhkai Enum Odam"{Poompuhar}and"Ezhumalaiyirukka Namakenna Manakkavalai"{Thiru Malai Dheivam}.Likewise, we would have enjoyed her songs like "Ayyane Anbarku Meyyane"and "Muthamizh Dheivame Vaa"{Avvaiyaar}Thappithu Vandhaanappaa"{Poompuhar}" Onraanavan Uruvil Irandaanavan"{Thiruvilaiyadal}"Senruvaa Magane"{Maha Kavi Kalidas} "Piravaadha Varam Vendum"{Kaaraikaal Ammaiyaar}"Ariyadhu Ketkin"{Kandan Karunai} "Gnaanamum Kalviyum"and "Koopitaa Kuralukku Yaar Vandhadhu"{Thunaivan} and ''Kelupaapaa''{Uyirmel Asai}. Besides film songs,she had also sung devotional songs of which I recall the classical number 'Thanithirundhu Vaazhum Thavamaniye"that I had heard during my early boyhood,from the the gramophone record player.
    K.B Sundarambal's songs are ringing in our ears as much as her divine looks are indelibly imprinted in our memory.She was one of those mighty musical voices of the Tamil soil,in the line of M.K.T Bhagavadhar,T.M.Soundarajan and Sirkazhi Kovindarajan,leading the lyrics by the force of voice clarity and perfection in accent.Tamil Cinema owes her a lot,both in terms of her inimitable vocal splendour and incomparable spiritual dignity,towards performing sacred roles.Above all,she will live for ever,not only as the screen image of the Tamil saintly poet Avvaiyaar,but will also be cherished in audience memory as the truest replica of that saintly poet,whose Aathichoodi and Kondrai Vendhan continue to govern the life of every individual, endowed with a fair knowledge of Tamil Literature.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Vetrimaran's World of Violence and Vendetta.

     Crime is one of the pet subjects of film makers.As humanity has imbibed criminality from its genesis,narration of the crime zone has been popular ever since the inception of world cinema. Film makers resort to crime depiction either as a direct course of narration or as an indirect presentation with suggestive and intertwined layers of scenic coherence,focusing on flash back techniques or subtle link shots,calling for a close watch of the development of events,through an off the track mode of dialogue delivery.Crime portrayal on the screen can be in the form of a thriller,or a horror demonstration,or simply an action promotion.Tamil films have successfully touched upon these varied patterns of narration,depending upon the director's aptitude and imagination.
    Vetrimaran who began his dedicated thrust and focus on the inhuman side of humanity with his critically rated first film Pollaadhavan starring Dhanush,has successfully continued his directorial journey on this favoured path,giving us three more hits such as Aadukalam, Visaaranai and Vada Chennai*.{*Specific titles of this kind seem to disturb the psyche of those who are personally related to such titles.The Metro Plus Supplement of the Hindu dated 10th December 2018,has recorded the views of some people who feel that the pride of their identity is very much hurt by titles focused on localities,without an understanding of their present environment and life style} 
   Dhanush has remained as the steadfast partner of most of the films of Vetrimaran both by joining the production process and by acting as the protagonist in three of the four films excepting Visaranai.The same way G. V. Prakash Kumar has composed music for three of these four films leaving Vada Chennai in the hands of Santhosh Narayanan.The frequent inclusion of actors like Kishore,Daniel Balajee and Samuthrakani has also reinforced the film making base of Vetrimaran.
    Knives,Swords,pickaxes,blades,guns and even tiles have been the tools for Vetrimaran's gangster characters,to thrive as perpetrators of pain.Rivalry,beastly targeting of the prey,betrayal for personal aggrandizement and uncouth revenge are the four pillars on which the gruesome structure is raised.There is absolutely no sense of belonging,because nobody knows who will betray whom and there is ever a weapon dangling behind everybody,to raise a back stab.But the charm of Vetrimaran is rather insidious,driving the audience glued to the screen, to surprise destinations,all of a sudden. Vetrimaran is a born celebrator of the spirit of rivalry,romance and sportsmanship,blending them all as integral segments of his ghastly celluloid chart,so as to lend some charm to the chillness of brutality. 
    A bike or a cock or the carom will transmit a kind of enchantment either by travelling along with the criminal agenda or by even surpassing it if necessary.It is stark realism that determines the quality of a Vetrimaran film,through an underplay of roles by most characters including his heroes.Who else can fit into this natural garb of role play other than the most natural actor Dhanush,who eases himself through casual,breezy delivery of dialogues and fixes himself in the minds of the audience,like an unassuming next door guy.Hence,he becomes the most appropriate choice for Vetrimaran to deliver heroism without engineering any extra effort of a blow up or image cult.  
   Vetrimaran's dark world does not exclude the crime belt of a section of the cops that exercises its police belt,to serve itself at the expense of the criminals,or to transform innocent youths into criminals by a hook of its strategic police brain.This is what we sadly witnessed in Visaranai. Vetrimaran's narration has never been direct or transparent.It is as much hidden as the dark criminal nexus,so that the narration can flawlessly percolate into the interiors of crime designs and cull out characters in their original form.
    Though a place for women could be called redundant in a crime cast,Vetrimaran has made the presence of women justifiable,by adding delight to the dryness of many diabolic death plots besides squeezing out heavier emotions harbouring untold revenge programmes,as seen in the character of Andrea Jeremiah,neatly etched out in Vada Chennai.As far as delight formula is concerned,Divyaa Spandana,Tapsee Pannu and Aishwarya Raajesh have compactly created fascinating sparks,by their controlled display of glamour,in Polladhavan,Aadukalam and Vada Chennai respectively.  
   Where violence alone prevails there is no scope for waste of words.Hence crisp and cutting dialogues echo the mind frame of men who spill blood more,than spelling words.Brevity is not only the soul of wit,but  also the mark of violence.The concluding statement of a cop in Visaranai,will beautifully endorse this assessment,when the cop says"both are done"to mean that both the honest police officer and the innocent youth have been done to death.
   The goon space has no room for comedy or humour.But at times any character will generate humour through their spontaneous utterances like the ones made by some of the jail mates in Vada Chennai.When one of the prisoners on hearing the news of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi,calls him the C M of Tamil Nadu,it subtly brings out the fact that ignorance never matters for those who excel in crime.All things happen naturally in the negative world of Vetrimaran be it the alluring lungi dance of Dhanush in Aadukalam,or the stealthy kissing episodes of Dhanush and his lover Aiswarya Rajesh in Vada Chennai.
    Perhaps it is such relieving scenes that retrieve the audience imagination at least for a while,from the gripping sequences of heart rending heartlessness of the aggressive promoters of thuggery and criminality,reigning an arena of the underprivileged.The worst part of all this macabre violence is that they they kill for sport,money, power and above all  for the self.There is politics.There are cops both honest and corrupt.There are hardcore criminals and soft ones.All in one bundle.That is Vetrimaran's vision of the bleak side of life.Whenever I watch a Vetrimaran film the following famous maxim of William Shakespeare strikes my mind.
        "As flies to wanton boys are we to Gods.They kill us for sport"
  By the way,there is a particular  scene in Vada Chenna showing Rajan{ finely performed by Ameer} getting brutally stabbed and killed by his trusted lieutenants in a restaurant,which would instantly bring to one's memory,the gory death of Julus Caesar in the Roman Senate Hall, in the hands of his silent rivals and trusted friend Brutus,in Shakespeare's wonderful historical tragedy"Julius Caesar"  
   In Vetrimaran's crime world,thugs kill one another like flies and they kill with a hunter's instinct and killer's arrogance.That is why all characters plunge into a stream of blood, leaving a minuscule of good elements to survive.Even these good elements seem to be waiting for the right moment to wreak vengeance and vendetta.It is this nagging back force of revenge that makes Vetrimaran's film skit sustain,with distinct vigour and virulence.May be that is why all his films stand critically reviewed and his Aadukalam won several national awards, including the best director's award. for him.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Four Finest Films of Gemini Ganesan.

     Gemini Ganesan was a born lover.He was born to be a romantic.He had a honey tongued voice that would travel through the ears of not only the women he loved,but also those of the audience,who watched him perform the role of a lover.Gemini made everybody munch his sweet words heard,like chewing gum,so as to make the sweetness linger for a longer duration. No other hero of Tamil cinema has ever passed on such a rhythm of language linked to the embryo of love,like the umbilical cord linking a baby to its mother.Almost all his films were dipped in nothing but sweet love,which was found to be sustaining in his veins even in his early seventies,when he acted in Kamalahasan's fabulous comedy Avvai Shanmugi in which he was found flooded with streams of love that he cherished for Kamal, in disguise as a woman called Shanmugi,
  Though he was not a tall hero to the stature of MGR or Sivaji Ganesan,he was an actor of classic standards and norms,set to establish the truth of what genuine love and romance mean. Starting from the days of his films likePathini Dheivam,Gunasundari,Sadhaaram,Aasai Karpukkarasi,Sowbakyavadhi,Mallika,Kairasi,Meenda Sorgam and Bhoologa Rambai it was an endless love journey for him on the Tamil big screen.
   Some of the movies of this less celebrated but fascinating hero,quite often surpassed the love zone and created history.Vanjikkottai Vaaliban,Paarthiban Kanavu and Konjum Salangai are some of his films ever cherished in audience memory for their being grand shows.His other immortal films are Missiamma,Kalathur Kannamma,Kaathirundha Kangal,Bhagyalakshmi, Kaalam Maari Pochu, Paadha Kaanikkai,Vaazhkai Padagu,Karpagam,Shanthi Nilayam,Ezhai Pangalan,Panamaa Paasamaa,Poovaa Thaliyaa,Kaaviya Thalaivi,Thaamarai Nenjam and Velli Vizha.He had breezy comedies to his credit such as Maaman Makal,Halo Mr.Zameendhaar, Thenilavu and Manidhan Maaravillai.I have excluded all the films he acted with Sivaji Ganesan because they were all double hero stories,with a greater thrust on the roles of the Chevalier. The list of his filmography would be very vast that includes the negative roles he played in Modern Theatres' Vallavanukku Vallavan and K.Balachander's Naan Avanillai. But there are four finest films of this wonderful actor that would stand up in singular pride and talk about the unsaid but silently enjoyed cinematic glory of life's lofty edge.
    Interestingly,two of the four movies were directed by Sridhar the refined,romantic film maker and the other two by K.Balachander the elegant narrator of real life situations,causing subtle entanglements for the protagonist.Yes. Kalyana Parisu,Sumaithaangi,Iru Kodukal and Punnagai are for me, the finest films of Gemini Ganesan,the sweetest hero.To me,what brings the four films into a single bundle is the theme of human predicament,denoting an inextricable web of life's complexities.It is like gold being put into flames for its purification.In all the four films,the hero is thrown into a boiling cauldron of emotions,arising out of helplessness and extraneous pulls spoiling the life of an individual.
   Both Kalayana Parisu and Iru Kodugal narrated the plight of a man caught in between two women but both were totally different in their genesis and development of events.In Kalayana Parisu the two women were sisters,both loving the same man and one of them who is actually loved by the hero gives up her love,for the sake of her sister and the hero is compelled to fall into the pyre of sacrifice .As the sister who marries the hero comes to know her sibling's sacrifice of love,she turns guilty and urges her sibling to marry some one.The unpalatable climax is the marriage of the sibling to another guy{played with dignity by A.Nageshwara Rao} and the death of the elder sister a few months after giving birth to a son.The elder sister's death and the younger one's marriage happen,one preceding the other,letting the hero leave his son as his marriage gift to the woman whom he ardently loved.Gemini Ganesan came out as pure gold from the excruciating course of events.Vijayakumari and Sarojadevi were the affectionate sisters with a mutually sacrificing mindset.
    Iru Kodukal was also the story of a man entangled in a two women web.But in this film the two women were not sisters.The plight of the hero was that of a middle class man whose genuine love with a woman was pulled down by unforeseen circumstances and parental manipulations.The hero's marriage with another woman and the return of the original lover as his superior officer{district collector} took the further course of events to the extent of making the hero's routine move between a flooded river and its fiery bank.It was like sailing between the two mythological rocks called Scylla and Charybdis.
    For Gemini Ganesan a two women story became an enchanting enterprise and he impressively underwent the struggles with his neat emotions,rising over the tides and crossing them as naturally as he could.In fact,Vellivizha was also a film showing Gemini Ganesan shuttling between two women destinations but the narration in Iru Kodukal was so natural and dynamic that it made the audience spell bound, by a life like routine moving on the silver screen. Sowcar Janaki reigned supreme as the forlorn lover and I A S officer while Jeyanthi the wife of the hero passively and naturally went on with her whining domestic core.How grand Tamil Cinema was those days and how nostalgic we turn when we think of those days.
    When compared to these two films,Sumaithangi and Punnagai were poignantly hero oriented movies celebrating the grandeur of noble character formation.While Sridhar's Sumaithangi was both a romantic tale and a family drama,with the latter element surpassing the former, Punnagai was out and out Balachander's resolute idealization of an individual, in a multi coloured society.If Sumaithangi's hero was the embodiment of selfless sacrifice,the hero of Punnagai was the incarnation of truth i.e symbolizing an individual's unflinching dedication to truth. Punnagai which means 'smile' in English,reflected the committed smile of the Mahatma born of innate,immaculate truth. Sumaithangi which would mean a person born to bear others' burden showcased Gemini Ganesan as a person born to bear the cross for others.
    Both these films were the meekest revelations of the ennobling attributes of humanity.Gemini Ganesan's modesty and underplay of emotions made him a colossal hero with his soft voice stamping the transmission of nobility without any murmur.The spirit of stoic resignation and the pious acceptance of the happenings in life were brilliantly focused by factors like characterization and narration.I have not said anything about the other characters of the two films because everyone was made to draw inspiration from the hero,whose display and demonstration of the deeper layers of his character were dramatically gripping.
   Many would have thought that Gemini Ganesan was a mediocre hero, running after the trees to catch the heroine on a stereotyped road of romance.But his acting stuff was far beyond the perceptions of the audience.Most of his films would undoubtedly exhibit his inveterate warmth and ecstatic spirit of acting,without undue promotion of body language or overdoing of scenic requirements,but with adequate display of emotions as soothingly as possible.His sonorous voice modulation stapled him to the character he played,with remarkable ease and felicity.All his films threw an endearing experience to the purview of the audience.The above four films in particular,belonged to the finest category of Gemini Ganesan films.