Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Four Exemplary Imitations.



    Cinema in general is passing through a galaxy of phases such as technology boom,talent boom and exhaustive reach beyond the theatre bound screens.Titles,themes,story lines,musical medleys and several other features pinpoint to the possibility of creativity leaning on some other source or base which could also have derived its core from yet another base.Originality in creativity is a highly restrictive term in the sense that ultimately it is the totality of the end product and its consummate appeal that determine the term originality. After all no one can create new feelings and emotions,because they originated on the day when the first human was born.All that happened after that could be called a series of transformation and refinement that take every generation closer to their goals depending upon the aspiration and expectation of each generation.
   If we take the case of cinema in general and Tamil cinema in particular,there have been a successive repetition of film titles,addition of prequels and sequels,remakes,fusion of glorious tunes and songs from the past and above all an intrinsic reorganization of themes and story lines.Though repetition of a theme is inevitable in the creative process,an almost similar version in creativity to the extent of making a film,a xerox version of its predecessor,while at the same time receiving wide audience support,is nothing but a prestigious phenomenon.
  Tamil cinema could feel elated about a few immortal imitations of their previous blockbusters. This article focusses on four such xerox versions that made history in the line of their original versions.They are Chimbudheven's Imsai Arasan Irubadhumoonraam Pulikesi inspiring us with fascinating memories of the felicitous film UthamaPuthiran made by Venus Pictures,  Ulallathai Allithaa,reverberating the roars of laughter from B.R.Pantulu's Sabash Meenaa,  Karakaattakkaaran toeing the line of the grand epic Thillaanaa Mohanaambaal and finally Sakalakala Vallavan echoing the jubilation of its mother version Pattikaadaa Pattanama. 
   Uthamaputhiran  co-produced by Sridhar and directed by T.Prakash Rao was a 1958 release and there was another film of the same title released in 1940,starring P.U.Chinnappa.The title seems to have been so catchy that one more film bearing the same tile with a totally different theme and story,came as a breezy entertainer in 2010 with Dhanush and Genelia D'souza adorning the screen.The 1958 film was an awesome historical fiction delineating the conflict of interest between a pair of royal twins called Vikraman and Parthiban,one groomed as a wastrel by his maternal uncle aspiring to usurp the kingdom by keeping the heir apparent as a dummy and the other twin born,presumed to be dead by the foul machinations of the uncle Naganathan, wonderfully performed by M.N.Nambiyar. 
    Chimbudeven in his inimitable style,imitated the story of Uthamaputhiran and boldly made Vaigai Storm Vadivelu to play the dual roles as Pulikesi and Ukraputhan and Nasser as the maternal uncle Sangilimaayan,powerfully substituting M.N.Nambiyar.It was a movie in mock epic mode but earned rave reviews and audience applause thanks the the comedy segment permeating through out the film. Vadivelu was his best self,in taking himself to extraordinary levels of comedy and sobriety.However,Sabesh Murali's music was not at all a match for G. Ramanathan's musical grandeur in Uthama Puthiran.Songs like Kaathiruppaan Kamala Kannan,Mullai Malar Mele and Yaaradee Nee Mohini are still sweetly ringing in our ears as timeless musical treasures.Similarly the two heroines of Imsai Arasan could not come anywhere near the charm and grace of Padmini,both in looks and character portrayal.It was Vadivelu who solely surcharged the film. 
    Padmini Pictures' Sabash Meena {1958}and Sundar C's Ullathai Allithaa{1996} are the other two films identical in story line and treatment of theme and characterization.Both are hilarious comedies,farcical in nature surpassing the barriers of time,through situational outbreak of humour. Unusually,unlike the other three imitation formula films,Ullathai Allitha became a greater commercial success than its previous model.Both were tales of happy go lucky guys indulging in acts of impersonation without an iota of inhibition.While Sabash Meena began with a context of existing friendship between the hero and his jobless friend,Ullathai Allithaa showed the hero getting himself acquainted with the fraudulent Goundamani and then firming up friendship through intimidating tactics. Sivaji Ganesan very casually performed his role with an exceptional comedy fervour and Chandrababu,reputed for his raw comedy sense and brilliant profiles of gesticulation was a perfect foil for Sivaji Ganesan.
   In both the cases the heroes were relocated by their fathers {played by D.Balasubramanyam in Sabaash Meena and by Jai Ganesh in Ullathai Allithaa}to another place to get their worthless sons reformed by their trustworthy friends. S.V.Rengarao was the friend in the former and Manivannan,in the latter.While the heroine in Sabash Meena {Malini} was a poor woman,her close friend{B.Sarojadevi} was the daughter of  the rich S.V.Rengarao. Whereas in Ullathai Allithaa,the heroine {Ramba}was the daughter of Manivannan,a wealthy business magnate.The other notable change over,was the dual roles allotted to Manivannan instead of Goundamani unlike Banthulu's assignment of dual roles to Chandrababu.In fact in dual roles as the idle friend of the hero and as a rickshaw puller speaking the Chennai slang of Tamil,Chandrababu ruled to the roost creating robust scenes of laughter.
    Instead Sundar C who is known for creating scenes of rib tickling laughter through a ruckus,did a good job in juxtaposing complexities,by jumbling of characters on the run.There was greater clarity in Panthulu's narration but the laughter component was definitely higher in Sundar C's presentation. Aasai Kiliye Kobamaa,Chithiram Pesudhadi and Kaanaa Inbam Kanindhadheno are the mesmerizing numbers from the laudable music of T.G.Lingappa,who composed the sound track for Sabash Meenaa.Azhagiya Lyla,I love you love sonnaale and Adi Anaarkali are the soothing songs from Sirpi's music for Ullathai Allithaa.
     Vijayalaksmi Pictures' Thillaanaa Mohanaambaal released in 1968 was an epic show of the competitive spirit between a Naadhaswaram expert and an exquisite bharadhanaatyam dancer blended with the splendour of man woman passion for each other with its inherent elements of possessiveness and suspicion.It was really a classic in all respects,attaining the status of an eternal legacy.The film was altogether an audiovisual treat and is remembered scene by scene by movie buffs even after five decades.But Gangai Amaran's Karagaattakkaaran that hit the screens more than twenty years after Thillaanaa Moganaambaal,was in no way inferior in terms of its entertainment value.This film which ran for nearly a year in some theatres will ever linger in audience memory as a unique show of the traditionally rural and mind blowing form of art called Karagam.Here both the hero and the heroine were exuberant karagam dancers one vying with the other to win over the street audience in the film, followed by the theatre audience watching the film on the big screens.
   Though the role play of Ramarajan and Kanaga could not be equated with the acting potential of Sivaji and Padmini,it has to be assertively recorded that as karagam dancers  Ramarajan and Kanaga gave a great show of their commitment and devotion to rural glory with impeccable dynamism.The stomach curdling comedy scene of the two banana issue and the Soppana Sundari episode were the additional memoirs of this equally immortal film.These two scenes struck a similar note with the soda beeda dialogue between Sivaji Ganesan and T.S.Balaiah and the train scene in which T.S.Balaiah would been seen purposely leaning on C.K.Saraswathi, both unforgettable pleasure points of Thillaanaa Mohanaambaal.
   The music of K.V.Mahadevan in the former and that of Ilayaraja in the latter were invaluable pointers to the context,genre and zone of the theme and situation-related factors of both the films,making them both coexist as creatively,competitively and commercially popular movies, significantly relevant to their respective periods.There was of course a salient difference.There was no Vaidhi,the lean and cantankerous character of Thillaanaa Mohanaambaal{amazingly performed by Nagesh}in Karakaattakkaaran,though Gangai Amaran convincingly replaced the character of the greedy mother of Mohanaambaal with that of the avaricious brother in law of Kaamaatchi in Karakaatrakkaaran.
    Everybody who had watched the Nineteen Seventies' Silver Jubilee hit Pattikaadaa Pattanamaa would have longed to watch it again,on account of the never sagging gusto in narration maintained by the veteran film maker late P.Madhavan.Sivaji Ganesan as the captivating rustic,tuft bearing Mookaiyyan,Jeyalalithaa as the turbulent,urban girl and ebullient V.K.Ramasamy struggling to tame his shrewish wife Sukumari were the four pillars of this solidly monumental film.The vigorous conflicting elements of the film were village and town,self dignity and arrogance of wealth and the radiance of submission against the ruin of aggression.While Sivaji Ganesan and VKR represented the nobler elements,Jeyalalitha and her mother Sukumari remained as the characteristic symbols of the negative side.The film boisterously showcased the victory of the former against the latter.Pattikkaadaa Pattanamaa was released in 1972 and ran crowd packed,for twenty five weeks.
   A decade latter AVM studious came out with an imitated version of P.Madhavan's mighty show.The film Sakalakalaa Vallavan starring Kamalahasan{as village Velu}V.K.Ramasamy  Ambika and Pushpalatha repeating the characters of Sivaji Ganesan,V.K.R,Jeyalalitha and Sukumari also became a blockbuster. This film directed by S.P.Muthuraman recapitulated the whole gamut of Pattikaadaa Pattanamaa,portraying the positive versus negative factors with a slight shift in entertainment focus and an addition of sibling characters to join the hero and heroine{a sister for the hero and a brother for the heroine}.
  Music of both the films spread through the streets of Tamil Nadu with songs like Adi Ennadi Raakkammaa and Kettukodi Urumimelam from Pattikkaadaa Pattanamaa and Kattavandi Kattavandi besides Nethu Raathiri from Sakalakalaa Vallavan passing on the musical excellence of M.S.Viswanathan and Ilayaraja.All other aspects of both these films travelled towards the destination of taming the termagant wife.Interestingly,Pattikkaadaa Pattanamaa itself bore its lenience to Shakespeare's play Taming of the Shrew.We do not know how and from where the world famous English Playwright got his inspiration to draw the base for his play.
   The eight films brought under a single scanner for identical appropriation of story line, narration of scenic course of events and characterization norms,would categorically affirm the power of imitation of creative norms.T.S.Eliot the America born English poet once said "imitation is the tribute mediocrity pays to greatness''.The four successive films thriving on their power of imitation,have vindicated the validity of the poet's statement not merely by succeeding their earlier versions,but by stamping their own mark of successful manifestation of cinema as a creative pathway for exemplary imitations.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Great woman with a grumpy profile on screen


   It is a general belief that women settle their scores with men by their power of words and the way they use them.Though some women take a recourse to silence for clinching their issues the best and easiest way for them is to argue endlessly and achieve their argued goal,in their favour. Hence cinema as a powerful medium has effectively showcased the power of women's silence and their surgical strikes through words,cutting across the hurdles against their end game.Tamil films as well as Tamil television serials are never found lacking in projecting the two extremes of the fairly empowered women.
   The second category of women would have found a wider space and prominence in the big and small screens,on account of the dramatic need to maintain the tempo in narration throughout the screenplay.This is how actors of the last century like P.S. Gnanam  C.T. Raja kantham ,C.K. Saraswathi and M.S Sundaribhai conquered the mood of the audience through their vociferous portrayal of characters whether they were playing positive or antagonistic roles.These women were the best bet,for playing the role of vindictive mothers-in- law and vituperative step mothers. These exemplary actors made the power of their eyes and tongue so hurting and formidable,that they could easily carry on their negative roles as child's play.
   In this regard,there came a woman in the Nineteen eighties to rule the Tamil celluloid arena,to be ever unsurpassed,by her sheer energy of words packed as if in a devil's laboratory. Vadivukkarasi she is called.Her name if translated into English would mean the queen of appearance/form.Being the niece of veteran film maker A.P.Nagarajan,acting must have come to her as naturally as leaves to a tree or feathers to a bird.
   Vadivukkarasi first appeared in Bharatiraja's Sigappu Rojakkal in which she was shown as one of the victims of the hero's{Kamalahasan} misogyny.Then came films of considerable acclaim such as Kanni Paruvathile,Dheiveeka Raagangal and Kannil Theriyum Kadhaikal.Of these Kanni Paruvathile was one of the most memorable films of Vadivukkarasi,because of its neat story line depicting the dreaded routine of a woman,struggling to escape from the womanizing ventures of a relative{Bhagyaraj} who somehow came to know of the privations of her being married to an impotent man.Vadivukkarasi poignantly portrayed the personal anguish of a psychologically disturbed woman.It should have been one of the best films in her career.
   However, perhaps due to her facial profile or want of heroine opportunities,Vadivukkarasi was soon pushed to the edge of playing elderly roles as an elder sister or mother of heroes and heroines.But this seems to have become a blessing in disguise for her.Who can ever forget the Ponnaatha of Mudhal Mariyaadhai,the virago kind of rural woman,never trying to speak a good word in her routine. That too,imagine her playing the role of the Chevalier's wife,being never bothered about hurting the venerable village chieftain,who chanced to marry her in spite of her unwed pregnancy,purely for the sake of preserving the family dignity of his maternal uncle. Caught in between the shame of secrecy and a nagging domestic routine,it was a pathetic role that Sivaji Ganesan played, gulping every moment,the insult hurled at him by his unworthy wife.
   But how naturally and dynamically Vadivukkarasi essayed this negative role with precision and perfection.Her casual absorption of the Madhurai slang bearing the stamp of a specific community of that region,literally took her to new heights as a natural actor fitting herself exuberantly to the region and its language.This single portrayal would speak volumes of her thespian excellence,to make herself as the most desired supporting actor of Tamil cinema. 
   Bharati Raja the Tamil soil's proud film maker,should really have felt elated about offering this meaty role to an actor whom he himself introduced in Sgappu Rojakkal.From then on the vociferous voice of Vadivukkarasi gained currency and antagonistic roles came to her one after the other. Her well carved profile made it a cake walk for her, to exhibit herself as the most formidable elder woman of Tamil cinema.Vadivukkarasi again appeared almost during the same year of release of Muthal Mariyaadhai {1985}as the bad mouthed wife of Sivaji Ganesan in Rajinikanth's Padikkadhavan.Some of the other films of the Superstar in which Vadiuk karasi found a place are Mr.Bharat,Arunachalam,Padayappa and Sivaji{as Rajinikanth's mother}.
    Of these, in Arunachalam she came as a hunch backed old woman ever suspecting and denigrating the hero.Similar to this was her cynical role in Samastaanam as the mother of Suresh Gopi,always trying to create a wedge between him and his friend Sarathkumar by casting aspersions and prejudices on the latter.With Prabu her great role was in Periya Thambi.With Vijayakanth,her roles in Thavasi and Enga Annaa,need a special mention.In Thavasi too,she played a negative character attributing motives to the hero and his father.{both played by Vijayakanth}
  Whether Vadivukkarasi donned a negative role or a woman of positive vibes,her role play always imbibed the power of argumentation placing her opinion heard at the right level,at the time and right place.She would have acted in about 200 films including those in Telugu and Malayalam. Besides she keeps on stepping into each and every home through the small screen. From Alaigal to the ongoing Roja and Chinna Thambi,her serial significance determines her sustained popularity as the most wanted woman to play powerful elderly roles not only in films but also in the television serials.Though she would have contributed her might in all the serials,the best in my opinion is Thirumathi Selvam,in which she played the desperate role of the mother of three daughters including the heroine of the serial.
    Vadivukkarasi could be rated along with Aachi Manorama.But unlike Manorama and the other existing reputed artist Saranya Ponvannan,Vadivukkarasi is definitely a different brand of actor who has come to fill the absence of actors like C.K.Saraswathi and M.S.Sundarbhai.Setting aside the temptation to look for comparable yardsticks and examples,it should be categorically stated that Vadivukkarasi is a powerful woman in her own capacity,with talents filling up all loopholes lying hidden in character delineation,by the power of interaction through valid words never failing to hit the intended goal.Her voice may shuffle between vociferous and meek extremities.But the validity of her words and the power of their access, never fail to reach the audience both at home and in the theatres.