Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Two Telugu Delights of Tamil Cinema


     Telugu film world has substantially enriched Tamil cinema,during the pre-independent and post independent decades of  India. Eminent film makers like L.V.Prasad,T.Prakash Rao, P.Pullaiah, D.Yoganand,K.Prakash Rao,Vedantam Ragavaiah,Tapi Chanakya and many others,enhanced Tamil Cinema's glory,during their respective periods.There were also wonderful singers like Ghantasala, P.B.Srinivas P.Susheela,S.Janaki Jikki and Jamunarani and mesmerising music composers like Adhi Narayana Rao. Actors like S.V.Renga Rao and V.Nagaiah contributed enormously to the acting tempo on the big screen,besides the early Telugu heroes like N.T.Ramarao, A.Nageswara Rao and Suman.
   Similarly, there were great heroines like Savithri,P.Bhanumathi,Sowcar Janaki, Sharadha and Rajasulochana. But there were two great Telugu artists who with their sparkling eyes and identical acting dimensions of feminine grace and sublime sensibilities,delighted the audience and glued them to the Tamil Silver screen.Both these actresses had their historic innings,with Sivaji Ganesan as the hero.They were Devika and Vanisri  the two magnificent actresses of a significant era of Tamil cinema.
    Devika who was five years older than Vanisri  and who is no more,shuttled between Telugu and Tamil language films,with an equal focus on both the languages.Where, as Vanisri's Telugu contribution was twice that of Tamil films,though a majority of her Tamil films continue to make her remain as an eternal delight of the Tamil film audience.Both Devika and Vanisri had acted with the three illustrious heroes,M.G.R, Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan.Devika's single film Anandha Jothi with M.G.R,is still rolling in audience mood not only for the P.Susheela's timeless song "Ninaika Therindha Maname Unakku Markka Theriyaadhaa" but also for her fear stricken role,with her little younger brother,{the little rebellious boy Kamalahasan},unpleasantly gulping the threats of the crude villain,P.S,Veerappa.Vanisri did three films with MGR{ Kannan En Kadhalan,Thalaivan and Oorukku Uzhaippavan} and all had less scope for her to perform with independent merit.
   It would have been an exuberant journey in acting for these two women,to be a pair of the Chevalier.Devika was seen with Sivaji Ganesan in myths like Karnan,Thiruvilayaadal and Saraswathi Sabadham{she was not paired with Sivaji Ganesan in the last two}family dramas like Shanthi,Annai Illam,Paava Mannippu,Pazhani, Bhandha Paasam,Muradan Muthu and Anbu Karangal,romantic ecstasies like Neelavanam and Aandavan Kattalai and situational comedies like Bale Pandia. For Vanisri it was always a fantastic romantic experience with Sivaji Ganesan, in fabulous films like Uyarndha Manidhan,Sivakamiyin Selvan,Vasantha Malikai  Vani Rani, and Rojavin Raja,family dramas like Niraikudam, Kulama Gunama{in which she was paired with Jai Shankar}and Nallathoru Kudumbam.
   The profound layers of man woman relationship sailing on a lovely stream of romance, always carried the fairy touch of a fantasy experience,in the minds of the audience,whenever  these two women happened to fall into the hands of that mighty hero,who knew how to showcase them along with him,as ravishing benefactors and beneficiaries of a mind blowing romantic experience.This is what we positively witnessed in films like Neelavanam, Aandavan Kattalai, Uyarndha Manidhan and Vasantha Maalaigai.
   With the other hero Gemini Ganesan,Devika's best film was Vaazkai Padaku followed by Idhayathil Nee and Sumaithangi{which was a tragic tale of romance}.Vanisri's two unforgettable films with the king of romance were,Thamarai Nenjam and Velli Vizha.In both the films Vanisri played the role of an ideal woman symbolising the power of Platonic love. Incidentally,both were K.Balachander's beautiful films.If K.Balachander rightly identified the acting merits of Vanisri,C.V Sridhar had perfectly tapped Devika's inherent  passion for romantic roles by offering her the right opportunity in his films like Nenjil Oer Aalayam, Nenjam Marappadhillai and Sumaithaangi.
    Apart from Sivaji Ganesan,Vanisri's regular hero was Jai Shanker with whom she did her debut film Kaadhal Paduthum Paadu produced and directed by Joseph Thalith Jr,on behalf of his Citadel Studios.In fact Vanisri would have acted in  more number of Jai Shankar films, than those of Sivaji Ganesan. With Jai Shankar her special films were Kannipenn  and Kulama Gunama.Devika who was introduced by Muktha V.Srinivasan in his debut film Mudhalali acted with Gemini Ganesan, S.S.Rajendran,Muthuraman and Kalyan Kumar besides Sivaji Ganesan,her most suitable man on screen.With Kalyan Kumar,her remarkable films were Nanjil Oer Aalayam {as his former lover} Nenjam Marappadhillai,KadavulaiKandein and Yaarukku Sondham.She has also acted with Jai Shankar in Dheiveega Uravu. Devika was an actress groomed by eminent film makers like A.Bhimsingh,C.V. Sridhar,P.Madhavan, A.P.Nagarajan K.Shankar ,S.S.Vasan and B.R.Panthulu besides Muktha V.Srinivasan who introduced her.Whereas apart from Joseph Thaliath,directors like Krishnan Panju, K.Vijayan, K.Balachander,Mutha V.Srinivasan ,K.S.Gopalakrishnan, C.V.Rajendran, and B.R.Pathulu fine tuned Vanisri's fascinating portrayal of characters.
   What brings these two actresses together, is not simply their nativity to the Telugu region but their very similar portrayal of womanhood,as something truly endearing and truly lovable. Their sparkling eyelashes speaking more of a shuddering exterior,seem to hide a firm frame of mind that always radiates an identical mark of their profiles and protocols of cinematic presentation of characters.In both of them,one can notice the elements of innocence in looks and an exquisite appeal of  feminine fantasy,capable of conquering the minds of men,without any cosmetic extravagance. Aandavan Kattalai and Uyarndha Manidhan are the two special films of these two women with their romantic gusto invading the heart and soul of the hero and thereby pulling the audience with a magnetic spell,into an equally exciting romantic experience, with an uncontrollable sense of longing to travel along with the hero,on his exotic romantic journey.
    One cannot think of these two actresses as women characters ever raising their tone to talk rudely,or stepping into a course of argumentation with their men counter parts.They were mostly noticed at the receiving end of any emotional bargain,that normally happens between man and woman.It was a generously surrendering kind of role,they both played, to draw the aroma of feminine grace and charm.Devika personified  the essence of feminine dignity through her roles in films like Marakka Mudiyuma and Nenjil Oer Aalayam and Vanisri vindicated selflessness through her characters in Thamarai Nenjam and Vellivizha.If Neelavanam, Aandavan Kattalai, Uyarndha Manidhan Vasantha Malaikai were romantic classics, Nenjil Oer Aalayam,Marakka Mudiyumaa,Thaamarai Nenjam and Velli Vizha could be called the ideal fruits virtuousness,dipped into the honey of ennobling human emotions. Purity was the essence of these films.It is quite natural that these films were pure, because the makers of these films were the masters,perpetuating the best side of  human life.
    With these minimal observations on the two Telugu delights,it could be happily summed up that any devotee of Tamil cinema will feel impoverished in their film watching experience, without duly recalling the golden memories of the succulent contribution  of these two Telugu delights to Tamil cinema,through their commendable films, Mudhalaali, Vaanambadi Neelavaanam,Aandavan Kattalai,Nenjil Oer Aalayam, Marakkamudiyuma and Vazhkai padaku {of Devika} and the mighty entries like Uyarndha Manidhan,Vasantha Maalikai, Sivakamiyin Selvan,Thamarai Nenjam,Velli Vizha, Kulama Gunama,Irulum Oliyum and Annaiyum Pithaavum.{of Vanisri}.With less than 50 Tamil films in each one's archives, these two Telugu delights conquered Tamil emotions,by their submissive but enthralling portrayal of characters on the big screen.Tamil Theatre experience will remain woefully incomplete without these two Telugu delights.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

M.G.R's timing for changing his heroines


   It is a known fact that MGR,the triple initials,reached a cult status in Tamil cinema,more on account of the social ideologies and moral principles,that he perpetuated through his prioritised characters,than by varieties of roles that his contemporary Sivaji Ganesan stood for.Moreover, unlike Sivaji Ganesan whose straight entry was as a hero,MGR had to struggle a lot,to reach the hero status,only after doing secondary roles in nearly a dozen films with heroes like M.K.Radha P.U Chinnappa, M.K.Thiagaraja Bhagavadhar and a few others.Until the days of Rajakumari, Marudha Naattu Ilavarasi, Marmayogi and Mandhiri Kumari,he had to wait, because he stepped into film career nearly fifteen years prior to Sivaji Ganesan.
   MGR's earliest heroines were K.Malathi, Madhuridevi, B.S.Saroja, S.D.Subbulakshmi, V.N.Janaki and T.R.Rajakumari. It was V.N.Janaki who acted with him in more number of films during his early spell as single hero.Then came the other heroines Anjali Devi, G.Varalakshmi,S.Varalakshmi, E.V.Saroja,P.Bhanumathi and Padmini.Of these,his more frequent female pairs were, Bhanumathi and Padmini,because while the former was a professional singer,the latter was a classical dancer.Of all heroes it was MGR who could effectively read the pulse of the audience and anticipate their mood.He was also good at assessing the popular performers during different periods and accommodate them in his films,depending upon their suitability and compatibility,to his screen expectations.
   Like the themes and story lines of MGR films,which were structurally and ideologically well connected to his socio-political aspirations,his heroines were also participants in his celluloid programme,so as to fix themselves relevantly to his pet ideologies.Even his family dramas were made to rope in women participants,in a routine of cherishing noble emotions of womanhood and motherhood.As such, the scope for a demanding delivery of characters,was much less in M.G.R.films when compared to Sivaji Ganesan films.
   What was different between M.G.R and Sivaji Ganesan in their enrolment of heroines,was the number. Sivaji Ganesan would have acted with more than two dozen women in his entire film career.Whereas,in the case of MGR the number could be a little more than a dozen.The Chevalier's most frequent female pairs were Padmini,B.SarojadevK.R.Vijaya,and J.Jeya lalithaai,followed by Sowcar Janaki,P.Bhanumadhi,Devika and Vanisri.While all these women have also been paired with MGR,{Sowcar Janaki and Devika did one film each viz.Panam Padaithavan and Aanandha Jothi} almost fifty percent of films of this mass hero,were confined to the presence of B.Sarojadevi and J.Jeyalalitha.However Sivaji Ganesan's later pairs like Usha Nandini,Sri Priya,Sujatha,Ambika,Radha,Vadivukarasi and Radhika had no opportunity to act with MGR,
     MGR would do the right thing at the right time,to effect a change in terms of the cinematic value of his films,so that the audience would cherish their film watching experience of an MGR film,with the MGR image,rooted firmly to their conscious and sub conscious foundations.For instance,at a time when only black and white films were making their rounds in Southern India,it was MGR who came out with the first Tamil/South Indian colour film Alibabavum Narpadhu Thirudarkalum{made in Geva Colour} to draw the attention of the production houses,to compete with the commercial trend of Bollywood.
   Though MGR and Sivaji Ganesan were said to have equally ruled the Tamil film industry at one point of time,with their popularity and decision making possibilities,it was also viewed that MGR wielded more power,in deciding the scope and value of many artists,technicians as well as the transitional  patterns of film making,which consequentially increased the budget value of his films,with assured returns of  substantial profit.Hence, besides having a say on most matters of film making, he also had an instinctive forethought to change his heroines as and when necessary.When MGR had already done five films with P.Bhanumathi,and when B.Sarojadevi rose to fame through her remarkable performance in Kalyana Parisu,he rightly made her join his hand in Nadodi Mannan {in which MGR became a debut director too},because as per the story line,the character of P.Bhanumathi was to sacrifice its life, for the sake of the hero.The other interesting fact about Nadodi Mannan was its speciality in being the only Tamil film with a black and white first half and a Geva colour second half. 
    Similarly, after letting B.Sarojadevi to be his chosen female co star for nearly 15 films, he thought his films needed a change of heroine to pass on the freshness of his films to the audience.After watching J.Jeyalalitha's performance in Vennira Aadai,perhaps he would have thought that she would be the best bet for his future projects.Though Aayirathil Oruvan released in 1965,was the first film of Jeyalalitha with MGR,two years later in Arasa Kattalai directed by his brother M G Chakrabani,MGR repeated the same formula of B. Sarojadevi sacrificing her life for the hero,as P.Bhanumathi did in Nadodi Mannan.
    Incidentally,it should be mentioned here that he picked up both B.Sarojadevi and J.Jeyalalitha  only after their mighty show in the two great films of C.V.Sridhar, who had not till then directed any film of MGR.That  MGR gave Sridhar a new lease of life as film maker,when Urimai Kural became a block buster,is another matter.On the whole,B.Sarojadevi was his pair in about 26 films and J.Jeyalalitha in about 28 films.
  After enrolling Jeyalalitha in almost 25 films,MGR went in for a change of heroine in his home production {Sathya Movies}block buster film Rickshakaran,with Manjula as his new find.Later in the mega hit film Ulagam Sutrum Valiban {directed by himself} which had three heroines, MGR did not think of Jeyalalitha as one of them but chose Manjula, Chandrakala and Latha{who became his successful pair after Sarojadevi and Jeyalalitha}.
   Almost all the heroines of MGR films,were conventional additions,because in an MGR film, only those three letters and their charisma that mattered more than anything.MGR repeated the same hat trick with his heroines,after acting a score of films with J.Jeyalalitha to go in for newer faces like Manjula{in three films} and Latha {in about a dozen films}.There were of course other women like K.R.Vijaya, Lakshmi,Vanisri,Radha Salooja and Rathna who had acted in two or three films,in the midst of his regular and  immortal heroines,B.Sarojadevi and J.Jeyalalitha.The third position as the most preferred heroine of MGR would naturally go to Latha.
    M.G.R knew how to fix his mascot,in accordance with the changing times.Be it the replacement of comedians[Nagesh in the place of Chandrababu or Cho/Thengai Srinivasan instead of Nagesh}or singers{K.J.Yesudas and S.P.Balasubramaniyam in the place of T.M.S}or his heroines,his predictions about the success value of his films hardly went wrong .Nevertheless as far as his villains were concerned, after P.S.Veerappa,it was M.N.Nambiyar or S.A.Asokan {or both} who continued to travel with him on the screen,as his regular antagonists.For him, it was always the timing for a change that counted very significant and his perceptions with regard to the timing for change of heroines proved his ripeness and farsightedness,in determining the reach of his films with his innumerable fans and adorers.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Some Scenes of song contests in Tamil films

   The success of any film depends on a large scale,on its screen play.Screen play would include a plethora of ingredients such as promotion of themes through powerful narration of events,portrayal of characters,dramatic efficacy,delivery of dialogues, cinematography, choreography and necessary stunts and song sequences all elegantly edited to reach a compact, convincing,and saleable mega hit final product.But not always these diverse elements are compatibly mixed to make a film a block buster.
   Most films are remembered for some special scenes and some films are recalled for their beautiful blending of all relevant dynamics.Among special scenes,apart from enlivening display of scenes of action, one could recall special stage performances included in a film,by way of lifting fascinating portions from literary and historical pieces, as Sivaji Ganesan was made to demonstrate from Shakespeare's Othello,Hamlet,Julius Caesar and other memorable scenes from the lives of men like Emperor Ashoka,Socrates,Saleem,Bhagat Singh and several others.
   In the same manner, to mark a note of difference, some of the film makers would relevantly,or conveniently,include a scene of stage competition of song and music in order to provide a dramatic relief to the audience.In a film pronouncing the celebration of music{for instance a film like K.Viswanath's Sankarabaranam or K.Balachander's Sindhu Bhairavi}the entire course of narration will be focused on the musical ecstasy.However,in some films,a musical or song contest will be inserted as an easing factor, with healing components.It is possible for any one from the experienced Tamil film audience, to call back adequate scenes in this regard and perpetuate them in their memories.
   The earliest such scene of a song competition that I watched on the big screen was from the enchanting romantic/situation comedy Adutha Veettu Penn{1960}starring Anjalidevi which was produced by Anjali pictures and directed by Vedantam Raghavaiah.The film had a high spirited cast of actors like T.R.Ramachandran,K.A.Thangavelu.K. Sarangabani,A Karunani dhi, M.R.Santhaanam,TP.Muthulatchumi, M.Saroja and P.D.Sambandham.The rich entertainment factors of the film made it a mega hit.The film also had commendable musical scores thanks to the lyrics of Thanjai Ramaiah Das and the musical composition of Adhi Narayana Rao.The heroine was a music lover but the the hero who was after her,was a total stranger to music.However,in front of her he proved to be an excellent singer through the borrowed musical voice of his friend {K.A.Thangavelu}.
   There was a scene in the film that demanded the hero to compete with a musical teacher and prove his musical mettle.As the hero and the heroine were neighbours,the stage for the competitions would be their adjacent homes.It would be a scene of laughter ruckus to watch the hero moving his lips to synchronise with the song sung by his friend and saviour,to prove his vocal 'wealth' against that of a professional music teacher.The song was" Kangalum Kavi Paadudhe" and the two playback singers who rendered the sweet song were Tiruchy Loganadhan[for the music teacher} and Seerkazhi Govindarajan{for K.A.Thangavelu}The song carried enormous vibrations with carnatic touches, bordering on a jovial note.
  The next song contest scene that I witnessed was also in a wonderful comedy film named Bale  Pandiya{1962}produced by Padmini Pictures and directed by B.R.Panthulu. It was breezy story of fun displaying the casual performance of Sivaji Ganesan in triple roles and the uproarious  villain M.R.Radha playing dual roles.The film was a minced mix up of romance,comedy and abortive moves of villainy.All the songs written by Kannadasan which were musically enriched by the duo Viswanathan Ramamoorthy, became a bonanza for the ears.But there was one hilarious scene of rib tickling musical show,with  tremendous energy flow in the fantastic voices of T.M.S and M.Raju. The mighty song was "Neeye Unakku Enrum Nigaranavan"{Only you are always equal to you}Even now if one who watched film recalls the scene,the song and its  vibration would conquer their imagination,with a timeless flow of the power of vocal grandeur and musical vigour.   
    Then came the famous film Vanambadi released in 1963.This film was co produced by the illustrious lyricist Kannadasan in association with M.Murugan and was directed by G.R.Nadhan.It was a thriller film known for its precious story line and outstanding songs like Kangaikarai Thottam, Thookanaangurivi koodu and Oomai Pen Oru Kanavukandaal,all in the sterling voice of P.Suseela.But in that film there was a scene of poetry cum song contest, with connecting links to the story.The song was"Aan Kaviyai Vellavandha Pen Kaviye Varuga"It was composed with quiz like literary elements and the entire song beautifully brought out the poetic skill of Kannadasan, besides involving the hero S.S.Rajendran and the heroine Devika in a spirited contest as a college event.This song was from the voices of T.M.S and P.Suseela under the musical composition of melody kings Viswanathan Ramamoorthi
     In the same year there was another film bearing the title Kungumam and starring Sivaji Ganesan along with a cluster of talented actors.It was released by Sivaji Ganesan's family production house,the Rajamani pictures, two years after their block buster Pasamalar.This film was also a thriller with a twisted story line and the film included a beautiful song contest in the great voices of TMS and S.Janaki.The throbbing song was "Chinnanjiriya Vannaparavai Ennathai Solluthammaa"The chevalier and actress Sharadha were seen on stage,rendering the incomparable song with immeasurable energy,as if they  were rendering the piece of vocal  magnificence. This was also a song by Kannadasan and the high pitch notes of the song. composed by Viswanathan&Ramamoorthi rendered in the immortal voices of two legendary singers,was a splendid musical treat,besides being a competitive celebration of music.
    Two years later in 1965,The Modern Theatres came out with a crime thriller with S.A.Asokan as hero and Gemini Ganesan as a sweet coated villain.There was a humour mixed song competition scene in the film to provide not only comic relief but also an escape formula for the hero who was under the clutches of a crime thrust upon him.It was a beautiful song competition starting with the line 'Paaradi Kanne Konjam Paithiyamaanadhu Nenjam'To add pep and prominence to the scene,Savithri appeared in a cameo as herself,for the song event programmed by a Music club.The hero had to appear on stage as a singer in order to escape from the police.It was a robustly entertaining scene and everybody among the audience would have enjoyed the scene as well as the song.Interestingly,R.S Manohar playing the role of a police inspector in the guise of a rowdy called Pichuva Pakkiri,would also join Asokan for the song competition.Like the other two songs mentioned above,this one was also written by Kannadasan and music was scored by Vedha.
   During the same year A.P.Nagarajan presented in his mythological film Thiruvilaiyaadal, an anecdote dealing with a song competition between Lord Shiva and one Hemanadha Bhagavadhar,during  the Pandiya regime in Madurai.The competition between the two was necessitated by Lord Shiva's intention to save his devotee Panapathrar,who was asked by the Pandiya King to compete with Hemanadha Bhagavdhar and save the pride of the Pandiya empire by quelling the  musical arrogance of Hemanadha Bhagavadhar.Lord Shiva who came in the guise of a wood cutter,casually sang a brilliant song{Paattum Naane Bhaavamum Naane} that went to the extent of stalling the vibrations of the universe in addition to surmounting the song of Hemanadha Bhagavadhar{Oru Naal Podhumaa}.On hearing the song,Hemanadha Bhagavadhar would ask the wood cutter,who sang such a never-heard-of song.
  When he came to know that an ordinary wood cutter had rendered such an infallible song he would ask the wood cutter who taught him music.To this the wood cutter would say that he used to hear the songs sung by Panapathrar in the temple and what he sang was one such number that he heard from the voice of Panapathrar.Hemanadha Bhagavadhar would become dumb founded and immediately leave Madurai with his musical arrogance mellowed.
     In this context A.P.Nagarajan had included the two epoch making songs one sung by Dr.Balamurali Krishna for Hemanadha Bhagavadhar and the other for Lord Shiva rendered in the majestic voice of T.M.Soundarajan.The actors who played the characters were T.S,Balaiah as Hemanadha Bhagavadhar,Sivaji Ganesan as Lord Shiva in the guise of a wood cutter and T.R.Mahalingam as Panapathrar.One of the immortal features of Tiruvilaiyaadal was  this musical show in the form of a sequential competition,one overtaking the other.
  There was another film released in 1967 that had a stage event with a song competition arranged as an annual event in a college.The film was Pattanathil Bhootham starring Jai Shankar,K.R.Vijaya,Nagesh,K.Balaji and Javer Seetharaman.In that film directed by M.V.Raman the song competition was among the hero,heroine and his friend.First the friend would sing about the theme of money lending to prove how one's wealth grew on interests collected on the principal amount lent to the debtors.Then the heroine  would sing about the grandeur of man woman love as the governing factor of life.But this would be surpassed by the hero's song glorifying the nobility and might of motherhood.The content of his song would inspire the judges and make him the winner of the song competition.
    The last instance of song competition in Tamil cinema that strikes my memory was from the film Sindhu Bhairavi{1985} released twenty five years later.This film made by the veteran film maker K.Balachander was a musical feast exuberantly served by the musical prophet Ilayaraja with songs of vibrating width and depth, in the masterly voices of K.J.Yesudas and the mind blowing voice of Chitra. The film showed Sivakumar as an expert carnatic singer with an over bearing attitude,that no other form of music can surpass the grandeur of his musical genre.In a particular scene when the hero was enthralling the audience with an invaluable piece of carnatic score, there would appear an ordinary woman{ Suhasini,who was of course a dedicated fan of the singer}to contest the supremacy of the carnatic genre,claiming that folk songs were as much grand as carnatic tunes.She would sing also a folk song as a sample to prove her argument.The way she sang the folk song and finally got it blended with the Telugu carnatic song "Marimari Ninne Muralidha"sung by the hero, would take the audience to an overwhelming mood of joy and bring in thunderous applause .It was quite an usual film for KB and he made it in his own way of classical grasp and classic narration.
   The scenes of song competitions included in this post are mere tapping of my movie memories and I am sure this is neither comprehensive not nor exhaustive.But it is just a rejoicing way of looking at yet another layer of film making,amidst its various creative fundamentals.All those who enjoy each and every component of film watching,would I am sure, happily welcome this other interesting point of focus of film watching, brought in to their perspective.