Thursday, April 1, 2021

Sowcar Janaki,an actor of sense and sensibility


   There is a famous saying that "Shakespeare has no heroes but heroines".But the truth of cinema is far from this statement.Ever since cinema came into being it has been mostly the hero's field,hardly ever providing space for heroines for a fair play.However,some women have broken the fence and moved to the front of the stage to claim an incomparable position as powerful performers of roles and find an eternal place in the memory of the audience,with immeasurable strength and gusto.These women showed their multi faces to cry and laugh,to rust and rule and to lose and conquer.
   As far as Tamil cinema is concerned,P.Bhanumadhi,Padmini,SowcarJanaki,J.Jeyalalitha  Sujatha,Radhika and Revathi were more powerful than other women on the big screen in the sense they proved to be a complex mix of submission and supremacy.Other popular Tamil heroines like Savithri,Sarojadevi,Devika,Vijayakumari,K.R.Vijaya,Lakshmi,Vanisri,,Ambika,and Radha were seen mostly as meek symbols of womanhood subscribing to the will of their men in celluloid frame.
   Among the unconquerable women of Tamil cinema,Sankaramanchi Janaki who came to be known as Sowcar Janaki,would occupy an enviable slot,purely on account of the fact that no other actor,not even the other five women mentioned above would score high,when it comes to demonstration of a variety of paradoxical emotions,such as laughter and sorrow,anger and appeal,domination and submission and sobriety and levity. Sowcar Janaki inherited her name prefix,from the Telugu film Shavukar,and proved through decades of dedicated performance,as an outstanding actor with extraordinary force, to stay as the sterling feminine face of Tamil cinema.
   The first of her films{not her first}that I saw was Abalai Anjugam with T.R.Mahalingam.The  Tamil word Abalai if translated into English,would mean a helpless/desolate woman.No other Tamil heroine can be found fit enough,for playing the miserable woman,than Sowcar Janaki, because her face had an exclusive pattern to evoke pity and her performance would become a natural addition to her pathetic profile.Besides Abalai Anjugam,films like Baghya latchumi, Kumudham, Padikkaadha Medhai,Paar Magale Paar,Kaviya Thalavi,Annai and Olivilakku are a few samples of the desperate womanhood,that Sowcar Janaki has naturally portrayed.
    But Sowcar is not born to weep alone.She can do commanding roles as she did in Paalum Pazhamum,Puthiya Paravai,Motor Sundaram Pillai,Iru Kodukal {For which she won the best actress award from the Government of Tamil Nadu}Uyarndha Manidhan and Panam Padaithavan.Her extraordinary flair for comedy has been beautifully showcased by K.Bala chander in films like Edhir Neechal,Bama Vijayam and Thillu Mullu.She would have acted in nearly fifteen films with Sivaji Ganesan mostly as his brilliant female pair or as a supporting actor.But two of her best movies Iru Kodukal and Kaviya Thalaivi were with Gemini Ganesan. With MGR she did only supporting roles in films like Panam Padaithavan,Petralthaan Pillaiyaa and Oli Vilakku.
   With her next generation heroes she made herself memorable in Rajinikanth's Thee,Siva and Thillu Mullu.She also appeared in Kamal's Vetri Vizha and Hey Ram.Among film makers she was the special favourite of A.Bhimsingh,P.Madhavan.Krishnan Panju K.Balachander, K.S.Gopalakrishnan and M.A.Thirumugam.Devar films' spiritually oriented films like Dheivam and Thunaivan created a significant effect on the audience,mostly because of the emotionally vibrant role play of Sowcar Janaki.
    Her most recent screen show as a paralyzed grandma in Jithu Joseph's action thriller Thambi came as a blow to paralysis,by her unperturbed role play as an actor wonderfully capable of effective and precise communication through her eyes,speaking of varied emotions like anguish, humour and suspicion,with a slate on hand writing the alphabet one by one,to communicate what she wanted to.Even in her late eighties,she has proved to be a classic performer of all times.So splendid an actor that Sowcar Janaki has ever been. 
  The most notable trait in Sowcar Janaki's acting was her impressive and forceful voice mould that never failed to demonstrate clarity in dialogue delivery and an unfailing thrust of rationality behind the outburst of her emotions.Her argumentative perception and interpretation of contexts and feelings and her fairness in presentation of her views,were the unique ingredients embedded in her character evolution,irrespective of the type of roles assigned to her. Sowcar Janaki  proved to be one of the most dynamic pairs of Sivaji Ganesan and her performance on an equal footing with the Chevalier was poignantly felt in films like Padikkaadha Medhai,Paar Magale Paar, Motor Sundaram Pillai,Pudhiya Paravai, Uyarndha Manidhan and Mahakavi Kalidas.
   There had been a visible sense of feminine grandeur in her looks and demeanour that would have spontaneously struck the minds of the audience,as an irresistible nuclear force with forthright appeal and assertiveness,as simultaneous happenings.Do we ever come across today such solid performers,who can win over the hearts of the viewers through tremendous tone delivery and depth of portrayal of characters?How naughtily she handled her husband {played by Srikanth} as well as orphan Maadhu{Nagesh} in Edhir Neechal!
   How casually she performed a similar role as a Brahmin lady and as the wife of Nagesh in Jeevanaamsam!How naively she was caught by Kanchana,when the latter would correct her with the word 'trap' instead of 'cat' for arresting the menace of rats,in Bhaama Vijayam!How speedily she would climb the pipeline along the walls in Thillu Mullu!Above all how powerfully she wept and wielded her supremacy in several films,especially in Iru Kodukal and Kaviyathalaivi.She was certainly the most assertive woman of Tamil cinema, be it a role reflecting extraordinary sentiment and sorrow,or substantial fun.  
   Sowcar Janaki's latest Tamil film was Santhanam's Biscothu which also became her 400th movie.A sterling actress like Sowcar Janaki is difficult to come across these days.She had firmly rooted herself to impressive role plays established  on a solid base of sense and sensibility.Tamil cinema really owes her a lot,in terms of flawless grasp of scenic requirements and felicitous presentation of her profile,as a full fledged and mature performer of consummate merit .

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