Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Sivaji Ganesan as a historical poet and a mythical King.


  An all rounder like Sivaji Ganesan is not new to myths and history in Tamil Cinema. A.P.Nagarajan had amazingly presented him as Lord Shiva,Naaradha,as a Nayanmar and as the Aazhvaars.Later APN also portrayed Sivaji Ganesan as King Rajaraja Chozhan by making the first cinemascope film in Tamil,with the name of the King as the title of that film. 

   B.R.Bantulu had shown Ganesan as mythological Karnan,as provincial king Kattabomman and as freedom fighter V.O.C.Even before these films,Sivaji Ganesan had donned the roles of Tenali Raman{1956 movie bearing the same title directed by B.S.Ranga} and Ambikapathy,the son of Tamil poet Kambar{1957 movie,with the same title,directed by P.Neelakandan,who was always known as an MGR film maker}.In 1961 director Ramanna another MGR specialist,showcased Sivaji Ganesan,as Lord Muruga in his film Sri Valli. Sivaji had also done the role of King Ratan Rana Singh,in the film Chittor Rani Padmini,{1963}made by Ch.Narayana Murthi.

   In this list,there are two significant films,Maha Kavi Kalidas{1966} and Harischandra {1968} which were not received well,but were most beautiful films in the history of Tamil Cinema. Maha Kavi Kalidas was based on the story of the Sanskrit poet and playwright Kalidasa,who is said to have lived during the Gupta Empire {Chandra Gupta II,380 CE to 415} and performed as a court poet.Three of his major works were,Shakunthalam,Raghuvamsam and Kumarasambhavam.The Tamil film Mahakavi Kalidas projected Kalidas as an innocent,food crazy and childish villager  Chinnaiah,who was grazing sheep and was helped in his daily routine,by Goddess Kali {meekly and piously portrayed by dignified actor.K.B.Sundarambal} without his knowledge.

    The happy-go-lucky Chinnaiah happened to marry a princes,called Sangeedhavani{naturally performed by Sowcar Janaki}.This sudden development followed an act of scheming by a group of poets,headed by poet Ambarisan,{played by R.S.Manohar}who had failed in an intelligence contest with the princess that would have enabled him to marry her,if he had won the contest.The bitter part of the contest was,those who failed,would have to undergo different kinds of rigorous punishments. Actually,Chinnaiah became a victim of their scheming and won the intelligence contest under their mischievous interpretations of his responses to the questions raised by the princess.In fact,Chinnaiah garlanded the princess not knowing that he was marrying her.When truth came to light after his marriage,the story took new turns.Goddess Kali transformed him into Kavi Kalidas,an intellectual and poet of wide knowledge and the princess as his wife Vilasavadhi.

  When the popularity of Kavi Kalidas spread everywhere,he became a close friend of King Bhoja{R.Muthuraman}.In the midst of discourses,poetic revelations and arguments, their friendship strenthened into a beloved bond.But this friendship was spoilt by the evil designs of a dancer called Mohanangi {L.Vijayalakshmu}who had a craving for Kalidasa but was spurned by him.Neverthless, Kalidasa helped Mohanangi,when she requested him to complete the second half of a poem,the right completion of which,would fetch her half of the kingdom,as per the declaration of the king.The brutal climax showed Mohanangi beheading Kalidas after collecting the completed poem from him.When the King came to know the truth,he killed Mohanagi and went to the Kali temple where both  Kalidas and his wife were lying dead.The film showed the King also falling dead,unable to bear the pang of friendship.

  Sivaji Ganesan wonderfully shuttled between the light hearted character of Chinnaiah and the solemn and intelligent poet Kalidas.His character show,was a combination of both a breeze and a storm.It was an unmatching role play by this matchless actor.R.R.Chandran's astute direction, Ku.Ma Balasubramanyam's storyline and excellent lyrics written by the latter along with Kannadasan,were great merits of the film.K.V.Mahadevan's exuberant music enriched the quality of  the film,with songs like 'Senru Vaa Mahane','Kaalathil Azhiyaadha',{both by K.B.Sundarambal}and 'Pirapputren Kaaliyidam Peranbutren'and 'Yaar tharuvaar Indha Ariyaasnam',by T.M.Soundarajan.These songs were sublime additions to the musical archives of Tamil Cinema. V.K.Ramasamy and C.K.Saraswathy passionately carried on their roles as the adopting parents of Chinnaiah alias Mahakavi Kalidas.On the whole,Maha Kavi Kalidas was one of the most graceful films of Sivaji Ganesan.

  The film 'Harischandra'had its story line based on the titular character,bearing the name.As per myths,Harischandra was a legendary king belonging to the Solar dynasty and was celebrated as the incarnation of truth and the professed avoidance of lies.He is shown as the only sage king,who was associated with Gods. Harischandra and his wife Chandramathi,were subjected to untold hardships and excruciating sufferings on account of Sage Viswamitra's stubborn declaration to test the true mettle of the sage king.Consequently,Harischandra had to relinquish his kingdom,his people and country, besides the impossible commitment of offering one thousand crore gold coins,to Viswamitra as promised by him.

   Like the quality of gold being tested in fire, Harischandra's abdolute dedication to truth was tested by most trying circumstances involving not only Harischandra but also his wife Chandramathi and son.He had to perform the role of an undertaker in the cremation ground. Ultimately,when his unflinching hold on truth was proved while he got teady to behead his wife in order to reaffirm the need for truth,sage Viswamitra submitted his defeat.Finally,the sage king got back his kingdom and his son who was made to die of snake bite.The myth solidly proves that truth always triumphs.

  The beauty of the film relied on the subdued and dignified portrayal of the character of the mythical king,by the miraculous hero Sivaji Ganesan.G.Varalakshmi who donned the role of Chandramathi also produced the film,which was convincingly directed by her husband K.S.Prakash Rao{who later directed Sivaji Ganesan's mega hit film,Vasantha Maaligai} Excepting the song 'Vinnavar Kadhaiye Potri' which was written by Udhayakumar,all the remaing songs were written by Thanjai Ramaiahdas.K.V Mahadhevan composed the tunes for Harischandra too.The two songs 'Kaasiyil Vaazhum Karunai Kadale' and idhu Ulagam Ariyaadga Puthumai'sung by TMS will ever be ringing in audience memory.

   Sivaji Ganesan who could do 100 films within fifteen years,grew up into astounding proportions by his incomparable body language,invincible dialogue delivery and tremendous involvement in totally pushing himself into the intricacies of the characters he portrayed.His demonstration of the role of Harischandra was yet another milestone in his indelible history of acting.The grandeur of the film was also due to the remarkable role play of sage Viswamitra by M.N.Nambiar,the most modest performance of G.Varalakshmi as Chandramathi,the casual acting of T.S.Balaiah as tribal character Veerabhagu,the brilliant display of the roles of Kalakandan and Kalakandi by V.K.Ramadamy and T.P.Muthulakshmi and last but not least,the spontaneous delivery of role,by veteran comedian K.A.Thangavelu,as Nachandra Ayer.

  Mahakavi Kalidas and Harischandra were both epoch-making films.Though music and Sivaji Ganesan’s diverse projection of acting skills would pull the former into a better height than Harischandra,in terms of emotional content and prioritization of the Supreme values of life,the latter would push Mahakavi Kalidas a few steps below.The other interesting point about Harischandra is the subtle presentation of the conflicts between caste supremacy and caste humiliation,that was noticed in the verbal exchanges,between K.A.Thangavelu and V.K.Ramasamy and those between K.A.Thangavelu and T.S.Balaiah.Beyond these observations,the ever undoubted fact is,films like Maha Kavi Kalidas and Harischandra immensely delighted the audience of those days, by their quality of purity and perfection,in interpreting the lofty side of life.

  Above all,Sivaji Ganesan the eternal hero of Tamil cinema, will spread the true fragrance and radiance of the historical poet and the mythical sage king,in the entire ambience of Indian Cinema.It is precisely a nostalgic moment for this blog writer to recall these two splendid Tamil films,that are not remembered properly on account of their failed reception,though they specifically succeeded in their ennobling quality and appeal.



  1. Wonderful article uncle. Blown by your love for acting icon Sivaji Ganesan