Sunday, April 23, 2023

Two subdued actresses of Tamil Cinema.


  A subdued performer is one who does the job with quietitude and suppressed energy.We can even call it one's capacity for underplay.Tamil cinema has seen such perormance potential in actresses like Pandaribhai,Anjalidevi,Jamuna and Devika.But there were two women who entered Tamil cinema in the late Nineteen sixties and immortalized this trait in performance,by absorbing roles that would bypass feminist attributes,but at the same time reflect cosummate grace and submission in role play,leading to controlled energy levels and command over a kind of eerie calmness tinged with inner sorrow or glory.They were Lakshmi and Sri Vidya.

  Lakshmi and Srividya could be called contemporary actresses because they were both born in the early fifties with only a few months difference between them.However, Srividya is no more now.Lakshmi is the daughter of well known actress Rukmani,while Srividya was the daughter of the fabulous carnatic and playback singer M.L.Vasanthakumari.Both of them began their acting career in 1967/68, with Lakshmi doing her adult role in Jeevanamsam after having done a role as child artist in Sri Valli{1961}and Srividya performing an identifiable character in Moonrezhuthu after performing as a dancer in Thiruvarutchelvar.

  Lakshmi and Srividya could be complimented as the amazing assets of Tamil cinema,in mixing feminine aesthetics with the type of character assigned to them.However,the success rate of Lakshmi has always been higher on account of the remarkable opportnities that came on her way in epoch making films like Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidharkal,Oru Nadigai Naadakam Paarkiraal{both were films narrating the grandeur of the two novels,bearing the same titles written by Jayakanthan} and Sirai {based on a short story written by Anuradha Ramanan taking the same title}

  While the first two films were directed by A.Bhimingh,Sirai was made by esteemed film maker R.C.Shakthi.It is a known fact that Jeyakanthan got the Sakitya Academi Award for Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal,Lakshmi got the National  best actress award for her impressive portrayal of the afflicted woman character.The other memorable films of Lakshmi were,Paalaivana Rojaakkal,Paasa Paravaigal{both written by Kalaignar M.Karunanidhi}Rajaraja Chozhan{as Kundavai}and A.V.M's big hit Samsaaram Adhu Minsaaram.

  Lakshmi was seen as Sivaji Ganesan's sister in Thangaikkaaga and Arunodhayam and as his pair in Unakkaaga Naan,Thiyagam and finally in Padayappa as Sivaji's wife and as Rajinikanth's mother.Similarly she came as MGR's sister in Idhaya Veenai and as his love interest in Maattukkaara Velan and Sange Muzhangu.She was always seen as the best pair of heroes like Sivakumar,R.Muthuraman and Jaishankar.Her best films with Jaishankar were Mannippu,Pen Dheivam,Maanavan,Veettukku Veedu, Nootrukku Nooru and later in Savaal.With R.Muthuraman,films like Kanimuthu Paapaa, Kaasedaan Kadavulada  and Vaazhvu En Pakkam would every stay remembered.

  Besides her first film Jeevanamsam,she was the cute pair of Sivakumar in Kaval Dheivam, Navagraham,Ethiroli and Idhaya Veenai.She has also been the right pair of Ravichandran in Jeeva Naadi and Akkarai Pachai.She has paired with Rajinikanth too,in Netrikan.Lakshmi was compact in the role of the Prime Minister of India,in Managara Kaaval,as a dynamic police officer in Rudhra,as collector and Home secretary in Vaanavil and as Chief Secretary in Kamal's Unnaipol Oruvan. During her later years,she has done appealing characters as mother in Kannupada Pokudhayya {again paired with Siva Kumar after a long time} Rhythm,Kakai Siraginile,Ayya,Padayappa and Vasool Raja MBBS and of course as grand mother in Shankar's Jeans.

  Unlike Lakshmi,Srividya was less fortunate to be endowed with meaty roles.However,as M.R.Bhairavi in K.Balachander's Aboorva Ragangal she pierced the emotions of the audience with a character dipped in depression. Srividya quite unexpectedly moved on to portray elderly characters much young.Though she came as Rajinikanth's wife,she donned the role of an elder sister of the superstar in Manidhan and later on,became his mother in Mani Rathnam's Thalapathi.Srividya also performed the role of an arrogant and wealth conscious mother in law of Rajinikanth,in the film Mappillai,directed by the late film maker Rajasekar.Similarly,she was the pair of  Kamalahasan in Unarchigal and was soon shifted into the role of the mother of Kamalahasan,in Aboorva Sagidharargal.

  Some of her notable roles in mother roles were as Vijay's mother in Kadhalukku Mariaadhai,as Ajith's mother in Jana,as Vijayakanth's mother in Thaayagam,as T.Rajender's mother in En Thangai Kalyani,as Prabhu's mother in Needhiyin Nizhal and as the mother of Satyaraj in Ulagam Pirandhadhu Enakkaaga.Her most fascinating mother role was in Lingusamy's Aanandam as the mother of four sons including Mammootty.She remained as the incarnation of sweetness and grace,in taking care of the household and in endearingly interacting with her sons as'dei Periyavane'{ elder one} and'dei Chinnavane'[younger one}.She did the role of Sivaji Ganesan's wife in Imayam,as the mother of a daughter,besides acting with the Chevalier in Ezhudhaadha Sattangal and Needhiyin Nizhal.Srividya had  done supporting roles in more films of Vijayakanth such as, Coolikaaran, Amman Koil Kizhakaale,Ninaive oru Sangeedham,Sethupathi IPS and Needhikku Thandanai.

  Both Lakshmi and Srividya found a very popular and significant position in Malayalam Cinema.Laksmi's role in Chattakari not only made the film a mega hit but also got her the  Kerala State award for best actress.The film created waves to the extent of Lakshmi repeating the same role in the Hindi version of the film Julie.Sri Vidya was offered plum roles in Malayalam cinema from the days of Kaattathe Kilikkoodu and Adaminte Vaariyellu.She had got the Kerala state film award a number of times and she also got the Kalaimamani award from the state of Tamil Nadu.The other notable point of comparison between these two actresses is their participation in television serials.In this regard it should be stated here that Srividya did more number of Malayalam serials also. 

   The striking note of similarity between these two women is the inner cry for love in their character portrayal.One could see it in their looks,movement of eyes and manner of expressing words,tinged with a sense of longing and craving for acceptance of their love.This was visibly noticed in Lakshmi's role play in Kanni Penn,Inru Nee Naalai Naan and Thiyagam.Whereas, Srividya displayed this kind of feminine anguish,in Sollathaan Ninaikkiren and Nootrukku Nooru{a film shared by both the actresses}.Both of them had a stint in the meritable school of K.Balachander. Lakshmi did find a place in K.B's films like Navagraham, Ethiroli and Nootrukku Nooru.Sri Vidya was more strongly rooted to the directorial touches of K.B,in films like Aboorva Raagangal, Sollathaan Ninaikiren,Nootrukku Nooru and Punnagai Mannan.

  What makes both these women as uniquely appealing actresses is the element of feminine modesty and adorable way of speech interactions with their fellow actors on the screen.The only subtle difference between the two is the tone of mocking backload,in the oral rejoinders of Lakshmi.But even this element will never cross the borders of decency.This teasing note was obviously felt in the interactions between her and Raguvaran as life partners in the film Samsaaram Athu Minsaaram. Contrarily,Sri Vidya was capable of registering her silent resistance without resorting to taunting expressions.Last but not least,these two women of Tamil and Indian cinema,would be recalled as often as possible,as subdued performers of weighty roles,without unduly affixing the weight of their profiles,on the roles they performed.Feminine aesthetics found a new dimension in their portrayal of characters, representing the agony and ecstasy of womanhood.