Monday, April 3, 2023

Two Tamil films on rural myths.


    Villagers in most parts of Tamil Nadu,express their emotional bonding to their soil,by organizing local festivals relating to their deities who are believed to protect them and their soil, against external intrusions and attacks from evil forces.They have their own gods named as Ayyanar, Thomban,Annamar,Muneeshwar,Satti Karuppu, Ondi Karuppu,Sappani,Madhurai Veeran, Kaathavarayan, Ezhu Kanniyar, Ellaiyamman, Kannagiyamman,Bhadrakaali Amman and so on. In several films we would have also come across temple festivals concerning family deities.Though there was a Tamil film kalled Ayyanar,it had nothing to do with the village deity.But two Tamil films released in the Nineteen fifties carried a vital substance of folklore and mythological impact, sandwiched between prevailing social issues.They were MGR’s'Madhurai Veeran'that pulled a huge crowd to the theatres in 1956 and Sivaji Ganesan’s 'Kaathavarayan'which was released in 1958.

   Though both the films were based on myths, 'Madhurai Veeran'was announced as a film on historical events,during the presentation of title details of the film,may be because,MGR proclaimed himself as a Dravidian hero and a non-believer in myths and superstitions.But Sivaji Ganesan's 'Kathavarayan' dramatically reflected the ingredients of myth.There were quite a few scenes in the movie,to show that the plot was contrived with a gyst of mythical substance linked to the Hindu Gods.

  The very first scene of the film showed Lord Shiva and Parvadhi Devi fervently dancing in Kailash.The dance by Gopi Krishna and Kumari Kamala was a captivating kickstart of the film. But Shakthi's obsession with her power of dancing,led to subjective pride,incurring the wrath of Lord Shiva ,who punished her to become a mortal in the earth.Lord Shiva also punished Veerabhagu who came in support of Shakthi,to be born as a common  mortal, called Kathavarayan.

  Unlike'Kathavarayan',the film'Madhurai Veeran'begins with the birth of a prince, whose unlucky mark in his body is presumed to bring doom to the people and the kingdom.So the child is left in a forest,much against the wish of the queen.In the forest the child is protected by elephants and snakes and is later taken over by a cobbler and his wife.N.S.Krishnan and T.A.Madhuram performed their roles,with a clear and spontaneous perception of the undesirable social stigma,attached to their character.The abandoned child is named as Veeran and the story moves on with pep and power,after the introduction of MGR as Veeran.

    'Madhurai Veeran'and'Kathavarayan'share quite a few things in common.Primarily,both the films focus on casteism and communal inequality,virulently practised those days,by the so called upper caste lobby,in Tamil Nadu.In 'Kathavarayan'we could see Shakthi {powerfully played by P.Kannaambaa} telling Kathavarayan, that nobody is a slave and all humans are to be treated as equals.In'Madhurai Veeran'the element of casteism was more significantly pictured,when the lieutenant {T.S.Balaiah} and soldiers abused the hero(MGR)for having touched  princess Bommi {P.Banumathi} and saved her from drowning.Casteism was vehemently condemned in'Madhurai Veeran'. 

   Secondly,both the films revelled in romance depicting the passionate love of Kathavarayan for Princess Aryamala{Savithri} which went to the extent of monstrous reactions on the part of the hero,bent upon marrying Aryamala.On the otherhand,Madhurai Veeran relied on the usual macho pride and self-effacing dignity in the portrayal of hero by MGR,that attracted Princess Bommi and dancer Vellaiyammal{gracefully donned by Padmini} towards him,with their utmost love and dedication.

    In terms of cinematic presentation,Madhurai Veeran became a run away hit on account of its vigorous narration by D.Yoganand and the power packed dialogues uttered by MGR in many scenes.Kannadasan's storyline further augmented the neat presentation of events. Though G.Ramanathan composed music for both the films,all the songs of 'Madhurai Veeran' became mega hits,while only the song 'Vaa Kalaaba Mayile' from'Kathavarayan'continued to ring in our ears. T.S.Balaiah was seen in both the films.In Madhrai Veeran he was shown as a cowardly villain. Whereas, Kathavarayan portrayed him as a Malayalam sorceror,with his Malayalam accent touching the original speech version of that language.Later, he became a reformed person,lending a helping hand to Kathavarayan.

   In both the films E.V.Saroja made a nimble show of her dancing skills,though her roleplay in 'Madhurai Veeran',was more prominent.O.A.K Devar appeared as King Thirumalai Nayakar in 'Madhurai Veeran'and as the tribal head and adopting father of Kathavarayan,in that film.On the whole,Ramanna's direction of'Kathava rayan'could have enriched the quality of narration of 'Kaathavarayan' with higher appeal and dynamism.Despite Sivaji Ganesan's exuberant and enlivening actig,the film was seen only as a dampener.

  That Pakshiraja's' 'Aryamala'{1941} with P.U Chinnapa and M.S.Sarojini starring the roles of Kathavarayan and Aryamala became a superhit film and established the merits of P.U.Chinappa as a dauntless hero,would vindicate the fact,that it is sensible and powerful narration,that would take any film to the reach of a wider audience. Incidentally,it was T.S.Balaiah who played the role of the general in'Aryamala',that was taken over by K.A.Thangavelu in 'Kathavarayan'.

   The climax of both the films showed both the heroes being unduly punished by injustice, viewed as justice.Madhurai Veeran's alternate leg and arm were cut off leading to his death, followed by the death of his wife Bommi and lover Vellaiyamma.Kathavaryan and Aryyamala fell nearly dead by the collapse of the palace. While'Madhurai Veeran'ended with the fall of flowers on the bodies of the trio,Kathavarayan and Aryamala were seen moving to the Kailash, as per the request of Shakthi.

   It is an undeniable fact that both the films enlightened the need for social and human equality, surpassing society's obsession with communal animosity and discrimination. Perhaps,that is why the tribals and socially marginalised people in many parts of the state still continue to adore Madhurai Veeran and Kathavarayan within their rural boundaries. Civilization will draw its legitimate sense and sensibility,only when honour killing and love jihad come to a natural end,by the will of every segment of mankind.This is the message we draw from these two Tamil films,made more than six decades ago.Unfortunately,the fire of casteism is still there,with its undying embers.