Black & White Photographs From The Cinema Resource Centre Archives (VIII)

8-1Still from the movie Avargal (1977) directed by K. Balachander showing Sujatha and Rajinkanth in the picture. Rajinikanth played a negative role of a sadist and Kamal Hasan played the role of a ventriloquist.

Avargal (1977) was the 29th film directed by K. Balachander. His second association with actress Sujatha after Aval Oru Thodarkathai (1974), which was his 25th film. Kamal Hasan is known to have learnt the art of ventriloquism to play his role to perfection. Balachander remade the film in Telugu as Idi Katha Kaadu (1979) with Jayasudha playing the lead role. Chiranjivi replaced Rajinikanth, and Sarathbabu replaced Ravikumar, while Kamal reprised his role. Jayasudha won Nandi awards for the Best Actress in Telugu for the year. Idi Katha Kaadu is considered to be one of the most memorable remakes starring Kamal Hasan.

Black & White Photographs From The Cinema Resource Centre Archives (VII)

7-1Still from the movie Avargal (1977) directed by K. Balachander and showing Sujatha and Ravi Kumar.

Avargal (1977) was the 2nd film starring Sujatha and directed by K. Balachander, after Aval Oru Thodarkathai (1974), playing the female protagonist in both films. She won a FIlmfare Award for Best Actress in Tamil for the film, the third in a row after winning in 1975 for Uravu Solla Oruvan and for Annakkili in 1976. Sujatha spent her childhood in Sri Lanka, where she would actively participate in school plays, and later moved to Kerala when she was about 14. Her performance in the Malayalam movie Ernakulam Junction (1971) drew the attention of Balachander.

Black & White Photographs From The Cinema Resource Centre Archives (VI)

6-1Still from the film Annakili (1976), which also happened to be Ilayaraja’s first stint as a composer.

Annakili (1976) was directed by Devaraj-Mohan and written by Panchu Arunachalam, mostly into the books of the cult classics of Tamil Cinema. It was also the debut film for Maestro Ilayaraja. After hearing the songs from Ilayaraja personally, Panchu thought about making a movie with those songs and Annakili happened. Panchu added the prefix ‘Ilaya’ to the name ‘Raja’ as there was already an A.M. Raja, and hence Ilayaraja was born. The film was a big success at the box office. The biggest highlight of the movie was Ilayaraja’s music. Panchu Arunachalam started his career as a lyricist with the song Manamagale Marumagale Vaa Vaa (Sarada, 1962). He started his own production house P.A. Art Productions, with his wife Meena credited as the producer. The first film from their banner was the Kamal Haasan-starrer Kalyanaraman (1979).

Black & White Photographs From The Cinema Resource Centre Archives (V)

5-1A still from the Tamil action movie Viduthalai (1986) showing Vijaykumar and Vishnuvardhan (left and right of the photo respectively). Vidhuthalai was a remake of the famous Hindi film Gurbani (1980).

Viduthalai (1986), a remake of the multi-starrer Qurbani (1980), featured 3 big stars from South Indian cinema – Sivaji Ganesan, Rajinikanth and Vishnuvardhan. Suresh Balaji produced the film under the banner Sujatha Cine Arts (founded by his father – veteran K. Balaji, who played a role in the film as well). Sujatha Cine Arts was founded in 1966. K. Balaji also founded Sujatha Recording Studio, where sound recordings for most of the big-budget movies of the 1980s and ’90s were done. Not many are aware that it was S.S. Vasan who gave him his first opportunity on the silver screen in a small role of Lord Muruga in the film Avvaiya r(1953), directed by Kothmangalam Subbu. The Malayalam actor Mohanlal is his son-in-law.

Black & White Photographs From The Cinema Resource Centre Archives (IV)

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Still from Uzhaippali (1993) directed by P. Vasu, with Rajinikanth and Roja playing the lead roles.

Uzhaippali was the 3rd film by P. Vasu starring Rajinikanth, after Panakkaran (1990) and Mannan (1992). It was a hat-trick success for this combination, although Uzhaippali had some trouble with its release due to Rajinikanth’s films having been banned by the distributors union then. Later Rajinikanth released it by himself through his distribution company and the film turned out to be a blockbuster hit. P. Vasu started his career as a co-director along with Santhana Bharathi, under the name Bharathi-Vasu. The duo debuted with Panneer Pushpangal (1981) which was a hit. Their later films didn’t do too well at the box office, and eventually made them choose different paths. P. Vasu’s first independent directorial venture was the Kannada film Kathanayaka (1986).

Black & White Photographs From The Cinema Resource Centre Archives (III)

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A scene from the film Avvaiyar (1953) starring K.B. Sundarambal and directed by Kothamangalam Subbu.

Avvaiyar (1953) was the 5th film by the combination of 2 legends, Kothamangalam Subbu and S.S. Vasan, after the iconic Chandralekha (1948) and Apoorva Sagotharargal (1949). After the resounding success of the film, K.B Sundarambal became synonymous with Avvaiyar as she reprised the role in films to follow, like Thiruvilayadal (1965) and Kandan Karunai (1967). K.B. Sundarambal was believed to be singing in trains for alms when she was spotted by F.G. Natesan Iyer and was brought to the tamil stage at the age of 19. She became a very popular theatre artist before entering films. Her first film was Nandanar (1935) and was paid Rs 1,00,000 as salary which was the highest for any actor during that time. 

 

Black & White Photographs From The Cinema Resource Centre Archives (II)

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Photograph showing Kamal Hasan in the famous song Ennadi Meenakshi composed by Ilayaraja for the film Ilamai Oonjal Aadukirathu (1978).
Ilamai Oonjal Aadikirathu was C.V. Sridhar’s first association with Kamal Hasan and Rajinikanth. The film was a big hit and ran for more than 25 weeks in theatres. Frank Dubier, the legendary jazz trumpeter and Stephen Lazarus, a gospel trumpeter played for the song Ennadi Meenakshi. Ilamai Oonjal Aadikirathu won best film of the year category in Tamil Nadu state awards 1978. Sridhar went on to remake in Telugu and Hindi as Vayasu Pilichindi (1978) and Dil-e-Nadaan (1982) respectively. Sridhar started his film career as a story writer for the TKS Brothers’ Ratha Pasam directed by R.S. Mani. His first film as director, Kalyana Parisu (1959), was a big hit and he remade it in Telugu as Pelli Kanuka (1960) and in Hindi as Nazrana (1961). He started his own production house Chitralaya, and the first film under the banner was Then Nilavu (1961), which was a runaway hit as well.

Black & White Photographs From The Cinema Resource Centre Archives (I)

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Director Bhagyaraj and Music director M.S. Viswanathan (left and middle of the photo respectively) in the process of composing a song.

Bhagyaraj and M.S. Viswanathan had great success while collaborating with each other. Their second association Antha 7 Natkal was a great hit and was very well received by the public. It was remade into Telugu as Radha Kalyanam  (1981) in Hindi as Woh Saat Din (1983), and in Kannada as Love Maadi Nodu (1989). It was Bhagyaraj’s 6th venture as a director and his biggest commercial hit when it was released, and was later surpassed by his Munthanai Mudichu. It was also his 2nd association with music legend M.S. Viswanathan after his 2nd film Oru Kai Osai. The film is believed to be inspired by the real life story of J.P. Chandrababu. Bhagyaraj started his career as the assistant director for Barathiraja’s debut film 16 Vayathinile (1977), and wrote his first screenplay for Sigappu Rojakkal (1978). He also played a cameo in the film.

Filmy Ripples – Movie featured Festivals

By P.V. Gopalakrishnan

We cannot imagine a life without festivals. The customs, colours, flavours, aromas, warmth, joy and whatnot that they bring to cement family & friendly relationships and bond the community at large! It’s hard to overstate their importance in our lives and the life of a community. Festivals are the very spirit of mankind. Through them, we are made to spread happiness and share good times. They motivate us to be better people and to share our joy with the world.

Every country has their own festivals, dependent on their culture & civilizations, such as The Beer Festival of Germany and The Tomato Festival of Spain. But when it comes to India, there are so many festivals as divergent of the various cultures & beliefs that our country is composed of. India can be easily called a Country of Festivals that is spread throughout the year. This brings colours, aroma, gaiety, bonding, culinary delights everything to the fore.

Our films, after all, represent the way we live here. As such, the screenplays of our Indian films do capture these festivities in some sequence or the other. We will look at some of the important Festivals as they were shown in our films.

Diwali, the most prominent & popular of all Hindu festivals, is celebrated with a lot of pomp and show. During this festival of lights, people wear new clothes, participate in family puja, burst crackers (now increasingly without it), and share sweets with friends & families. Sridhar’s Directorial debut was ‘Kalyana Parisu’ (1959) in which he also wrote the story & screenplay. It was a highly acclaimed film, which was later made in Hindi too as ‘Nazrana’. This triangular love story featured a song-sequence celebrating Deepavali as it is celebrated in the South.

Kalyana Parisu

Song book of Kalyana Parisu with the page containing the song UNNAI KANDU NAAN PC: From the archives of TCRC

Mid-January is an important time in the Tamil calendar as it marks the Harvest Festival, Pongal, which is the quintessential ‘Tamil Festival’. Pongal marks the traditional occasion for thanks giving to Mother Nature, for celebrating the life cycles that give us grain. This is the height of any culture, so to say. They say ‘Thai pirandhaal vazhi pirakkum’, and believe that knotty family problems will be solved with the advent of the Tamil month Thai that begins on Pongal day. ‘Thai pongalum vanthathu’ from the film ‘Mahanadhi’ showcases the important visual aspects of this great Festival.

Navrathri festival is celebrated throughout India though in different ways. In Gujarat, it is a nine-day celebration with rejuvenating Garbha nights and highly energetic Dandiya Raas dances, when People dress in beautiful, colorful traditional clothes bringing youthful environment. Basically, this festival denotes the celebration of the Goddess Amba or Sakthi as sheer Power in nine different forms.
 The South of India celebrates it with the households making a colorful Expo of dolls, known as ‘Kolu’. It is believed, kolu dolls represent the assembly of Goddess Durga. Best-dressed womenfolk exchange visits to each other’s Kolu where they sing devotionals & are given haldi, kum kum & prasadam. Durga Puja & Dusserah are variants of celebrating the Goddess!

Catch Nadigaiyar Thilakam Savithri in a Navarathiri Kolu sequence song from he film ‘Navarathiri’ in which Doyen Sivaji Ganesan donned nine different characters.

Navarathiri

Song book of Navarathri with the page containing the song NAVARATHIRI SUBHARATHIRI PC: From the archives of TCRC

Holi, known as the festival of colors, too is one of the important festivals, celebrated mostly in North India, with a lot of fervor. On the eve of Holi, people make huge Holika bonfires and sing and dance around it. On the day of Holi, people gather in open areas and apply dry and wet colors of multiple hues to each other, with some carrying water guns and colored water filled balloons. Holi signifies the victory of good (Prince Prahlad) over evil (Holika) and the arrival of spring. Holi falls on Full moon of March of the Gregorian calendar. There are many Hindi film songs on Holi but this song ‘Anthi mazahai megam’ from Nayakan (Tamil), filmed in the erstwhile Venus Studios, stands out as capturing the spirit of Holi. Why Holi in a Tamil fim? Well, the ‘Nayakan’ character played by Kamal was based on the Tamil Don of erstwhile Bombay, Velu Naicker of Dharavi!

Krishna Janmashtami or Gokulashtami is again a beautiful one among the most important religious festivals of India. its celebrations in Mathura and Vrindavan are notable. Visiting temples, praying, dancing, and singing bhajans (hymns) at midnight is a part of the celebrations of the birth of Lord Krishna with kids, often, dressing up as Lord Krishna this day. As part of Janmashtami festivities, breaking pots hung from lofty heights by revelers forming a human pyramid, is common sight. The Shammi Kapoor starred Hindi film Bluff Master featured the song ‘Govind Aalaa re’ showing the revelry of ‘handi’ breaking, which in Tamil is known as ‘Uri adi’.

Ganesh Chaturthi, another important Hindu religious festivals, is a ten-day affair of colorful festivities, in places like Mumbai. Huge handcrafted Ganesh idols are installed in homes or public pandals and Pujas are performed, before the deity is taken with grand fan fare on the last day for immersion. Cultural activities of singing, dancing and theater go hand in hand on this occasion of great celebration of the elephant faced God. The film Agnipath featured a typical street procession atmosphere during Ganpathi festival, normally witnessed in Maharashtra, charged with devotion & celebration. The song ‘Sree Ganesha Deva’ from the film is an all time favourite of Ganesh devotees.

Onam is the most important festival of the state of Kerala. It is also a harvest festival and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm by people of all communities. According to a popular legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam. Carnival of Onam lasts from four to ten days. Elaborate feasts, folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, caparisoned elephant, Snake Boat races and flower decorations (PookaLam) all are a part of the dynamic festival called Onam. We feature ‘Thiruvavani Ravu’ bringing the essence of Onam from the Malayalam movie ‘Jacobinte Swarga Rajyam’.

Raksha Bandhan festival, aka Rakhee, is one of the important festivals in the North. Celebrated each year in the month of August, this ceremony takes place on the full moon day of Shravan. The festival highlights the bondage between siblings. On this propitious day, a sister ties the sacred thread of Rakhi to her brother’s wrist for his prosperity & long life, even as the brother promises to protect his sister from all hardships of life. Rakhi is an emblem of love and protection. This festival of sibling bondage between sisters & brothers was showcased in the film ‘Chotti Behen’ in the song ‘Bhaiya mere Rakhi ka bandhan’.

Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed most commonly on December 25, though in some parts of the world like Russia it is observed in January. Christmas, religiously celebrated by the vast majority of Christians, is celebrated by other communities as well, as a cultural festival. There was a song & dance featured celebration of Christmas in the Tamil film ‘Kanne Pappa’, which we bring in here.

Kanne Pappa

Song book of Kanne Pappa with the page containing the song Merry Merry Christmas  PC: From the archives of TCRC

In the Islamic Faith, Eid al-Fitr (Feast of breaking the fast) is an important celebration by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of religious fasting. During the holy month of Ramadan, muslims fast from dawn to dusk when they refrain from consuming food & liquids, smoking, and engaging in any pleasures. They are supposed to carefully abstain from sinful behavior that may negate the reward of fasting, such as false speech (insulting, backbiting, cursing, lying, etc.) and fighting. Chand Raat is an important day in the month of Ramadan which marks the end of Ramzan fasting as the moon (Eid ka Chand) sighting is done.

Here is a song on the happy sighting of Eid Moon in the Hindi Film ‘Barsaat ki Raat’

 

Filmy Ripples – N.S.Krishnan, the Legend

By P.V. Gopalakrishnan

It is generally said, however, a pathos scene is difficult to naturally enact, it is even more difficult to be successful as a comedian as timing & body language have to contribute to its success. Pure, vulgar-free comedy that stands out is a real tough job and all were not cut to deliver that.

In the very early talkie films, there was nothing like a separate comedian. It was only later, as part of the evolutionary process of cinema, comedians came into being in Indian films to provide a relief from the main story line, which, often, was heavy with emotions.

The early cinema (we are talking about pre-Nagesh period) had a bunch of good comedians such as T.S.Dorairaj, Kali N Rathinam, T.R.Ramachandran,

Sarangapani, ‘Friend’ Ramasami, A.Karunanidhi, Kakka Radhakrishnan, ‘Kuladeivam’ Rajagopal, A.Rama Rao, Chandrababu, Thangavelu, Muthulakshmi, T.A.Mathuram, & M.Saroja.

But the Monarch of the Tamil film comedians, undoubtedly, was N.S.Krishnan (NSK).

Tamil cine goers laughed their guts out at NSK’s thought provoking jokes. NSK has often been compared to the legendary comedian, Charlie Chaplin. But, while Chaplin scored with his slapstick comedy and body language, NSK relied more on his verbal humour, one-liners and subtle messages to the audience. His comedy, which also had its share of puns, was always wholesome at its best with no double entendre or misogyny involved.

As we cannot justifiably cover all the stalwart comedians who tickled our funny bones in a single Article, we hereby restrict our current write up to the Monarch of them all – N.S.Krishnan.

N.S.Krishnan was born as Nagerkovil Sudalamuthu Krishnan in 1908 in a poor family. His childhood years were spent selling snacks in a theatre in his hometown & working as a ball picker in a Tennis Club. His lack of formal education was amply made up by his native genius & curiosity.

Later, in his formative years he joined the celebrated drama company run by TKS Brothers. He was also proficient in a rural art form known as ‘Villu Paattu’.

Later he formed his own touring theatre group and traversed the length and breadth of erstwhile Madras Presidency with his plays, which always drew packed houses.

NSK’s entry into the celluloid world was through S.S.Vasan produced and Ellis Dungan directed film ‘Sathi Leelavathy’, where he was introduced as a comedian. Though this was his debut film, his second movie ‘Menaka’ got released before ‘Sathi Leelavathy’ could hit the screen. However ‘Menaka’ was adjudged the best movie of the year in 1935.

Menaka

An Advertisement of the Film MENAKA in the magazine ANANDHA VIKATAN DEEPAVALI MALAR 1935  PC: From the archives of TCRC

It was during the shooting of ‘Vasantha Sena’ (1936), directed by Raja Sandow, NSK ‘met’ co-star T. A. Mathuram and both fell in love. Their marriage was held in a simple manner, while the shooting schedule moved to Pune, with Raja Sandow presiding over the ‘wedding’. The couple got the honor of being the first real-life couple acting as couple of reel life too, between 1936 and 1957, when they did a whopping 122 films, as a pair!

Vasanthasena

An Advertisement of the Film VASANTHA SENA in the magazine ANANDHA VIKATAN DEEPAVALI MALAR 1936  PC: From the archives of TCRC

N S Krishnan, who popularly goes by his popular title, ‘Kalaivanar’, rose from humble beginnings as a ‘villu paatu’ artiste who became a master in the art of repartee. In tandem with his wife TA Mathuram, he regaled audiences, often stealing the spotlight from the lead stars. NSK was known to pen his comedy tracks himself and always ensured that he was never repetitive.  Noted lyricist Udumalai Narayana Kavi usually wrote the lyrics for Krishnan.

Untitled

In the early timeframe of his career, he worked with comedians like TS Durairaj, Pulimootai Ramaswamy, CS Pandian and Kali M Rathinam and later worked in most of the films of MK Thiagaraja Bhagavathar as Hero. Krishnan was also a gifted singer and his numbers in ‘Sivakavi’, ‘Raja Rani’ and ‘Manamagal’ became immensely popular.

He also produced the hit film ‘Nallathambi’, directed by C.N Annadurai. He directed films such as  ‘Panam’ and ‘Manamagal’ penned by Karunanidhi. SS Vasan’s magnum opus ‘Chandralekha’ too featured Krishnan in comedy tracks. There was a time in Tamil cinema when no film was complete without NSK!

He also shared screen space in many films of the leading heroes, MGR and Sivaji Ganesan, and despite the presence of these Titans always stood out with his comedy.

NSK went on to work as unparalleled comedian in as many as 150 films, MGR starred ‘Raja Desingu’ being the last one, released after his death.

On 8 November 1944, Lakshmikanthan the gossip columnist & Editor of ‘Indu Nesan’ was knifed by some unknown persons in Purasawalkam and was admitted to the General Hospital, Madras as an outpatient. But the next day, Lakshmikanthan was murdered mysteriously while still in the hospital. The police arrested eight persons as accused for the murder including M.K.Tyagaraja Bhagavathar and NSK. This came as a rude shock to their fans and the cine world.

After thirty long months of jail term they were acquitted for want of proof by the London Privy Council, thanks to the eminent lawyer V. L. Ethiraj who argued for them at Privy Council at London. (The same illustrious lawyer founded Ethiraj College for women).

Though N.S.Krishnan did manage to pick up the threads of his life again as an actor post his release from prison, things were not quite the same & he was financially drained and his fortunes plummeted rapidly.

When Krishnan was first sentenced to jail, Mathuram took a break from her acting career. Later she came out her self-imposed exile to generate revenues for financing her husband’s appeal to the Privy Council.

When NSK was in prison, T. A. Mathuram started a drama troupe called N. S. K Nataka Sabha, which staged plays written by and starring S.V.Sahasranamam. ‘Paithiyakaran’ (1947) was one of those plays. Later Mathuram converted the troupe into a film production company and made a film based on the play. While the film, being directed by Krishnan-Panju Duo,  was in production, Krishnan was acquitted released from prison. A new role was written for him in the film. NSK made fun of his stint in prison through the song jailukku poi vantha in which he described in prison life, his fellow inmates and the types of prisoners he met. MGR played a supporting role in the film.

In 1947, after his release from the prison, Nataraja Educational Society, Triplicane awarded him the title of ‘Kalaivanar’ to NSK through the ‘Father of Stage’, Pammal.K.Sambanda Mudaliyar. He is, to-date, known by this Title even without his name!

‘Manamagal’ (1951), produced & directed by NSK, saw the debut of Padmini as a lead actress. In this movie, A.Bhimsingh, who later became a big Director, was an Assistant Director to NSK. He also generously gifted his own expensive car to Baliah for his stellar performance in Manamagal.

MSV-TKR duo was formed as Music Directors by NSK for his Film ‘Panam’ (1952).

In his times, NSK was instrumental in bringing a number of leading Tamil stage and film personalities to the fore; he was also a Gandhian, patriot and philanthropist who became an active member of the Dravidian Movement. On the assassination of Gandhi, NSK raised a Memorial for the Father of the Nation at his own expense in the Municipal Park his hometown.

NSK was one of the founding fathers of South Indian Actors Association. He is reported to have even gifted his own land for its premises.

NSK passed away at his 49 on 30th August 1957, after bringing a lot of joy and cheer to his audience through his film roles.

Some of his well known films included Sathi Leelavathi, Ambikapathi, Madurai Veeran, Kala Megham, Uthama Puthiran, Sakunthalai, Arya Mala, Mangamma Sabatham, Harischandira, Haridas, Pavalakodi, Paithiyakkaran, Chandrakantha,  Chandralekha, NallaThambi, Managaiyarkkarasi, Rathnakumar, Vana Sundari, Panam, Amara Kavi, Kaveri, Dr. Savithri, Mudhal Thethi, Rangin Radha, Raja Rani, Manamagal & Raja Desingu.

Chandrakantha

An Advertisement of the Film CHANDRAKANTHA in the magazine ANANDHA VIKATAN DEEPAVALI MALAR 1936  PC: From the archives of TCRC

In his personal life, he had three wives, Nagammai, T.A.Mathuram & T.A.Vembammal (T.A.Mathuram’s sister).

 

NSK Interview

Stills from a short Interview of NSK in the magazine KALKI DEEPAVALI MALAR 1942 PC: From the archives of TCRC

The Tamil Nadu Government dedicated the Children’s Theatre on Wallaja Road, Madras as a memorial building in 1979, named it ‘Kalaivanar Kalai Arangam’  in his honour . His revered public statue adorns a major junction in T.Nagar in Chennai.

If NSK were to be alive today he would have been 108 years old!