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’

 

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Filmy Ripples – Cars that added glitter to movies

By P V Gopalakrishnan

Vintage & classic cars are the cherished dreams of car enthusiasts & collectors worldwide, but have been routinely dubbed as ‘ottai’ car in the average common man’s lingo, where the Tamil word ‘ottai’ refers to a ramshackle one. As such we have not given enough attention to those timeless beauties, which had featured in our own old films, though they roamed the streets of this planet with great name & fame, at some points in time.

In Hollywood, there are specialized companies that provide the rentals of cars from a collection of older vehicles or broker the rental of privately owned vehicles to production companies. A vintage car owner can list his car with one or more of these companies that provide classic cars to the Film industry in USA. They call the owner when a need for his car arises.

Who can forget those cute Mini Coopers that appeared in ‘The Italian Job’?

As for Indian films, there are no catalogued sources of supply of old cars to films as Props. Therefore, the supply sources must be from various sources that are often gray.

The following 1958 Model Chevrolet Impala Convertible featured in the film ‘Karagattakaran’ along with the team of Kaundamani & Ramarajan.

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The Dodge Kingsway which appeared in the Malayalam Movie ‘in Ghost House Inn” (2010).

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The following stills from Kamal Hassan’s ‘Hey Ram’ feature two of the exotic cars of yester years used in that period movie.

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A Ford Super Deluxe Model of the Forties featured in Tamil movie ‘Paiyya’.

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The viewing of any old film that features cars gives us a peek of some of the lovely classic vintage beauties that the automobile world have had. Whether it is the Hero flaunting his car to his lady love or a group of spoiled brats roaming in a classic car or it is a hot chase scene or even a emotion filled scene with a car part of the scene, the Dodges, Desotos, Camaros, Plymouths, Pontiacs, Impalas, Studebakers, Oldsmobiles, Fords, Hillmans, Chevrolets, Morris Minors, Austins & Vauxhalls have had omnipresence on our silver screens.

Here is a scene from Sabapathy (1941), where T.R.Ramachandran rode a Morris 8 Cabriolet along with his consort, T.R.Padma, who was then the Brand Ambassador for Lux Beauty Soap, singing “Kadhal Vegam”.

Those days filming a moving car posed a lot of technical difficulties. As such, some long shots were used of the car in motion inter-cut with tight close ups of the artistes seated in the car. Some close ups of the car with the actors involved a stationery car being shaken manually as the actor in driver’s seat turned the steering wheel, while the back projection of trees moving in reverse direction added to reality.

Here is a song ‘Kada kada loda loda vandi’ from Samsaram (1951), music by Emani Sankara Sastry, filmed in a sequence where the automobile borne lady Vanaja & her sidekicks boo the bullock cart man Sriram.

Taking a romantic drive with a song, ‘Jagamathil inbam’ on their lips are T.R.Mahalingam & S.Varalakshmi in the movie ‘Mohana Sundaram’ (1951).

In the off screen song sequence from the movie ‘Yaar paiyan’ (1957), a emotion choked Gemini Ganesan transports the young Daisy Irani in his classic Fiat to abandon the child, despite his mind calling his action grossly unfair.

A break free Gemini Ganesan drives his classic vehicle around the town singing ‘Minor life romba jolly’ in the film ‘Illarame nallaram’ (1958).

The romance was in the air as Gemini Ganesan drove this beautiful Buick with his consort Savithri on the winding roads of a Hill Station in the film ‘Pasa malar’ (1961).

Now, let us Look at Sivaji Ganesan & friends expressing their ‘vagabondism’ in ‘Nichaya Thamboolam’ (1962) in the song ‘Andavan Padachan’ as they move about in their limousine.

In another boy meets girl episode, Muthuraman & Kanchana sing & dance in the then pristine Marina of the sixties from the iconic comedy film ‘Kathalikka naeramillai’ (1964). In this duet melody, ‘Enna parvai unthan parvai’, the pair drive off in a ship long luxury car, which once belonged to Padma Sri. Jothi Venkatachalam.

In the same movie, in a chivalrous situation in the song “Unga ponnana kaigal punnagalama’, Ravichandran teases the sisters Kanchana & Rajasree as he helps them inflate their the tyres of their Standard Herald car, before driving away in his Austin.

The Gemini produced ‘Motor Sundaram Pillai’ (1966)  featured Sivaji Ganesan driving what seems to be a real vintage & iconic T – Model Ford.

Motor Sundaram Pillai

An Ad for Motor Sundaram from Naradar dated 15.11.1965 PC: From the archives of TCRC

In the comedy film ‘Sadhu Mirandal’ (1966), Comedian Nagesh drove, as a Taxi Driver character, a 1947 Model Chevy Fleetmaster throughout the movie. Such cars were running in the streets of Madras till the sixties, as a left over legacy of British Raj. Those days, in the front parking bay of Madras Central Station you could witness a sea of such huge imported cars, bearing yellow & black colours.

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An Ad for Sadhu Miranda from Naradar dated 01.12.1965 PC: from the archives of TCRC

The song ‘Azhagirukkuthu ulagile’ from the film ‘Anubhavi Raja Anubhavi’ (1967) has Muthuraman & Nagesh frolicking around in their car.

Sivaji Ganesan takes his wards on a city tour in his jalopy in the film ‘Enga Mama’  (1970)  with a song ‘Nan thannam thani kattu raja’.

Contrast to the old techniques of filming car sequences, today the technology of lighting & camera has so much become advanced that filming the interior of a moving vehicle is relatively a cake walk. The following still shows the filming of car scenes in ‘Pannaiyarum Padminiyum’

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The modern filming techniques of a car involve strapping the cinematographer in front of the moving vehicle as he operates his camera gliding on a railing back & forth from the bonnet side to side door windows.

In India, private owners parade classic cars in rallies conducted locally. Otherwise certain private collectors from the super rich and erstwhile royal families have them. However, the authentic supply of classic cars in India is not known by any documented & reliable source.

It is not as if we are in a country like Cuba where one could take a step back into automotive time, as Havana is rife with classic cars moving about its streets, literally, making Cuba a rolling car museum, thanks to the four-decade-long grudge the late Fidel Castro held against the United States, placing a ban on foreign vehicle imports.

As such the films do appease the vintage auto lovers by featuring them now & then in their productions.

 

End of an era: K.Balachander (1930-2014)

Indian Cinema lost one of its greatest contributors on December 23rd 2014, K.Balanchander or KB sir as he is fondly known to many. The recipient of the Dada Saheb Phalke award, his career spanned for over 45 years. Besides directing over 100 films, he has also donned the role as writer, producer and even an actor. Each of his films were ahead of its times with radical offbeat themes and with strong women characters. The same was true with the many serials that he had directed and produced for the small screen. He is known for launching and mentoring several top actors and technicians in Indian Cinema including Kamal Hassan, Rajnikanth and Sri Devi.

Here is what the national newspaper The Hindu  has to say about this great man.

http://http://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/he-took-tamil-cinema-beyond-herocentric-creations/article6719996.ece?homepage=true&theme=true

As our small tribute to KB sir we would like to share a lobby card from our collection. It is from the film Manadhil Uridhi Vendum (1987). The film revolves around the strong willed female protagonist Nandhini (played by Suhasini) who over comes many hurdles  and finally dedicates her life to her profession as a nurse.

The lobby card in itself is unique with the working still from the shoot as its image. We get to see the crew and the man himself directing the female lead Suhasini in this picture.

manadhi-urudhi-vendumTCRC

 

Kamal Hassan, The Singer: “Paneer Pushpangale” in “Aval Appadithan” (Tamil, 1978)

We at TCRC have a large number of still photographs shot during the production of various films that have been made by Tamil filmmakers across the years. We are in the process of digitizing, sorting and cataloguing them. One of the films for which most of this work has been completed is C Rudhraiya’s “Aval Appadithan” starring Kamal Hassan, Rajnikanth, Sripriya and Saritha. In fact, the header image that you see at the top of this page is a production photograph from “Aval Appadithan,” which was released in 1978.

The movie, praised by many for being far ahead of its times in terms of both treatment and technique, had numerous English dialogues and frequently employed jump cuts (two or more shots taken from only slightly different angles being placed sequentially, so as to communicate the passing of time in an abrupt manner). Shot in black and white, “Aval Appadithan” had only three songs, all of which were composed by Ilaiyaraaja.

One of the songs, titled “Paneer Pushpangale,” was written by Gangai Amaren and was sung by Kamal Hassan himself. Now, we’re used to Kamal singing his own songs. But it’s quite refreshing to hear Kamal croon a ‘Raaja Sir’ (as Ilaiyaraaja is known in the Tamil film industry) number from that era. In fact, when we heard the song for first time, we couldn’t even identify Kamal’s voice. Check it for yourself. Here is “Paneer Pushpangale” from “Aval Appadithan”: