25 Greatest Acting Performances in Indian Cinema: The Forbes List!

The Forbes India magazine recently put out a list of the 25 greatest acting performances in Indian cinema, 8 of which are performances in Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil films.  Now, here at TCRC, we are always a little wary of lists such as these, fully aware that it’s incredibly hard to pick just 8 or 10 performances from over thousands of films made in the southern part of the country across the span of almost a century. But since this list is a part of their ‘100 Years of Indian Cinema’ set of features, we felt compelled to share this. Given below is an excerpt from the piece (click here to check out the entire list):

JV Somayajulu 
in Sankarabharanam (The Ornament of Shankara), 1980 
JV Somayajulu, an IAS officer in his 50s, plays a Carnatic musician, misunderstood for supporting the daughter of a prostitute, ignored by a society where classical music is in decline, and is being overtaken by pop music. It was a surprise hit. It opened to empty seats, gathered speed and, today, enjoys a cult status. Somayajulu played his part with such dignity and intensity that you can’t listen to any of its hugely popular songs without imagining him performing them as his sadhana.

JV Somayajulu in "Sankarabharanam" (Telugu, 1980). Photo Courtesy: Forbes India.

JV Somayajulu in “Sankarabharanam” (Telugu, 1980). Photo Courtesy: Forbes India.

“Sankarabharanam” turned out to be a cult film as far as Telugu cinema was concerned, after getting off to a slow start in the box office. Directed by K Vishwanath, the film is remembered for its music, scored by KV Mahadevan. The film was shot by cinematographer-turned-director Balu Mahendra, who later made “Moondram Pirai” with Kamal Hassan and Sridevi (“Sadma” in Hindi). The director of “Sankarabharanam,” K Vishwanath, went on to narrate yet another story revolving around an art form (classical dance) in “Saagara Sangamam” (“Salangai Oli” in Tamil). The film featured Kamal Hassan and Jayaprada in career-defining roles and like “Sankarabharanam,” it is said to be a musical success, with tunes composed by Ilaiyaraaja.

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The First Kannada Talkie: “Sathi Sulochana” (1934)

Keeping in line with our focus on the regional cinemas of Southern India, we at TCRC bring to you a piece published by The Hindu in 2004, where historian Randor Guy writes about the first ever Kannada talkie film, “Sathi Sulochana.” It was released in 1934 and featured Rattihalli Nagendra Rao and MV Subbiah, who were popular theatre artists at that time. The film was directed by Yaragudipati Varada Rao, who cast himself in  an important role in the movie. YV Rao was also the director of “Chintamani,” the record-breaking Tamil film that was released in 1937. YV Rao’s “Chintamani” was the first Tamil film to run continuously for a year and is said to have played an important role in catapulting actor-singer MK Thyagaraja Bhagavathar to stardom.

In his piece on Sathi Sulochana, Randor Guy offers some very interesting trivia about the production of the movie:

Sathi Sulochana” took two months to be completed. Shooting was done in natural sun light and by using man-made reflectors. Shooting with artificial lighting in that town was difficult. Mirrors were carried by camera-assistants on their shoulders to reflect sunlight onto the set to provide back-lighting and the men had to keep moving, shifting the mirrors to be in alignment with the moving sun! The sets had no ceiling and were covered by a white cloth.”

MV Subbiah Naidu in “Sathi Sulochana” (1934), the first Kannada talkie

We at TCRC are proud to feature such gems from our illustrious history of cinema. Please feel free to write to tcrcindia[at]gmail[dot]com with your feedback and suggestions.