The Madras Film Industry in the 1960s: On the sets of “Thillaanaa Mohanambal” in a French documentary!

Today, we bring to you a clip from “L’inde Fantôme” (Phantom India), a documentary film made by Academy Award-winning French filmmaker Louis Malle. This is an excerpt from “Choses Vues A Madras,” which was the second episode of the documentary. Focusing on the Madras film industry in the late 1960s, the excerpt features footage shot on the sets of the 1968-released, classic Tamil film “Thillaanaa Mohanambal,” starring Sivaji Ganesan, Padmini, Balaiah, Manorama and others. Directed by AP Nagarajan and written by Kothamangalam Subbu, the film and its songs continue to be remembered even today.

What we found most interesting was the commentary in French (you can turn on the English subtitles by clicking on the “Captions” button in the bottom bar on the YouTube video). The commentator, at one point, refers to Sivaji Ganesan as the “Indian Belmondo.” “Belmondo” here is a reference to Jean Paul Belmondo, the French actor who was a prominent face in the New Wave films that were made in France in the 1960s. He continues to be remembered for his portrayal of the character Michel Poiccard in Jean Luc Godard’s extremely influential film “Breathless” (“À bout de souffle” in French). “Breathless” was a path-breaking film that inspired many filmmakers through its brilliant use of the jump cut. So, while the comparison to Belmondo is flattering, it’s important to remember that Sivaji Ganesan had made his mark with “Parasakthi” in 1952, a good eight years before Belmondo broke out with “Breathless” (1960).

Jean Paul Belmondo in "Breathless" | Sivaji Ganesan in "Thillaanaa Mohanambal"

Jean Paul Belmondo in “Breathless”   |    Sivaji Ganesan in “Thillaanaa Mohanambal”

Do watch the clip and let us know about your thoughts on Louis Malle’s commentary and his take on Indian films. You can leave a comment or write to us at tcrc.india[at]gmail[dot]com.

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Sir Richard Attenborough on working with Satyajit Ray in “Shatranj Ke Khilari”: Old DD Bangla interview

Today is master filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s 92nd birthday and Google’s paid a lovely tribute through a doodle based on his film “Pather Panchali.” For those who missed it, here’s what the doodle is all about:

Google doodle on the occasion of Satyajit Ray’s 92nd birthday (2nd May 2013).

We at TCRC also chanced upon a YouTube video of an old show on DD Bangla where Sir Richard Attenborough, director of “Gandhi,” talks about the experience of working with Ray on “Shatranj Ke Khilari.” The film, released in 1977, was based on Munshi Premchand’s short story of the same name and was narrated by  Amitabh Bachchan. The cast included actors such as Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffrey, Shabana Azmi, Farida Jalal, Amjad Khan, Richard Attenborough, Victor Banerjee, Farooq Shaikh and Tom Alter. Do look out for Sir Attenborough’s views on cinema as an art form and Ray’s soundbites!

Missing PBS. Wishing Pran.

We at TCRC deeply mourn the demise of veteran playback singer PB Sreenivas. PBS’ lilting melodies, however, shall live on. Our favorite is “Kalangalil Aval Vasantham” from the 1961 Tamil film “Paava Mannippu,” which incidentally was the first South Indian film to win the National Award for the Second Best Feature Film.

At the same time, we at TCRC are glad to know that the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for Cinematic Excellence is being conferred on actor Pran this year and we extend our heartiest congratulations to one of Indian cinema’s finest villains. Given below is a compilation of some of Pran’s best moments on screen.


Alfred Hitchcock on editing

OpenCulture (click here to read their take on it) linked us to this seven-minute master class on editing by Alfred Hitchcock. Watch, learn & enjoy.

SS Vasan’s “Chandralekha” | The First Attempt To Get Nationwide Distribution

“Chandralekha”, a Tamil film directed by SS Vasan, was released by Gemini Studios in 1948. Starring MK Radha, TR Rajakumari, Ranjan and NS Krishnan, the film was made at a then-lavish budget of more than Rs.30 lakhs and was considered to be one of the most expensive films of that time. It was also one of the first Madras productions to become an all-India hit. It is said to have released in 609 screens worldwide. The drum-dance sequence featured here was one of the highlights of the movie, leading up to one of the longest sword-fighting sequences in Indian cinema.

We at TCRC are proud to to have, in our archive, memorabilia from films of that era.

Ellis Dungan’s documentary on village life in Southern India | The 1940s

Ellis Dungan was an American film maker who made numerous Tamil films between the years 1936-1950. His debut film Sathi Leelavathi also happened to be Tamil cinema superstar MGR’s (M G Ramachandran) debut film.

This documentary made by Ellis Dungan is a rare find from the West Virginia State Archives. It showcases a typical South Indian village in the 1940’s through the eyes of this American film maker. A song and dance sequence has also been incorporated in this documentary.

TCRC is proud to house memorabilia pertaining to some of Dungan’s films.

The Archive | A film about the world’s largest music record collection

Paul Mawhinney was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. Over the years, he amassed what was one of the world’s largest music record collections.

Due to health issues and lack of support from the music industry, Paul was eventually forced to sell his collection.

This is the story of a man and his records.

We at TCRC salute Paul’s spirit.