Film Appreciation with K S Sivakumaran:
Early Tamil films
When we talk about films made in the Tamil language we really speak
about films made in neighboring India.
Although more than a score f films had been made in this country in
Lankan Tamil films fall short of quality and quantity. There is evidence
of advanced technology used and one could discern new way of treatment
of stories in contemporary Indian Tamil films.
The film industry in India has progressed very fast and films
produced in Chennai (Kodambakkam) outnumber the number of films produced
in other parts of India. This is so particularly in some years.
However I don't watch many Tamil films at present due to various
reasons. Earlier, particularly after the 1950s, I had seen fairly good
number of entertaining Tamil films that suited my taste and
understanding of the medium of cinema then.
Like me there might have been some vintage readers who could have
enjoyed such films earlier. For the benefit of young readers let me
mention in passing some striking aspects in old Tamil films.
Reading about the Tamil Cinema, we learn that it has an 80 years
history since 1931. During the first decade of the 1939s a great number
of films were musicals in the sense there were lots of songs and actors
who could sing held sway.
The Thiravida Munnetra Kalagam (DMK) became an embryonic political
force in Tamilandu state in the 1940s. Two of the writers belonging to
this camp eventually became the Chief Ministers of the State. They were
the late C N Annathurai and the now ousted Chief Minister, M Karunanithi.
Ironically the present C M of the State, Jeyaram Jeyalaltha was also a
dancer and actor in South Indian films. So politics and cinema in Tamil
Nadu is intertwined.
The 1949 film 'Velaikaari' (Servant Woman) was based on a novel by C
N Annathurai, and directed a man with Lanka connection A S Saami. It set
a new pattern in making a film with social consciousness. The idea of
making purposeful films led to underline the significance of story and
dialogue to communicate with the masses.
Parasakthi (The Goddess Shakthi) introduced the late Chevalier Sivaji
Ganshan who gave expression to the largely satirical story and brilliant
dialogue of Muthuvelu Karunanithi by his histrionic acting that also
exhibited his innate talents to vary his acting style with distinct
There were films earlier too pinpointing social imbalances in feudal
societies. For instance the film 'Nanthanaar' depicted the caste
problem. WE are informed that this folk epic of also-called low caste
devotee has been filmed five times. I liked the songs sung by the
Professor of Carnatic Music, M M Thandapaanui Thesigar who played the
main role in the film.
Another sterling figure in the Tamil film of yester year was the
singer M K Thiyagarajah Baagavathar. 'Haridas', 'Sivakavi', Thiruneela
Kandar were few of his films that delighted the audiences then.
Subramaniam Krishnaswami is considered one of the authentic authors on
Indian Cinema. His father was a pace-setter in making Tamil films. His
name was K Subramaniam. He realized the cinema was 'an effective tool of
communication to be used as mirror to holdup and reveal the workings of
Another film of great significance was 'Ambigapathy' directed by an
American Ellis R Dungan. The story had some resemblance to Shakespeare's
'Romeo and Juliet'.