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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

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Film Appreciation:

Musical extravaganzas and mesmerised audiences

Cinema audiences particularly in the whole of India enjoyed film with songs some seven decades ago. This partly due to an everlasting musical tradition and partly due to the use of quality music in films produced in both northern and southern India. Carnatic music rendered by ace Bhagavatharkals like Thiyagarajah, Chinappa and Honappa who sang appearing as key players portraying familiar Puranic, historical and literary characters drew crowds in large numbers.

Films on focus

* Thiruneelakandar
* Haridas
* Sivakavi
* Jegathala Prathapan
* Aariya Maala
* Kannagi
* Maha Maaya
* Uththama Puthiran
* Krishna Bhakthi

M K Thiyagarajah Bhagavathar’s melodic voice in films like Thiruneelakandar, Haridas, Sivakavi and others was haunting. Even to this day his songs sung to the lyrics and composition of Paapanaasam Sivan is enjoyable even by average persons.

N S Krishnan and his partner provided highly appreciative humour and wisdom in the films they played with M K T.

Another actor of note was P U Chinappa, a stage actor turned film idol. His roles in Jegathala Prathapan, Aariya Maala, Kannagi, Maha Maaya, Uththama Puthiran and Krishna Bhakthi were strikingly melodramatic and welcomed by the audiences. He could sing, act, fight and do gymnastics in films.

Based on one of Alexander Dumas’ novel, Uthama Puthiran was a box office hit then. Sivaji Ganeshan played the same role later in his own particular style.

Tamil cinema in its early stages was more stagy than cinematic, but by and by it moved towards the moving image category. A-setter in witting dialogue for Tamil films was Ilangovan. His beautiful literary dialogues in Kannagi were marvelously lyrical too. This film was about Kannagi, the main character in the great Tamil epic Silappathikaram. Tall and Telugu actress P Kannamba Played the role of Kannagi and spoke the lines enunciating perfectly the nuances in the dialogues.

The late 1940s bring changes in Tamil cinema.

In Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu, there were two main studios: Gemini and AVM. In Salem in Tamilnadu there was Modern Theatres. The Jupiter Pictures Company too was in the limelight then. S S Vaasan who became rich from rags was also the founder editor of the popular Tamil weekly magazine, Aananda Vikatan. Vaasan who formed the Gemini studio (now defunct) brought out some stupendous, colossal and very popular entertainers in the like of Chandraleka, Apoorva Sahothararkal, and Avvaiyaar et al. His grandiloquent spectacles with popular film music with western tunes, dances, fights, comedy, and strong storylines evolved the ‘formula or ‘masala’ films.

The illiterate masses turned to seeing movies with a difference and became addicted to them. Like in Hollywood, grand sets, beautiful costumes, action oriented and attractive stars were featured. In Chandraleka, there were fencing between M K Raadha and Ranjan, seductive portrayal by T R Rajakumari. We learn that this film produced in 1948 at the cost of 3.50 million rupees grossed over 12 million rupees then. That was remarkable box office earnings then. The inclusion of circus feats was an additional entertainer in the film Please note that M K Raadha was different from the late M R Radha, an actor famous for villainous acting and father of Raadhika, a serial drama and film actress, whose mother is a Sinhala lady from Lanka. Ranjan was a pilot and a classical Bharatha Natyam dancer.

I must also add beginning with Mangamma Sabatham featuring Ranjan and Vasunthara Devi, (mother of dancing star and politician, Vyjayanthi Maala), western, particularly, Latin American music came to be introduced into Tamil films. Rajeswara Rao and C R Subbaraman were pioneer music directors in this type of music.

Another important name in the history of Tamil cinema was A V Meippan Chettiar. Having engaged first in the production of gramophone records under his banner Saraswathi Stores, he entered into the film world. After initial failures his AVM produced a film called Naam Iruvar (We Two) in 1948. This film used the poetic songs of one of India’s national poet Subbramania Bharathiyar, which rejoiced the granting of independence from the British colonialists.

sivakumaran.ks@gmail.com
 

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