Forgotten Tamil film actors and stars
As a child I remember seeing some Tamil films in late 1940s with my
parents. I could remember a few images only. Some of them were
Nanthanaar, Thiruneelakandar, Sivakavi, Sakunthalai, Ponmudi,
Chandralekha, Vethaala Ulagam and Aporva Sahotharrkal. They were
classics in the development Tamil cinema, I learnt later. Some serious
students of cinema would like to know who the main players were if they
were to study their contribution to the overall cinema world. For the
benefit of such students and others who may belong to different
communities in the island, I take this opportunity to recall their names
and brief notes on them if it would help.
As we know in cinema there are actors and stars. Actors are
professional and trained actors who came from the theatre and later
adopted themselves to the medium of cinema. In fact in most Indian films
an element of theatrical feature still exists. At the same time there
are stars that are basically glamorous and are used mainly for love
scenes, dances and lighter vain performances.
At present there are many glamorous stars in Tamil films, and most of
the women who appear are not Tamils. They are from neighbouring Andhra,
Kerala, Karnatka and other regions. Some of the attractive female film
stars are from the North of India. At he same time some from the South
also had gone into Bollywood acting. Vyjayanthimaala, Wahida Rehman,
Rekha, Hemamalini are some of them.
What is good in India is that there is no exclusivity of people in
terms of their language. Many could speak more than two languages and
communicate with each other in the languages they know. The film world
is a good example where people from various regions work together for a
common purpose. What happens here is that extreme nationalists from the
divide want only exclusivity, thereby preventing the people to interact
with each other.
Before the reawakening in 1956 or so, Tamils and Sinhalas worked
together and produced early Sinhala films. But of course there was a
justifiable change to alter the pattern of film making in South Indian
style after that. But extreme racism and nationalism in 1958 and other
years and particular in 1983, the solidarity between the two communities
led to disaster and valuable film rolls and studios were crushed to
naught and the murder of some Tamil artistes. This was all because of
the ignorance of some people not realizing who they were. Anyway that's
a part of written history of the island.
Let' begin from the beginning. You know probably Raadika who now acts
in serials shown on many south Indian TV channels. She had acted in some
good films. Talented. Her mother is a Lankan Sinhala lady and her father
was a remarkable actor called M R Raadha. He came from theatre and his
acting in the film Raththa Kaneer (Blood Tears) was a remarkable
performance as a degenerating leprosy patient.
There was another Raadha. He was M K Raadha. He acted in Apoorva
Sahotharrkal (Unique Brothers - adapted from Alexander Dumas' Corsican
Brothers". He also acted in Chandraleka with Ranjan, a pilot turned
actor in a swash buckling fencing scene. M K Thyagarajah Baagavathar, N
S Krishnan, P U Chinnappa Bagawathar and others were legendary singing
T S Baaliah was another character actor who could perform s a villain
also in films. T R Mahlingam was an actor who could sing well.
C Honappa Baagavathar who came from Karntaka could sing and act in
some memorable films. S V Subbiah, R Nagendra Rao (also from Karntaka),
S V Ranga Rao (from Andhra), T K Shanmugam, T K Bagawathi,
Koththamangalam Subbu, D Kemp Raj, P B Rangachari, M R Krishmamooorthi,
S V Banthulu, P Srinivaa Rao, Serukalthur Sarma, S S Kokko, K
Sarangapaani, Kali N Rathnam, T S Durairaj, Nagarkovvil K Makadevan, P S
Govindan, and P V Narasimma Bharthi, V Nagiah, V Gopalakrishnan, S A
Ashokan, Chandrababu (who studied at St Joseoph'sCcollege, Colombo), S V
Sahashranaamam,, Thengai Srinivaasan, Surulirajan, K A Thangavelu, N M
Nambiaar, M R R Vaasu, Sivaji Ganeshan, MG Ramachandran, Gemini
Ganeshan, S R Rrajendran, Kalyan Kumar, Jeya Shankar, A Muththu Raman,
Ravichandran Sri Raam, were some of the shining stars and actors in
early Tamil films.
We have not forgotten the forgotten female actors and glamorous stars
of Tamil cinema. They too contributed immensely to popularize the Tamil
films in other parts of the world where Tamilians live now.
We shall get to know their names and significance in our next column.
It is interesting to note that our own Malini Fonseka had acted in a
Tamil film with legendary Sivaji Ganeshan in a South Indian Tamil film-
Pilot Premanath. And a very bold woman from Yaalpaanam had acted in a
South Indian Tamil film called Vana Mohini. Her name was Thavamani Devi.