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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

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Film Appreciation:

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.

Shivaji Ganeshan

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.

Rekha

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 stars.

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.

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