Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban - (1973) - Behind the Screen

Movie: Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban - 1973

Movie : Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban

Cast : M.G.Ramachandran (Dual-Role) Latha Chandrakala Manjula S.A.Ashokan R.S.Manohar M.N.Nambiyar Nagesh

Music : M.S.Visvanathan
Production : Mgeeyar Pictures
Direction : M.G.Ramachandran
Release Year : 1973

Ulagam Sutrum Valiban was the most challenging work for MGR. When he filmed shots in Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia in 1970 he had limited time and finance. Therefore he was very thrifty, nay stingy in working out the budget. He was counting on financial assistance from close friends as well. Although MGR earned high, much of the income went for charity, and he had little in saving.

He knew that the highlight of the movies would be the EXPO 1970 in Osaka as this film had no proper story line. But Japan had high standard of living and one of the costly areas in the world. So he had to make the tour of the countries within few days and limited cash. To be careful in spending he sent Idhayam Pesukirathu Manian to conduct a survey and make the necessary arrangements. Manian went early and made all the arrangemetns. However MGR was not to show up with his team. In Madras he had to struggle with many things, including Jayalalitha who was demanding a role in this mega movie with MGR's name and fame running highest.

Finally he came down and stayed in a bungalow already booked by Manian. On the following day, MGR's car was denied entry into the packed Expo area. But the survey had to be done. MGR carried the camera on his shoulder and walked tirelessly the entire length and breadth of the Expo area. this was to the amazement of youngsters who could not cope up with the aging, and yet energetic who was about 53 then. MGR was a genius. He spotted all the interesting and useful areas. On the following day the shot was made.

The song Ulagam Azhagu kalaikalin Sigaram had 200 shots altogether. The editor was amazed at the number of shots. Finally the song

was reduced to just 4 minutes. This was the first Tamil song to have contained the most number of shots. This song alone covered almost all the important exhibits at the EXPO, and turned out to be a kind of documentary in its own way.

Why was this movie released in hurry? Politics and nothing else. MGR's popularity was growing high. In 1971 there was a thought that Indira Gandhi will kill DMK. Somehow DMK won ar too many seats and Congres was moved into oblivion. This threatened Indira gandhi and boosted the ego of Mu karunanithi. MGR went to Kashmir for shooting of Idhaya venai and phoned karunanithi and asked for a post as minister in his cabinet-as Trade Minister. Mu Ka told him the constitution did not allow for an actor to hold such a post while still acting. karunaithi asked MGR to leave acting. But that would kill MGR. Then MGR requested mu ka to speak to Annai Indira on the adjustment in the constitution. Mu ka refused and told him to come back and discuss at home. When he came back the conversation between them was not cordial.

Meanwhile Mu ka had built up Mu ka Muthu in MGR style and made him start fans club Mu ka rasikar mandram. As the Mandram grew, Mu ka told him to abolish the Mandram on the grounds that party members acting infilms should not have such mandrams. MGr knew where karunainthi was arriving at. His club would be the next target. Apparently while in Kashmir,Indira had used Mohan Kumaramangalam to get MGr to release hic accounts of the expenses overseas when he went to shoot Ulakam Sutrum valiban. MGR could not provide the account. A compromise was made. MGR was to leave the party (break DMK). A pretext was worked out. MGR was to ask for accounts of the DMK misters who were corrupt then.

In a DMK meeting in madurai MGR asked those gathered "Congress is blaming DMK as a corrupt party. Do you all think so?" The people denied DMK as a corrupt party. MGR replied "Makkal Theerppe Magesn Theerppu" but the following month MGR, as treasurer of DMK asked all the ministers to give their accounts as there were accusations of DMK ministers piling up wealth. All refused. Mu Ka said the treasurer's duty is to give accounts, not ask for accounts. heated arguments pursued. MGR left the meeting. Navalar and MU KA met and decided to sack MGR. Then MU KA announced the sacking of MGR. Immediately after the announcement, Cho ramasamy phoned his very close friend Kannadasan and mentioned about this most shocking news. As Kannadsan put down the receiver. Mu Ka himself phoned Kannadasan and asked "YOW! Ethavathu Kevli Patteera?" Kannadasan said "AMMAMAIYA. IPPOTHAAN CHO PHONE PANNAAN" Mu KA's next question was "What do u think fo my decision?" to which the poet laurel said " Yow Avanudaya balathai Kuraithu Edi Podatheer! Kalattaa kattayam Varum" Mu Ka said "I know, but I shall manage"

The dismissal of MGR was conveyed to MGR who was taking a break at the shooting of Amalraj pictures NETRU INRU NAALAI. AS MGR heard it he was so happy (plot worked well) and supplied payasam sent to him to all the workers. "This is my Birthday" he said. he finshed Netru Indru Naalai with much political message.

As his party was kick started, the MLA of Dindigul passed away and a by election was called for. "Thamby naan padichen Kanchiyile NEtru" in N I Naalai shows a flag of ADMK and a poster of K. Mayathevan standing for election in Dindikul under ADMK ticket. Then he worked on U SU Valiban's early release. the DMK was using the government machnery to block all efforts of ADMK in winning the votes of Dindigul. Madurai Muthu challenged MGR he would cut off his ears should the movie be released. They crossed each other and MGR and Muthu almost had a physical fight, if not for the presence of supporters form both side. (I was in Kaaraikkal in 1977 when Parliamentary elections took place. At a party rally Muthu was already campaigning for ADMK, and his ears were intact)

But MGR took the challenge. he finished the movie. But Karunaithis was giving trouble in teh censorship Board. MGR had to settle his income tax. Finally the movie was released in the midst of high tension. In Kanchipuram ( later) a procession was held. The film box was paraded along thousands of supporters and taken to the theatre. But before that the original film roll had already reached the theatre. the film box that came with the procession had only sand and stones inside. That much fear of opposition was there) the ADMK party was only 6 months old when the by election took place. So MGR had to either make it or break it-life and death problem.

DMK did all the preliminary campaign and indications were there that DMK was prepared to win. But just 10 days before the by election, against tradition, this movie's first release was in Dindigul. Peopel saw the movie at the box office and then went to the election box. MGR won. It was U SU valiban, among other factors, that paved way for MGR to become the Chief Minster.

Title song" Vetriyai naalai Sarithiram Sollum- Ippadai Thorkin Epadai Vellum?"

So such was the impact of the movie.

Want to know what happened in Malaysia? In 1969 there were racial riots in Malaysia following which all midnight shows were banned. Midnight shows were screened on Saturdays. Only famous and first time releases were screened this way. However the ban was lifted for Ulagam Sutrum valiban. What was the use? Tickets were already sold out 12 hours ahead. Many came and were disappointed. What used to be just one dollar ticket was sold for 30 dollars and yet tickets were not enough. the film started at midnight. Hundreds were stranded outside the theatre with indescribable frustration and ANGER! the theater owner purposely increased the volume. As someone waked out o the theatre door to purchase some sweets, the door opened and sound of songs came drilling into the ears of those stranded. Tension ran high. IN the uncontrollable anger some threw stones at the theatre and broke the window panes. Police was called. The crowd dispersed. The theatre decided not to screen midnight movies. Malaysia too had die hard MGR fans. That was for Deepavali 1973.

After MGR was expelled from DMK in 1972, MU KA did all tricks to block the release of USV - but could not succeed. At that time, DMK was running the Madras Corporation. They suddenly increased the tax on wall posters just to stop the advertisement for USV. MGR decided not to put any wall poster for USV. The film was released in Devi Paradise and two other theatres. Till now, nobody would have seen such a crowd for advance booking. Even the queue for advance booking went beyond Anna Silai on Mount Road. A super hit picture. I don't remember how many times I have seen this movie, both in theatre and in VCD.

MSV's music / songs also played a big part in the success of the movie. Especially, the background score when MGR/Chandrakala/Nagesh going to the Floating Market in Bangkong, chased by Ashokan & CO.

When the movie was in the making, MGR told to Vali in a light jest, "You will not be given a chance to write songs for this movie" to which Vali replied "This movie will certainly include my name"

MGR was puzzled and sought clarification. Vali replied my name Vali is already buried within the film title- VALIBAN. MGR laughed it off.

The original title of the movie was ULAGAM SUTRUM THAMIZHAN. For reasons not known to us he later changed it to Valiban.

The strength of MGR movies had always been the music and songs. More than anything else MGR gave most attention to the lyrics, tune and the song scenes. For this film he sat with MSV and kept on changing the tunes, until MSV almost dropped dead. Finally MGR approved the tune and went home. Upon reaching home he would phone MSV and request him to improve further. This trend continued for a few days. This unstable mind of MGR became a sore point for MSV and finally MSV told MGR off. He told MGR to look for other composers. On the following day, MGR sent for MSV. When MSV refused to go, MGR told him the tunes had come out so well and told him to collect the cash of Rs 15,000. Just compare with the rate today's' composers are demanding.

MGR gave chance to many singers:

TMS- gave life to the film
PS- most appropriate female singer
Seergazhi Govindarajan- title song with political theme
SPB- upcoming then
KJ Jesudas- MGR was building him
S. Janaki- suited the Expo scene
LR Eswary- suited for Banzayee- a Japanese atmosphere.

The film ran for 28 weeks, taking the number two slot in MGR's fim career. The best runner was Enga Veettu Pillai scoring 33 weeks.

Scenes of songs:

1. Lily malarukku Kondattam start in Kashmir, then to Malaysia, Hong Kong and finally in Singapore. The Malaysia Airport scene is only for a few seconds. That was taken in just one shot.

2. Sirithu Vazha Vendum is in Tiger Balm Gardens in Singapore, the background statues of old men with 'big bellies' are supposed to be ghosts (in Chinese tradition). They have been used for illustrating 'uzhaithu vaazha vendum, pirar uzhaikka vaazhndhidaathe' with children laughing in the foreground.

3.Nilavum Oru Pennagi is in Hong Kong

4. Pachai Kili is in Thailand - had the native music.. Commendable work by MSV

5. Thanga Thoniyile is in Hong Kong sea.

5. Banzayee is in Japan. The tune and music amazed me.

6. Avaloru navarasa nadakam is under water belle in Japan.

7. Ulakam Azhagu Kalaikalin Surangam is in Osaka Expo.

Though USV was released in 1973, all the songs except 'namadhu vettri' were recorded and released in 1970 itself.

I have seen the LP record having 9 songs (4 in one side and 5 on the other side).

It is said that though the film was successful, MGR could not make any money as the film was delayed for 3 years and cost of production was very high having taken the film for almost 6 to 7 hours, reduced to three hours later.

I still remember the Thailand actress "metha" came to Chennai to complete some scenes for the song "pachchai-k-kili", MGR fans gathered at Chennnai Airport to receive her. (the scenes of MGR/Meta wearing Raaja/Raani dress were shot at Sathya Studio)

Courtesy: Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban - (1973) Article on 123indianonline.com

See Also: MGR's 'Ulagam Sutrum Valiban' returns in style

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Interview with Subramaniapuram movie Director

Youth, the seamy side

T. SARAVANAN AND D. KARTHIKEYAN

It was not easy to recreate Madurai of the 1980s for ‘Subramaniapuram.’ But the effort has paid rich dividends.

It was like walking on razor’s edge. Masking modern day sophistication was strenuous, for instance, the overhead cable television network wires…

Photo: G. Moorthy

A scene from his Subramaniapuram

The success of ‘Subramaniapuram,’ has heralded the arrival of yet another promising director, M. Sasikumar, from the school of popular filmmakers Bala and Ameer to Kollywood.

If you think the film is an outcome of decades of mulling over a plot by the creator, you are mistaken. For, it took hardly 12 months for Sasikumar to conceive and write the script.

The idea to make a period film germinated when Sasikumar was working with Ameer for ‘Ram.’ He wanted to make a subject on youth, throwing light on the darker side.

“Immediately, after the movie, I walked up to Ameer making my intentions to become a director clear. For long, I wished to portray the other side of the youth and I feel happy for having done justice to my urge,” he recounts.

A gripping start and narration — a mixture of romance flavoured with comedy — culminating in tense moments, was the recipe the director adopted to convey his message convincingly. Right from the word ‘go,’ the movie transports the audience to Madurai in 1980.

Recreating the past



Promising director: M. Sasikumar

The challenge was recreating the past with an authentic touch. “We put in serious efforts to make sure that anything representing the contemporary would not creep in. We bought most of the articles used in the picture. The task called for extensive homework. Starting from hairstyle to costume design, the movie demanded a lot and we were equal to the task. You might have noticed that each character wears clothes of a distinct design pattern. For instance, ‘Paraman’ (the role donned by me), bosom-friend of the protagonist, always prefers shirts with checks while ‘Azhagar,’ his friend, selects shirts with motley designs,” he says.

The film has won critical acclaim for its authentic presentation of things that were in use during 1980s.

“It was like walking on razor’s edge. Masking modern day sophistication was strenuous, for instance, the overhead cable television network wires that snaked over the walls of almost all the houses. However, the dividends have been rich, Sasikumar beams.

On choice of music director and use of Ilaiyaraja’s popular number ‘Siru ponmani’ as a sort of love theme, Sasikumar says: “We wanted to use that song from ‘Kallukkul Eeram’ as an alternative to the background score and it worked well.

“James Vasanthan was our first choice since he was my music teacher at school and we do complement each other. I was able to extract work, which a debutant cannot expect from an established music director. The songs, re-recording with its spaces for silence synchronised well with the narration.”

More than the entertainment, the accent was on documenting the past. The anguish of the unemployed youth, who are made scapegoats in the political power struggle, is well-captured by him, reflecting the political ethos.

The presence of the portrait of freedom fighter V.O.Chidambaram Pillai at the heroine’s house, shifts the focus to the political and caste equations that have always played a significant role in the history of Madurai.

Azhagar is hacked to death and the heroine’s uncle says to her, “You have proved that you are one of us.”

It comes as a rude shock to the viewer savouring the romance beautifully portrayed up to that point. The man betrayed by his sweetheart?

“The family bond is stronger here than the love. If the girl and the boy had united, the film would not have become a talking point now. But this is reality,” asserts Sasikumar. “I did not discuss the script with any of my cinema friends. Instead I told the story to a friend totally unconnected with the field. When he understood what I was trying to say, I knew I would make it.”

The film does not show that it was the failure of the State to provide employment, as quite a few films made at that point of time sought to show.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu

Courtesy_
http://www.thehindu.com

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Saroja Devi: I dedicate the award to Mahatma Gandhiji

‘I dedicate the award to Mahatma Gandhiji’

Wednesday August 13 2008 16:14 IST

Y Maheswara Reddy

Actor Saroja Devi

Padmabhushan and Padmashri Dr B Saroja Devi will be seen sharing honours along with dignitaries — Dilip Kumar, Lata Mangeskar and Tapan Sinha —at the 61st Independence Day celebrations in New Delhi.

Though awards are not new to Dr Saroja Devi, the veteran artiste considers the Lifetime Achievement Award very special. “I will dedicate it to Mahatma Gandhiji. I like his principles, but unfortunately many people are not following the footprints of Gandhiji,” says Dr Saroja Devi.

She had made her debut in the film Mahakavi Kaalidasa reluctantly. Though she was not fond of acting in films, the success of her maiden film made her famous over night.

So far, Saroja Devi has acted in more than 180 films in different languages including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi. She won a number of awards and was felicitated on a number of occasions. “God has given me enough to lead a content life,” says the veteran actress.

However, Saroja Devi desires to play the character of a mother-in-law who not only controls the joint family but is also a role model for family members. Her last film was Thimma in which she acted as the mother of the psychopathic hero.

“I am ready to play such character roles but not filler roles. Why should I accept insignificant roles? I am not willing to act as the mother of an unknown hero or heroine. I will have no problem if any producer or director comes forward with a good script, and if I get due respect during the shooting and even in the title listing.

They should give importance for me as per my experience. Why should my name appear on the screen only after the hero's name? I should get preference,” she explains.

Recalling her memorable moments as an actress of four languages, Saroja Devi showers praises on late director L V Prasad for his honesty. “Nowadays, it is very difficult to find such honest people. He promised to give me Rs 25,000 as a gift if Beti Bete completes screening of 100 days.

The film was a big success at the box office. I had forgotten about his promise but he promptly gave me the promised amount. I gave a ring studded with 16 stones to him as a gift," narrates Saroja Devi.

How does she spend her time? “I am leading a content life. Actually, I did not want to live when my husband died, but I had to adapt myself to reality. I always keep myself busy. My principle is not to hurt any one,” says the actress.

How does her day begin? “I get up early morning and walk in my garden for one hour. I love to spend time admiring the beautiful flowers in my garden. I spend only two minutes for pooja because I do not believe in spending more time. I request and pray the God (Hanuman) to take care of me during the day,” explains Saroja Devi.

maheswarareddy@epmltd.com

Courtesy_
http://www.newindpress.com

Friday, January 4, 2008

Gemini Ganesh: `King of Romance', passes away

Gemini Ganesh, `King of Romance', passes away

By Our Special Correspondent



Gemini Ganesh. — Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

CHENNAI, MARCH 22. Gemini Ganesh, Tamil cinema's first acknowledged romantic hero, (`Kadhal Mannan'), died here in the early hours today at the age of 84 after a prolonged illness. Along with Sivaji Ganesan and M.G. Ramachandran, Mr. Ganesh made up a celebrated triumvirate of actors who dominated Tamil filmdom for three decades from the 1950s.

He was cremated in the evening with full state honours.

Born on November 17, 1920, Ramaswamy Ganesh captured the imagination of an entire generation of film-goers as the archetypal romantic hero with a song on his lips. In about 200 films he essayed a wide range of roles, starting with a minor part in Miss Malini, a Gemini Studio film based on an R.K. Narayan story and script (1947). He starred opposite Pushpavalli, who became the mother of two of his daughters.

Mr. Ganesh did not take the traditional route of the theatre to the tinsel world. His first job was as a demonstrator at Madras Christian College. His first cinema-related work was with the studio that brought the Gemini prefix to his name.

From the casting department, Mr. Ganesh got his first break in films with Miss Malini. This was followed by Chakravarthi, in which he played Lord Krishna. However, not until 1953, when he played the villain in the film Thai Ullam, did people take notice of him as an actor.

The next year, he graduated as a hero with Manampol Mangalyam. The film paired him with Savitri, who became the mother of two of his children — a daughter and a son. From then on, he carved out a niche for himself in Tamil cinema with films that required a lot of `romance' but little `action'. Although Sivaji excelled in films with drama, and MGR dominated movies with thrilling fight-scenes, Mr. Ganesh held his own with sensitive portrayals of the yearning lover.

Kanavane Kankanda Deivam, Missiamma (both 1955), Yaar Paiyan (1957), Vanjikottai Valiban (1958), Kalyana Parisu (1959), Parthiban Kanavu (1960), Paava Mannippu, Then Nilavu (both 1961), Konjum Salangai (1962), and Iru Kodugal, Poova Thalaiya (both 1969) were among his most memorable films. In 1974, he starred in his own production, Naan Avanillai, the story of a man playing many roles. The success of the love story-based films earned him the title of `Kadhal Mannan' or King of Romance.

Later in his career, he switched to character roles. Notable among these was Avvai Shanmughi (1996), in which, quite characteristically, he entered into the skin of an old man longing for an old maid. Towards the end of his acting career he kept himself busy with elegant roles in television serials.

Varied interests

Mr. Ganesh was a man of varied interests. In school, he was captain of the cricket team. A lover of dogs, he had a special liking for Golden Retrievers.

All his life, Mr. Ganesh made it a point not to involve himself in any public controversy. Unlike Sivaji and MGR, he kept his distance from politics. However, he had a close circle of friends, and always remembered those who helped him in his career. A few years before R.K. Narayan died, Gemini Ganesh, quite frail, visited him on a sudden impulse to pay his respects and thank him for "launching him on a film career." Gemini Ganesh won several awards, including the Padma Shri.

He is survived by his wife Alamelu Ganesh (`Bobji Amma'), aged 80, seven daughters, and a son. They are: Dr. Revathi Swaminathan, Dr. Kamala Selvaraj, Ms. Narayani Ganesh, Dr. Jaya Shreedhar; film actress Rekha Ganesh, Radha Osman Syed; Vijaya Chamundeswari, and Satish Kumar.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu

Courtesy_
THE HINDU

Gemini Ganesh: His daughter speaks

Pages from the past

There was more to Gemini Ganesh than just being a star of the silver screen, finds his daughter JAYA SHREEDHAR.



Last of the Triumvirate: Gemini Ganesh with Vyjayantimala in a still from one of his films.

HAVING lived with my father all my life, I presumed I was privy to everything about him. Yet, there were several things I could never figure out. How had he managed to live with a breezy unorthodoxy bordering on the bohemian, yet have his feet planted firmly on the ground? Where had he learnt the Houdiniesque skill to wriggle in and out of emotionally knotty relationships, largely unscathed? Why did it seem like he was always one step ahead of retribution? How come society winked indulgently at his "excesses" while reserving stern castigation for the rest? All I can say is that he led a charmed life.

Contradictions

Home was a jumble of seeming contradictions. My grandmother's shaven head, brown madisar-kattu and strict ritualism flowed seamlessly with her loving acceptance of the many inter-community marriages in the family. Appa would switch effortlessly between impeccable English, Sanskrit and the pungent vocabulary of Tamil filmdom. He dashed off syrupy English poems with a gusto that made me giggle with embarrassment; yet he had a refined sense of humour that, regretfully, was never exploited by his directors. He loved my mother and quite a few "others" and yet expected us all to love each other too! He loved chatting up the glitterati; equally, he derived pleasure from teasing vegetable vendors each morning into quoting competitive rates — not movie-star prices. He was a rash driver, yet he taught me to drive for hours each day with patience, stopping the day I learned to apply the brakes. He would often watch me at the NCC rifle practice. When I told him I was going to become a journalist, he asked, perplexed: "But what will you do for a living?" Yet, he burst into tears of pride, giving me a bear hug when I showed him my article in Frontline.

Excerpts



Keen Interest In The World: Gemini Ganesh's diary entry and the clipping from The Hindu, August 1942 .

Once, I stumbled upon Appa's Madras Christian College calendar of 1942 and diary of 1943 with two newspaper clippings from The Hindu. From the pages spoke a young chemistry instructor of 22, who played cricket tennis, badminton and bridge, frequented the city's cinema houses and cafes and who followed politics on and off the campus. Some random excerpts from his MCC almanac:

July 22, 1942: ... in the evening C. Rajagopalachari inaugurated the College Union Society. "On how to speak." People were disappointed because he never talked `Pakistan.' Books recommended (1) John Stuart Mill `Liberty' and (2)Thirukkural.

August 12, 1942: Strike again. Most of the students didn't attend college. Played tennis in the college court. Presidencians indefinite strike. Lathi charge... police open fire everywhere. Mohan Kumaramangalam shouted down. C.R. differs from Gandhi. Cricket practice...

August 14, 1942: Went to city in the afternoon with D. Saw "A Chump at Oxford" Laurel and Hardy at Elphinstone. Had lunch at Udipi...

August 18, 1942: College as usual. Students again plan a strike. Very fickle minded fellows. No organisation. In the evening met one Mr. Mackenzie, a Scotch soldier, was talking with him along with Anantharamiah, Ali... and Samuel Raj. Very interesting communistic views.

August 23, 1942: ... Good report of the match in Sunday `Hindu'. (see clipping)

January 2, 1943: ... Went to city with Murthy and one Mr. Subramaniam of Bishop Heber. Saw "Pardon my sarong" at New Globe... Bud Abbot and Louis Costello. Nice picture. Went to Café Casino... Swell day.

February 19, 1943: Prayer day for Gandhiji's fast. Students' agitation. Mahalaxmi Bhavathi gets arrested. So is Bhopal Easo John, D.. and others. Very anxious situation...

February 21, 1943: News about Gandhiji's worse condition. Trying situation. Prayer for Gandhiji's health

March 7, 1943: Attempted some painting. Went to city in the evening... to Roxy with Gurunandan Mulki, saw the "Great Dictator". Very good picture. Liked it awfully. Went to Hotel Brindavan...

November 28 1943: Went to Golden Rock by train and played a cricket match for Ormsby Institute against R.A.F. I bowled and took three for 17. Batting ...made 26. We made it for 3...

November 29, 1943: In the evening went to Plaza to see "Dive Bomber" technicolour featuring Eroll Flynn, Quite good. Most of the test cricketers were there.

Records



In his MCC days.

Appa was at the time a married man of two years while my mother was in Trichinopoly, a fact unbeknown to his MCC compatriots. ... until that fateful day when my mother's cousin visited him. That day's entry reads:

February 31, 1943: ... Mr. Krishnamurthy Ayyar from Trichy came unexpectedly. What a drama! I was in a dilemma...

Appa always kept some record of the day's events in the Hoe and Co. diary of the year, an annual compliment from his friend Mr. Chandrasekar of Higginbothams. The MCC diaries, however, are testimony to the memories of a carefree youth that he cherished. And the boy in him never died.

Dr. Jaya Shreedhar, the youngest daughter of Gemini Ganesh, is Health Advisor, Internews Network. Contact her at jaya_shreedhar@vsnl.net

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu

Courtesy_
THE HINDU

Gemini Ganesan - his biography

His own space

He played everything from college student, to music guru to romantic hero, in a career that spanned nearly half a century. S.THEODORE BASKARAN looks at some of the best roles of Gemini Ganesan.

THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

A long innings in Tamil cinema — Gemini Ganesan.

GEMINI RAMASWAMY GANESAN left us quite a few insights about Tamil cinema to think about. Despite his long innings on the screen, he never got any National award, not even as a supporting actor. He neither dabbled in politics nor did he nurse a fan club. Is there a link between these? Trying to find his space, when the two giants, MGR and Shivaji, backed by a scaffolding of fan following, were striding the Tamil screen, Gemini eventually established his place — by playing roles that suited him.

A freshness

When you look at the film portrayals by Gemini, there is one characteristic that stands out. Unlike his contemporary stars, he did not come from the stage and, therefore, did not carry the customary excess baggage of stage conventions, of frontal positioning, gesticulations and body language. So there was a freshness in his screen presence He brought subdued acting and understatement to the Tamil screen. The lines he delivered seemed to come straight from the heart rather than from the script book. The dear man's singularity was that he remained apolitical in his career. The only time when he got any where near politicians was when he organised a function in 1963 for poet Subramania Bharathi at Ettayapuram.

After getting a degree in Chemistry, he worked for a while in the Madras Christian College, Tambaram, as a demonstrator before he got a job as a casting assistant in Gemini Studios. Actor Ranjan's career was on the wane at that time and with the good will of the boss S.S.Vasan, Ganesan slid into the screen. Fresh-faced and heart-breakingly handsome, he made his debut in the film "Miss Malini" (1947), at a time when the medium he helped to grow itself was young. This was followed by a number of small roles including a cameo appearance in "Avvaiyar" (1953), as the King of Tirukovilur who marries the daughters of Paari.

But it was in "Missiamma" (1955) — where he donned the delightful role of a teacher, a Hindu, who pretends to be married to a teacher, a Christian, to be able to rent a place to live — that established him. This charming film ensured a place for him and the heroine, Savithiri, a place in the film firmament. The pair won the hearts of filmgoers with enduring duets like "Varayo Vennilaave".

His career peaked in the late 1950s and 1960s with films like "Vanjikottai Valiban" (1958).

His role in "Kanavanae Kankanda Deivam" (1955), particularly his portrayal of the hunchback, evidently inspired by the film "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1939) brought him fame and popularity. In "Kalam Mari Pochu" (1956), a film with leftist ideology, he played an uncharacteristic role of a struggling farmer; it was a memorable portrayal. It was the era of Kannadasan, Viswanathan-Ramamurthy and P.B. Srinivas. In his long career, that has spanned nearly half a century, Gemini has played everything from college student to music guru. With his signature costume of kurta and pyjama, he projected a romantic hero as he broke the hearts of women: Decades later, through a character in the film "Avvai Shanmuki" (1996) he was to refer to this image.

His was a time when melodrama ruled the Indian screen. The plots of his films were often sentimental, like in "Kalathur Kannamma" (1960). The eroticism he depicted in the love scenes was beautifully understated. By just throwing longing looks, smiling and holding hands he earned the title Kadhal Mannam (The Prince of Love). A typical Gemini hero was zestful, warm and gracious and not given to violence.

In his elements

He was at his best in his films with Savithiri. The Gemini-Savithiri film that I like most is "Prema Pasam" (1956) in which he plays the role of a benevolent thief, an enduring theme in Indian cinema. The song "O..ho Vennilave. Vinnalum vennilave", by Ghantasala, rocked Tamil Nadu and turned out to be one of the most durable songs of Tamil cinema. This pair, frolicking in the garden of Sathanur dam, with Gemini singing "Kalangalil Aval vasantham" ("Pavamannipu", 1961), is one of the most lasting images of Tamil cinema. He was in his element in mythological roles also and the one that comes to mind first is his portrayal of Abimanyu in "Maya Bazaar" (1957).

The tragedy of Gemini is that he got fossilised in one type of portrayal. One reason is that he did not get a director who could harness his potential.

Though he was a director's delight, not trying to dominate by suggesting camera positions, he never reached his artistic peak. When other stars in the Western world, such as Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood, and in India, Kamal Hassan responded to a similar situation by turning to film direction, so that they could have greater creative control over the films, Gemini did not choose that path. His portrayal of the forlorn lover in the film "Kalyanaparisu" (1959), who did not get what he wanted, is the enduring image his admirers and fans have of him.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu

Courtesy_
THE HINDU

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Actor Sathyaraj takes a dig at remake of old films

Actor Sathyaraj takes a dig at remake of old films

Staff Reporter

Goes down memory lane; narrates how he entered the film industry
— Photo: T. Singaravelou

GREETINGs: Chief Minister N. Rangasamy with actor Sathyaraj at a function organised by Nanbargal Thottam in Puducherry

PUDUCHERRY: After 30 years in the film industry and 170 films, actor Sathyraj said he went to shoot on Day One with a completely blank mind to act as Madhava Padiayachi, the central character in “Onbadhu Rooba Nottu.”

“The director presented me in a totally different light in this film. We started the shooting with a scene where I cry, kneeling down and praying to the land. It was a very poignant one and in one scene brought out the essence of the character, a farmer and his love for the land,” he said.

The actor was in Puducherry recently to participate in a function conducted by Nanbargal Thottam, an organisation that encourages poetry and literary works by young authors.

Taking a dig at remixes and remakes, Sathyaraj said it was not possible for classic films like ‘Parasakthi’ or ‘Nadodi Mannan’ or ‘Pasamalar’ or ‘Adimai Penn’ or ‘Azhagi’ to be remade. “Commercial victory is no doubt needed for films but then films like this one make a mark in the minds of the viewers.”

Recalling how he entered the film industry, Sathyaraj said after completing his B.Sc in Botany, he found that his parents had sold off their lands so that he could complete his course. “I had images of myself riding a Bullet and going around my lands. But since I didn’t have any lands I was forced to enter the industry. People nowadays don’t realise that hard work is needed to give out even one hit film. They think that if a person does not succeed anywhere they might as well try their hand in the industry.”

Chief Minister N. Rangasamy, who felicitated actor Sathyaraj and the film’s director Thankar Bhachan, said the Government was taking all steps to control pirated VCDs. He said the police department had been directed to take stringent action on those copying and selling pirated VCDs. Member of Parliament M. Ramadass said Thankar Bhachan’s films provided the viewers the experience of reading novels. MLA K. Lakshminarayanan said director Thankar Bhachan’s films were of a totally different genre and provided an opportunity to realise the essence of life.

Director Thankar Bhachan said he started writing the novel based on which the film was made nearly 22 years ago. And that it stood the test of time. “It is a tale that happens in a village. It is the turmoil, which a farmer undergoes. The title, ‘Onbadhu Rooba Nottu’ (a Nine Rupee note) signifies that like a 9 rupee currency note (something which is non existent) farmers too are not given their due respect,” he explained.

He said governments must not only take action against those selling pirated VCDs but also against those buying them. “When they buy the pirated version, people don’t realise how much of labour and toil goes into the making of a film,” he lamented.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu

Courtesy_
THE HINDU

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