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

4 comments:

Raja said...

Yes ULAGAM SUTTRUM VAALIBAN ("USV") was the 1973 Deepavali release in Singapore and in the 3 Malaysian cities of Kuala Lumpur (two cinemas), Penang and Ipoh. It was released by the then famous Shaw Brothers ("SB") who owned the largest chain of cinemas in Malaysia and Singapore and were exhibiting MGR movies on a regular basis for many years, including his earlier blockbusters NADODI MANNAN and ADIMAI PENN. It was also reported that the SB had given MGR much assistance during the shooting of USV in Singapore and Hong Kong and that the scene where the younger MGR (Raju) meets Manjula for the first time was shot in the mansion belonging to one of the brothers in Singapore. The movie credits in fact include an appreciation of gratitude to Tan Sri Runme Shaw.

Unlike now when movies are released simultaneously in India, Malaysia, Singapore and other countries, those days it took several months for the movies to arrive in this part of the world. Very often if there was a hit movie, particularly an MGR or Sivaji movie, the release of the movie would be further delayed by the distributors to present it as a Deepavali offering to the fans. Some of the Deepavali treats here prior to USV were ARASA KATTALAI & PATTANATHIL BOOTHAM (1967), KUDIYIRUNTHA KOYIL & PUTHIYA BHOOMI (1968), ADIMAI PENN (1969), THEDI VANTHA MAAPILLAI (1970), BABU & MOONDRU DEIVANGAL (1971)and NALLA NERAM & VASANTHA MAALIGAI (1972).

The commencement of daily screenings of USV was preceeded by special screenings on Saturday (midnight show)and Sunday (morning show) for two weekends before Deepavali. The movie had already made waves in India and had generated much interest here, particularly among MGR fans, of which I am one. It was therefore hardly surprising that when the bookings were opened for the special screenings there were unprecedented crowds in all the cinem,as and the tickets were snapped up within minutes. The police were on stand by to provide crowd control and to prevent any untoward incident. In Ipoh (the capital of Perak state) where I was then living, the queue to purchase tickets at the Grand cinema was about a kilometre long and had spilled into the public streets. The spectacle was watched by hundreds of passing motorists made up mostly of non-Indians in multi-racial Malaysia.

I remember seeing this movie for the first time at the morning show on the second Sunday. I enjoyed it tremendously. The story line was no doubt thin, but this did not appear as a serious shortcoming as the the cinematography, music (both songs and background score) non-stop action and other aspects more than compensated for this. MGR fans were thrilled and even non-MGR fans enjoyed it. It became a sensational hit and surpassed all previous records at the box office. In Ipoh, for instance, it ran for about a month, which was very rare for a Tamil movie. The average run those days was between 3-10 days, with MGR movies running a few days longer. I have seen this movie many times over since and still enjoy it, though I can't say that for most of MGR's movies after USV. This is indeed a unique movie (despite some technical flaws).

By the way, when the LP record was first released it contained two songs that did not make it to to the screen - Ulagam Suttrum Vaalibanodoru Payanam Vanthaval Naan (a TMS - P. Susheela duet) and Ninaikkum Pothu Thanakkul Sirikkum Maathu (a P. Susheela solo). The duet song is still available (Saregama CD) but the beautiful PS solo has all but disappeared. I believe that the climax song Ulagam Azhagu Kalaigalin Surangam is a later addition.

mgrpearan said...

hi sir,

very informative blog

but you have written about thiru M.G.R biography in that you mention about the brothers & sisters they are but half brother& sister ,they are not born to satyabhamma ,they are Marathur Gopala Menon's another wife children,Only M.G.C & M.G.R were born to Gopala menon & Satyabhamma

Grandson of M.G.R & M.G.C
Pradeep Balu

Ravi said...

USV in an amazing movie. I was born in 1973 but still I like to wiew it agai and again. The hardwork of MGR and the heartfelt music of MSV are are great.

Ravi from Sri Lanka presently at Mahidol University, Thailand.

G. Chandrasekar, Mount said...

Raja, hats off to you, very good narration. You have taken us to the period of yesteryear (1973 Deepavali). Thanks for posting such a wonderful work. In fact, we did all not know most of the facts which have been revealed by you. Quite amazing. I laugh at today's heroes who are boasting themselves as world heroes and always largely publicize during release of their movies that worldwide release. Is anyone having such a huge popularity what thalaivar had then. Still then, he has never blown his own horns. "Niraikudam endrum thalumbaadhu". I am going to translate it into tamil and distribute to all thalaivar fans at the forthcoming re-release of USV soon in Chennai if agreed to. In fact, I have missed the opportunity at Mahalakshmi theatre last week.

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