Diary of Hobbitt

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Big Three - Kollywood (Tamil film Industry) Movies

Way back in the 60s Tamil films were dominated by the big three namely Sivaji Ganesan, MGRamachandran (or MGR as he was called ) and Gemini Ganesan (known in the north more as Film actress Rekha’s father ). Each had his own style and also his own fan following. Film related activities being predominant in Kodambakkam ( a Chennai Suburb ), Tamil Film industry came to be referred as Kollywood .

Even today Tamil Nadu is associated with film crazy crowds who make giant cutouts of their favourite filmstars and sometimes even build temples dedicated to these actors ! As a young girl, during the family’s annual trip to meet all the relatives down south (all the way from Delhi ), I used to be fascinated by these giant cutouts so prominently displayed on Beach Road - the Big three smiling down at the population crowding Marina beach.

Coming to the Big Three, all three were referred to not by their names but by their titles. Thus Sivaji Ganesan was known as Nadigar Tilagam (or an actor par excellence), MGR as Puratchi Thalaivar ( revolutionary leader- since he was also into politics and since his films always had some social message ) and Gemini Ganesan as Kadal Mannan (King of romance)

Sivaji Ganesan was no doubt an actor past excellence, but sometimes had the tendency to overact emotional scenes. It was every film actress’s dream to act opposite him. His fan following came mostly from the more affluent class . His acting was such that he would mould himself into the character with such conviction that the role would come alive . In an age when no hero would consent to acting in a negative role for fear of losing fan following, Sivaji acted in the role of a spy who betrays his own country in one movie, and a husband who murders his wife in the movie Pudiya Paravai. His acting skills were honed and polished with several of his outstanding performances in movies like Navaratri ( where he acted in nine roles) which was remade in Hindi as Naye Din Nayee Raat (an equally outstanding performance by the late Sanjeev Kumar in the same nine roles), Gauravam, Thanga Padakkam, Tillana Mohanambal , Pudiya Paravai , Bhagapirivinnai,etc. Even today the current generation of heroes in Kollywood try to imitate his style of acting . One of his very last movies was Devar Magan in which he acted in the role of the rigid patriarch of the devar community, who has differences with his son who wants to settle down abroad ( the role of the son played by the very versatile and talented Kamalahasan ). This movie was also remade in Hindi as Virasat.

The other one of the Big three was MGR. Now MGR had a very huge fan following. His movies appealed more to the masses rather than to the elite. His movies were always packed with action, romance ,beautiful outdoor locations and melodious songs (most of them turning out to be hits ) and would always end with the triumph of good over evil. Another important factor was the social message that would be conveyed - in this regard everything ideal would be there - in some movie he would be the modern day Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, he would always be the ideal son always loving,& respecting his parents, the ideal brother, the ideal union leader fighting for his fellow workers - in fact the ideal human being with no vice ! The love for his mother , and the country would be one of the highlights of his movies. He would have several girls swooning over him, but being the ideal man he would love only the heroine and treat all other women as his sisters ! However, his brotherly feelings towards other the other girl would be revealed only after a dream sequence(apparently in the girl’s dream ! ) in which he would shown romancing her ! In the scene when the girl conveys this to him , he will turn around say ” Nee ennudaya thangai pol ” ( You are like my sister )! Immediately the “sister” will break into sobs and cry “ Anna ” ( elder brother )! As such MGR had no great acting skill - it was his portrayal as the ideal hero and his cultivated interaction with the masses (he had affiliation with the DMK the regional political party) that kept his position. It is said that on the day of his film release women from slums would pawn their mangalsutra to buy ticket for Vadiyaar’s (teacher) movie-first day first show. Some of his hit movies were Adimai Penn (costarring former chief minister Jayalalitha), Ulagam sutrum Valiban, Rickshawkaran (which was remade in Hindi as Rickshawwala).

Both Sivaji and MGR were cast together for the first time in the movie, Koondu Killi (caged parrot ) with the hope that the movie would be a big hit - hit it was alright, but a hit to the financial status of the guys who put money into making it ! The makers almost went bankrupt. It so happened that it was the story of two brothers, in which the younger one is irresponsible for which he is reprimanded and beaten by the elder brother- the elder brother’s role being enacted by Sivaji Ganesan, had him berating and beating the younger one (enacted by MGR ). This scene created a furore in the theater with fans of both film actors going in for a free-for- all with each other and breaking the furniture that the theater had to be closed down and the film withdrawn from screening all over the state !

The third of the Big Three was Gemini Ganesan also referred to as Kadal Mannan. His movies were the romantic type. They were less action oriented and more mushy type. Love songs were a prominent feature of his movies. As romantic as he was in the movies he was equally so in real life - there were plenty of affairs and plenty of wives too ! It is said Rekha for a long time held a grudge against him for not having married her mother. It as also rumored that Rekha’s stand that she would never marry a married man stemmed from her own insecure childhood. He normally acted in the role of sensitive and gentle lover, wooing his heroine with songs. Some of his major hit movies were Kalyana Parisu (in which he is forced to marry the sister of the woman he loves (Saroja Devi) )! Konjum Salangai, (in which he acted with the beautiful Savitri whom he went on to marry ), Thenn Nilavu ( co- starring Vyjayanthimala).

The Big Three ruled Kollywood for more than two decades before yielding place to a new generation of actors, to new wave cinema and to a new breed of directors who created movies very different from those of 50s and 60s thereby bringing to end an era of stereotyped hero oriented movies. They however continue to be remembered for their acting even though they are gone, leaving only memories.


At 2:42 AM , Blogger aliens said...

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At 7:17 PM , Anonymous Radhika Raj said...

the blog about the three pillars of tamil cinema was fascinating. Being a tamil i would like to say the writer has gauged the points right and has given exact facts about Kollywood.


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