For those who are fond of international movies ( other than Indian films and Hollywood), UTV World Movies is a boon. They run a series called 50 Movies to watch before you die handpicked by different directors like Anurag Basu, Kunal Das Gupta etc., An excellent set of movies you can’t miss.
I thought why not a similar list of Tamil Movies. Tamil movies had a very limited audience in the past. Globalization of movie world and the advent of Internet has given a broader audience to Tamil Movies. From Rajini fan clubs in Japan to Billa running full houses in China, Tamil movies have come of age.
Tamil movie world is called Kollywood as to Hollywood and Bollywood. It gets its name from Kodambakkam, a locality in Chennai, where the Cinema Studios like AVM are present. Tamil movies are a perfect blend of action, comedy, music, dances, fanfare, glamour and sentiments. The expectations of the audiences are so high that they expect the perfect mix for every movie.
I have tried to hand pick some of the unknown gems in the Tamil Movie world for the readers. All these movies are mainstream movies and not documentaries from the racks of film schools. These are the movies which created histories, changed trends, broke the norms and entertained the Tamil Audiences.
1. Andha Naal (1954)
All the Tamil films in the yesteryears ran for at least 3 hours, had a minimum of 10 songs, one stage dance and few stunts. Andha Naal broke the norm being the first movie with No songs, No dance and No fight sequences. It was produced by the legendary A.V.Meyyappa Chettiar, directed by Veenai S.Balachander and the cast include Sivaji Ganesan, Pandari Bai, Javert Seetharaman (yes, he got the name from Les Miserables character, and it was his best portrayal in the Tamil adaptation) etc.,
The story revolves around the murder of Sivaji Ganesan, with each of his relatives claiming the other one as the killer. Each one gives a different version of the story, and Javert Seetharaman is the CID officer, who cracks the case. Sounds similar?
As most of you think, it has resemblances with Rashomon, a Japanese Thriller by Akiro Kurosawa. But originally it was an adaptation of the British movie called Woman in Question by Anthony Asquith.
Although its an inspiration, the director had intelligently woven the national fervour with the murder coinciding with the Japanese Bombing the city of Madras on October 11, 1943. It has a vast significance in the plot of the movie.
What makes Andha Naal special?
The brilliant performances of the actors. Even the smallest of the roles, catch your attention. Pandari Bai as the estranged wife, Sivaji with negative shades and the neighbourhood old man was excellent. The chemistry between Javert Seetharaman and his assistant is based many such characters in English literature (probably because Javert Seetharaman was a student of writing). The dialogues (Javert) are crisp, sharp camera work (Maruthi Rao) and slick, flawless screenplay (Javert), makes the movie watchable.
Although the movie didn’t make money (which discouraged AVM to foray into such movies), its hailed as a masterpiece in Tamil Cinema. I don’t think a director can become complete without analysing the facets of this movie. Perfect study material for making a perfect screenplay.
Why Andha Naal on the list?
Just because it broke the norms and created history in Tamil cinema. It also stands as the testimony to the fact that Tamil Cinema is not about only song and dance. It tops the list of my all-time favourite movies. And that’s why Andha Naal is part of the 50 best Tamil movies to watch before you die.
1. K.Ramnoth adapted Les Miserables in Tamil as Ezhai Padum Paadu in 1950. Although Nagaiah was critically acclaimed for his role as Jean Val Jean, a young literature student named Seetharaman stole the show for playing Javert. The name stuck and Tamil cinema got a great actor and screenwriter. Javert Seetharaman wrote screenplays for AVM and he was well versed in adapting international movies to Tamil cinema.
2. Pandari Bai was born in 1930 in Bhatkal, near Mangalore. Her father was Ranga Rao, a Kathakalakshepam exponent and also a playwright. She accidentally acted in one of the dramas because she knew the lines and the heroine never made it on time. During one of her plays, Violin Maestro V.Chowdiah was present, and he cast her in one of his musical movies, Vani (1943). Pandari Bai was just 13 when she acted in the film. Pandari Bai made her debut in Tamil in Haridas (1944). She is the girl MK Thyagaraja Bhagavathar chases in the song “Vaazhvil Oru Thirunaal”. Her breakthrough role was Parasakthi (1952), and she never looked back. She tried to produce movies, but they failed. She acted in more than 1000 movies.
3. Veenai S. Balachander was born in 1927 and was a self-taught child prodigy. He played the Ganjira and accompanied his elder brother S.Rajam. He learned to play a host of instruments like tabla, shehnai, sitar, harmonium etc., He acted in films as a child artist and later in 18 movies as a character artist. He also directed some path-breaking movies like Andha Naal, Nadu Iravil and Bommai. He had a penchant for thriller stories and in Bommai, he even experimented with his credit scenes. When he discovered the Veena, he never looked back. He created the Balachander Bani and changed the way instrumental music is seen in India.
1. “Eye of the Serpent” by Randor Guy.