Bharathiraja doesn’t love criticisms. But when the media rubbed him in the wrong side early in his career, he answered in the way he could. So what was the criticism? His first two movies (16 Vayadhinile, Kizhakke Pogum Rail) were village-based, and he was branded as a director who can only give rurally based movies. Sigappu Rojakkal was an act of revenge that he took on his critics and it became another trendsetter.
Sigappu Rojakkal (1978)
Sigappu Rojakkal is a thriller with Kamal Hassan and Sridevi in the lead with an unknown (at that time) supporting cast of Bhagyaraj, Vadivukkarasi, etc. Ilayaraja scored the movie’s music with the cinematography of PS Nivas. The film was written and directed by Bharathiraja.
Sigappu Rojakkal is about a young man Dileep (Kamal) who kills young women in the city after seducing them, buries them in his bungalow garden below rose bushes with the help of his stepfather and a dumb loyal servant. He falls in love with Sarada (Sridevi), who is a poor girl making her life working as a sales girl in a cloth shop. Much against his wishes of his stepfather, he marries her. When she enters the bungalow, strange things happen and slowly finds the truth about her husband. Sarada realises that Dileep is a victim of child abuse by various women and had transformed into a psychopathic killer. In the end, he tries to kill Sarada as she finds the truth but ends up in a mental asylum after a freak encounter with police.
Why is it so special?
1. Sigappu Rojakkal is the first psychopath killer story of Tamil movies and one of the best thrillers to have been made.
2. Wonderfully crafted writing in which both the lead characters had the space to showcase their talent. Kamal as Dileep – a charming businessman with the other side showed why he is gonna become the benchmark for actors in the future – the “nothing scene” is one instance whereas Sridevi as the innocent Sarada steals your heart and you just want her to escape from the clutches of Dileep.
3. Ilayaraja was in the second year of his career. If the songs like Ninaivo Oru Paravai and Miniminikku are classics, the background score is brilliant. The Dileep theme gives you a mixed feeling of sympathy and eeriness to the situations. The final scenes are his forte where he runs riot with his music.
4. The reason why I am reiterating the fact that it’s one of the well-written movies is that because the movie is an open-ended thriller. The audience knows that the hero is the killer and he may attempt to kill the heroine. The reason for the murders is unknown, and the suspense is sustained throughout the movie. You are forced to see the other side of the killer and be sympathetic to it. The screenplay is deft, but there are a few tiny mistakes in the movie, but the wonderful casting and direction overcome it.
Why is it on the list?
1. For the guts of Bharthiraaja, who had an anti-hero as his lead protagonist and pulled off such performances from the lead actors.
2. A trendsetter – gave the confidence to other directors to move from their comfort zones and make different movies. I think any psychopathic story can’t go without the shades of Sigappu Rojakkal. We even had a cheap comparison lately.
3. The first original thriller in Tamil Cinema as all the previous attempts were based on Hollywood flicks.
1. Bharathiraaja never knew how to write English dialogues for this movie, and he had to pull off some English words which he hears in daily life (told by him during a promo program for Nadunisi Naaygal)
2. The movie was initially offered to Sivakumar (!!!), but he refused the role as it would not suit him. (Anecdote from Idhu Rajapaattai Alla – an autobiography by Sivakumar)
3. The movie was remade as “Red Rose (1980)” in Hindi with Rajesh Khanna and Poonam Dhillon. Although critically acclaimed, the movie was a box office loss.
4. Bharathiraja is probably will be the director who introduced the most number of lead actors and actresses to Tamil cinema. The list includes the “R” actresses – Revathi, Radhika, Radha, Ranjita, Rekha, Riya Sen, Rati Agnihotri, Rohini and other beautiful actors like Napolean, Raja, Suganya, Bhagyaraj, Goundamani and Vijayashanti.
5. The famed assistant directors from Bharathiraja became successful directors. The people who started their career with Bharathiraja include Bhagyaraj, Manivannan, Parthiban.
6. A strong supporter of Tamil Eelam cause, Bharathiraja returned his Padmashree in order to show his protest against the inaction by the govt.