Few pointers before going to the second movie.
1. Thank you, readers, for commenting and supporting me on the series. Thank you, Ravi, for tweeting about it.
2. I am not doing any rating here. I am not an expert to do so. I am just making a list of wonderful movies in Tamil Cinema, which I believe are masterpieces.
3.I am trying to go back and forth the years to make the posts different from each other..its a deliberate attempt to make the posts more interesting.
4.I am not writing about the movies just by researching Internet. I have seen all the movies at least once (most of them more than once), and so the movies are hand picked.
Now for the second movie. From a severe thriller to the most extravagant film ever made in the history of Tamil Cinema (and India)
Whom do you think is the most flamboyant movie maker in Tamil Cinema? Some would say producers like AM Rathnam, Aascar Ravichandran, Kalaipuli Dhanu or the director Shankar. I can think of only one person, a man by the name S.S.Vasan.
S.S.Vasan was an entrepreneur and also one of the most extravagant film producers. Chandralekha was his magnum opus made at over Rs.30 Lakhs in the year 1948. The inflation adjusted value would be almost $29 Million in the current year (unimaginable). The movie was bilingual in both Hindi and Tamil. It was a pan-world release with 609 prints all over and was released with English Subtitles. The beauty was that the release was done solely by Gemini Pictures (production house of SS.Vasan) without any foreign collaboration. The cast includes MK Radha, TR Rajakumari, Ranjan, NS Krishnan and Madhuram. The music was made by Saluri Rajeshwara Rao, lyrics by Kotha Mangalam Subbu and Papanasam Sivan. Kamal Ghosh was the cinematographer, and AK Sekar did the art direction. The movie was directed by SS Vasan .
The story is simple. It’s the power struggle between two brothers for the country and a lady.His tyrant brother Ranjan ousts MK Radha. MK falls in love with poor village dance girl ( TR Rajakumari) while building an army to get the nation back. Ranjan falls in love with the girl too and kidnaps her for marriage. She asks for a drum dance before the wedding to help her lover MK Radha. The MK Radha’s army hides in the big drums and makes a surprise attack at the end of the dance ( Inspiration from Helen of Troy?) MK fights one on one with Ranjan to kill him and save the country and the girl.
Why is Chandralekha so special?
1. The extravagant and lavish production values make the movie unimaginable in comparison to the dates it was produced. The Art Direction and the camera work made the movie special. The film was in production for almost five years.
2. Nobody can beat the drum dance. The music, the dance movements, the editing according to the beats of the song, the way the drums were designed and placed, the combination of long and close up shots – it was a spectacle. People thronged the theatres just to watch
3. The final fight sequence is considered to be the most prolonged sword fight in the history of cinema. The camera moves along with the two actors during the battle.
4. Although there were good performances from the lead characters, especially Ranjan’s Villainy and TR Rajakunaris graceful acting, its the making that stands out in the movie.
Why does Chandralekha make to the list?
This movie announced the arrival of Tamil Cinema to the world. This was the first high budget movie in India. The first Indian movie to be released overseas. It showed that the Tamil movie makers would not make only emotional potboilers but they know how to make the big-budget extravaganza too. AVM admitted that he got into big budgeted movies and Hindi market after SS Vasan showed how it should be done.
I could not imagine what SS Vasan would have done if he had lived in the current era. Just imagine it for yourself
1. SS Vasan was also the person behind the success of Anandha Vikatan, the weekly in Tamil. He has this Midas touch as he buys ailing companies to make it a success. He also purchased the burnt Motion Picture Producers Combine to make the Gemini Studios. He is hailed as the Cecil B.DeMille of Indian Cinema.
2. There was a myth that Gemini Studios was named after a horse as SS Vasan was fond of horse racing. He did participate in betting and bought a horse known for losing races. The horse went on to win many races but the studio was named after his wife Pattamal’s sun sign.
2. SS Vasan wanted a circus sequence in the movie, and the executives of Gemini studios identified a circus troupe after an extensive search. The circus was later renamed as Gemini Circus.
3. The film was supposed to be directed by Acharya (director of Mangamma Sabatham). But, due to creative differences, SS Vasan chose to direct the movie himself.
4. It seems the budget exceeded the original estimation and SS Vasan was paying excessive interests on his loans. Srinivasa Iyengar, then owner of The Hindu Publications gave an interest-free loan to SS Vasan on one condition that SS Vasan should help someone in need like him. SS Vasan helped KS Gopalakrishnan when he was struggling to complete Pesum Deivam.
5. Even the money from Srinivasa Iyengar didn’t help SS Vasan to finish the movie, and he had to pledge his mother’s jewels to complete the film.
6. Darachand, a Hindi movie distributor loved the movie and wanted to buy the rights to the movie. But, SS Vasan had other ideas. He reshot the dialogue sequences, spent lakhs of rupees on marketing budget (huge banners, full-page advertisements in newspapers etc.,), and the movie was a huge hit. He had a re-cut version and released the film in International markets. Ranjan, who acted in the movie became so popular, and he landed with acting assignments in Hindi movies.
7. TR Rajakumari hailed from Thanjavur (her grand-nephew was my brother’s friend, and we used to have conversations about her). TR Rajakumari is considered to be the first Tamil lady Superstar, and she was the first dream girl of Indian cinema. Her hits include Kacha Devayani (1941), Haridas (1944) and Chandralekha. She started her own production house RR Pictures along with her brother, TR Ramanna. They produced movies like Vazhapirandhavan (1953), Gulebagavali (1955), Periya Idathu Penn (1963), Parakkum Paavai (1966) and many more. It was said that she drew more salary than the lead actors sometimes.
8. Gemini Studios was situated in the heart of the city at the junction of Nungambakkam and Mount Road. The Park, a 5 Star hotel and the Anna Flyover is built over that place now. The flyover is still popularly called Gemini Bridge ( although it was named Anna Flyover). Gemini Studios fell from grace after SS Vasan’s demise in 1968 (he died of stomach cancer). Balu (son of SS Vasan, also the director of Motor Sundaram Pillai) couldn’t manage the changes in movie making business. Movie directors were leaving the sets and going out to outside locations to make movies. Gemini Studios made 78 films in total. Employees suggested names for the films and the winning title gets a prize from SS Vasan. The last movie to be shot in Gemini studios was Raja Paarvai. Kamal wanted to shoot the final scene before the studio razed to rumbles. Ironically, it was the first scene in Raaja Parvai.
9. Director Saran bought the rights for the Gemini Pictures and he is producing movies in that name with the same famous Gemini Logo. Gemini Ganesan got his name from the studios as he was working as an assistant in the studios.
4. Tamil Cinema Varalaru – Part 1 – Dinathanthi