A few things before I go to the next movie.
I hope some of my readers would be thinking why I am running around the 50s and 60s in the movie list and not with the later years. The first set of movies (maybe 15-16) will be until 1969, and the next set will be from 1970 – 1989 and the last set will be 1990 – current running period. So wait for some more must-watch Tamil movies of all time.
Krishnan – Panju, the most successful director duo have made some excellent movies that are blockbuster hits and at the same time critically well received. But they were never spoken in the breadth of other famous directors of those times (like CV Sridhar). In fact, I have 3 of their movies on my list. The most obvious reason I could see is that the lead actors have become more famous than the director duo in those movies. If it was MR Radha in Ratha Kanneer, Parasakthi announced the arrival of greatest Tamil actor of all times, Sivaji Ganesan and Nagesh in Server Sundaram
Parasakthi was one of the most controversial movies of those times. Those days were full of historical films and commercial entertainers; even the elusive social genre movies had cliched characters and political correctness. Parasakthi was the first movie to break the shackles and tried to talk about social problems openly in mainstream cinema.
The story had a backdrop of World War II. Three wealthy brothers from war-torn Rangoon (current day Myanmar), travel to India to meet their widowed sister. Fate plays the game, separating the family. Gunasekaran, one of the brothers becomes a protector to his sister (Kalyani) without knowing the original identity while she is struggling to save herself and her child from hunger. All the men including a priest ask her body as a price for helping her. She gets dejected and eventually tries to kill herself with the child. All end up in court, and the family is reunited.
Parasakthi was directed by Krishnan – Panju and produced by National Pictures. Sudarsanam composed the music, and Maruthi Rao wielded the camera. The cast included Sivaji Ganesan, SS Rajendran, SV Sahasaranamam, Sri Ranjani and Pandari Bai. The most important of all which became the prime reason for the success of the movie was the dialogues of the film written by M.Karunanidhi. Pavalar Balasundaram wrote the original story, and it was being staged as a play by Devi Nadaga Sabha.
Why is Parasakthi special?
1. The wonderfully written dialogues. Karunanidhi was part of the newly formed DMK party which had Dravidian ideologies at its roots. He used the characters of the movie as the mouthpieces of propagating Dravidian thoughts. The film had fiery monologues shunning the social problems of those times like casteism, cheating through religion, black marketing, poverty, women abuse and the rich-poor divide.
2. The acting and mainly the dialogue delivery of Sivaji. Nobody expected a newcomer was performing so well and the long monologues were new to Tamil Cinema. He became an instant hit, and the final court scene is still considered to be a masterpiece.
3. The beautiful performances of the supporting cast. Sri Ranjani, Pandari Bai, the evil priest and SS Rajendran especially were aptly cast characters.
Why is Parasakthi on the list?
1. The first movie to openly talk about the social problems and created a significant impact showing that films can be used as a social medium too (and succeed in it).
2. The movie which brought the dialogue culture and demonstrated the might of pen. The dialogues were so famous that the producers released Gramophone records and books after the movie’s success. The dialogues were considered to be so provocative that there was an exclusive censor board to censor the film before release.
3. I have only one word for the third reason – Sivaji
1. Although it is an old trivia, the Dravidian leader EVR Periyar gave – the sobriquet Sivaji to Ganesan, after watching his portrayal of Maratha leader Sivaji, in a stage play.
2. Sri Ranjani or Sri Ranjani Jr was a Telugu actress who started her career in Bhishma in 1941. She made some memorable portrayals in Tamil including of forlorn wife of MR Radha in Rattha Kaneer. She also did the role of a blind girl in the remake of City Lights – Raji En Kanmani. She passed away in 1970.
3. The songs of Parasakthi were based on some famous Hindi film songs of those times. Sudarsanam rehashed the tunes of Sunehre Din (1949), Babul (1950), Dopatta (1951) and even an Urdu song by legendary Ghulam Haidet from a Pakistani movie, Akeli (1952).
4. Although the film was said to be produced by National Pictures, it’s a partnership production between AVM & National Pictures. AV Meyappa Chettiar was involved in the script discussion and publicity of the movie. The movie was shot entirely in the AVM Studios. A memorial has been erected for Sivaji in the AVM Studios, where he shot the first scene. The first dialogue he spoke was “Success”. There was a stiff opposition (including AV Meyappa Chettiar) to cast Sivaji as he was puny and had a distinctive dialogue delivery. Perumal Mudaliar of National Pictures was convinced that Sivaji will shine in the role. There was a special dietician to provide healthy food for Sivaji and make him look good.
5. There was a movement to ban the movie due to its revolutionary dialogues and atheist ideology. The head of censor board at that time was ‘Stalin’ Srinivasan (he was called Stalin because he had a “Stalin Moustache”). ‘Stalin’ Srinivasan was running a magazine called “Manikkodi” that gave space for revolutionary authors like Pudumai Pithan. He took up the review petition but declined to ban the movie. In fact, the strong opposition to the movie in certain publications helped to publicise the movie and people thronged the theatres to check what the fuss all about.
5. Incidentally, Sivaji’s grandson was launched as Junior Sivaji in a movie by the name ‘Success’. The film was a disaster and of course the grandson too.
6. I will reserve the trivia about Krishnan-Panju for their next movie in the list.
- Tamil Cinema Varalaru – Dinathanthi Publications