The definition of Anti-Heroism has been misinterpreted in many places referring it to those lead characters which have some grey shades too. But according to me, an anti-hero is the one differs from the standard notions of a hero. A hero in Tamil movies is usually physically smart, has sharp features, strong, intelligent, suave, stylish, compassionate, girls fall for him naturally, and he never makes a mistake. The norms were never broken, and actors like MGR were very successful proponents of this model.
But every one of these norms was broken into pieces when a great actor entered this movie world. His name was Nagesh, and the movie was Server Sundaram. And that’s why it’s one of the must-watch Tamil movies of all time.
Server Sundaram (1964)
Server Sundaram was only the 5th movie of Nagesh. He was just a budding actor with only one hit in Nenjil Oru Aalayam and that too as a comedian. Server Sundaram is an adaptation of the play by the same name written by K.Balachander (he is going to come again and again in this list), produced by AVM Pictures with music by MS Viswanathan – Ramamoorthy and directed by Krishnan – Panju.
The story is about a young wannabe actor (Sundaram) who comes to Madras to make it big in movies and ends up in a restaurant as a waiter. He meets his friend in the same hotel, and his friend paves the way for him to get a big break in movies. In between Sundaram falls in love with the daughter of the restaurant owner, he works for without knowing that she is the bride to be of his friend. Sundaram becomes a star believing that making himself rich and famous will help him to get her. But eventually comes to know about his friend’s love and sacrifices his love for his friend’s sake. Finally, his mother’s demise teaches him the reality of life.
The movie is said to be semi-autobiographical of Nagesh as it traces the life of an actor, his rise and fall.
What’s so special about it?
1. If there are 100 reasons for this movie to be exceptional, all the 100 reasons would be Nagesh. He makes you laugh, cry, sad, think, retrospect and share the character’s emotions. I have not known any other movie which can cause an average person to relate to a character so much. In one scene where he goes to the heroine to express his love with a bouquet, and she rejects his proposal. He asks for a gift from her.
She asks “what you want?” He says ” Nothing much, I just want the dustbin you have. Because my heart would pain if you throw my bouquet into the dustbin”. Nagesh gives a helpless expression at that moment which no actor could have matched. He was special.
2. The perfect supporting cast with Muthuraman as his friend Raghavan and KR Vijaya. Major Sunder Rajan as his restaurant owner and above all SN Lakshmi as Nagesh’ mother made to look the mother-son relationship so amazing.
3. The witty one line dialogues which were KB’s trademark made it’s way to the big screen. I think Krishnan-Panju would have made a record being the only directors to be part of a film which had longest monologues and also be a part of a movie which had short oneliners.
4. The movie has scenes which gave the inside view of the cinema world. How do they make sets, rain sequences etc? It was said that few producers showed their concerns for showing the cinema secrets to AVM. But AVM went on to make these sequences, which gave great impetus to the success of the movie.
5. The songs and music composition were at it’s best. Kannadasan and MSV were at their peak form. Songs like Avalukku Yenna (it even shows the live recording of the song) are still considered to be classics.. People never knew Nagesh could dance so well.
Why does it make the list?
1. The critics, some directors and movie buffs are talking about movies which depict the reality of life. But I think Server Sundaram started it all. It broke the norms of Tamil Movies. I bet there would be no producer to take such a movie at this moment and that too with a four-film old comedian in the lead.
2. It also paved the way for the demise of long monologues. Short, witty, compelling one-liners became the order of the day.
3. It brought two of the greats in Tamil Cinema in the forefront, KB & Nagesh. They went to make a lot of meaningful movies together. Nagesh was cast in almost all the films after 1964. He became a must-have in a film. There were times were directors were forced to include characters which will suit Nagesh. KB, of course, became one of the prolific filmmakers of Tamil and introduced the 2 Superstars – Rajini & Kamal.
4. It gave the concept of Anti -Heroism to Tamil Cinema. It changed the way people look at heroes. They started to relate to Sundaram like characters more because he was like just another person on the road.
5. It’s a complete package of a movie with the right doses of romance, comedy, sentiments with excellent music and classic acting.
Server Sundaram – Trivia
1. Although KB directed the play, the producers AVM opted for their successful director duo Krishnan-Panju. KB later made a couple of successful movies for AVM.
2. The sequences were Nagesh does mono acting with a coin on the road and pining for his lady love were influenced by Chaplin’s City Lights.
3. Krishnan – Panju the ever successful director duo made 55 Movies together which include blockbuster hits like Rattha Kaneer, Parasakthi, Kuzhandhiyum Deivamum, Uyarntha Manithan and of course Server Sundaram.
4. Server Sundaram was remade in Hindi with Mehmood in the lead by the same directors and AVM as Main Sundar Hoon in 1970. Although it was not a blockbuster hit, it was a decent hit in Hindi.
5. The first picture in this article was taken initially as a promo pic, but there was no such scene in the original movie. After seeing the first copy, AV Meyyappa Chettiar insisted on such a scene to make the promo shots authentic. He was vehemently against making fake promo shots without having it in the movie. But this picture eventually became a classic photo for Nagesh.
6. The play on family planning by Nagesh and Manorama that’s part of the film was used by the State Government in different towns and villages to create an awareness of the issue.
PS 1: I wrote a Tribute to Nagesh on his demise earlier this year. Someone who I admired, loved and shared few things in life.
- Server Sundaram – AVM – 60 years by M Saravanan