The early Tamil movies had a right mix of genres. There was masala action as there were socio-political movies, there were fairy tales as there were historical fictions. I think one of the most entertaining of all were the stories based on Hindu Gods and mythical characters. Don’t rate the yesteryear mythological classics with the new age graphical so-called “Godly” movies. The modern movie directors of mythical fiction should be given an exclusive screening of Thiruvilayadal.
The first movie that comes to any one’s mind when thinking about a mythical film is Thiruvilayadal. Thiruvilayadal is an excerpt of 4 stories from the 64 stories, which tells the greatness of the Hindu God Shiva. Lord Shiva according to South Indian beliefs has two sons, Vinayagar (Ganesh in North India) and Muruga (lesser known in the North with the name Karthik). Murugan fights with his parents as they give the divine fruit to the more intelligent elder son and Murugan goes to the Palani Hills relinquishing all his virtues and luxuries. Different people try to convince him and finally his mother Parvathy explains the various godly miracles of his father, Lord Shiva.
The four episodes include the encounter with Nakkeeran, the poet in the Pandya Kingdom, the rift between Parvathi and Sivan – Parvathi being born as a fisherwoman. The story of the over-proud singer and Sivan teaching him a lesson as a woodcutter.
Sivaji Ganesan, Savithri, Muthuraman, Nagesh, Manorama, TS Balaiah were few of the large star cast it had. The legendary KV Mahadevan composed the music and AP Nagarajan directed the movie.
Why is it so special?
1. I think this is the best mythical movie ever to be made in Tamil. I don’t think somebody could make a better one than this. Even AP Nagarajan tried to emulate it and never succeeded in the process.
2. The movie had everything to make it as the best myth movie. The grandeur, scintillating music, perfect portrayals of actors (right casting) and the choice of the episodes.
3. The dharumi character of Nagesh, his encounter with Sivaji Ganesan as Lord Shiva is arguably one of the best comic scenes to be made in Tamil Cinema. I never understood the fact of how all the mythical characters and historical characters suit Sivaji so well. He fits into the role of Lord Siva like a perfect T.
4. The most important reason for the success of the movie was the music. Pazham Neeyappa by KB Sundarambal, Oru Naal Pothuma by Balamurali Krishna, Isai Tamil Nee Seitha Arut Sadanai and Paatum Naane by TM Soundarajan are fantastic renderings still ringing in the ears of music buffs. The flawless screenplay by AP Nagarajan makes this movie a must watch.
Why is it on the list?
1.The myth is part and parcel of life in India. Movies are not an exception. I could not think a better movie than this to list in this genre.
2.Do I need one more reason?
1. The Dharumi character was not present in the movie initially. Nagesh was so very popular in those years that it was a crime not having in the film. The director had to create a character to accommodate Nagesh into the movie. It was said that the Dharumi character was based on a person called Krishnaswamy Iyer. It seems he was found in the banks of Mylapore Tank repenting about his poverty.
2. Krishnangoyal Venkatachalam Bhagavathar Mahadevan aka KV Mahadevan was born in Nagercoil in 1917. He was working with HMV for few years and later turned towards music composing. His first movie was Avan Amaran, and he was one of the most sought-after music directors in his prime. His famous hits include Sankarabharanam, Vasantha Maligai along with Thiruvilayadal. He had composed more than 600 movies in different Indian languages. A legendary music director.
3. Akkammapettai Paramsivan Nagarajan was born in a wealthy landowner family, after losing his parents, was made to join a boys company by his maternal grandmother Manickammal. Later, he moved on to Avvai Shanmugam’s troupe and did a lot of female roles or “sthreepart”. He also worked with Sivaji Ganesan and Kaka Radhakrishnan in Sakthi Nadaga Sabha. He started his own drama company, Pazhani Kadhiravan Nadaga Sabha and his film entry was through one of his famous plays, “Nalvar” in which played the lead. His first mythological movie was Sampoorna Ramayanam (1958) for which he wrote the screenplay. He produced social movies like Makkalai Petra Maharasi along with VK Ramasamy. He started his own production company with Navarathri.
4. APN was a smart businessman as he held the rights to his movies. His son CN Paramasivam worked hard to re-release some of his father’s movies. The first one was Karnan that was released in 2012 that had a houseful run in theatres for 25 days in 10 theatres (was released in 72 theatres). Thiruvilayadal had a re-release in 2012 after a legal tussle with Vijaya Pictures and Gemini Film Circuit. It did have a decent run.
5. Read this interesting nugget from Nagesh’s autobiography “Sirithu Vazha Vendum” on how Sivaji Ganesan made sure that the whole Tharumi episode didn’t have any cuts.
- The Hindu article on AP Nagarajan and Thiruvilayadal – “Master of mythological cinema” by Mohan Ram
- The Hindu article on re-releases – “Classic gets a new life” by Nikhil Raghavan