Over the years Tamil Cinema has produced some independent movies with zero star power and the limited budget that created trends. Although they are far and few, the impact they have created in the world of Tamil cinema is beyond imagination. The 21st movie, Oru Thalai Raagam, is one such and created a trend that shaped our 80s cinema.
Oru Thalai Raagam (1980)
Oru Thalai Raagam is a story of unrequited love between two young college students who hide their love for each other due to different reasons. Raja (Shankar Panikkar) falls in love with his classmate Subhadra (Roopa) at first sight. An introvert, Raja fears that conservative Subhadra would reject him. Subhadra shows cold shoulders even when Raja tries to talk to her. Although Subhadra secretly loves Raja, she fails to express her feelings due to her family constraints. Although their friends try to bring them together, the unspoken love treads to an emotional and heartbreaking end. The movie also had Vaagai Chandrasekhar as one of the cynical friends of Raja and Usha (later became Usha Rajendar) as a friend who helps Subhadra. Thiyagu and Ravinder did significant roles in the movie.
T.Rajendar wrote the movie. He also wrote the songs and composed the music. The duo of Robert-Rajasekar (who later became successful directors) wielded the camera, and the direction is credited to EM Ibrahim, who also produced the movie. But it’s widely believed that T.Rajendar ghost-directed the film and he has claimed that in different forums. It is said that he had a fallout with the producer at the last moment and he was left uncredited. There are rumours that Robert – Rajasekhar could have directed the movie. It’s still a mystery, officially.
Why is it special?
1. The movie was the first movie to deal the love story of ordinary people. An introvert hero and an extremely conservative heroine were new to Tamil cinema. This grounded approach to the story related well to the audience. In fact, the hero and the heroine never speak to each other in the whole movie (No. I am not kidding)
2. The wonderfully written screenplay and the brilliant portrayals by the lead actors made it more enjoyable. Vaagai Chandrasekhar’s role was critically acclaimed and established him as one of the leading character artists of the future.
3. Sweet, soulful lyrics and music from T Rajendar. The lyrics used was more simple and had a conversational tone. The music was a runaway hit and helped a lot to the success of the movie. Songs like Vasamilla Malarithu, Idhu Kuzhandhai Paadum Thaalatu, En Kadhai Mudiyum Neramithu and Naan Oru Raasi Illa Raja are still remembered and revered.
Why is it on the list?
1. The trend it created. You can’t count the number of one side love stories and the college love stories that spawned because of this movie. The movie was a cult hit among the college-going youth of those days. Ask your dads and uncles; they will have a story to tell you about this movie.
2. The film gave the confidence to many independent movie directors to try out their storytelling abilities. There were hits and misses, but it did prolong the wave of new age cinema making in Tamil cinema that was started by directors like Bharathiraja
3. Oru Thalai Raagam was the first real campus movie that became a massive hit among the youth.
1. T Rajendar, Robert and Rajasekhar were products of Adyar Film Institute.
2. The movie ran for more than 365 days in Alankar Theatre (now defunct) in Chennai. Can you imagine an Indie film running for such long in the current situation?
3. Robert – Rajasekhar, the duo started as cinematographers, wrote screenplays for movies and then eventually became directors. Palaivana Cholai, Chinna Poove Mella Pesu, Manasukkul Mathappu are some of their super hit movies. Rajasekhar made his foray in to acting through Bharathiraja’s Nizhalgal and was widely acclaimed for his psychopathic villain role. He worked in many villains and character roles. He still performs and makes scripts for TV soaps. You can find him in Saravanan Meenatchi as Saravanan’s father. Robert too took acting in comic roles but didn’t quite cut the mark.
4. Shankar Panniker became a star in Malayalam, and the movie was dubbed in Malayalam to cash in on his popularity. Roopa acted in a few critically acclaimed films like Echil Iravugal, but she has been added to the “missing” list.
5. T Rajendar became one of the most successful directors of that era. He writes, acts and even does the art direction for his movies. His songs are popular due to the simple rhyming lyric and extravagant sets. Mythili Ennai Kadhali (the first Tamil movie I watched), Uyirullavarai Usha, Oru Thayin Sabatham, Rayil Payanangalil, Samsara Sangeetham were his most successful and popular movies. Although lately, he has become a subject of mockery in social media circles, the legacy he created is unbeatable. If you are a Tamil movie buff, it’s advisable to have a look at the movies he produced.
6. The college scenes in the film were not shot at the Arts college in Poondi near Thanjavur as popularly believed. The scenes were shot at AVC College, Mayiladuthurai
7. There is still dispute about who directed the movie. It’s an intriguing mystery about one of the cult movies of Tamil Cinema.
8. T Rajendar’s original title for the movie was “Thadai Podum Megangal” but changed it due to producer’s request.
9. Shankar directed a movie titled “Manal Nagaram” but the movie didn’t do well. The audio release function became a reunion of sorts for Oru Thalai Raagam crew.
- The best of Tamil cinema by Dhananjayan