E for இராம நாராயணன் – Rama Narayanan
As I mentioned at the start of the series, it’s tough to find film directors in all the letters. I don’t want to write about someone just because their name starts with the letter I need. For E, initially I wanted to write about E. Ramadoss, a talented dialogue writer but his directorial ventures aren’t that interesting. Also, I didn’t want to write about someone who is still working in the industry. E Ramadoss is a famous supporting actor in Tamil cinema. The other choice was E.M Ibrahim, producer and credited as director for Oru Thalia Ragam. The Oru Thalai Ragam dispute is long-standing, and I don’t want to get into that.
After a lot of deliberation, I have chosen someone who was not the first choice for R. He writes his name with a Tamil “இ”. So, I thought I would go with Rama Narayanan.
Rama Narayanan was born in 1949 and started his film career as a dialogue writer along with his friend MA Kaja. He assisted Kannadasan before starting in movies. They were credited as Ram – Rahim. After few unsuccessful collaborations, they parted ways and became directors in their own right. Rama Narayanan started producing movies under Sri Devi Priya films, and his first production was Durga Devi. His debut movie as a director was Sumai (1981), and he didn’t stop until 2013. He directed a record 125 movies, and I don’t think anyone in this world directed that many feature films.
Although he was known for making movies with animals, he wasn’t stuck in a genre in his career, and he was known to make commercial hits on a limited budget. His hits include Soorakottai Singakutti, Karimedu Karuvayan, Aadi Velli, Durga, Thirupathi Ezhumalai Venkatesa, Kandha Kadama Kadhir Vela, Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy. He was a close associate of Kalaignar Karunanidhi, and Kalaignar wrote the story and dialogues for Rama Narayanan’s 50th movie – Veeran Veluthambi. He directed 12 movies for Poompuhar productions, home production of Kalaignar Karunanidhi. Rama Narayanan was elected as a DMK MLA from Karaikudi Constituency in the 1989 elections. He headed the Tamilnadu Film Producers Council for three consecutive terms and was also the Chairman of Iyal Isai Nadaka Mandram
His production house Thenandal Films has produced more than 55 movies, and they also distribute films. They are known for releasing dubbed English and Chinese movies. Although there are funny movies that I can talk about, I am going to discuss one of his earlier films that might surprise you.
Breakout Movie: Sivappu Malli
It’s not easy to make a commercial movie but balance it with a right dosage of social message. During the 1980s, in the heights of labour unrest and unemployment, there were many attempts at anti-establishment movies in Tamil. SA Chandrasekhar and Rama Narayanan succeeded in making successful anti-establishment films. Sivappu Malli is a story about two factory workers who fight against atrocities of the factory owners in a small town. Two friends, Thyagu (played by Chandrasekhar) and Ranga (played by Vijayakanth) fight for labourer’s rights and Thyagu gets killed. Ranga takes revenge on them
The movie was known for the fiery dialogues, and extensive anti-establishment sentiments propelled Vijayakanth and Chandrasekhar’s acting and the film. The movie had the communist flag in the entirety of the movie and Vijayakanth always has the traditional “Parai” instrument in his hands. I don’t think we can even imagine such a movie these days and it would have been banned. AVM produced it and surprised many as they were considered as conservative producers with respect to such themes.
There were criticisms that communism was discussed superficially and the directors didn’t understand the concept. But the movie was quite successful in taking such ideas to the masses. The film had songs composed by Sankar-Ganesh. Erimalai Eppadi Porukkum was a revolutionary song, and you would have heard it in Singam 1 as the theme song for Vivek’s character.
Sivappu Malli established Rama Narayanan as a successful director. He made some more anti-establishment movies like Sivantha Kangal and Idhu Enga Naadu. He made Soru, a movie that had no songs and the storyline was different. The movie bombed and he had to sell off his properties to clear his debts. He moved on to make movies with animals and that worked.It’s said that the movie was a remake of Telugu movie title Erramalli, but I couldn’t find any info on that movie.
Movies to watch
- Sivappu Malli
- Manaivi Solle Mandhiram
- Durga – although the storyline is laughable, you can watch the movie for Shamili’s cuteness
- Viswanathan Ramamoorthy – for the comedy of Vivek and Kovai Sarala