J for Jagannathan
The problem of making movies with big stars is that films are tagged with their names and not the directors. Jagannathan was one such brilliant director who made masala entertainers with almost all big names of the industry during the 70s and 80s. You might know these movies, enjoy them on TV when they are played, but he is non-existent for most of us.
Jagannathan was born in Tirupur in 1935. He completed his BA at Government Arts College, Coimbatore. He started his career with Dinathanthi as an Asst.Editor. Enamoured by the movie world, he joined Jupiter Pictures through a family friend, Gopal Chettiar. Gopal Chettiar was the brother of M Somasundra Chettiar, own owned Jupiter Pictures along with Moideen Khan. He joined as an Asst.Director to Prakash Rao in the movie Ellorum Innatu Mannar (1960) that had Gemini Ganesan and Saroja Devi in the lead. Kalaignar Karunanidhi wrote the screenplay and dialogues. It seems Jupiter Pictures were producing five movies at the same time. In simple words, they were running a real production house.
After the movie completed, he joined P.Neelakantan as Asst.Director, who made a lot of films with MGR including Kaavalkaran, Ulagam Suttrum Valiban, Maatukara Velan etc., The first movie Jagannathan worked was Nallavan Vazhvan (1961). He worked with Neelakantan for 12 years and became close to MGR. With MGR’s blessings, he directed his first movie for Sathya Movies – Manipayal with AVM Rajan and Jayanthi. The film had a song that described the life CN Annadurai, and it became popular.
His most significant break was when he directed MGR in Idhayakkani, that ran for 150 days. Jagannathan was known for creating excellent masala entertainers with all the right elements. His strength was creating exciting characters and mannerisms that fit his screenplay. For instance, Sivaji’s role in Vellai Roja or Rajinikanth’s role in Moondru Mugam. Jagannathan made 35 movies in Tamil. Telugu and Hindi.
Break-out movie: Moondru Mugam
Moondru Mugam is the story of twin brothers, Arun and John, who take revenge for their father’s (Alex Pandian) murder. Alex Pandian is an upright and straightforward police officer who has constant run-ins with a liquor baron, Ekambaram (Sentharamai). Ekambaram cheats Alex Pandian and kills him. Alex Pandian takes a vow that he will come back to kill him. Years later, Arun, who is raised by foster parents, gets to know the story, uses the reincarnation ruse to start a court case but Ekambaram (now Amber) brings in John (Arun’s long-lost identical twin) as Alex Pandian and breaks the case. After realising that Amber killed his father, John joins hands with Arun to kill Amber and dies in the process.
The movie was buoyed by the triple role performance of Rajinikanth and screenplay of Jagannathan. The varied emotions and styles that he showed in three roles became a benchmark especially Alex Pandian. Alex Pandian ’s police officer role has not been matched yet, even by Rajinikanth. Technically, it was an interesting experiment because there were multiple masked dual role shots in the movies.
Moondru Mugam was remade in Hindi as John Johnny Janardhan with Rajinikanth reprising his role. There is a talk that current actors want to remake the movie but nothing fruitful yet. The film was a super hit and ran for over 100 days in various theatres.
YouTube link to the movie
Movies to watch
- Idhayakkani (1975)
- Nandha En Nila (1977)
- Krodham (1982) – Adaptation of Death Wish (1974)
- Thana Magan (1983)
- Vellai Roja (1983) – Remake of Malayalam movie Postmortem
- Naalai Unadhu Naal (1984) – Adaptation of And there were none..
- Kadhal Parisu (1987)
- Muthukkal Moondru (1987)
- Interview with A Jagannathan – Pyramid Glitz Movies
- A Jagannathan – Wiki Page
- The Pride of Tamil Cinema by G Dhananjayan