K for GM Kumar
If you think new age directors are the people who have problems with our censor board, our 80s Tamil movie directors were bolder and had constant run-ins with the censor board. GM Kumar directed four movies, and all of them had some issues. He had to cut 3000 feet off from Aruvadai Naal, Pick Pocket was banned, and for Uruvam he had to appeal Central board of certification in Mumbai.
GM Kumar was known for original, bold content that rattled the apple cart and that’s one of the reasons why he didn’t get enough offers. He was stubborn about the technicians he wanted to work with (Ilaiyaraaja for instance), he was adamant about the story he wanted to make, and he had a broader vision that people couldn’t comprehend with.
He started his career as an assistant director to Bhagyaraj. He was credited as Asst.Director of Andha Ezhu Naatkal (1981). When Bhagyaraj was getting married to Poornima, it seems he and Livingston had a small break for few days. They had to make a story for a Telugu production house. The story was about a small-time thief who creates a fake certificate and becomes a police officer. At that time RM Veerappan of Sathya movies wanted a story for Kamal, and GM Kumar narrated the story that they had created. RM Veerappan was impressed with the story, packed GM Kumar to Mumbai to describe the story to Kamal (he was shooting for Sagar). He was impressed with the story but there were multiple changes to the story, and it became Kaaki Sattai. The original story was made as Pick Pocket by GM Kumar himself.
During the shoot of Mundhanai Mudichu, Pandiarajan, Livingstone and GM Kumar escaped and made Kanni Raasi. There is an interesting story behind it, you can read it in Mundhanai Mudichu trivia (it’s one of 50 Tamil movies to watch before you die).
GM Kumar’s first movie was Aruvadai Naal with Sivaji Productions. He made three more films with different storylines, Pickpocket (story mentioned earlier), Irumbu Pookal (a singer who is in jail but also a vigilante) and Uruvam (a horror movie based on black magic). As there were no supporters for his screenplays, he started his acting career with Captain Magal (1993). But his big break came with Veyil (2006) and Maayandi Kudumbathar (2008). Bala brought a different perspective of the actor in him as Highness in Avan Ivan and also, Tharai Thappatai.
It’s a pity that he was recognised as an actor and not as a director who wanted to break the rules and create something original.
Break-out movie: Aruvadai Naal
If this movie was made now, I bet it would have created widespread protests and would have been possibly banned for hurting religious sentiments. Nirmala (played by Pallavi), an orphan and a to-be nun, arrives at a village to work in the local church. She meets Muthuvel (Prabhu), the local chieftain Rathnavel’s (RP Viswam) son. A caste fanatic, Rathnavel controls his son’s life, treats him like a slave and arranges his marriage with his niece. Muthuvel reveals his love with Nirmala. Rathnavel accepts but cheats them. The rest of the movie is about how Muthuvel revolts against his father.
The storyline might seem simple, but the censor board didn’t accept the love story of a nun. Ramkumar (Prabhu’s brother) acts as a Catholic priest who supports Nirmala’s love and fights against Rathnavel. In the movie, he is crucified by Rathnavel’s goons!!! The climax was bloody brutal at that time (literally). But not so surprisingly, people and critics were appreciative of the unique effort from GM Kumar.
The strength of the movie relied on characterisations of Rathnavel (he is called Aranmanai in the film) and Muthuvel. The casual brutality of Aranmanai and naivety of Muthuvel makes the movie what it is. Both RP Viswam and Prabhu shine in their roles. Ilaiyaraaja’s music acted as the backbone of the film. In fact, GM Kumar and Ilaiyaraaja go a long way back. GM Kumar says the most popular song of the movie, “Devanin Kovil” didn’t make the first cut as Ilaiyaraaja told that it stops the flow of the screenplay. But GM Kumar insisted that song should be there in the movie. GM Kumar collaborated with Ilaiyaraaja for all his films and created some scintillating music.
GM Kumar is someone I would call a maverick director, who cared two hoots about traditional movie making.
Movies to watch
Irumbu Pookal (you can skip this if you are not interested but it had music by Ilaiyaraaja and MS Viswanathan)