Friday, September 25, 2009

Bharathiraja & his Kadalora Kavidhaigal (1986)

Cast: Satyaraj and Rekha
Directed by: Bharathiraja

Was watching Kadalora Kavidhaigal yesterday. Instead of attempting a review on a film that has been watched by 9/10 people in Tamilnadu, I shall highlight certain good aspects of the film and Bharathiraja's direction, in general.

There's always a big trouble in speaking about the classics. And especially about the films that were released more than 30 years ago and before you were born, as you were simply unaware of the society, the people, the cinema, the politics, the entertainment value etc.

En iniya thamizh makkale ... ungal paasathukkuriya Bharathiraja pesukiren ...

The story looks very simple and has become a cliched subject, these days. But the box office success of the film suggest that it was not a very common story, then. So, As in every Bharathiraja's (henceforth referred to as BR) film, the movie opens up with a salutation to the audience from BR and in a village (Muttom in this case). The male protagonist (Satyaraj) is a rough (but soft at heart, you know that right ?) Sandiyar, beating up people and be in jail more time, than at home (You can imagine, its more like Paruthiveeran's Karthi). There has to be a village belle, uncle's daughter, for whom our hero is everything (Ranjani here). There has to be some person, who should toil and convert our rough-hearted villainous hero to a soft, romantic and lover-boyyish character. In this case, it is Rekha who plays a school teacher. Then there's story, romance, Ilayaraja's wonderful BGMs and a few nice songs, twists, romantic turns, Subham ---.

This is how a beautiful and original story has become a gush-stream of cliches for the next generation because of the lack of creativity and extensive usage of the storylines of successful movies by the later directors. However, I felt the first part (involving the character sketches and romantizations) very interesting and the second half is a bit boring, tears and the usual melodrama stuff.

Satyaraj's looks and acting are so natural and he has performed the role with an effortless ease. Rekha (debutant to Tamil cinema, in this movie) looks sweet and there are no complaints on her performance too. The support cast including Janagaraj (no comedy tracks in the movie,though) and Ranjani (another debutant in this movie) are also impressive. The highlight of the movie and the USP should be Ilayaraja's score for the songs. Songs like "Adi Aaathaadi ... Ila manasonnu" and "Kodiyile Malligappoo" are famous, till this date.

Now, a look at a few general aspects of BR's Cinema ...

I consider the arrival of Bharathiraja in the tamil cinema scene very important for two reasons.
One -- He took cinema to real locations, out from studios.
Two -- His growth in the field can't be seen separately and has to be seen as the growth of a lot of skillful technicians and wonderful actors alongside.

Substantiation follows ...

BR starts his career with 16 Vayathinile which is widely considered the first film that is shot outide the studios and follows up with a lot of scripts on village backdrops. Mann Vaasanai, Kizhakke pogum Rayil, Karuthamma, Kizhakku Cheemayile till Tajmahal - he never needed sets and grand locations for his cinema.
கரிசக்காட்டு தரிசு நிலங்களையும், கருவேலா முட்செடிகளையும் அவற்றினுக்கிடையில் வாழும் அம்மண்ணின் மனிதர்களையும் வைத்து கதை சொல்ல முற்பட்ட ஒப்பற்ற கலைஞன் அவன்

Bharathiraja's films had wonderful music and soulful songs. Ilayaraja as a music director and Vairamuthu & Gangai Amaran as lyricists made it big with BR's films making it big at the box office. No, this shouldn't be seen as an underestimation of the skills of Ilayaraja and Vairamuthu. A good artiste needs no advertisement .. But all these wonderful and creative people from southern districts of Tamilnadu burst into the scene together and created self-made success stories, together. Manivannan (as a scriptwriter), K Bhagyaraj (as actor and assistant director), Parthiban and the list would keep growing. His films never banked on the star value of a particular hero/heroine. He picked up the raw-clay and shaped them into wonderful actors. And, He had this sentiment of christening his introductions with letter "R". Radhika, Radha, Revathi, Rekha, Ranjani, Ravi (Yes, Nizhalgal Ravi), Raja all acclaimed actors were introduced to the scene by Bharathiraja.

Now, Some of the personal observations ...

BR's films redefined tamil cinema, in more general terms. His fresh portrayals of romance were very innovative and his love stories never stood away from life, They are never larger than life.
மண் மீதான காதலும், மண் சார்ந்த மனிதர்களுக்கிடையில் மலர்கின்ற காதலுமே அவரது படங்களில் பிரதானப்படுத்தப்படுகின்றன.நகரம் சார்ந்த கதைகளையே திரைப்படங்கள் பேசிக்கொண்டிருந்த காலங்களில் சென்னையின் தெற்கே உலகம் ஒன்று இருப்பதையும், அவர்தம் வாழ்வினில் வடிந்தோடிய காதல், வீரம், சோகம், விருப்பு, வெறுப்பு என உணர்வுகள் அனைத்தையும் படம் பிடித்து காட்டிய கலைஞன் அவன்.

The film directors, these days run out of ideas in portraying the song sequences and thus run away into the foreign locations to divert us to the scenic beauty of those locations. Contrastingly, BR's song sequences always looked interesting, they explored beautiful village locations and his protagonists, for the most part, never danced to the tunes and diverted us that way also. His films didn't have item numbers also (Yeah .. There might be exceptions).

His films always had a limited set of characters and each characterization would be vivid and lively. All characters, big or small would leave an expression in the minds of the viewer. Silk Smitha in Alaigal Oyvathillai, Rajinikanth in 16 Vayathinile, Vadivukkarasi in Muthal Mariyathai all had a pronounced importance in the build-up of the story. And more importantly, in a hero-oriented industry known for chucking out films that encouraged hero worship, his portrayal of women is something that deserves an applause. Like Shyam Benegal's women (Bhumika, Ankur, Sardari Begum, Nishant etc), BR's portrayals of his lead-ladies were very special and full of life. They are beautiful, they are raw, they are emotional, they are honest, they had love, they had courage ... they carried every part of the human emotional structure. Radhika in Kizhakku Cheemayile, Radha in Muthal Mariyadhai, Rajashri in Karuthamma, Jayasudha in Anthimanthaarai - All stunning characterizations. And More importantly, they are never pointless eye candies and they never stood up in our minds with their sex appeal.

One more high-point of his film direction is the usage of images, symbols and allegories, metaphors & similies in dialogues etc to suggest the idea. Chess boards, small dolls & statues, posters on the wall, flowers & thorns, goats & lambs, umbrellas & rains, all had a meaning in his cinema. And they were not so intellectually complex and were simple enough to hit the minds of an ordinary film-goer.

In the early nineties, BR's films started getting attention at a national level. Karuthamma spoke a social issue - Female infanticide and fetched him a national award. Anthimanthaarai and Kizhakku Cheemayile also won him lots of critial applause. Late nineties were literally the end of his career ... "Tajmahal" and "Kangalal kaithu sei" bombed and "Bommalaattam" looked like he is back. But there was no Bharathiraja touch in it. Nevertheless, his creativity is always original and authentic and I would call him a self-made cinema genius who took tamil cinema to the next level.

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