|Home||View All SOTDs||View Recent SOTDs||View Latest SOTD|
|SOTD Collections||Discussion Thread||FAQ||Mailing List for updates|
From: bb on: Thu Jan 22, 2009 11:40 pm
Song of the Day: aiyanaaru from kaaval dheivam.
- Saravanan writes:
‘aiyanaaru neRanja vaazhvu kodukkaNum’ from kaaval deivam (1969/ Ambal Productions)
Sung by Dharapuram Sundararajan & P. Suseela
Lyrics by Mayavanathan
Music by G. Devarajan
* * * *
‘umadhu paththirikkaiyil neer arasaangathaiyai thaakki ezhuthiyadhaal ummaiyum oru raajadwEshi endRu naan kooRugiREn!’
‘kooRikkoLLum, nandRaaga 400 muRai kooRikkoLLum! kavalaiyillai!’
I first saw kappalOttiya thamizhan on TV as a child. So many years have flown past since, yet even now the image of a majestic, defiant S.V. Subbiah comes to mind whenever I open my copy of Bharathiyaar’s verses. Such was the performance of Subbiah- straight from the heart, marked by a rare, simple, dignity. Generations of Tamils have grown up believing that this was how the revolutionary bard must have looked, this was how he must have walked, talked…
Subbiah (1920-1980) was born in Senkottai. Spurning academic pursuits, he joined a drama troupe called ‘Senkottai Ananda Sakthivel Paramananda Boys Company’ when he was 11 years old. Later, he was part of hoary drama troupes such as Balashanmukhananda Sabha and Sakthi Nadaga Sabha. Subbiah’s performance as Kavi Anandar in S.D. Sundaram’s play ‘kaviyin kanavu’ (Sakthi Nadaga Sabha/1945) fetched rave reviews. He made his debut in cinema with ‘vijayalakshmi’ (1946). His fine performance in the movie ‘kanjan’ (1947) elicited critical approbation. Throughout the 50s and 60s, Subbiah was a much sought-after artiste, for he would intersperse a subtle, heartwarming empathy into his performances and make even a minuscule cameo stand out. The unjustly accused servant who wrings a terrible revenge in ‘vElaikkaran’ (1952), the platform philosopher in ‘Porter Kandan’, the unscrupulous railway clerk with a peculiar twitch in the neck in ‘sugam engE’, the understanding and loving elder brother in ‘mangaiyar thilagam’, the chief protagonist in ‘vaLLiyin selvan’, the duet-singing womanizer in ‘naanE raaja’, the long-suffering suppressed farmer in ‘kaalam maaRippOchchu’, the loyal employee who belatedly realizes the true colours of his employer in ‘irumbu thirai’, the timid family man in ‘baagappiriviNai’, the loyal boatman in ‘parthiban kanavu’, the Christian gentleman in ‘paava mannippu’, the gifted musician in ‘kalaikkOyil’, the fanatical devotee of the Goddess in ‘aadhi parasakthi’….. Subbiah essayed the varied roles with a simple elegance and uncommon finesse. Even in the 70s, Subbiah stands out in unforgettable sketches such as the widower with 3 daughters in ‘sollathaan ninaikkiREn’ and the irresponsible patriarch in ‘arangEtRam’. Why, even as late as 1978, and in a fiasco called ‘mariamman thiruvizha’, Subbiah showed dignified restraint in his performance as the father of a woman whose is accused of infidelity by her husband.
And around the mid 60s, Subbiah decided to venture into film production. Being a voracious reader and an ardent fan of Jayakanthan, he was firm that he would adapt one of JK’s stories for cinema. At that time JK was not too favorably inclined towards cinema and people associated with the industry. His experiences in producing and directing ‘unnaippOl oruvan’ and ‘yarukkaaga azhudhaan’ had left him bitter and rueful. But when Subbiah approached JK expressing his desire, JK could not refuse, as he had often admired Subbiah’s performances, and had known him well from the days when Subbiah worked in ‘paadhai theriyudhu paar’. Further, JK had wanted Subbiah to play the role of Govindasami Pillai in ‘yarukkaaga azhudhaan’ and had visited Subbiah in his Karanodai farm one night with the offer. Subbiah who had been deeply impressed with the story, had already envisaged himself playing the lead role of Joseph. So his reply, gentle and firm at the same time, was that if JK could consider him for the role of Joseph, it was agreeable to him, otherwise they both had better pass their time talking of other unconnected matters. And so JK stayed the night as Subbiah’s guest in the tranquil farmhouse and they discussed on philosophical matters of mutual interest till the wee hours of the morning.
Besides his liking for Subbiah, another factor that made it difficult for JK to refuse Subbiah’s current request to give one of his stories for making into a movie, was that Subbiah had appointed K. Vijayan as the director, and Vijayan, was of course, JK’s close friend. A railway employee of Ponmalai Station and a fellow comrade, Vijayan had appeared in the lead role in ‘paadhai theriyudhu paar’. Subsequently, Vijayan took up whatever film offers that came his way and also acted in the plays of Sahasranamam’s Seva Stage. However, Vijayan was more interested in the technical aspects of film making, and would observe keenly cinematographers, editors and directors at work. Like JK, Vijayan was wholly disenchanted with the type of Tamil movies that were being made, and they often discuss avidly how they would stray off the beaten track if given a chance. When JK decided to make a movie of ‘unnaippOl oruvan’, Vijayan was one among the few close associates who helped him in every way. In his ‘oru ilakkiyavaadhiyin kalaiyulaga anubavangaL’, JK recalls how with masaal vadai and tea as their only sustenance, the entire screenplay of ‘unnaippOl oruvan’ was written in 10 days in the one-room tenement of Vijayan in Chidambarasami Koyil Street in Mylapore when Vijayan’s family was away. Vijayan assisted JK in directing both ‘unnaippOl oruvan’ and ‘yarukkaaga azhudhaan’. In fact, JK asked Vijayan to direct the first shot of ‘unnaippOl oruvan’, for at that time JK had no clue of how directors go about their work!
So when JK learned that Vijayan was finally getting a well-deserved break as director through Subbiah, he agreed readily to give them any of his stories for filming. When Subbiah enquired from JK as to the payment JK expected, JK said that he would be happy even if Subbiah would pay him 5 paise. Subbiah replied since JK had mentioned the number 5, he would pay JK Rs.5,000. JK acquiesced with a smile. The story that Subbiah and Vijayan selected was ‘kai vilangu’, a novel that JK had written in Kalki in 1961.
What then this story that had so fascinated Subbiah?
* * * *
Stone walls do not a prison make,
nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
that for an hermitage…
- Richard Lovelace (To Althea, from prison)
Aanaikundram Jail. Superintendent K. Raghavan is a man of integrity and humaneness who views the 500 inmates as 500 books that need to be perused. He stays with his wife Alamu in the bungalow adjoining the penitentiary, and the childless couple treats the prisoners with compassion and love, for they look upon the inmates as the children they never had. Chamundi who is serving a life sentence for killing one of the 2 villains who had fatally molested his teenaged daughter Sivakami, Syed who , Kesavan who ensures that he is arrested ever so often on trivial crimes, for he prefers the comforts of the prison to the uncaring outside world…. With the unusual backdrop of a prison, JK endows each character with an interesting history and subtle idiosyncrasies.
In the nearby Allikkulam village lives Manickam- an honest, hardworking youth who is the leaseholder of Raghavan’s lands. Manickam and Kokila love each other. The scoundrel Marimuthu, an unwelcome suitor of Kokila, sees his dreams of marrying Kokila coming to nought, and schemes with his accomplices to harm Manickam. They spy Manickam and Kokila singing and romancing, and this increases their ire. Marimuthu accosts Manickam near the Aiyanaar statue. When Marimuthu speaks deprecatingly of Manickam’s lineage, Manickam sees red. He plucks the sword from the hands of the Aiyanaar statue and injures Marimuthu. Manickam is arrested and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Superintendent Raghavan consoles him and treats him with kindness.
The story then captures the interesting events in the prison. Of particular interest are the sequences that involve Chamundi. Chamundi sees the other man who was responsible for his daughter’s death as an inmate in the prison and manages to hack him to death one night. For this crime, Chamundi is sentenced to death, and the death sentence is carried out. In the meantime, Manickam gets the news that his mother is seriously unwell. He grieves for her and longs to pay her a visit. On his own accord Superintendent Raghavan takes the unprecedented step of permitting Manickam to go to Allikkulam to see his mother, after eliciting a promise from him that he would return to the prison by daybreak. The next day is Raghavan’s last day in service, and Raman Nair arrives to take charge as the new superintendent. Manickam has not yet returned, and Raman Nair refuses to take charge until the headcount tallies with the roster. Raghavan is confident that Manickam will return, and his confidence is not misplaced. Manickam arrives just in the nick of time. Raghavan retires; his honour and reputation untarnished.
* * * *
So this was the story that Subbiah desired to take up for celluloid adaptation. JK agreed to give Subbiah the rights to the story, with the disclaimer that he would not involve himself in writing the screenplay or dialogues. JK himself changed the title to ‘kaaval deivam’. A befitting title, considering the remarkable characterization of Superintendent Raghavan. This, juxtaposed with the Aiyanaar statue, considered to be the guarding deity in the village, which plays a silently evocative role in the story, must have inspired JK to come out with the apposite title of ‘kaaval deivam’.
Subbiah enjoyed the goodwill of all in the film fraternity, and many of them came forward to appear in guest appearances in his ‘kaaval deivam’.
Thus the movie boasted of stalwarts like Sivaji Ganesan, Muthuraman, T.S. Baliah, Nambiar, Nagesh and V.K. Ramasami who all appeared in well-etched roles. Subbiah played the pivotal role of the benign Superintendent Raghavan; yet in the titles, the humble artiste chose to place his name way below that of Sivakumar (Manickam) and Ashokan (Marimuthu). Sowcar Janaki essayed the role of the jailor’s understanding wife Alamu, while Lakshmi played the role of Kokila. V. Gopalakrishnan, Sriranjini and G. Sakuntala were the others in the cast.
Vijayan did a magnificent job for a first-time director. The narration never sags, and the movie seems to have been refreshingly off-beat for its time. The jail settings, designed by Art-Director B. Nagarajan are realistically designed. Considering the rural milieu, Vijayan inserts bits of folk arts such as Karagam by Kalaimani & Party, and Naiyaandi Melam by Madurai Aavaiyapuram P. Sundararaj & Party in the sequences showing the rural fair. And Vijayan added an astute touch by inserting the Prahalada therukkoothu depicting the ‘Narasimha avataram’ episode by Purisai Natesa Thambiraan & Party in the sequence where Chamundi escapes from his cell and kills his daughter’s molester. The prison guards desert their posts and slip out to watch the play being staged in the adjoining street, and Chamundi makes use of this opportunity to seek his revenge. Playing the radical jailor Raghavan, Subbiah’s performance was simply brilliant. Eschewing flamboyant histrionics, Subbiah brings across a rare dignity in his delineation.
* * * *
For composing the songs of ‘kaaval deivam’, Subbiah did not go the reining composers of tfm; instead he sent for G. Devarajan. And assisted by R.K. Shekhar, Devarajan Maash made a grand entry in Tamil cinema with ‘kaaval deivam’. Subbiah’s choice of lyricists was also way off the beaten track- he roped in Mayavanathan, Thanjaivaavan and Nellai Arulmani. There are 4 songs in the album. The ‘aiyanaaru’ villupaattu, beginning with ‘aiyennenbOm appanenbOm’ written by Thajaivaanan and performed by Kuladeivam V.R. Rajagopal & Party is a rare rustic delight. For a sequence depicting an evening of entertainment for the prison inmates, Vijayan inserted a Bharatanatyam performance by danseuses Sarala and Kanaka, choreographed by K.J. Sarasa. For this sequence, Devarajan chose the Muthuthandavar piece ‘maiyal migavum meeRudhE’ and got the dulcet-voiced (Radha) Jayalakshmi to render it. Another song is the brooding ‘poRappadhum pORadhum iyaRkai’ which Chamundi (Sivaji Ganesan) sings on the eve of his hanging. Written by Nellai Arulmani, the song is rendered by TMS accompanied by chorus voices.
The most popular song in the album is the SOTD ‘aiyanaaru neRanja vaazhvu kodukkaNum’. Manickam and Kokila gambol along the fields and meadows, and sing a song of hope for their future. They dream of the joys of marital life that seem to beckon to them. The future looks tranquil and blissful, and it is this mood of a serene happiness that Devarajan infests the song with. Dharapuram Sundararajan is indeed a good choice for this caressing pastoral delight and Suseela is a treat as always.
* * * *
The movie was a modest success, and earned favourable reviews. Even the fastidious JK expressed overall satisfaction at Vijayan’s adaptation of the novel. Playing the radical jailor Raghavan, Subbiah’s performance was simply brilliant. Eschewing flamboyant histrionics, Subbiah brings across a rare dignity in his delineation. In his ‘oru ilakkiyavaadhiyin kalaiyulaga anubavangaL’, JK reserves warm words of praise for the performances of Subbiah and Sowcar Janaki.
Encouraged by the favorable outcome of ‘kaaval deivam’, S.V. Subbiah set about his next venture- this time he picked JK’s ‘brahmOpadEsam’, and titled the movie version ‘guruvE deivam’. Subbiah acted as Sankara Sarma and Sivakumar acted as an Odhuvaar. However, after completing few schedules of shooting, Subbiah could not continue with the movie due to various insurmountable hurdles.
Nevertheless, ‘kaaval deivam’ stands testimony to the determination of Subbiah to dare to be different and to succeed at that…
Tags: G.Devarajan , Dharapuram Sundararajan