எந்தன் பொன் வண்ணமே
NAAN VAAZHA VAIPPEN
1. Oru Kuyilin Vaazhkai Sangeetham – a book by Kavitha Albert
2. Various Magazines of yesteryears
3. Our own tfm pages with special thanks to Mr.Manisegaran
To a great NT fan – Raakesh @groucho.
A song that showed that in spite of advancing age TMS had not lost his touch to strike chords. A song, which takes the top place in the combination of TMS –Ilaiyaraja. A song that again proved that age cannot wither nor custom stale NT the performer. For a change we are going to discuss a song of late 70s and about a combination, that if it had lasted, would have given more such songs. Let us dwell into that.
PRE ILAIYARAJA PERIOD
There was a period when Tamil cinema was passing through critical stage. The Films that got released turned out to be way below the averages and it directly affected the BO performance of the films. With the films failing to ring in the cash counters, the production houses were very much hesitant to produce films. This trend started in late 74 and by the end of 75, it had snowballed into bigger crisis and by 1976, it had become acute. Production had become costlier and efforts were on to bring down the costs. Even the Big stars NT and MGR at that point of time were not giving hits. Added to it were the conditions imposed by the Censor Board about song and stunt scenes and they insisted that violence and sex should not be shown. This had affected the collections in a big way especially in B & C centers. At that point of time Karnataka Government had announced a scheme by which a subsidy of Rs 50,000/- would be given to the producer, if shooting takes place in Karnataka. This was irrespective of the language of the film. So this prompted many producers to shoot their film in Karnataka.
Though the small and medium producers were doing business, many big production houses stayed away from production. AVM had stopped its production in 1972 after Kaasethaan Kaduvuladaa. Vijaya Vahini except for Vani Rani (1974) did not produce anything else. Gemini barring Ellorum Nallavare was hibernating. With big stars and big production houses failing to strike it rich, a lull was prevailing in the industry. Things were in such a sorry state that films that crossed 50 days were declared hits and a function arranged for the same. I remember the 50th day celebrations of “Oru Oothaapoo Kan Simittugirathu”. K.Balachander who presided over the function and Sp.Muthuraman the director of the movie spoke about this alarming trend. This decline gave rise to another trend. Unlike today, there were so many theatres and all these needed software. In other words, films for their survival. So English movies and Hindi movies started to rule the roost even in smaller towns. When many of the cities and towns started following this trend, Chennai (Madras at that point of time) was totally swept off by English and Hindi. Starting from Aradhana in 1969, Hindi films and songs were making inroads into the Tamilnadu market and by 1976, it had overtaken Tamil.
Come 1976 May, there was a film directed by Devaraj Mohan, the director duo who had apprenticeship under veteran director P.Madhavan, which got released. Starring Sivakumar and Sujatha, this Black and white movie had few takers in the initial weeks. There was no hype or hoopla surrounding this film and the story happening in a village milieu did not set the pulses racing. A new person had debuted as a music director. But after a week or two, word began to spread that the movie was good and the songs catchy. The folkish tunes started playing in the Radio and local mike sets began to play the songs in every nook and corner of Tamilnadu. The fast number Machhanai Partheengala was slowly but surely capturing the imagination of all the sections and suddenly the movie “Annakili” picked up and House Full boards were staring at people in almost all theatres all over TN. It heralded the arrival of Ilaiyaraja.
Panchu Arunachalam’s brother Kn. Subbu produced this film. Earlier in 1975 he had produced Avandhan Manidhan. Now he produced this movie. As I said earlier, to make use of the subsidy, this film was shot in Thengamaratta, a village nestled in the Karnataka Tamilnadu border. This success was way beyond their imaginations. But, of course, the same combination failed to strike it rich when they came up with Kavikuyil in the following year (July 1977).
ILAIYARAJA BEFORE ANNAKILI
Ilaiyaraja had finally tasted success but his path to success was not an easy one. Most of the readers must be aware of Ilaiyaraja’s early life and his struggles and so I am not elaborating on that. He was born in a tiny hamlet called Pannaipuram, near Theni and was the younger brother of Paavalar Varadharajan, who was a party member of the Communist movement. IR and his brothers [R.D.Baskar & Gangai Amaran] moved to Chennai for want of greener pastures. After a lot of struggle he joined as an assistant to G.K.Venkatesh, the music director. He had learnt the basics of music and after coming to Chennai tutored western music under Dhanraj Pillai and wrote the music exam on guitar conducted by the Trinity College, London. This helped him to cement his place in the GKV troupe and he became an integral part of the troupe. It is said that IR contributed to the music of GKV. As it happened in the case of MSV, when his compositions came in the name of SM Subbiah Naidu, the chances of IR’s tunes having coming out under GKV baton cannot be ruled out.
As luck would have it, IR as early as in 1971 got a chance to work as a MD. Dada Mirasi, who had directed movies like Raktha Thilagam, Puthiya Paravai and Moondru Deivangal, launched a movie but this time, unlike the previous three occasions when NT was the hero, this was planned as a double hero subject based on a story by writer B.S.Ramaiah. Gemini Ganesan and Jai Shankar were the heroes with Padmini as the heroine. The movie was even named. The title was Deepam. After the Pooja of the movie, song recording took place. During that time TMS was the uncrowned King of Tamil Film Music and it was no surprise that IR recorded the first song with TMS. The song had its Pallavi starting with Chithham thelivura Sivanai Naadu. Destiny it may be, it probably gave an indication of the route that IR would take in future. Unfortunate it is to say, for reasons best known to the producer-director, the film got shelved and the recorded song never saw the light of the day. IR, probably upset by this still continued to work under GKV.
After 3 years, IR again got a chance to score music for a film and this time it was Prasad Productions who were behind the movie. Again a song recording was done and again it was TMS who did the singing. The song, which had Pallavi of “Jinjaru Jinjaru”, did face some problems during recording. It seems that TMS and IR had some difference of opinion over the tune and composition. Fate again played a part and this also got shelved. So IR was getting a sort of unlucky tag around his neck but he could do little about that since cinema field is steeped in superstitious beliefs. So when Annakili came his way, IR was nervous and he was hoping that at least this should not get struck. But Panchu Arunachalam was determined and he decided to proceed come what may.
When the recording was about to start, the power supply went off. People started whispering. Power supply resumed and again when IR recorded the first song for Annakili the same was played to check whether the recording has been done perfectly and they found to their dismay that the song recording was not there. Due to some technical issue, the song never got recorded. Imagine the plight of IR. But Panchu and Devaraj Mohan asked him to do it again and it came out well. IR worked real hard. Here again TMS was booked for one song. There were two versions of this song Annakili Unnai Theduthe. It was the first song of the movie and S.Janaki sang it. In the second half, the hero forced to marry another girl because of family circumstances would repeat the song but in pathos mode. TMS it seems, during recording was not very comfortable with the tune and it is rumoured that he felt that it is more folkish than required and also it was very slow. IR had a grouse that the song recording could not be done to his satisfaction but he kept quiet. As I said earlier, the movie got released and IR was catapulted to fame. But in spite of tasting huge success on debut, IR found the going tough.
ILAIYARAJA AFTER ANNAKILI
His second film was Palooti Valartha Kili directed by P.Madhavan. Madhavan had known IR right from his early days when he was an assistant to GKV and it was GKV who had composed music for Madhavan’s earlier film Ponnukku Thanga Manasu way back in 1973[This movie was the debut vehicle for actor Vijayakumar]. So with Annakili’s release, IR got a chance to work for Madhavan. PVK had Vijayakumar and Sripriya in the lead. It was released in August 1976. It had two good songs Naan Pesa Vandhen [SPB & SJ] and another SJ and chorus of kola Kolayaam Mundhirikkaa. But unlike Annakili this did not set the radio on fire. [Kumudam’s comment மலை வாழைத்தோப்பு மச்சானுக்கு பக்கத்து ஊர்காராக கூட யாரும் இல்லை]. The director duo of Devaraj-Mohan along with Sivakumar was engaged in a film called Uravaadum Nenjam. This was the third movie of IR that came out in Nov 1976. IR had given an excellent composition Oru Naal Unnodu Oru Naal but like PVK, this film also was a disaster in BO and so the place of IR started to shake. Within 15 days of release of Uravaadum Nenjam, ACT’s Bhadrakaali came out. ACT had attempted a different path when he chose to direct a film based on writer Maharishi’s novel by the same name. Rani Chandra an upcoming artist in Malayalam was roped in as heroine and Sivakumar was the hero. ACT rechristened the name of Rani as Gayathiri (which incidentally was the character’s name) but fate struck. On Oct 23rd of 1976, the flight in which Rani was traveling crashed and she died. The film was almost complete and only climax and some patch work remained. ACT adjusted it with a dupe. This served as a huge booster for the movie and it became a runaway hit. IR, on his part, had done a very good job and Kannan Oru Kaikuzhandai is one of his all time great compositions, IMO. He had also attempted a novel song, a club dance like number but in completely different lyrical style in the sense it was written in Brahminical Tamizh. Written by Vaalee, Susheela did an amazing job of Kettelae Ange. In spite of IR’s sincere work, the success was credited to Rani Chandra’s untimely death. This was the time when Balajee gave a great lift to IR. Balajee for more than 10 years had been using MSV as the music director for all his movies and why suddenly he should change and go for IR? For that we need to go back in time and as well to check the political changes that happened during that period.
BALAJEE AS A PRODUCER
During the discussions on earlier songs, we did talk about Balajee. When his acting assignments started drying up, he ventured into production and started his own company Sujatha Cine Arts. His first film was Annavin Aasai but that didn’t do well. He came to NT and ACT was booked as the director of the movie named Thangai. Balajee wanted a sure fire success and so he brought the remake rights of a Telugu Film. Thangai helped Balajee financially. He continued to produce films and his association with NT became so thick that his Sujatha Cine Arts ended up with the honour of producing the most no. of films starring NT. To be precise, it produced 17 films.
As for as possible, Balajee had the habit of repeating the same team for his films. Thus it was NT- ACT – MSV team for his first 4 films. While Thangai, En Thambi and Thirudan were remakes of Telugu movies, Engirundho Vandhaal was a remake of Hindi Khilona. Out of this EV became a super hit. After this Balajee felt that Hindi movies were a better proposition and for his next film he started looking out for a hit film. Balajee was the person/producer who gave a change of face to NT’s image. Till Thangai, NT’s image was something of a great actor who would be good in emotional and serious stories. An impression was gaining ground that action oriented entertainers were not his cup of Tea. While Thangai proved that he could carry any role on his shoulders, the stylish En Thambi and Thirudan made him dearer to youngsters. After Engirundho Vandhaal, Balajee decided again to go for an action film and moreover he was getting many requests from this younger audience. So he went to Bombay, searched and zeroed in on Johnny Mera Naam. It had Dev Anand and Hema Malini in the lead. He bought the rights of the film. Now at this point of time (this was mid 1971) Balajee had a feeling that an upcoming youngster who had made some sleek entertainers would be the best bet for this action mood film. Thus CV. Rajendran became the director of Raja and this film released on 26th January of 1972 went on to became a smash hit. So as his wont, Balajee repeated this combination for the next three films. Needhi (Dec 1972) and En Magan (Aug 1974) both celebrated 100 days. For his next film, he could not find a Hindi film that had a story suitable for NT. During that period a change was taking place in Hindi Cinema and Bollywood till that time known more for romantic musicals was witnessing a new phenomenon. A new type of hero character, which could loosely fit into the genre called “angry young man,” was storming the screens. It started with Zanjeer, followed by Majboor and when Deewar hit the screens, the hero attained cult status. Salim- Javed, the writer duo and creators of this genre, found themselves in much demand almost in the same level enjoyed by Amithab, the hero who changed the face of Hindi cinema.
Balajee saw Deewar and was very much impressed by it. But when he approached the writer duo, he had a shock. They were demanding 5 Lakhs for the remake rights. It was a huge sum for a remake right during those days and Balajee’s negotiating skill could not secure the rights for him. The writer duo refused to part for a lower amount. Balajee was upset. He had come to Bombay with the aim of buying the rights, but now this development upset him [Irony is the same Balajee purchased the rights of the same Deewar after 5 years and remade it as Thee in 1981]. But having come to Bombay, he didn’t want to go back empty handed. Somebody told him about another movie that had been released a year earlier. Balajee saw the movie and bought its rights. That was Namak Haraam, which itself was inspired from Hollywood flick Becket. It was a two-hero subject with Rajesh Khanna and Amithab playing the lead. After coming to Chennai, Balajee and CVR discussed the film with NT. The story revolved around two thick friends belonging to two different economic strata. The rich factory owner plants his friend in the labour union in his factory to make it dance to the tune of the management. But his move backfires and it leads to various twists and turns that result in an emotional climax.
Normally any Hero would want to do the poor friend’s role because it would help them to garner all sympathy while the rich man’s character had negative shades. But for NT, it never mattered and he chose to do the role done by Amithab. There was a discussion about the other hero and who should be chosen for the same. Many names came up but due to one reason or another, nobody could be finalized. Muthuraman, the actor who had done so many second hero roles in NT films, had now become full-fledged hero and he was not available. AVM. Rajan had lost his market value. Jai as usual was busy with so many films. So the mantle fell on Gemini Ganesan. The movie named “Unakkaaga Naan” was completed and was slated for release in 1976 Jan–Feb. It was a much awaited movie. But things that happened outside the film world simply upset all plans.
BALAJEE TASTING DEFEAT
1975 June saw two important events unfold that created a political tsunami in India. On June 12th, Allahabad High Court came out with a judgement that set aside the 1971 election victory of Indira Gandhi from the Rae Bareli seat in Uttar Pradesh. This made all opposition parties come under one roof and they demanded the resignation of Indira Gandhi. Indira, in order to tide over the crisis proclaimed Emergency on the night of June 25th of 1975 and in a midnight swoop, all opposition leaders were arrested. The only person who was not arrested was our own Perunthalaivar Kamaraj. He was recuperating after an illness but this development that saw all his party leaders behind the bars upset him like anything which made his health deteriorate further and ultimately led to his demise on Oct 2nd of 1975. His passing away created problems for all Congressmen in Tamil Nadu, more so for NT.
Till Perunthalaivar was alive NT was not unduly bothered about being in the opposition in both central and state levels. But his demise put him in a quandary. Majority of his fans wanted him to remain with the Congress (O) that was led by P. Ramachandran better known as PaaRaa and it was widely believed that he would remain so, though he didn’t spell it out in the open. Come December, there was an emissary from Delhi and she stayed put in Madras and took NT along with her to Delhi. Maragatham Chandrasekar completed her assignment successfully and NT met Indira on 1st of Januray, 1976. The meeting was kept under wraps till it took place and when it came out, it was a bolt from the blue for the fans. The fans association split with one group supporting his decision and the other opposing it. By Jan 30th the DMK Government led by MuKa was dismissed and Tamilnadu came under President’s rule for the first time. During those troubled times, Unakkaaga Naan was released on Feb 12th of 1976.
There was a section of fans that still believed that NT would not go to the ruling Congress. They had flocked to the movie as usual on the opening day. But 4 days later (i.e.) on 15th Feb of 1976, the liaison meeting between the Congress (O) and Congress (I) took place at the Marina that was presided over by Indira. The section that still believed that NT would remain with Con (O) was totally upset when they saw NT in the forefront at the merger function. This adversely affected the prospects of Unakkaaga Naan and it fell at the BO. Balajee after 10 years tasted failure for the first time. Not only Balajee but even for NT, the later half of 1975 was a period when his films continuously failed at the BO. Anbe Aruiyre, Dr.Siva, Vaira Nenjam and Paatum Bharathamum that came in the latter half of 1975 failed and when Unakkaaga Naan also fell there were alarm bells ringing all over. Subsequent films in 1976 after UN like Sathyam and Chitra Pournami also did not do well and only Graha Pravesam and Uthhaman made profits.
BALAJEE – NT- IR - DEEPAM
Balajee now decided that his next step should be safe and secure. NT was also veering round to the view that he needed to concentrate more on his strength (i.e.) strong story. Balajee turned his attention towards Malayalam movies and selected a movie by name Theekkanal. It had Madhu and Jayan in lead roles. NT saw the movie and gave the go ahead. Balajee took a decision to change the technical team. CVR was changed and Balajee spoke to Devaraj- Mohan who were riding the crest of Annakili success wave. NT had known them from the good old days when they had worked as assistants to P.Madhavan. But they politely refused saying that were not interested in remakes. Another upcoming director was Sp.Muthuraman but he was already committed on the same dates for another movie. NT remembered one person who used to double as an actor and director. The person was K.Vijayan and he had directed Kaaval Deivam way back in 1969 in which NT played a cameo. Vijayan also acted in movies and most of the readers would remember his role in Sivandha Man(n), in which he played one of the revolutionaries along with NT. He was put in charge of direction. Balajee also decided to bring in a change in the music department and he went and booked Ilaiyaraja. It was a surprise for many in the cine field. There were reasons for it.
For more than twenty years NT and MGR had dominated the Tamil film world and it was almost like two separate camps. As mentioned earlier in this series, the only common players were MSV, KVM, TMS, PS and LRE. For a new comer, it was very difficult to break into these camps. In that period of 10 years, the only two music directors namely MSV and KVM did music for NT films and the rare exceptions were T.K.Ramamurthi for Thangachurangam, G.Devarajan for Kaaval Deivam, Pughazendhi for Guru Dhakshinai, Govardhan for Anjal Petti 520 and V.Kumar for Niraikudam (irony is all the 5 films were released in 1969). At this juncture (1976), even Shankar-Ganesh having spent almost 8-9 years as MDs could not get a chance to do a single NT film though they did 2 MGR films. They finally managed to get the chance only in Thunai and that came in 1982. So when Ilaiyaraja managed that in his very first year, the cine field began to look at Ilaiyaraja with interest. The Film was named as Deepam.
IR who knew the importance of such a chance simply grabbed it. For the Paavalar brothers, it was a dream come true. Like every cinema aspirant, IR too had the same skepticism whether he would be able to meet NT at least once and when he got an opportunity to work for an NT film, his joy knew no bounds. He tuned 4 songs for the movie and 3 were sung by TMS. Here there was no second thinking. TMS sang Andhapurathil oru Maharani, Pesathe Vayulla Oomai Nee and Raja Yuva Raja. KJY sang the other song Poovizhi Vaasalil, which was for Vijayakumar in the movie. Andhapurathil and Poovizhi Vaasalil became Super Duper hits. Deepam released on Jan 26th of 1977 went on to become super hit and Balajee immediately planned for another movie with the same combination.
Again, he went to Malayalam and bought the rights of “Ithaa Oru Manushyan” which had Madhu in the lead. The movie was named as Thyagam in Tamil. This was village based and it was more of a Kerala type of story in the sense it was nativity based one. But still Balajee and Vijayan took a risk. Again the IR – Kannadasan combo turned out beautiful songs. Even at this point of time when the songs were recorded (i.e.) Sep – Oct 1977, there was absolutely no rift between TMS and IR or if at all it was there, it had not come out in open. If the two solos Vasantha Kaala Kolangal by Janaki and Nallavarkkellaam by TMS were chart busters, then the duet Then Malli Poove by TMS and Janaki simply captivated the audience. Thyagam, which came out on March 4th of 1978, was a super-duper hit and went on to celebrate 175 days and became the highest grosser for 1978. With two hits in a row for NT, IR had climbed steps and even producers of NT films other than Balajee started booking IR for their movies.
NT’s CAREER DURING 1978.
As we had seen earlier, right from 1952, NT never had to look back and he was very busy throughout his career. But the continuous failure of films in 1975-76 due to combination of factors (lack of good story, political decisions etc) had slowed down his assignments but when Deepam became a hit, his career was back on track. The end of 1977 (Deepavali) saw the release of movie “Annan Oru Koyil” followed by Andhaman Kaadhali (Jan 26th, 1978) and Thyagam (March 4th, 1978) and when all the three crossed 100 days, NT’s market was booming like good old days. Added to it when (a film that was in the making for long) Ennai Pol Oruvan that got released within 14 days from the date of Thyagam’s release (18th March, 1978) also became a hit, many producers were queuing up and suddenly NT found himself flooded with offers. There were three companies that got the call sheet of NT and they had booked IR for music. One was Rajanna Pictures from Bangalore that produced Kavari Ma(a)N, Amutham Pictures Kanne Kaniamudhe (which later changed to Vetrikku Oruvan) and one Asoka Brothers production Naan Vaazha Vaippen. In the month of March 1978, there was a full-page last page advertisement in Dina Thanthi that had a still photograph of NT and KRVijaya and it was mentioned as May veliyeedu (May release). Fans were really surprised because just 2 months time for making a full fledged movie seemed to be far from true but some were saying that KRV had got all things right and so it would come out. KRV? Yes, she was the producer and Asoka Brothers was her company.
KRV AS THE PRODUCER
KRV was one heroine who had an extended stay at the top. Having made her debut in 1963 with Karpagam, KRV was literally active as heroine till the middle 80s. She had brushed shoulders with greats like Savithiri and Padmini and was there till Revathy and Nadiya came. Two things helped her. One was her homely appearance (though she cannot be said to be beautiful in the classical sense), which fetched her a huge ladies audience, and this group was determined to see all her movies. The second reason was she was married to a big business man and she used the money and business power to her advantage. Her home in T.Nagar with a swimming pool and she buying an aircraft were hot news those days. Then she changed her attention towards cinema. Having realized that she has a dedicated audience, she created a team in cinema that would cater to her requirements and image building. She got married when nobody expected it but contrary to the general trend, she was one person who had a successful career even after marriage. Even when acting with NT and MGR, she had films on floor that had Jai, Muthuraman and Ravichandran in lead and most of them were written and directed by Madurai Thirumaran. The films that can be classified in this genre are Soothaattam, Vaayadi, Thirudi and Amman Arul, Aayirathil Oruthi. Meanwhile she completed 100 films with Nathayil Muthu in 1973, which incidentally was directed by KS Goplakrishnan who directed her first movie Karpagam. But she had developed one drawback. When she became pregnant, she started putting on weight and at one stage she became very fat. But she continued to act with NT in Bharatha Vilas (1973) and Thanga Pathakkam (1974). Later she realized that she cannot continue to ignore her physical appearance and she carried out some corrective steps and became slim again. Having attained a slim body she began to choose stories. Her husband Velayudhan Nair who was running Sudharsan Chit funds launched Asoka Brothers. KRV also used other names for the production companies and it was widely known that she used to finance films where she acted as heroine. There were films like Mittai Mummy (remember Thirukovil thedi Rathidevi Vandhaal) Mayor Meenakshi etc. She had produced/financed films like Annapoorani, Natakame Ulagam during those periods. She always chose stories that gave importance to her and so when the announcement came for Naan Vaazha Vaippen, there was a surprise because for the first time she had booked a star who was bigger than her. Later it transpired that it was a remake of Hindi Majboor.
Majboor, as mentioned earlier, was one of the films of Amithab that got released in 1975. It was an emotion cum action movie that added to the lustre of Amithab. It had a cameo appearance by Pran and this character was written in such a manner that it navigated the story in the climax. When it was decided to remake the film, initially only NT and KRV were confirmed. D.Yoganand would direct the movie and it would have music by IR. Then came the news that Rajini an upcoming star (1978 April) would be playing the role of Pran. Before this could be confirmed another incident occurred.
NT & ACCIDENT
NT at that time (April 1978) was acting in multiple films and they were at various stages of production. Punniya Bhoomi – a remake of Mother India was complete and ready for release. Chinna Annamalai’s Vijayavel films was producing General Chakravarthi and it was also complete except for some patchwork. Pilot Premnath, a joint Indo– Srilankan production was almost over except for one final schedule in Sri Lanka. Justice Gopinath was more than half way through. In addition to these, Sivaji Productions’ own venture that would turn out to be the 200th Film of NT (It was not named at that point in time) was also fast progressing. Kavarimaan was also on the floors. Naan Vazha Vaippen was also started and a portion of the film was completed. As if all these were not enough, NT had agreed to do one more film and that was in Malayalam.
Navodaya Films is one of the famous banners of Malayalam cinema. It is owned by Appachan, who also runs a studio by the same name. Tamil audience would recogonise him on two accounts. He was the producer of My Dear Kutti Chatthan, the first 3D Film in India. The second is he owns and runs Kishkintha, the theme park in the outskirts of Chennai. He was also the pioneer in producing 70 MM movie in South India, when he produced Padayottam (Malayalam – 1982) in 70 MM. In 1978, he was producing a big budget movie (by Malayalam industry standards) and it was a historical. Like we do have Karna Parambara Kadhagal, Keralites do enjoy hearsay stories that come under the genre Vadakkan Pattu Kadhaigal. These are stories that talk about the exploits of rulers of Malabar area called North Kerala (Vadakkan Keralam). The much talked about Vadakkan Veera Kadha written by M.T.Vasudevan Nair and which brought the first National award for Mammootty (he has three) also falls under the same genre.
Now coming to the movie, it was named as Thacholi Ambu that had Prem Nazir playing the hero and Jaya Bharathy, the heroine. It also had Nambiar, KR Vijaya, Balan. K. Nair and Thikkurisi Sukumaran Nair. Jayan, the first Super Star of Modern Malayalam cinema, who lost his life in a helicopter accident while enacting a stunt scene for the film Kolilakkam in November 1980, at Cholavaram near Chennai, was an upcoming star at that time and he played a second hero role in this movie. There was a small but powerful role of a King who happens to be the father of the hero. For this they approached NT. We have discussed earlier that NT enjoyed a warm friendship with all other language film industries and he had a very strong relationship with Malayalam industry. Added to it, Appachan was a family friend and when NT’s best friends Nazir and Thikkurisi put pressure, NT accepted to do the role.
NT was a tireless worker and he used to work for hours together. Malayalam industry normally works very fast and people must have heard stories that they can finish off a film in 15-20 days. So for Thacholi Ambu, NT had gone to Kerala in the last week of April 1978 and he was there for a week. His work was almost finished. On May 5th of 1978, they were shooting a sword fight between NT and Nambiar. While doing a shot where he defended with the shield in one hand and flexing the right arm with the sword, he lost balance and fell down and he landed on the floor with his left hand taking the entire weight. He suffered a fracture in his left forehand. Shooting was stopped (it was almost over) and he came back to Chennai. On arrival here, doctors diagnosed that the fracture was more acute than what was earlier thought of. He underwent a surgery wherein fishplates were fitted in his hand to set right the fracture. Doctors also announced that it would take a minimum 45 – 60 days for him to return back to shooting. This unexpected happening threw his entire shooting schedules out of gear and NVV was one of the films that suffered due to this. It was tough on NT also because he had to sit idle and he felt sorry for the producers who were affected. A small digression here is, in Punniya Bhoomi that was released exactly a week later (May 12th of 1978), the father character played by NT would lose his hand in an accident and there would be a dialogue நல்லவங்களுக்குத்தான் கையெல்லாம் ஒடியுது, a normal dialogue (written much earlier) but that was apt for the occasion, provoking claps and sympathy at that point in time.
ACCIDENT AND AFTERMATH
Now VCS, brother of NT had to do a trouble shooting exercise and he did it in right earnest. He had two films that were complete. Punniya Bhoomi was released on 12th of May 1978 and General Chakravarthi made it to the screens on 16th of June 1978. The films that had to be completed based on priority were Pilot Premnath, Justice Gopinath and Thirisoolam. So call sheets would have to be given in that order. But unfortunately the injury took longer time to heal and the 45 – 60 days got extended. Again there were problems on the call sheet front. By this time NT had to fulfill another duty, that of a politician. Though we are not into politics, we will do a slight peep into what happened. After the Congress lost the 1977 general elections, Indira Gandhi was keeping quiet for some time. When the Janata Government started taking action against her, she started protesting and she began to tour. During the tour of Tamilnadu on Oct 29th and 30th of 1977, the black flag demonstration staged by DMK against her at Madurai and Chennai turned violent and she escaped miraculously. After that she had parted ways with the old guard in her party and her faction which broke loose on Jan 1st of 1978 came to be known as Congress (I). The entire Tamilnadu unit of Congress had stayed behind her. After this came the assembly elections for Karnataka and Andhra in Feb 1978 and Congress (I) captured power in both the states with Devaraj Urs and Chenna Reddy becoming the respective Chief Ministers. It increased her political stake.
In July 1978, MGR had announced elections for Madurai Corporation alone in Tamilnadu and there was a 4-cornered contest (Janata being the fourth contestant). Congressmen brought Indira on some other pretext to Madurai and she canvassed in certain places by showing the hand symbol. Since she had come down, it now became imperative for NT to campaign. He also came to Madurai along with then TNCC (I) President Moopanar and this further delayed the start up of the shooting. [But it did help Congress to become the main opposition party as it won 9 wards out of 65]. Finally NT started shooting on August 10th of 1978 and he did it for Naan Vaazha Vaippen. But since he had to complete other pressing assignments, this schedule was planned as a very short one.
NT went on to finish Pilot Premnath that got released on Oct 30th of 1978 for Deepavali, and then completed Justice Gopinath that hit the screens on Dec 16th of 1978. Meanwhile Thacholi Ambu had been released in Kerala. Thirisoolam after completion was released on Jan 27th of 1979 and as everybody knows it was NT’s 200th movie. Kavari Ma(a)n was the next release on April 6th of 1979. But Naan Vaazha Vaippen that was started almost at the same time got struck. There were reasons for that. The story of Majboor was one reason that put the brakes on the shooting. Let us take a look at the story.
Ravi works in an international ticketing counter at a travel agency. He has a widowed mother, handicapped sister and a school going brother. He is in love with a lawyer called Neela and her brother Ramesh happens to be the Public Prosecutor. Ravi is the sole breadwinner of the family. The Police get a man missing complaint and since this industrialist Jayaraj was last seen with Ravi (as he had come to collect his air ticket) the police question him. Ravi gets a severe headache on and off but he postpones the visit to the doctor.
The police stumble upon the body of Jayaraj in the underground drainage and again Ravi is questioned. Neela asks him not to get tensed up. Jayaraj’s brother announces a reward of Rs 5 Lakhs to any person who is ready to give a clue for identifying the killer. Ravi’s headache becomes severe and he consults a doctor and Ravi’s head is x-rayed. Doctor has some shocking news for Ravi. He is suffering from a brain tumor and that needs surgery. The bad news does not end there. The doctor is unable to guarantee that he would be normal after the surgery. Ravi is totally upset. He thinks about his mother, sister and brother and he is worried about their future. Ravi, remembering the offer of Rs 5 Lakhs announced by the brother of Jayaraj, hatches a plan.
Ravi calls up the police and informs that he would spell out the killer’s name provided the amount of 5 Lakhs is deposited as per his instructions. He gives the name of the lawyer to whom the money needs to be handed over and he writes to the lawyer that he has written a name of a person who would be the beneficiary of this amount and the same is put in a sealed cover and he puts up a condition that it has to be opened only after the accused is punished. Ravi then goes on to create some evidences that would show as if Ravi is the man behind the killing of Jayaraj. When Jayaraj’s brother deposits the money as instructed, Ravi gives himself up to police. In the court, Ravi simply confesses to the crime thus making Neela’s efforts go waste. Ravi is awarded death sentence. His family is totally shattered. He doesn’t heed the appeal of his mother and Neela to appeal against the verdict.
While he is counting his days in prison, again he experiences severe pain in his head and is hospitalized. He is operated upon and the tumour is removed. The court orders the execution to be delayed till he recoups. Ravi now completely cured of the disease realizes the folly of having falsely implicated himself in the murder and wants to come out. But everything is against him. Even the time for appealing against the verdict has expired. Now he is left with no other go except to jump prison and find out the truth about the murder himself. His journey takes him to a person called Michael D’Souza, a small time thief and he promises to help Ravi. How they along with Neela go about reaching their goal forms the rest of the story.
After completing a portion of the movie, somebody in the unit started doubting about the acceptability of the story by the audience and the fans. There were some people who said that the cameo role of Michael might pose a threat to the heroism of the NT character.
The character was wrongly understood by a section of people and they put pressure on the producer to change the story. But NT was firm in his stand that having inked the agreement, it is not correct to ask the producer to change the story and that too after almost half way through the shooting. Another factor was the role of Pran. Rajini had been booked but that was in 1978 April and in April 1979, much water had flown under the bridge. Rajini had grown in stature and at the same time trouble was brewing for him.
RAJINI – 1975 TO 1979
Sivaji Rao Gaekwad, his early life, he joining the Adayar Film Institute and grabbing the attention of K.Balachander, all these have been well documented already to merit a mention again. Rechristened as Rajinikanth (after the character names of the play cum movie Major Chandrakanth), this man made his debut in Aboorva Raagangal on August 15th of 1975. Of course that role didn’t set the screen on fire. His second film Moondru Mudichhu (also by KB) came out in 1976 October during Deepavali. The friend turned foe caught the attention of the moviegoers. His third film was also with KB and Avargal released on 25th Feb of 1977, showcased a sadistic husband Ramanathan and he was loathed by the Thaikulangal. Devaraj–Mohan and Panchu Arunachalam team basking under the success of Annakili were busy with their next venture Kavikuyil and the only major changes from the previous film were Sridevi for Sujatha and Rajini for Srikanth. This came out on July 29th of 1977, followed by Raghupathy Raghavan Rajaram on Aug 15th of 1977, where he played the murai maman of heroine Sumithira. [The film titled as R. Raghava. R, because of censor problems was changed to R. Raghavan. R].
Seeing the potential of the artist, Sp. Muthuraman who was filming the novel Bhuvana Oru Kelvikuri by Maharishi took a path breaking decision of booking him for a positive role and Rajini came out with flying colours [Sivakumar should be congratulated in equal measures for accepting to portray a negative character]. If BOK released on Sep 2nd of 1977 made a big headway for Rajini, the debut film of Bharathiraaja, 16 Vayadhinile that hit the screen on 15th of September put him on a high pedestal. Parattai had garnered equal fame attained by Sappani. The subsequent releases like Aadu Puli Aatam on Sep 30th, Gayathiri on Oct 7th and Aaru Pushpangal on Nov 10th (Deepavali) made 1977 a special year for Rajini.1978 dawned and when his first release Shankar Salim Simon came out on Feb 10th, he had become a star of reckoning. One month later on March 10th, Aayiram Jenmangal [remake of Sheela directed Malayalam movie Yaksha Gaanam] came out and it saw audience rooting more for second hero than the hero. This was when Rajini was booked for not one but two films of NT. They were Justice Gopinath and Naan Vaazha Vaippen, the film in discussion. Incidentally D. Yoganand directed both the films.
NVV – CASTING AND DELAY
But the accident that happened to NT made Rajini wait for a longer period to start shooting. The adopted son’s character in Justice Gopinath (again to use the same phrase) did not set the screen on fire. But the period that intervened between his booking that happened in March 1978 and subsequent release of Justice Gopinath on Dec 16th of 1978 had seen Rajini grow in stature. In between he acted in Maangudi Minor, Bhairavi, Ilamai Oonjalaadugirathu, Sathurangam, Vanakkathukkuriya Kaadhaliye, Mullum Malarum, Iraivan Kodutha Varam, Thappu Thalangal, Thai Meethu Sathyam and Aval Appadithan. There was one more film Paavathin Sambalam in which Rajini had played a guest role and it also got released one week prior to Justice. Readers can very well imagine what would have been his impact on the audience. But poor screenplay was the reason for Justice Gopinath not getting the required attention of the public.
After this and before the commencement of Naan Vaazha Vaippen shoot, Rajini had done En Kelvikkenna Badhil, Priya and Kuppathu Raja. He had almost finished Ninaithale Inikkum. NVV, Dharma Yudham, 6 to 60 were half way through and Annai Oru Aalayam was about to start. During this period, on March 10 and 11 of 1979, there was a conference held in Madurai to celebrate the 200th film of NT (i.e.) Thirisoolam and the second day was for cine field. The first day was dedicated for political leaders and their speeches. Rajini had attended the meeting on the second day (In fact yours truly had attended the meeting and till date happens to be the only time I have seen him in person) and he spoke and told that he was a great fan of NT.
After the conference was over certain incidents happened that put a question mark over Rajini’s future. Vested interests wanted to use this development and urged the producer and NT to drop Rajini. But NT put his foot down and he as the President of Nadigar Sangam deputed Major the then Secretary of the Sangam to do all the required help for Rajini. He told the director and producer that Rajini’s portions could be shot after some time. Rajini after fulfilling his pressing commitments then joined the shooting and completed NVV. [Rajini was always a great fan of NT right from his younger days. He had the highest respect for NT. That aside, the reason NT stood by his side and helped him to come out of the troubled phase made him determined to pay back his gratitude to NT and his family. We can classify Mannan, Padayappa and Chandramuki as a token of gratitude].
Now with all the problems getting solved, shooting commenced on a full swing. Now coming to the songs part, this being a remake made the job of fixing the song sequences easier. There was one duet, one song for comforting the sister, one birthday song, one song for Michael character and the repeat of the song sung by the brother. IR decided to use all the top three male singers and PS for female voice. While SPB – PS sang Thirutheril Varum Silaiyo, KJY rendered Aagayam Mela song. TMS sung the two solos Endhan Pon Vanname and Ennodu Paatu Paadungal.
SONG SEQUENCES & DISCUSSION SONG
Ennodu Paatu Paadungal comes in at the birthday party of Neela. Ravi is asked to sing. But he had just got back from the doctor, who had told him for all his efforts, Ravi might not live longer. While others are oblivious of this happening, Ravi tries to be cheerful outwards but in his heart of hearts, he is crest fallen. TMS had sung the song along with a chorus. The song in discussion happens when the handicapped sister speaking of a prize in lottery and the ways she would spend it only to be brought crashing down to harsh reality by an innocuous remark from her younger brother. Seeing the hurt in her eyes, the elder brother Ravi sings Endhan Pon Vanname.
TMS - DISCUSSION SONG
The tune was simple and catchy. Kannadasan as usual flowed. When the recording took place, TMS understood the mood of the situation and he caressed the words and made them soothing to the ears of not only the sister character but also to the listeners’ ears. Hear the following lines
கோவில் இல்லை என்றால் தெய்வம் இல்லை
இங்கு நீ இல்லையேல் கண்ணே நானும் இல்லை
வானம் இல்லை என்றால் மதியும் இல்லை ; உந்தன்
வார்த்தை இல்லையென்றால் ஒரு கீதம் இல்லை
having said that he compares his sister with the flower and when you hear it you feel the soft touch of the flower on your face
நீ வந்ததால் தானே பூ வந்தது
நீ வாடினால் வண்ண பூ வாடுமே
and then the caressing words
என் ராஜாத்தி கண்ணே கலங்காதிரு
In the second charanam, he compares gold and rays of sun with his sister and how he does it with a soft voice that touches you
பொன்னை கண்டேன் அதில் உன்னை கண்டேன்
காலை பொழுதை கண்டேன் இந்த கதிரை கண்டேன்
என்னை கண்டேன் நெஞ்சில் உறவை கண்டேன்
நீயும் இல்லையென்றால் நானும் எங்கே செல்வேன்
Then he highlights his mother’s role and see the softness in TMS voice
தாய் செய்ததே தவம் நாம் வாழ்வது
தாய் கொண்டதே வரம் நாம் வாழ்வது
In the third and final charanam, he instills confidence in her by saying since they are honest, they don’t need to fear anything. TMS brings gambeeram into his voice and says
கள்ளம் இல்லை நெஞ்சில் கபடம் இல்லை; நீ
கண்ணீர் சிந்த ஒரு நியாயம் இல்லை
காலம் வரும்; அந்த தெய்வம் வரும்
அந்த நாளும் வரும் நல்ல வாழ்வும் வரும்
When the charanam comes to an end, the brother makes a promise. He assures that he will take care of her future.
காலம் தனை நான் மாற வைப்பேன்
கண்ணே உன்னை நான் வாழ வைப்பேன்
TMS always brought out the emotions very clearly and even in a light song like this, he expresses clearly the emotions. The song with a simple tune rendered emotively by TMS with a soft voice lingers in our mind long even after a long time.
SPB – KJY SINGING FOR NT
During the earlier discussions we have seen that though many singers have done playback singing for NT, it was TMS who had the lion’s share of the songs. Especially after 1960, it was out and out TMS not only for NT but also for MGR, Jai, Ravi, and Sivakumar etc. After the advent of SPB in 1969, things began to change and SPB began to slowly climb up the ladder. Director CVR when compared to other directors, who were doing NT films, always made it a point to give a youthful look to NT films. As a part of that exercise, he was responsible for bringing SPB to sing for NT in Sumathi En Sundari. After Pottu Vaitho Mugamo became such a roaring hit in 1971, CVR used SPB in Raja (1972) for Irandil Ondru song. This prompted VV Sundaram to use SPB for Gowravam (1973) for Yamuna Nadhi Inge song. Again it was CVR who brought SPB again with Ethhanai Azhagu Kotti Kidakkuthu in his Sivakamiyin Selvan in 1974. In the same year CVR this time used Kovai Soundararajan along with TMS in En Magan for Sonpapdi Sonapapdi song. If the following year (1975) beginning saw Manidhanum Deivamaagalam which had Seerkazhi singing for one of the dual roles, the year end saw a sweet voice debuting for NT. Yes, K.J. Yesudas sang Malare Kurinji Malare in Dr.Siva. The last NT movie of 1975, Paattum Bharathamum had a SPB song. CVR again made SPB sing Kaadhal Kadhai Solveno in his Unakkaaga Naan in 1976 beginning. The same year saw, SPB sing Padagu Padagu in Uthhaman. 1977 totally belonged to TMS except for Naalu Pakkam Vedarundu in Annan Oru Koyil but of course it was a background song. 1978 started with Andhaman Kaadhali and we heard KJY sing Andhmaanai Paarungal Azhagu and Ninavaale silai seithhu songs. Thirisoolam in 1979 again brought TMS, SPB and KJY together as they sang for the three different roles. But one thing if we have noticed is, all these films mentioned above had TMS singing the major songs. NT and his director/producer were particular that TMS should be there. First time this was broken in 1979 when Kavarimaan, the film after Thirisoolam came out without TMS. While KJY rendered the classical Brova Baaramma, SPB sang Poo Pole Un Punnagaiyil. Fans were shocked. The reasons were not hard to find.
TMS – IR – THE RELATIONSHIP
At the beginning of this discussion, we saw that TMS did not sing as per the wishes of IR during Annakili. But IR had high respects for TMS. He used to say that any musician who grew up listening to the cinema songs of 50s and 60s could not but love TMS. So he used him in not only NT films but also for others. IR made TMS sing Kanakku Paarthu Kaadhal Vandhadhu for Muthuraman in Alukkoru Aasai in 1977. TMS again sang Nandooruthu Nariyooruthu for Rajini in Bhairavi in 1978. So what made IR turn away?
In 1978, TMS had gone to Srilanka and the he gave an interview to the daily newspaper Veera Kesari. Ponnu Oorukku Pudhusu directed by Selvaraj (the story writer of BR camp) and the song Oram po had become a huge hit. The paper had asked for TMS’ comment on the song. TMS would not have imagined that his reply is going to permanently ruin a relationship. Veera Kesari gave a sensational heading to the interview and the words mentioned (as if spoken by TMS) deeply hurt IR. The reactions were swift.
IR's REACTION TOWARDS TMS
The first to get the axe was the song IR had recorded on April 14th of 1978. Old timers would be aware that even after MGR became the CM of Tamilnadu, he expressed his desire to act in movies. There were different opinions about this and political observers were expressing their doubts about the constitutional validity of such a move but there was no explanation given in the constitution regarding such a scenario. When questioned about this, the then PM Morarji Desai said that Central Government would not stand in the way. This emboldened MGR and he announced the film Unnai vida Maatten. This was to be produced by G.K.Dharmaraj of Yoga Chitra films, who had earlier produced Ilaiya Thalaimurai with NT. IR was booked as the music director. On April 14th of 1978, the pooja of the film was held and a song written by Vaalee, tuned by IR and sung by TMS was recorded. When this controversy broke out, IR made Malaysia Vasudevan sing the same song. Since the film didn’t proceed further, the song also never came out.
Then IR turned his attention to Ennodu Paatu Paadungal song and the same was again recorded with SPB singing this time. When TMS came to know of this development, he went and asked the director about this. He was told that the earlier song had a chorus along with the song. Since NT felt that chorus could be avoided so that it reflected the mood of the situation, they had done the recording again. Since TMS had gone out of the country and since they had to complete the shooting, they did it with SPB. Though TMS was not satisfied, he couldn’t do anything. NT never interfered in these matters. Moreover he had taken a liking for IR’s music. He was answering a regular Q & A session in Bommai magazine in 1978-79 periods and for a question asking about his favourite song of 1977, he had replied that it is Sendoora poove. This reply had put the lyrist Gangai Amaran and IR on cloud nine. Moreover NT was the chief guest for the jubilee celebrations of Kizhakke Pogum Rail held in Kamala theatre in 1978 and from thereon BR and IR had become close with him. NT rarely ever interfered in music and this also played a part in the subsequent happenings.
From thereon IR rarely used TMS. He avoided TMS wherever he could, like in Kavarimaan (being SpM- Panchu combo) and Pattakathhi Bhairavan (producer director VB Rajendra Prasad, the maker of Engal Thanga Raaja and Uthhaman, was a Telugu and he couldn’t object). When the producer was strong like Balajee and SS Karuppaswamy he used TMS like he did in Nallathoru Kudumbam (the classic Sindhu Nadhi Karaiyoram) and Rishi Moolam respectively. We can also add Vetrikku Oruvan in this category. IR had to face this problem only in NT films. For others he managed with SPB and KJY. But when Devar Films who booked IR for the first time for Annai Oru Aalayam (1979 Deepavali) wanted a TMS song as a matter of sentiment, IR gave the song Amma, Nee Sumandha Pillai to TMS.
The last film to come out of NT-IR-TMS combo was Rishi Moolam in Jan 1980. People still remember Neramidhu Neramidhu and 50-lum Aasai Varum from the same. After this there was a long gap of almost 3 ½ years before IR did another NT movie. Gangai Amaran who did music for Balajee’s Neethipathi in 1983 used TMS (remember Paasamalare song?) but in the very next NT film Imaigal for which again GA was the MD, he used Malaysia Vasudevan (Maadapuravo illai Manjal Nilavo?). This prompted IR to plumb for MV in subsequent movies that started with Vellai Roja (1983 Deepavali). The only exception was Thaaikku Oru Thaalaattu, where bowing to pressure from producer KRG, IR used TMS –PS for Pazhya Paadal Pola Puthiya Paadal Illai, which had the same tune as Unnai Ondru Ketpen from Puthiya Paravai. But for reasons best known to the director, the song was not there in the movie except for a brief part.
The picturisation was easier as it was an indoor song. There are a section of the readers who feel that any NT film after Thirisoolam is trash. They should see this song. NT even after completing 27 years in the industry was able to bring out the life of the character. He does it casually. The face and the lip movement convey the emotions. You should also check the scene when he talks to the doctor (Poornam Viswanathan), the way he expresses his shortcomings regarding his family is worth a watch and more.
TMS ON IR & IR ON TMS
What does TMS say about this? In the book (Oru Kuyilin Vaazhkai Sangeetham) he talks about this. He says that he told that songs like Oram Po and Machhani Paatheengala may bring fame for the MD temporarily but in the long run, people would identify the MD with only such songs and if he tries to give a classical song, he may be rejected. So there is a danger of being side lined with a dappankutthu muthirai. TMS says that the sentence Oramaaga Poi vida vendiyadhu varum was twisted and reported as some other word. He feels that IR could have contacted him and checked the veracity of the report. Another incident that further distanced the two was a musical night at Coimbatore. Out of 35–40 songs, TMS was given only 5 songs and this was filmed for a movie called Ilaiyarajavin Rasigai (of course it never came out). On coming back to Chennai TMS called IR and asked him not to call him (TMS) for light music concert anymore and hung up.
IR on his part never came out with his side. But once when questioned about not using TMs, he had to say the following
"TMS அவர்கள் மிகவும் பெரிய கலைஞன் என்பதில் சந்தேகமில்லை. எல்லா விதமான உணர்ச்சிகளையும் பாவங்களையும் தன்னுடைய குரலில் கொண்டுவரக்கூடிய ஒரே பின்னணி பாடகர் TMS மட்டும்தான்.
அந்த பெரிய கலைஞன் என்னுடைய இசையில் பாட முடியாமல் போனது அவருடைய துரதிர்ஷ்டம். அவரை என்னுடைய இசையில் பயன்படுத்திக்கொள்ள முடியாமல் போனது என்னுடைய துரதிர்ஷ்டம்."
But all said and done it was the fans, who were unlucky to have missed out this combo.
RELEASE & SUCCESS STORY
Coming to the film, the same was released on August 10th of 1979. There were slight skirmishes here and there in theatres and of course a section that always wanted to run down
NT said that it was Rajini who saved the film. Neither NT nor Rajini answered and on the 100th day celebrations. Rajini confessed that whatever he had done in the movie was taught by NT and he simply did what he was told to do. NT - Kannadasan combo this time joined with IR and proved that performers would score irrespective of the period and situation.
Before signing off, my personal experience. I had seen the movie on the opening show that was the matinee of August 10th, 1979 at Madurai – Sridevi. There was also a slight trouble but it was quickly brought under control. We thoroughly enjoyed the movie.
PS: Lyrics and Link given in the following post