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Kamal A2Z: Apoorva Raagangal

Apoorva Raagangal (more commonly pronounced as ‘Aboorva Raagangal’) was part of the second innings of K Balachander, one among the ’shock-and-shake-up-the-audience’ series of movies (the others being Arangetram, Aval Oru Thodarkathai and Avargal). Kamal featured in all of those, but got possibly his first opportunity as leading man in Tamil with this movie released in 1975.

Barely in his twenties, he stuns the audience with his fearless and mature performance. When one thinks back now, it seems like Balachander actually tapped the rebellious streak and raw energy in Kamal for the role of Prasanna. The intelligence, interest in arts and indifference to societal rules all seem to match with his real-life self. In that sense, Balachander and Kamal were working off each other.

This movie is also known for the debut of Rajnikanth. In the few scenes they have together, Kamal and Rajni are in a way pitted against each other, both being interested in the same woman. Again looking back, the slowly maturing relationship between the two seems to reflect their personal equation in the future superstar era.

But the image of the movie really is from the popular “Adhisaya raagam…” song — Kamal singing away and Srividya looking at him in wonder. Yesudas’s classical voice and Kannadasan’s simple yet meaning-laden lyrics add beauty.

Get more details about the movie from the entries on IMDb and Wikipedia. Kamal reprised this role 9 years later in the Hindi remake, Ek Nai Paheli, with Hema Malini and Raaj Kumar.

Kamal A2Z: Avargal

Editor’s Note:
Another reader joins the series! Just about a week more left for ‘A’. C’mon folks!

by Mahesh

I confess that this is not the first movie that would come to mind when you think Kamal Haasan, but for me it does. As Janardhanan, Kamal did not impress me much, but as Junior he did. I became a fan then and continue to be one. I do not recall much about the movie as I last watched it about 15 years ago, but a few things stand out till date:

  1. Kamal acts as a third hero (if you can call it that) in the movie! Talks a ton of the man who is used to care more about the role than his presence.
  2. As a Malayalee accountant Janardhanan, Kamal impressed with his ability to converse in a Malayalam-tinged Tamil.
  3. But the most impressive thing about Kamal in Avargal is his role as Junior. Kamal appears as a ventriloquist in the movie and from what I gather, really learnt the art. I still recall the first scene as Junior when one can see Kamal’s throat muscles move as Junior speaks! Kudos to the man, the actor and the artist.

In my opinion, Avargal sums up Kamal’s performance in many a movie. Caring more about the role than his presence or appearance - illustrated in Apoorva Raagangal, Guna, Swathi Muthyam (Sippikkul Muthu), 16 Vayadhinile, Kalyanaraman, Anbe Sivam, etc. His versatility with languages / accents - MMKR, Tenali, Maharasan, Sathi Leelavathi, Chanakyan, Panchathanthiram, Rama Bhama Shyama, Ek Duuje Ke Liye, etc. His dedication in learning the art to become the character depicted — Sagara Sangamam (Salangai Oli), Punnagai Mannan, Apoorva Sagodarargal etc.

The man really deserves A++.

Kamal A2Z: Anbe Sivam

Editor’s Note: Here’s a reader who has just now turned author on this blog, with this wonderful post. Please welcome, Deepauk! Who’s next? How about taking up Aasheerwaadam or Anthuleni Katha or Aval Appadithaan?

To paraphrase Bertrand Russell, a stupid man’s report of what a clever man intends to portray on screen may never be accurate. Nevertheless I shall attempt an interpretation. The movie has been alternately hailed and dismissed from different sections for various reasons. I will touch on the screenplay and the characterizations, two items that are sometimes knocked.

A frequent criticism leveled against the movie is the script, especially the flashback sequence. A simple exercise to determine if a scene is superfluous to a screenplay is to remove that scene or sequence and see if the movie still holds together. Anbe Sivam stands up to this test very well. Apart from 2 songs (an occupational hazard in the Indian Film Industry), the removal of any scene would rip through the entire fabric of the movie. Some sequences while clich├ęd from a birds eye view are less so when examined. The minor banalities in structure are acknowledged by the writer through Madhavan’s “Puratchi Kathaanayagan Thimiru pudicha Kadhaanayagi” (dashing hero, arrogant heroine) dialogue.The entire sequence in Bala’s house serves to emphasize the romance, Kandaswami Padaiyaachi’s opportunistic theism and finally the reason for Bala’s continued involvement with Nalla. The action sequence sets up the scene afterward in the police station (the actor playing the inspector is a riot). It forces Nalla to come to terms with the consequences of his dalliance with the daughter of the man whose policies he resents.

I would like to mention 2 specific scenes that contrast the range of anecdotes that were drawn upon to deliver exposition in the movie. First, the portentous scene about the Tsunami that plays out in the Bhubaneshwar Hotel; the description of the photography-enthusiast consumed by the seas is supposedly based on a tragedy that befell a close friend (source: Kamal the writer himself in an interview to Sun TV). The scenes at the mural unveiling in Kandaswami Padaiyachi’s office are based on, I presume, Diego Rivera’s mural for the Rockefeller Center (a point to note here is Nalla’s allegiance, much like Russell, lies more with Marx than with Lenin). Referencing an intensely personal experience as well as global pop culture in the same movie should be a stretch, but it is pulled off with consummate ease.

The obvious strengths in the Nalla role apart, what is really meant to step out of the movie and slap the average yuppie viewer’s face is the Anbarasu character. Madhavan delivers the wake up call well, combining socially accepted selfishness and naivete’ with aplomb. Even small characters like the members of the Koothupattarai (street play troupe in Tamil Nadu), Mehrunnisa and Pounkunju in particular, are given a lot of depth. And for the piece-de-resistance we return to Nalla. For nearly 2 hours the man is infallible. He has fought the Indian government and won, waded through floods, chased a train, lost and donated blood and through his generally gregarious nature managed to traverse nearly the entire east coast of the country on a leg and a half. And then suddenly the self-assured “last-word-freak” has all his insecurities laid out in one line. “Manaivingurathu oru karpanai walking stick. Manam Nondaama Irukkanum Ille” (”The concept of wife is an imaginary walking stick. The mind shouldn’t go lame, right?”). Nalla’s imaginary walking stick clearly shows Kamal Haasan’s imagination needs none.

[Picture courtesy: BehindWoods]

Kamal A2Z: Ananda Jothi

Natural performance. An expression that is used at the drop of a hat by our critics, that it ought to be taken out of the English language for servicing. Anyway it is a curious expression to use with regard to the art of acting. As a sage once put it, “from the point of view of feeling, the actor’s craft is the type (of all art)“.

Child actors, one would naturally suppose, are the best candidates for such performances. Such a supposer would have obviously not been acquainted with Tamil film children, particularly those of the yesteryears. These little pieces of heaven can be spotted swaying their head from side-to-side during song sequences and talking lengthy dialogues with righteousness oozing from their ears. All this of course if they are not tugging at the heartstrings with polio stricken legs or polishing boots to support their co-orphan younger brothers. Unless of course, the child in question happens to be Kamal Haasan.

After a National Award winning debut in KaLathoor KannammA and a dual role in PaarthAl Pasi Theerum, Kamal played the role of the heroine’s kid brother in the MGR-Devika starrer Ananda Jothi. The movie is as routine as it gets: a dispossessed rich man MGR, an epitome of simplicity and rectitude, goes about righting wrongs and finally living happily ever after. Notable here is the performance of the child Kamal Haasan. For anyone who may think this is just some retroactive praise, the movie is highly recommended, and a feeble description of a scene is attempted below.

MGR is an upright teacher Anandan, in a school run by Devika’s family and has an image of not bowing to authority. What Devika doesn’t know is that MGR is also writes poems (don’t even ask!) by the name Maniyarasan, whom she adores. Devika’s brother Kamal, studies in the school and can’t stop admiring his teacher.

In an ensuing exchange where she passes messages through Kamal that his teacher is an idiot while Maniyarasar is a genius. The message itself is triggered by a comment from Kamal: “unga maNiyarasar periya ivarO?” (roughly translates to a sarcastic: “your Maniyarasar is a great chap, eh?”). The twang and intonation are to be heard to be believed.

MGR translates the English word ‘idiot’ for Kamal. The child is outraged that his sister could have chosen such a word to describe his teacher and is angrier still that he was made to carry the message. His reaction is spontaneous and enchanting. He carries back MGR’s barb to his sister and closes the sequence with a witty smile: “pEchchu vittA pEchchu vaangikka vENdiyadhu thAn” (if you dish it out, be prepared to take them too!). And all this, with impressive expression and intonation. Natural talent, is what comes to mind, just that it isn’t compliment enough.

Of course this cannot be compared with Kalathur Kannamma. He literally drove the second half of that movie, performing with unbelievable ease. Ananda Jothi on the other hand, is yet another case of Kamal showing his mettle in an ordinary film. He would do it for a while later too.

Editor’s Note:

Prabhu Ram has picked a not-so-familiar movie and given a good start to the series. Readers, you are encouraged to send in your entries — immediately for the letter ‘A’ and not so urgently for other letters. ‘A’ itself has a whole lot of movies — Arangetram, Apoorva Sagodharargal and Avvai Shanmughi to name a few. Or can you enlighten readers about ‘B’ for Benkiyalli Aralida Hoovu, next fortnight? All your entries, with the subject-line as “Kamal A2Z Submission”, are awaited at randramble AT gmail DOT com. An even simpler way to contribute is to just comment on such posts, adding more info and thoughts about the movie covered. More info on the series is here.

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