Saturday, November 29, 2008

Coming Attractions board at Chitra Talkies

I found this picture on the Coming Attractions board at Chitra Talkies. My guess is that there is not a Tamil-speaker anywhere who wouldn't recognise him instantly. He is M. G. Ramachandran, known as MGR. MGR was an actor who used his immense popularity to become a successful politician. He became Chief Minister of the state of Tamil Nadu, of which Chennai is the capital, in which position he died in 1987.

Here is my summary of his movie Nan En Piranthen, "Why Was I Born?" (1972), one of the first Tamil movies I ever saw:
MGR (who was 55 at the time) plays a man just returned from college. His face is pink with makeup, and every closeup is in soft-focus. He is the sum of all virtues. During the title song he persuades drunkards to stop drinking toddy, stops a gambling match, etc. He arrives at home to find that his family has become poor, because they have mortgaged everything to put him through college. He goes to the city to find a job.

Back at home, his evil sister-in-law keeps intercepting the mail and stealing the money that he sends, so she and MGR's family are evicted.

In the city MGR saves a child from being run over by a car. The driver of the car, an old friend who has become successful, gets him a good job and lets MGR use his house while he goes to Europe. Unfortunately the boss wants to hire a bachelor, so for the sake of his family MGR tells a lie! The boss has a daughter who is confined to a wheelchair by a psychosomatic illness. MGR cures the illness by singing to her, and she falls in love with him.After MGR's family is evicted they set out to search for him. Their clothes appear brand new, but are covered with large, neatly sewn patches in different colors, to indicate their poverty.The boss's daughter is kidnapped and threatened with a forced marriage. MGR saves her, confesses that he is already married, she persuades her father to forgive him, MGR is reunited with his family, and all ends happily.

One of the things this summary tells you is that marriage is at the centre of Indian culture. You cannot watch a movie or a TV show - or listen to many conversations - without quickly coming to the subject of marriage. A sample dialogue from a TV show might be: "Hello, how are you?" "How can you ask how I am? Don't you know I'm trying to get my daughter married?"The other thing this summary tells you is that MGR was the noblest of men. He made sure that the characters he played never had the slightest negative tone. In a country where people are obsessed with movies, this helped his political ambitions: people confused him with his character. In real life he made well-publicized gestures, like buying raincoats for cycle-rickshaw drivers during the monsoon, which also contributed to this image.Perhaps the most bizarre incident in MGR's life was right out of the movies: for reasons that I have never seen explained, M. R. Radha, who acted as a villain in many movies, including MGR's, shot him in the neck. MGR's speech was permanently affected, but his escape from death created a wave of sympathy which boosted his career.Manirathnam's beautiful Tamil film Iruvar told a fictionalised version of the story of MGR and his chief political rival. MGR's character was played by the Malayali actor Mohan Lal. The heroine was played by Hindi filmstar Aishwarya Rai, in her first film role.
IruvarWhen I see a song from an old MGR movie on TV, it always makes me smile. He's so obviously counting the steps. Dancing was never his forte. At the end, the look of triumph on his face because he hasn't lost his balance makes me feel that I can keep mine too.

by Nancy From

Rajinikanth is losing his popularity

Tamil superstar Rajnikanth, presently the highest paid actor in India, came a poor fourth in a state-wide opinion poll conducted by students of a private educational institution.

The poll was conducted by Loyola College students. Outscoring Rajinikanth late thespians M.G. Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganeshan came first and second.

Vijay, relatively less known than Rajnikanth, has ranked third in the poll by getting 16.4 percent votes, while Rajnikant got 16.2.

Last year, Rajnikanth had topped the list followed by Vijaykanth.

The pollsters attributed the matinee idol’s fall from the top position to his latest flop Kuselan. The star is presently abroad shooting for Shankar’s Robot.

Actor-turned-politician Vijaykanth came fifth by getting 10.7 percent of the votes.

Amongst actresses, National Award winning B. Saroja Devi topped the favourite list, while J. Jayalalitha, AIADMK leaer, former chief minister and current leader of opposition, was ranked number two.

The third and fourth positions amongst former femme fatales were taken by the faded out K.R. Vijaya and recent retiree Jyothika Surya.

Controversial actress and television host Khushboo Sundar came fifth.

None of the current female heartthrobs including Trisha, Shreya Saran and Nayanthara came anywhere close to their seniors.

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