THAGUDU THAGUDU – THE KAAKKI CHATTAI CHRONICLES – PART III

 

Sirichchukkittay Sudalaamay

“Sirichchukittay Sudalaamay !”

 

Sirichchukkittay Sudalaamay 1

Sirichchukkittay Sudalaamay 2

 

Dedicated to all the readers who magnanimously stuck with this article series till this Third and Concluding part of the  Trilogy

 

(Contd. From Part II)

Part III : The Last Stop Before Tucumcary

To borrow a line………. from an unassuming classmate of mine  (rhyme intended), this film in many ways was the last stop before Tucumcary, a figment of our imagination, an oasis after a hard, long ride across  tough terrain, where you popped into the nearest saloon for a drink and stayed in familiar civilization or changed horses and continued the journey to a different experience. (Original line : This train does not stop at Tucumcary)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1DcFhaCCwI

http://www.amazon.com/For-Dollars-More-Clint-Eastwood/dp/B000IZXHQQ

 

For a Few Dollars More

This film was  a List of Lasts.

 

It’s the Last movie in which the gang of smugglers  meet in a den in full ‘get up’ with leather jacket worn over a sweater  in the searing, sweltering 104 degrees Madras heat.

Its the Last movie in which the police spies (Kamal and Madhavi) do a song and dance routine a la  Billa (the Don hangover) during the smugglers ‘summit’ in the gang headquarters.

 

PooPoatta Davani

It’s the  Last movie carrying veteran dialogue writer A.L. Narayanan’s alliterative Karunanidhi style dialogues.

Its also the Last movie in which Kamalahasan speaks English with an ‘English’ accent ……..

– not to be mistaken for a Brit or American accent, this is a region  neutral, stylized form of English spoken only by Kamalahasan which is passionately well enunciated ……..and when alternated with equally well enunciated Kamal style Tamil, enhances the impact of the dialogue delivery and also the brand value of the actor.

 

This was shamelessly routine masala fare and since it is produced by Sathya movies, the regulation homage is paid to MGR posters making their appearance during fight scenes, the Egyptian costumes and sets from  MGR’s ‘Adimai Penn’ in love duets and an MGR photo in police garb in the hero’s pooja room.

You also have the atrocious spectacle of Kamal in FULL formals and jacket  and Ambika  in a FULL saree dancing around trees to the foot tapping “Vaanilay Thaynila Aadudhay”, the saving grace being the proceedings of the “gang summit” chaired by Vicky (Sathyaraj) during  the interludes of the song.

 

The diversion caused post the ‘Singaari Saarakku’ song where the hero escapes from the police and  makes his entry into the gang of smugglers is Don / Billa all the way.

 

The police mole (Senthamarai in Rayban coolers) in the smugglers  gang – more of the same.

Paattanaarayay sandhaygappaduvayn

“Onnoada PARTNER  enna…… Onnoada PAATTANAARAYAY sandhaygapaduvayn ! “

No one ever lost money underestimating the exasperating tastes of the Tamil cine going audience – as heterogenous and schizophrenic as they come – willing to sample unfamiliar and alien dishes but scurrying back to the familiar protection of thayir sadham when it comes to the crunch.

Even amidst technical wizardry, Tamil movies couldn’t break out of the screechy melodrama mold – and sometimes looked like photographed plays meandering between colloquial dialogues ,  Senthamizh Soliloquies ( Hey that rhymed ! ……  I  must be  channeling A.L.Narayanan)  and alliterations  ad infinitum (Like Exhibit A : Ambika tearing up her own painting – “Adhula Art irukku aanaa Heart illa ! “  Exhibit B – Kamal confronting Sathyaraj on the non-existent thagudu  “Onnoada PARTNER  enna…… unnoda PAATTANAARAYAY sandhaygapaduvayn ! “

Art Not heart 1

“Adhula ART irukku…….Aanaa  HEART illa”

 

The Madras audience is an open hearted audience and has been more welcoming of the better Hollywood movies unlike the other metros but Madras is not representative of the Tamil cine going audience which, in many ways, is  heterogenous –  leading to an A center, B & C center divide which forces movies to be cobbled together with disparate elements with ace Western style choreography in one scene and “ladies’  sentiment” in another scene.

 

The script plays along this safe route.

Murali (Kamal) is supposed to be a constable’s son but he moves effortlessly between Madras lingo, senthamizh (in the serious dialogues) and  stylized English.

Why would someone with such formidable talents want to join the police force and become an IG ?

It seems some things dont change even after thirty years. In Gethu, Amy Jackson is an Iyengar , who wants to become a newsreader on Doordarshan. Why? Because it was the unfulfilled dream of her “thoappanaar.

Cho has the last word on this.

In his ‘Saraswathiyin Selvan’, the hero turns the full chilly blast of his personality on the heroine.

“Naan BSc padichchayn, MBBS padichchayn, London-la FRCS padichchayn………Adhunaalathaan ippo AUTO DRIVER vaylaila irukkayn !!”

 

HA ! VAARAYVAA !

 

‘Kakki Chattai’ is a potboiler to the power ‘N’ but one can sense the restlessness to try something new.

 

 

By accident this film marked a  major course correction in the way Tamil movies were structured in terms of dialogues and characterizations i.e with shades of grey.

Like this bit from another subsequent A.L.Narayanan collaboration (Makkal En Pakkam).

Sathyaraj “ Naan yengapaa desa droham pannitrikkayn ? Naan Ghazni thirudina thangaththa India vukku thirumbi yeduththundu vandhundrukkayn. Idhukkupayr samooha sayvai ! “

(What I’m doing is not smuggling – I’m bringing back the gold which Mahmud Ghazni looted from India – This is not smuggling – its Social service !).

HA !  VAARAYVAA !!

 

Also, Tamil cinema was slowly gaining the  ability to laugh at itself.

Kamal in ‘Thoongaadhay Thambi Thoongaadhay’  addresses his  twin in a drunken stupor

“Hey Nee yaaru man ?……. Namma Manasaatchithaanay ?”

 

 

Come to think of it – Paramount  should pay A.L.Narayanan  a royalty fee.

Three years later from Brian De Palma ‘s Untouchables –

(Al Capone)  “What is bootlegging ? When I’m involved its bootlegging – when its Lake Shore Drive its hospitality”

http://www.amazon.com/The-Untouchables-Special-Collectors-Edition/dp/B00029NKU6

 

In the ‘70s, director K.Balachandar did what Ambani did for the stock markets in the eighties, he brought the middle class into the equation and created  a niche audience.

 

Not on the same scale, but a quiet revolution was taking place in the background – like Mani Rathnam quitting his Management consultancy and cutting his teeth in films in an obtrusive fashion in Kannada and Malayalam.

Pushpak was still a couple of  years away.

 

The ground was being prepared …………………….

 

The audience was slowly getting ready …………………..

so were the next generation of film makers………………….and

so was that ubiquitous mentor of all experiments that had the potential to transform Tamil cinema…….. a  gent  going  by the name of  Kamalahasan.

 

 

 

The Villain Becomes the Hero

 

If it was Comedy Ka Kamal  with Ambika thrown in in the first half, its Sathyaraj all the way in the second half.

It is evident that the script underwent a major overhaul after the ‘Thagudu’ appeared on the scene .

It would be fallacious to infer that this  film was intended as a Sathyaraj vehicle – that would be akin to saying you could actually have predicted that India would win the 1983 cricket World Cup.

The film’s makers just happened to stumble on a rich vein of gold and  kept following its trail upstream to see where it would lead them.

It would be uncharitable to say that Sathyaraj stole the show all by himself.

The course correction was backed by Kamal to the hilt.

More than  just an actor or star, Kamal is a high powered movie exec and representative of the Tamil film industry and needs to be credited for his shrewd instincts in recognizing  Sathyaraj’s potential in transforming the film into something more than a routine Masala almond studded candy bar.

There was no way any script could get past Kamalahasan  just like there was no way the dwarfs could be reds (closet communists)  under Snow White’s bed unless Walt Disney wanted them to.

 

This film set off a trend of delicious  lines for the bad guys and making them pivotal characters.

 

In Act II, we are dropped hints of what is to come but never expect it just the same – like  Vicky’s  (Sathyaraj) reactions while issuing orders to his henchmen. “Sarakka lorryla yayththiyaachchaaa ?”

(Lorry Driver hood) “Yes. Sir”

(With a  wide grin) “Porappadu” – Short and sweet  and  tickles the senses. When the lorry driver  again calls the boss on the walkie talkie while approaching a police checkpost, his (Sathyaraj’s) instruction is  ultra brief

– “Maattikkaadhay ! ”.

 

We are fed one punch line after another but are still taken unawares when the next one is delivered.

 

Rather than mocking the material, Sathyaraj digs into it with relish and communicates his enjoyment to the viewer. He does not take himself seriously but he takes the audience very seriously and comedy is serious business.

 

(After his partner is shot dead by Madhavi) “ Vitturu !  Avan Over Brain-aa irukkarudhunaala Overtake pannittaan nnu soldrayn !”
Its not as if actors hadnt thought of this aspect before.

M.R.Radha wasn’t averse to trying this out. In Dharmam Thalai Kaakkum he plays the father of the heroine and incidentally the villain . When the police force arrives as usual in the penultimate scene to arrest him and ask him to get in the police jeep, he responds by pointing to his Studebaker……………

“Costly car …..idhuliyay poalaamay ?

HA !  VAARAYVAA !

 

That was thirty years ahead of its time.

 

Considering that   Sathyaraj  is tall for  a Tamilian, his neuromuscular agility (both physical and mental) is awesome. Its like watching a big, mobile, silent  cat getting into position lightning fast –  like a well organized batsman.

Whether its sitting and crossing his legs all in one swift motion into a plush sofa and lighting a cigarette at the same time or arriving just in time to accidentally eavesdrop on a mole in his gang.

He patrols the area from square cover to long-off very well and he does it all with flair.

Smugglers Den Smoking Pipe

 

He walks the dangerously thin line between casual comic timing and  not taking himself (or the script too seriously) with devastating dexterity, a class trapeze act which in the hands of a lesser actor would have degenerated into –

at best,

a spoof which would have evoked nothing more than a few chuckles and then been forgotten – or,

at worst,

a tragic farce sending the film’s producer into the bankruptcy court before the editor even lays his scissor on the reel.

 

His fake servility when agreeing heartily  and at the same time ordering  the police mole (Senthamarai) to shoot Murali (Kamal) is a case in point.

“Correct  Correct  Correct  !!- Uh Bhaskar ?  Sudu paa ! “

Bhaskar Correct Correct Correct

And he does all this  with his eyes CLOSED !

or nearly closed since he’s got these trademark small round coolers on all the time, you can never see his eyes and an actor is supposed to use them to emote, remember ?

 

With his casual dialogue delivery, he makes light work of AL Narayanan’s alliteration which belongs in a different era.

“Dei Murali…..Nee porandhadhulayrndhay CID……….Naan porandhadhulayrndhay Kaydee

 

 

Once Murali (Kamal)  is produced in front of Vicky at his  hideout after his failed interview for police force selection, the wheels are set in motion.

 

Sathyaraj in Don Corleone like fashion makes Kamal an offer he cant refuse – (or rather) should not refuse

i.e to switch loyalties from the police force to Sathyaraj’s gang.

He finishes his piece of advice almost whispering “Solldradhu puriyudhu illa ?”

(Kamal) “Aamaam puriyudhu….Naasookkaaa Desaththukku Droham seidaa nnu solldra, illa ?”

(Vicky’s punchline delivered in soft but fascinated tones) “ Paravaa illiyay !  Purinjikkittiyay !”

 

An Offer You Cant Refuse

It doesn’t stop there.

After Kamal issues a proclamation saying that the next meeting with him would be in police uniform ending up with Vicky (Sathyaraj) in the prison cell, the henchman reacts in customary loyal indignation.

 

(Jana the henchman) “Dammit ! Avan paattukku paysittu poaraan ? Oru vaartha sollunga boss. Avana suttu thallarayn”

 

{Sathyaraj’s  oh so casual backhand dismissal}

 

“Deidei.      Avvalavu seekramaa ivanellaam thyaagi aakkidakoodaadhu. …………………………Valaiya poattukkuttay irukkanum………….Vizhavayndiya nayrathla………..VIZHUNDHURUVAAN.”

 

It helps that for a change the characters are well etched and have endearing quirks.

Vicky maybe an underworld ganglord but he’s hundred percent  focused on business and comes down hard on partners who don’t pay attention to the task at hand and  get distracted by wine and women.

 

He’s also  got  sound business ethics.

“Pandradhu yennavo kadaththal thozhil….Aaanaa Adhilayum oru NAANAYAM irukkanum illa”.

 

HA !  VAARAYVAA !

Smugglers Summit

 

(Smugglers Summit)

 

EPILOGUE

Shippies are restless people. And my youngest paternal uncle was no different. Like all shippies, he yearned for a taste of home. The moment he landed in Madras (he used to put up at my grandparents’ ) the first thing he wanted to do was catch the latest tamil flick.

My father was no different. I remember being dragged along for a tour of the city well  past my official bedtime till we landed up watching of all films ‘Samsaaram Adhu Minsaaram’ .  My brother and sister politely demurred and since I was the “good” boy, I had to tag along. The next time it was ‘Mouna Ragam’  when it was still running to empty houses before word of mouth publicity did the trick.

Visiting our uncle at our grandparents’ place was  something we eagerly looked forward to. There was the attraction of the latest Sansui sound system, its electronic fragrance fresh off the ship’s cabin and the latest Beegees song collection on original FOREIGN pre-recorded cassettes. (He didn’t bring a VCR because VCRs were still too costly and the Video Library had not yet made its appearance).

In the mornings after polishing off grandma’s brunch, we spent the lazy days, sitting on the floor of the  balcony, our legs dangling through the grill, watching the new shiny red PTC buses with yellow wheels, plying on PT Rajan road.
KK Nagar had no topline theatres and so the inauguration of the brand new Udhayam theatre was a godsend.

Kaakki Chattai was the first film to be released in it.

 

My uncle lost no time in dragging us along.

Quoth the uncle “Kamal movies attract the “decent” crowd. I liked him in ‘Aval Appadithaan’ man ! ”.

My uncle was a renegade.

Of all the Kamal films he had to mention ‘Aval Appadithaan’ !

 

After the underwhelming start and after sitting through the movie, he came out with mixed feelings – not too amused at the hyper masala fare dished out but thoroughly tickled by the reprieve in the form of  Sathyaraj’s second half heroics.

 

Rewind again to the  Doordarshan interview   mentioned in the Prologue (Part I of this article)

 

Last question of the interview.

 

(Interviewer) “Unga favourite villain yaaru ?”

 

(Sathyaraj) “Mmmmmmmm………..”

 

“English padaththula …………….Mackenna’s Gold – Omar Sharif………….”

 

“Hindi padaththula…………………Sholay  – Gabbar Singh………………….”

 

“Tamizh padaththula……………………….”

 

“Sigappu Rojakkal – KAMALAHASAN !!

 

 HA !!  VAARAYVAA !!

 

(CONCLUDED)

 

The Interview

https://thezolazone.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/thagudu-thagudu-the-kaakki-chattai-chronicles-part-i/

 

Marlon Travolta – The Bollywood Mis-Adventure

https://thezolazone.wordpress.com/2016/03/19/thagudu-thagudu-the-kaakki-chattai-chronicles-part-ii/

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THAGUDU THAGUDU – THE KAAKKI CHATTAI CHRONICLES – PART II

Yeh Tho Kamaal Ho Gaya

Dedicated to my CA articleship buddy John Sudeep Koleth for all those lovely memories of the countless arguments we had on which movie to go to after bunking the client’s audit 

(Contd. From Part I – Link Below)

https://thezolazone.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/thagudu-thagudu-the-kaakki-chattai-chronicles-part-i/

 

Part II : Marlon Travolta – The Bollywood  Mis-adventure

In the early ‘80s, Kamalahasan was multitasking with Hindi and Tamil films.

The Hindi audience had never seen anything like him before – he was the closest that one could get to a phenomenon called Marlon Travolta.

i.e  some one with phenomenal talent, with experience of the stage – who does everything Marlon Brando did from Method acting to doing unconventional roles and also  exercising his contractual right / option to revise whole scripts……. PLUS DANCING.

The Bollywood film press was very active,  propping up paper tigers to find an alternative to Amitabh Bachchan. So there was that added pressure.

He did acquit himself well, even though he didn’t have the essential chocolate hero looks.

The Hindi audience liked him but they wanted to see him exhibit his talent for dance and keep dancing around for a few more movies till they felt they wanted something more.

Amitabh did only one movie a year but this was still 1984, all animals were equal but some were more equal than others.

But Kamal’s idea was that he was already 100 films old before he came to Hindi cinema and he was a big boy and wanted to do meaningful films. That was a fatal error of judgement. Remakes of Aboorva Ragangal (Ek Nai Paheli) and some of his other unconventional Southern hits  bombed  and within no time he found himself sandwiched between heavy weights in forgettable multi starrers like ‘Raj Tilak’.

Years later, after Apu Raja (Aboorva Sagodharargal) succeeded in Hindi, he reminisced after seeing the Aamir Khan, Madhuri Dixit starrer ‘Dil’  – “A film like ‘Dil’ should have been my third film in Hindi – THEN I’d have been in business”.

 

Its not enough to eat Woodlands Drive-in Idli, Vada, Sada Dosa once in a month. You need to eat it every other day. So also with Kamal, Rajni films in the 80s – the assembly line needed to churn out potboilers all the time, else the audience was apt to forget you.

 

So also with Kamal. With one foot in the competitive Bollywood of the ‘80s, he wasn’t able to churn out as many films as the Tamil market required to satiate its appetite.

So, he had to be RE-introduced all the time in films cleverly disguised as (Re) launch vehicles.

This was also around the time he was looking to RE-invent himself in order to meet the rising competition from rising star ‘Style Mannan’ (as he was initially known) Rajnikanth.

Kamal always had this diffidence in the corner of his psyche about his Bharathanatyam expertise and was therefore trying to transform the  dancer (the lithe youth of Aval Appadithaan and Nizhal Nijamaagiradhu) and the feminine tag associated with it into the Macho beefcake man of  Sakalakalaa Vallavan.

He even appeared in an interview once on Doordarshan (conducted by an assortment of fans) in his sleeveless shirt in order to show off the newly acquired macho biceps.

Even after a hit like Sakalakala Vallavan, the Hindi (mis)adventure left him meandering off course and losing ground to his rivals.

 

So, Kaakki Chattai was another reintroduction (and reinvention) of Kamal in Tamil which was supposed to touch all the masala bases as we will see later.

 

When I saw the film,  the first time, and with the expectations that go with a Kamalahasan movie, the start was underwhelming. The movie began but even when the title cards came on, the pace was lethargic to say the least. It looked like a desperate attempt to package a hero for the audience. The color scheme was all infrared or whatever you call the grading of the print similar to the color of the surroundings as seen through the eyes of the creature called  the  Predator in that Schwarzenegger movie.

You half expected the hero and heroine to come out from behind the screen and greet the audience like a star son launch in Bollywood.

 

You wanted to cry out “When’s the movie going to START ??!!

In the first scene, we see  the hero doing his “gym-nastics” in the terrace of his house with bar bells, etc but without the fancy gym equipment. This goes on for some time and when we are fully convinced that he’s a real macho guy, he ups the ante.

 

He does a Rithika Singh (Irudhi Suttru) i.e he does a  push up on one hand.

Kaakki Chattai One Hand Push up 2

The novelty of that one-hand push up resulted in that visual being carried in the initial posters of the film.

On hindsight, after watching the rest of the movie, we realize that  Kamal is  “in character ”  from shot one. He lugs the barbells and weights to the terrace like a fearful, devout husband lugs the household provisions indoors.

The Under-rated Comedian

In his films of the seventies, the Kamal persona had a rich vein of humour which in turn stemmed from the characters he played. For instance, the lecherous rake he played in Manmadha Leelai also had a streak of  sophisticated Don Juan buffoonery – the kind you would associate  with any youth trying to impress the opposite sex.  Similarly in Ninaithaalay Inikkum, where he chats up Jayapradha on a flight to Singapore.

In Simla Special, where he plays an everyday Joe who works at an everyday job (but who knows how to Dance !), his snappy asides  make the transition seamless  from one major gag situation to another. Like his calling out to the drama troupe musicians as he hurries into the theatre  from the office to have his make up done before the opening curtain “Yennappaa?…………. Sruthi sayththitrukkeengalaa ?….. Drama mudiyarthukkulla Sayththiruveenga illa  ?

Depending on the viewer’s age he was either the wise cracking young “uncle” next door (if the viewer was in the 6th standard at school)  or the humorous eligible bachelor next door (if the viewer was an adult).
But ofcourse, the audience required the mandatory sidekick comedian to accompany the hero. During the seventies it was Suruli Rajan who accompanied Kamal all the way to Europe (Ullaasa Paravaigal).

In the early eighties, it was Thengai Srinivasan but with his limited agility there was only so far he could tag along. So invariably he either appeared in the role of the hero’s boss (Tik Tik Tik) or neighbor–well wisher (Meendum Kokila).

 But with  the loss of Suruli due to cirrhosis and Thengai Srinivasan, due to his lack of agility (in Kaakki Chattai he appears in exactly two scenes but not without making a strong impression with his description of Kamal “Exercise bodeee (body), Rangoon mochchakottai maadhri rendu kannu…”), Kamal goes the comedy route alone.

 

The first half of the movie is all about the travails of a wide eyed innocent youth, Murali (Kamal), a constable’s son, who aspires to become  a daredevil police officer.

 

Throughout the first half his wide eyed innocence is endearing and so is his collateral stupidity.

Somewhere in Act I,  Murali’s (Kamal) love interest Uma (Ambika), who hosts an exhibition of her paintings, also does one of Kamal in full police uniform.

He drops by her gallery and after getting over his revulsion at the other risqué art exhibits she’s displayed,  chances upon the painting of his likeness (in police uniform) and forgets to look at the face and instead tries to figure out the rank of the “police officer” like a child tries to figure out the power of a new Pokemon character, by counting the medals and finally after discovering that it is indeed himself, runs away with the painting like a child who chances upon a long cherished toy in a shop.

Kaakki Chattai Police Painting

 

A banal act in an unapologetically masala setting but Kamal pulls it off convincingly throughout the movie and lends consistency to what was essentially a non-role as the audience was about to find out in the defining second half.

Ofcourse, the question of how such an innocent, ‘pazham’ bloke is able to get a girl can be swept conveniently under the carpet.

 

In another scene, he dons a police uniform especially made for him by Ambika’s tailor (ofcourse after Kamal confirms that the uniform is indeed proper “IG oada tailoraaa ?…appoanaa  semma  tailor ! )  and they visit the temple together.

Ambika is the perfect foil, alternatingly amused and exasperated by Murali’s (Kamal) lack of smarts. A bystander asks politely, “Saar endha station ?“ (in obvious reference to Kamal in uniform).

 Ambika’s caustic reply “Uh ? Railway station !”

Kaaki Chattai Inspector Samsaaram

Another  onlooker remarks to his friend. “Avaroada poarudhu inspector oada samsaaramaa ?”

On hearing this Kamal insists on a show down with the smart aleck, justifying it by “Kittakka vandhaa ‘samsaaram’ nnu solluvaan………… Konja dhooram poanaa  ‘Samaaasaaram’ nnu solluvaan !”

HA ! VAARAYVAA !!

 

(To be concluded)

Next Part :  The Last Stop Before Tucumcary

THAGUDU THAGUDU – THE KAAKKI CHATTAI CHRONICLES – PART I

Thagudu Thagudu

“Dei Jana – Thagudu Engadaa ?”  “Huh ?” “Thagudu Thagudu” 

 

Dedicated to my CA articleship buddy John Sudeep Koleth for all those lovely memories of the countless arguments we had on which movie to go to after bunking the client’s audit 

 

PROLOGUE  –  THE  INTERVIEW

Shippies are restless people. And my father was no different.

Shippie is slang for someone who works in the Merchant Navy.

Once they get home from the high seas they’re not sure what to do from dawn to dusk. Even reading a newspaper is done in a restless fashion. And in the meantime they drive everyone at home crazy.

One evening before dinner, the TV was blaring away and my father was restlessly  rifling through the day’s paper, hoping to find something interesting. It was in one such restless moment that suddenly, the next program announced, was an interview with actor Sathyaraj.

This took me unawares.

In 1985, this was a BIG DEAL. There was No way I could have NOT  known about this. Film based programs were announced donkey’s years in advance by our sadistic Doordarshan programmers.

There were no other entertainment options at home, even in 1985.

Even 4 years later, when it was announced that the Sunday evening movie to be shown would be ‘Mouna Ragam’,  the streets took on a different hue in the run up to that lovely Sunday – something like the run up to Deepavali.

Now, my father had never heard of Sathyaraj and since he was at sea for long periods of time, he was cut off from Tamil movies. So, his rapt attention over the next half hour was a tribute to our “hero”s charisma and attention drawing power.

I remember the interviewer well. He wouldn’t get a job in television today. He looked like a Theni district “button man”  from the land of the Thevars, only he had a trimmed moustache and shirt (untucked) and his eyes glowed with admiration as he conducted the interview.

{Definition of  Button Man : When the boss wants someone “out of the way” and asks you to “push the button” on a guy, you “push the button”. The button man is the guy who does the “button pushing”.}

 

(Interviewer) : “How did you get into movies ?”

(Sathyaraj) : “After college I tried my hand at different ways of making money. Being a scrap merchant was a sure ticket to getting rich but it looks like I was the ONLY one who didn’t !”

 

{My father’s attention went up a notch. He met up every week with two buddies of his, who were scrap merchants. }

 

(Sathyaraj) “ I even opened an ice cream parlour but even that lost money. Luckily my father paid most of the bills. Somewhere along the way I drifted into acting”

(Interviewer) : “Where the hell did you stumble upon this  ‘Thagudu Thagudu’ (a famous punchline from the movie ‘Kaakki Chattai’ ) and how did it become so famous ?”

(Sathyaraj) : “Indha ‘Thagudu Thagudu’ onnumay illeenga.  Adhu casualaa spontaneousaathaan vandhudhu.”

{He went on to elaborate}

“The actor who played my henchman, Jana, was mentally elsewhere while the scene was being played. So when I spoke my line “Dei Jana,  Thagudu yengadaa ?”  he was taken unawares “Huh ?”

“I carried on without pausing for the Director’s “Cut” by reminding him, “Thagudu Thagudu” and  that’s how that line came to be !”

“Kamal (Kamalahasan) reacted immediately and said “Lets keep this take. Its sounds perfect”

Adhu yennavo bayangarama famous aaiduchchu”

(Now the googly) “But  adhuvay Click aagalanaa yenna bayangaramaa vaariruppeenga”

 

{His sense of perspective and utter lack of airs was stupefying. He didn’t behave like any star did at that time in Tamil cinema}

 

 

(Interviewer) “Why is it that you do everything casually ? Even when killing someone you don’t show emotion”

 

(Sathyaraj) “Now, If you have to stab someone it involves a lot of effort, so you definitely have to show emotion, right ?.”

“But shooting someone with a  pistol is a lot different. You don’t have to get emotional and worked up.”

“ Sirichchikkittay Sudalaamay ! “

 

{This was interesting. It could as well been a movie punch line delivered in his inimitable style. After a long time here was an actor with a mind of his own and with immense talent and ability to boot.}

 

{A clip from Nooravadhu Naal was shown next, with the popular catchphrase “Yennoada characterayay purinjukka maattayngiriyay !”}

 

(Interviewer) “Throughout the movie, you keep repeating,’Yennoada characterayay purinjikka maattayngiriyay !’.”

“Unga character thaan yenna ? Unga latchiyamthaan yenna ?”

 

(Violent reaction from Sathyaraj) : “KUDIPAZHAKKATHTHA OZHIKKANUM !!…………, VANMURAIYA OZHIKKANUM !!…………. VARUMAIYA OZHIKKANUM !!.……….………………………………………………….. Indha maadhiriyellaam latchiyam illeenga.”

 

This got us floored – the Sathyaraj persona was taking root and ready to fly.

For a few days thereafter my father was so tickled by that line ‘Yennoada characterayay purinjikka maattayngiriyay’ that he kept muttering it and smiling to himself at odd moments.

 

The next week, the Sunday movie telecast was an unusual one for a Rajnikanth flick ‘Sri Raghavendrar’ where he did the role of the eponymous saint.

Sathyaraj did a micro cameo – that is to say he appeared in one scene as a villainous Nawab and promptly stole the show. After a long time, here was an actor whose strength was his formidable dialogue delivery i.e an actor who could deliver long dialogues in Senthamizh  effortlessly and  (more important) without sounding funny !

He caught the imagination by ending each sentence with an expression of fake surprise : “Ha !  Vaarayvaa !!”

 

Again, my father , dropped everything and was all eyes and ears.

That interview on Doordarshan  was a sell out and did more for the movie than any amount of advertising.

There was this  very entertaining Madras centric magazine called ‘Aside’ which featured Sathyaraj on the cover, after Kaakki Chattai’s release.

Aside magazine movie reviews catered to the educated (but struggling) middle class. The movie reviews were much like the stuff you read in The Hindu Metroplus or countless blogs nowadays and therefore far ahead of its time, but the magazine required capital and also Madras was still a hic town with lack of glitz and a social scene so the magazine found it heavy going and folded up.

The  interview with Sathyaraj in Aside, among other things, described the food cooked at his  home as STRICTLY non-vegetarian (sic).

Like the Kamalahasan of the ‘70s he’d managed to intersect the masses and classes.

 

(To be concluded)

Next Part :  Marlon Travolta – The Under-rated Comedian