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 



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




  1. Brilliant! I think he and founder should start a political party. If not for anything else, just for entertainment. Lol@ sirichikitay sudalamey….. Sounded like thenga sreenivasan……

    That guy has more class and style than anyone can notice. ” vetti…. vetrivel,….. Walter…. Vetrivel”……I mean, that was a stupid character… Adhukke ivlo.

    Kamal was so impressed he produced kadamai kanniyam kattupadu under rajkamal. And b of course that role in vikram….

    I can’t stand him when he cries on screen….. Like satyaraj, will all that hair in his chest crying for his mother or sister…… But other wise I pretty much sit up like your dad did those days 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vivek : A bouquet of Thanks for your observations. I hope I’ve replicated atleast in part the electric surge I felt then when watching the interview on the infamous only game in town – Doordarshan.

      You’re spot on regarding the other stuff he’s done but thats a personal feeling I suppose. He’s definitely proved beyond doubt that he’s a versatile bundle of talent.


  2. well I really read it before the you just posted when I completed reading…
    what should I say….I was not at sea reading the article..!!! the dedication was brilliant..and I think it kindled a lot of memories about your dad also reminded me of the long forgotten admiration I had of this person..also reminded me of a memory approx 30 years back..the cover photo in Ananda Vikatan of him in casual jeans and check shirt with his bald hairdo seated on the floor… post the success of kaaki sattai..those days actors will never dare to go without make up..this guy was different indeed..well brought out zola😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ravi although not a follower of Tamil movies wanted to tell u I loved ur writing style and even found the Content engaging! Sending this link to a friend who will enjoy it for sure, with ur kind permission.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Another fantastic post Ravi. You have a natural way of bringing together memories and facts. Waiting for the next one. On Sathyaraj’s movies my favourites have been Kadhalora Kavithaigal and Vedam Pudithu. Not to forget his classy song with Rajini – ‘Ennama Kannu’ from the movie Mr Bharath.


  5. What a nice piece of nostalgia on one of my favorite actors. Satyaraj is one of those actors who very few directors like Manivannan knew how to utilize well. He was simply phenomenal in several Manivannan films like 100vadhu naaL, vidinja kalyanam, palaivana rojakaL (scripted by kalaignar) and of course, the unforgettable amaidhi padai. The way he casually shoots the astrologer (who predicted “95 years” for himself!) and says his lines with utter insouciance was chilling villainy of the highest order – “ivan aayulaye ivanuku kanika theriyala. ivan aduthavan aayula kanika vandhuttan…sarvam krishnarpanam-nu solli ellum thanniyum erarchu podhachudungo. abishtu abishtu” 🙂

    thanks, once again, for a lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ram Murali : You’re spot on about the Manivannan Sathyaraj collaboration. Sathyaraj was as you’ve rightly pointed a kind of protege, confidant rolled into one. Manivannan is also no mean practitioner of the more sophisticated brand of comedy. The amaidhi padai piece is a gem ! Ha ha. Thanks for reproducing THAT one for the blog. Mitka Nandri !

    P.S – Just finished reading your piece on ‘What is Modern ?” – rare breezy piece on what should be a thought provoking topic.


    • Thank you, Ravishanker.

      Manivannan brought out the best in Satyaraj and vice versa. Too bad that Manivannan passed away way too early. But I guess he packed in a lot of punch into a 20+ year career as a Director and actor.

      As an aside, have you watched his “ini oru sudhandhiram” *-ing Sivakumar and guest starring Satyaraj. It’s an arty film with its flaws (like extremely black and extremely white characters leading to a bit of predictability) but Manivannan’s dialogues were fantastic and thought provoking. It was made available on youtube a few months back much to my delight.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Another great Satyaraj performance was “Vedham Pudhidhu.”
    There is an unforgettable sequence where he advises Raja to sacrifice his love for Amala after hearing an earnest plea from Charuhassan. He aces both scenes.
    Note his dialogue delivery when he changes his tone to say, “Aana andha manusan kye yaendhi illadaa ninaaru.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Saar, what a slice of history this is! Is this interview available by any chance on youtube? Would love to watch. What answers! I have always had a soft corner for Sathyaraj. Yes, he was one of the few villains who could carry off a very casual laugh. When Amjad Khan, Prem Chopra or Danny Denzongpa laughed, it was always diabolical, larger than life (Amrish Puri was larger still). Villains had to be demonic. Sathyaraj’s casual attitude was refreshingly different and few have pulled it off since. The closest I can think of is Anupam Kher in Arjun but he was more serious and not pop culture icon stuff. Nazar also did a good job in Walter Vetrivel, with Sathyaraj ironically having to play the upright police officer. Avanga Sathyaraj oda character-aye purunjakalaye. Notice I didn’t really mention Tamil villains. For some reason they were rarely as impressive as the Hindi stalwarts at least to me. And yes, Kamal’s villainous turn in Sigappu Rojakkal was brilliant too. Though Bharatiraja chickened out with a sentimental ending and didn’t have the bulls to go all Kubrick on the viewers. Maybe it would have tanked if he had done so. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Madan : Really loved reading this comment.

    “Avanga Sathyaraj oda character-aye purunjakalaye” Double LOL

    Yes – Bharathiraja chickened out and so did Balachander in film after film. For instanc eI’d have loved to see Kamal and Srividhya together at the end in Aboorva Raagangal but thanks to the Tamil audience 😦

    Unfortunately I couldnt find this sathyaraj interview on the net. I’ve been searching for other such treasures too – like recordings of the old Kanmani Poonga programmes on DD. but without success.

    Finding McKenna’s Gold maybe easier. Until then I’ll have to play old Adam 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yeah, I did a fruitless youtube search too. A 90s TV capsule which I can play back in HD quality in the youtube of my mind but which nobody has uploaded to date is the subject of an upcoming write up of mine. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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