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Life as I'm learning it

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Location: Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States

"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an agèd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

When he moved us to tears...

A couple of days ago, I watched Thillu Mullu for the umpteenth time. It is, without doubt, one of the best comedy movies in Tamil. Visu's dialogues and screenplay couldn't have been better as K. Balachander turned Hrishikesh Mukherjee's runaway-hit Golmaal into a movie that was just as good, and one which had not a trace of being a remake.

Rajnikanth's acting prowess was matched by 'Thengai' Srinivasan's portrayal of Sriramachandra Moorthy, probably the latter's most memorable role since Kaasedhaan Kadavulada. A landmark in Rajnikanth's acting career, Thillu Mullu proved the superstar's ability to adapt to a comedy role with ease.

Surprisingly, I was drawn into thinking about the movies in which Rajnikanth essayed roles which brought to fore totally opposite emotions - sadness and melancholy. Here are my top five picks (in no particular order).

Aarilirundhu Arupadhuvarai

A simple movie which narrates the life of the eldest son of a large family, starting from the age of 6, when he loses his father. Singlehandedly, the boy raises the entire family and, at the cost of his own career and well-being, provides a good life to his brother and sister, only to be ditched by them later. Few directors other than KB could have visualised Rajnikanth in such a subdued role, and the actor delivered one of the best performances of his career. This movie features the melodious song Kanmaniye Kaadhal Enbadhu...

Mullum Malarum

Many of us, children of this generation, hasten to liken Kamal Hassan to Sivaji Ganesan, and Rajnikanth to MGR. However, during the days they learnt their trade, the reverse was true. It was Rajni who essayed the more mature, performance-oriented roles, whereas Kamal tried his hand a popular roles. The role of Kaali in Mullum Malarum stands out as Rajnikanth's finest acting performance ever. Not unlike KB, director Mahendran brought out the best in Rajni, who plays a brash villager who, without much reason, hates a city-bred engineer (Sarath Babu). Upon watching this one, I realised why films are called movies - for their ability to move the audience!

Shoba and Rajni as siblings brought inevitable comparisons to Sivaji and Savitri in Pasamalar. This movie, which features the evergreen hit song Senthazham Poovil... won Rajni his first State award for Best Actor.

Nallavanukku Nallavan

Rajnikanth's next movie, the eagerly-awaited Sivaji (The Boss), is produced by AVM. The superstar should feel indebted to the production house, because they gave him his first break as a hero in Murattu Kaalai. Rajni has acted in many other movies under the famed AVM banner, but Nallavanukku Nallavan should rank as the best of that lot. He portrays the transformation of a brash misled youngster into a refined and successful man with elan. Radhika, as the leading lady, excelled in an equally good role. Rajni's portrayal of a mature father won him critical acclaim.


This is personal favourite of mine. Rajnikanth doesn't utter a word for the much of the first 30 minutes, yet has a magnetic screen presence. Yet, as the characterisation begins to strike us, we realise how many sacrifices he has done for his undeserving brothers, and how they respond to it by milking him, and finally even sending him behind bars. Another fine example of a movie in which Rajni's character undergoes a sea-change due to the progression of events. How can one forget Maasi maasam aalana ponnu...?


For all the success that it has achieved, Chandramukhi is a crass movie without anything to write home about. One wonders what reception a movie like Dalapathi would have got had it been released last year. Mani Ratnam, who had achieved iconic status with Nayagan, returned with another gangster movie, this time with Rajnikanth in the lead. It is a tribute to Mani Ratnam's genius that he can retell a story we all know, and making us remark that his version is the better. Based on characters drawn from the Mahabharata (Kunti, Karna, Duryodhana and Arjuna), Mani weaves an interesting tale of a gangster, siding with the man who took him in his arms, fighting his own brother.

Dalapathi marked the first occassion when Rajnikanth was paid a salary of Rs 1 crore. GV, who produced the film, must have surely felt that the money was well-spent as the public ascribed it instant cult status. Mammooty as Deva provided such a compelling performance that some people argue till date that he was the better actor - again, a tribute to Mani Ratnam's casting. Powerful scenes punctuate the movie, like when Rajni expresses his dilemma, when he confronts his mother (Srividya) or when he is confronted by Mammooty... scenes during which yours truly, a boy of 9 years old, jerked with tears in Chennai's Albert theatre.

Some other movies in the list: Engeyo Ketta Kural, Pudhu Kavidhai, Padikkaathavan, Muthu, Mannan.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anna noda Paattu...Aattam Podudaa..

Akaraiya Ketta... Artham Noorudaa...

4/21/2006 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger Eshwar S said...

On reading this blog entry, one thing that immediately struck me was that Rajnikanth has always experimented different kinds of roles all throughout his career. Many people have this sterotype that Rajnikanth plays similar kind of roles in all his movies. I think thats not true at all. While, he may not be a Kamal Hasan, he has tried to provide enough variety to his audience to make his movies entertaining. I hope Vijay learns from him...

4/22/2006 12:38:00 AM  
Blogger Suresh S SCJP1.4 said...

hello guys

he takes character in such a way that it occurs to everybody life. and so
when they show rajni films on saturday and sunday every people try to watch it.
they place themselves in the character.

its all buisness

4/22/2006 02:18:00 AM  
Blogger Rams said...

As I started reading this post and intent of the post revealed itself, the first movie that struck me was the very first entry standing there :) [Aarilirundhu arubadhu varai]

I can't forget the "pathavechutiye parattai" role in padhinaaru vayadhinile as well...

Nice compilation.

4/22/2006 04:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Vijay Krishna said...

@Eshwar: Very true. At least during the first half of his career, he had built up an impressive portfolio of different roles. Clearly, superstar-wannabes are missing that point.

@Suresh: In his ability to lead the viewer into the thick of the action, Rajnikanth is like Sachin Tendulkar. With them, it is almost as if you are doing what they are.

@Rams: [i]Aarilirundhu arubadhu varai[/i] is a movie I relished a lot. So is 16 Vayadhinile.

4/22/2006 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger Bharateeyamodernprince said...

Even though Rajni excelled in Thillumullu, a full length comedy, the film which could be called as landmark film in Rajni career, transforming him from a boisterous image to a graceful one is THAMBIKKU YENTHA OORU, I think...

But even before that, we have seen Rajni doing a full length comedy role in NINAITHAALAE INIKKUM. The flash back scenes of POLLADHAVAN, the `Rajappa' Rajni of BHILLA, the innocent guy of THAI MAEL ANNAI...are also strikingly good.

And what about NETRIKANN? I think you missed to mention that film...

Rajni's acting scaled new heights in Sri Raghavendrar and Kai Kodukkum Kai (both didnt do well in the box office).

I think JOHNNY (yet another Mahendran film) brought the best out of Rajni, where he had to chance to show different variations in the character.

4/22/2006 11:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Vijay Krishna said...

@Prince: The criterion for the list was films in which Rajni excelled in a melancholic character. In any case, all the films you've mentioned are excellent ones, stuff which can be watched over and over again.

4/22/2006 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Hi said...

I am surprised you chose to omit PADAYAPPA from your list. P....was perhaps the best of Rajini's films ever for the sheet variety shown by him. Also Rajini really had to fight to retain his image in the face of some out-of-the-world acting by Ramya Krishnan. While your article was good, it still is incomplete w/out P.... being there. Good try.

4/23/2006 12:46:00 AM  
Blogger Prasanna said...

Vijay, that was an excellent post. Even I had similar views when watching Thillu Mullu on KTV. I thought that this was Thengai's second best performance after the classic Kaasedhan Kadavulada.
Gud list of Rajini's movies. He defn. excelled in character roles at that time.I wld also add "Bhuvana Oru Kelvi Kuri" to that list.

4/23/2006 08:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a list da! Up there! Probably, just like chappell asked sachin to view his old videos, somebody (KB?) should ask rajini to view his old movies. :-)

nice insight on rajini's earlier choices. special mention must be made of rajini's weird dialogue delivery. that is a big plus for him. It is after annamalai and baasha that he started playing ONLY to the crowd.

Ofcourse.. some of the dialogue delivery in Dalapathi. You know my all time favorite.. "Yena, nee en nanban".

Aarilirundhu... true that if somebody sees rajini's current movies they would scarcely believe that he acted in such a subdued role.

4/23/2006 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger மீனாக்ஸ் | Meenaks said...

As rightly pointed out by eshwar, Thalaivar has done a variety of roles that still stand him in good stead while emoting in "Superstar" movies. The current bunch of crappies who want to become "next super star" would do well to watch these movies and learn the astounding variety shown by the master himself.

Bravo on an excellent post.

4/23/2006 11:17:00 PM  
Blogger Subro said...

Baasha is one of the best movies of Rajini(and you left it out?). Chandramuki's success just shows the starvation of die-hard Rajini fans who were disappointed with "Baba", and had to wait nearly 5 years for a good entertainer.

Thillu-mullu is a good entertainer, anytime and everytime.

4/28/2006 01:12:00 AM  
Blogger Arvind Sharma said...

Great Post! Infact every time someone tells me-"Your Rajinikant is all style and no substance!" I retort-"Go and watch Aarilirunthu Arupathu Varai." Awesome movie. In my view Basha was the last grrrrrrrrrrreat movie with Thalaivar stamp on it...Ofcourse Thalapathi was great too, but it was more of a Manirathnam movie than super-star's. this might sound blasphemous...but nowadays I feel that Thalaivar would do well to take up older and more mature roles like Big B has done than load heavy make-up and chase young girls in tight jeans...

4/30/2006 05:38:00 AM  
Blogger Naresh Chandrasekaran said...

Nice post Vijay ! In fact, jus reading this blogpost gave me a feeling of watching a thalaivar's movie ;). I'm not a mad fan of Rajini but definitely a great admirer of his magnetism. My personal fav is 'Annamalai' - even when it has a normal storyline, it put me in gooseflesh and tears when I was in 5th std.
And whenever I see Mudhalvan, I jus can't avoid missing him. Imagine Rajini in the place of Arjun in the 'pal abhishegam' scene.. it would have been a scene which could have done miracles. :)
Rajini is Rajini... No one can match him.. "Avan perukulla Gaandham undu unmai dhaanadaa" :)

4/30/2006 06:14:00 AM  

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