anjanashekar

Kollywood
The film had 6.00 am special shows that opened to houseful bookings on its day of release.
  • Friday, August 17, 2018 - 12:25

Early morning special shows, paalabishegam for flex banners, and houseful screens. This is how the audience has welcomed Lady Superstar Nayanthara’s latest flick, Kolamaavau Kolika (CoCo) which released on August 17.

Theatres like GK Cinemas in Porur, Rakki Cinemas in Ambattur and Kasi Theatre in Ashok Nagar opened special shows for CoCo, a privilege that has usually been reserved for male star-driven films.

Madhivanan, owner of GK Cinemas, says that the decision to open a 6.00 am show for Kolamaavu Kokila was based on previous responses. “We’ve been screening 6.00 am shows for all star driven films. We’ve had special shows for Vijay, Ajith, Rajini, Kamal, Sivakarthikeyan, Dhanush, Suriya, Karthi films. We’ve also had special shows for Telugu films,” he says.

In that line of male stars, this might be for the first time that a female star-driven film is getting its due share of the limelight. “There has been good expectation for this film. The bookings too have been houseful. We did not hesitate to open a special show because it was a female star-driven film. We know Nayanthara has a good fan base,” he adds.

Subramanian, owner of Kasi Theatre, adds that Nayanthara has a good fan following which encouraged them to go for a special morning show at 7.45 am. “We’ve also had special shows for her other films like Maya and Aramm. It is natural to acknowledge that Nayanthara has a huge crowd in the city itself,” he says.

The scene outside Kasi Theatre too was jubilant with fans performing the famed star worshipping ritual of paalabishegam for flex banners. While this act has always been associated with male actors like Rajini, Kamal, Vijay and Ajith, Nayanthara is probably the first female star to command such adulation.

Speaking to TNM, Venkatramanan, Social Media Manager of Kasi Theatre, says, “We know Nayanthara has a huge fanbase in the southern region. 'Kalyana Vayasu' single from the film too received great response. There was a good pre-release expectation for this film. It was an almost full house for this morning show. We also had Yogi Babu watch the special show with his friends. The response has been extremely good.”

Kollywood
While films in the pre-Independence era were about fighting colonisers, contemporary patriotism in cinema is about fighting terrorists.
  • Thursday, August 16, 2018 - 12:55

Patriotism is often portrayed in popular culture as one of the greatest virtues a person can possess. A trait of the highest order that immediately validates any action done in its name. Quite often, this notion of national pride, of unflinching devotion to one’s country, of pledging oneself for the sake of the country has been enforced through drama, films, music and art. The idea of patriotism is ever evolving and so is its portrayal in mass media over the years.

In this piece, we take a look at how Tamil cinema introduced the idea of patriotism in its films, how this presentation changed later and what it has become today.

Pre-Independence films

The very first Tamil film to talk about independence, patriotism, and with it social evils like untouchability, dowry, class inequality, etc., was Thyagabhoomi that came out in 1939, and was directed and produced by K Subramanyam. Based on a story written by journalist and author Kalki Krishnamoorthy, the film was released when the Indian freedom movement was at its peak.

The most interesting aspect, however, is that popular Carnatic musician and composer Papanasam Sivan played an important role in this film. The film also had real footage of Gandhi spinning the wheel and marching. On its 22nd week of successful running, it was banned by the British government.

In one of his essays in The Hindu, Randor Guy writes that this particular period opened itself up to a few films on this theme, mainly due to the fact that Sundara Sastri Satyamurti, freedom activist and politician, was elected President of South Indian Film Chambers in 1937 and 1938. This allowed him a free hand at censorship, therefore permitting such films to be made.

True to this case is another patriotic film called Mathru Bhoomi that came out in the same year. Made by Hanumappa Reddy Muniappa Reddy, the film was based on the freedom struggle, cloaked under a grand disguise that outwardly spoke about the invasion of North West India by Alexander the Great.

These films were rich in their political messages, with a number of songs written in praise of the country and of the freedom movement, inspiring its audience to join hands in the freedom movement.

The early years post-Independence

The themes of patriotism, nationalism and devotion for the country were again played out on the big screen shortly after independence. This is when patriotism seeped in again in the form of hero worship, sowing the seed for nationalism foisted in the form of a freedom fighting hero.

Veerapandiya Kattabomman

Films like Sivagangai Seemai (1957), Veerapandiya Kattabomman (1959) and Kappalottiya Tamizhan (1961) are some of the popular examples. The three films had one thing in common - they all hailed the Indian hero who stood up against the British colonisers. Sivagangai Seemai was based on Maruthu Pandiyars, Kappalottiya Tamizhan on VO Chidambaram Pillai who was popularly known as Kappalottiya Thamizhan, and Veerapandiya Kattabomman on the brave chieftain from Panchalankurichi.

“Unaken kodukavendum kisthi?” (Why should I pay you any interest?) is one of Sivaji’s popular dialogues from this legendary film (Veerapandiya Kattabomman) that remains etched in everyone’s memory. Sivaji Ganesan's performance as Kattabomman earned him a Best Actor international award at the 1960 Afro-Asian Film Festival. These films had the agenda of reminding people what they had fought for.

Patriotism in the later years 

There was a significant lull in the making of films with patriotic ideas in the seventies and the eighties. Sivaji Ganesan’s Bharatha Vilas, although a drama, was based on the themes of religious unity, secularism, and brotherhood, an important aspect of patriotism back then. This film was a huge success when it released in 1973.

Patriotism was made popular in the '90s by director Mani Ratnam in his trilogy - Roja (1992), Bombay (1995) and Uyire (1998).

These films, set in the backdrop of terrorism, had national and anti-national elements cut out. The partition and ensuing tensions with Pakistan, Hindu-Muslim conflicts and the changing face of Indian nationalism were at the core of these films.

The sense of patriotism that was evoked through these films is aligned with today’s nationalistic agenda and has been replicated time and again to glorify the Good Indian vs the Terrorist other. While previously, the enemy was Britain, the '90s focussed on the Pakistani foe.

Roja, in that sense, was among the first films to portray Pakistani terrorists and Kashmiri separatists as opposed to the Indian Patriot who’d give his life for the sake of the country’s safety.

Roja

All three of Mani Ratnam’s films from this trilogy had a pan-Indian appeal, although the first two were originally made in Tamil.

Priyadarshan’s Malayalam film Kaalapani, dubbed in Tamil as Siraichalai, is another important period film on the British-era Indian prisoners. The film had intense patriotism inducing sequences and was based on existing accounts of life in cellular jail during the Indian Independence Movement.

Fighting corruption and improving the quality of life in the country were some of the common themes recurrent in the films made by director Shankar. Beginning from his debut Gentleman that came out in 1993, followed by Indian in 1996, Mudhalvan in 1999, Anniyan in 2005 and Sivaji the Boss in 2007, Shankar’s films have had a strong patriotic flavour to them. Indian, in fact, had a freedom fighter who turns into a vigilante because of his undying love for the country.

The theme of patriotism in the face of terrorism became a common theme in early 2000. Actors Arjun and Vijaykanth were often seen as the patriotic army/special force officer, assigned to thwart a terrorist plan. They diffused bombs, took a good beating while refusing to divulge crucial information and went on international missions to save the country. This in fact, became the most common thread for films to be made on patriotism.

Films like Jai Hind (Arjun), Narasimha, Arasangam, Sudesi (Vijaykanth), etc had plenty of international missions which the hero had to accomplish successfully to save the country.

Jai Hind

Kuruthi Punal, directed by cinematographer PC Sreeram, starring Kamal Haasan, Arjun and Nasser is another film that portrayed terrorism and dedicated police officials fighting for the sake of the country. This film released in 1995 and was appreciated for its action blocks. Kamal and Arjun play police officers who try to infiltrate and destroy a terrorist group that is threatening the lives of several innocent people. Nasser plays the leader of this terrorist group. The conversation, between Kamal and Nasser set inside a dark room, has inspired several such scenes including the latest one in Vikram Vedha.

Cheran’s Desiya Geetham that released in 1998 is a film in which the Chief Minister is kidnapped by a group of youngsters headed by Murali and is made to understand the conditions in which the people live under his rule. The film’s climax, in particular, had dialogues on how the government should run for the sake of its people and how government officials should dedicate their lives for the sake of the country and its people.

The 2000s also saw biopics being made on leaders and freedom fighters like Bharati (2000), Kamaraj (2004) and Periyar (2007), reminding us once again of the movies from the early post-Independent years.

Hey Ram

Hey Ram, which came out in 2000, was in a different league altogether. The film had important period blocks set in the backdrop of the freedom movement and is considered to be the best of Kamal Haasan’s films to this date. The film deeply probes the freedom movement, and questions nationalism and religious extremism. At its centre is Gandhi, the driving force behind the independence struggle. Hey Ram was praised by many critics and the film went on to win three National Awards.

Patriotism in films today

Patriotism and nationalism in films today mostly revolve around international missions and assignments to foil terrorist attacks based on intelligence with a strong reinforcement of what it means to be a good Indian.

An exception to this rule was Madarasapattinam, starring Arya and Amy Jackson, that came in 2010. This was a period flick set in pre-Independent India on the verge of attaining its freedom. Although majorly based on the romance between a British woman and an Indian dhobi, the film had several patriotism inducing sequences and once again brought back memories of fighting against the colonisers.

Madarasapattinam

However, patriotism in today’s cinema has evidently shifted from fighting the colonisers to patriotism with strong communal undertones.  While being patriotic has always meant home country vs the rest of the world, Tamil films on patriotism have remained just that, never crossing the line. From Kamal’s role of the vigilante in Unnaipol Oruvan (2009) to Vijay’s intelligence officer role in Thuppakki (2012), the latest Vishwaroopam (1 and 2) where Kamal plays a Muslim RAW agent disguised as a Hindu, and Vishal's Irumbuthirai (2018) where he fights against a cyber-terrorist to free people from the clutches of hackers, the theme of patriotism has become about diffusing bombs and fighting terrorists. And most times, the enemy is a Muslim.

Advocacy of patriotism and nationalism have seeped beyond the big screen in recent years. Today, nationalistic propaganda has made it mandatory for people to “respect” the national anthem that plays before the movie begins in every movie theatre across the country. Cinema, too, has evolved with the changing political climates to accommodate ideas of patriotism.

Human Interest
Amrita began her project in February and launched six images during ‘World Breastfeeding Week’ that is observed in the first week of August.
  • Monday, August 13, 2018 - 17:49

Breastfeeding in public or in private has always been a subject of severe scrutiny. Mothers are also often judged harshly when it comes to breastfeeding. ‘Is the mother breastfeeding enough?’, ‘How can she breastfeed in public?’, ‘Why is she not breastfeeding her baby?’, ‘Isn’t her baby too old to be breastfed?’

A few months ago, the photo of an actor breastfeeding a baby on the cover of a Malayalam magazine caused great furore and even protests.

While the topic of breastfeeding itself is mired in controversy, a photographer based out of Chennai is working on a personal project with the hope of raising awareness about donating breastmilk for NICU babies.

Amrita Samant has been working as a maternity, newborn, baby and toddler photographer in Chennai, Bengaluru and Singapore for the past four years. She says that her introduction to the idea of breastmilk donation happened quite recently through her friend Chintya Anish Iyer.

Chintya, who had a baby in July last year, chanced upon the idea of donating excess breastmilk through a friend. “My friends in the UK were doing it, it is pretty common in foreign countries. But I was really surprised to learn that Chennai had 7 breastmilk banks,” says Chintya, who runs a store called Intish by Chintya in Chennai.

Chintya also joined a Facebook group for young mothers to discuss breastfeeding. It was through one of its members that she came to know about these banks in Chennai and she then got in touch with Dr Shobana from Child Trust Hospital in Egmore to donate her breastmilk.

Although Chintya had some reservations initially, she soon opened up online about donating excess breastmilk.

“I posted about breastmilk donation online only when my child began weening. I had been doing it for quite a few months before I finally opened up,” she shares.

But there were a lot of naysayers. “As a young mother, I was told by relatives not to speak so openly about breastmilk. They all had their own apprehensions about speaking openly about such things. ‘What if your baby didn’t get enough milk?’ they’d say. These ideas came from a very conservative, conditioned way of thinking,” she says.

Chintya also adds that donating breastmilk itself is a very tedious process that involves a lot of commitment. “As a young mother the pumping will tire you out, it is quite draining physically. You have to be committed to continue doing it,” says Chintya.

Chintya, however, was encouraged by the response she was getting from other mothers. “I was giving away my excess milk to mothers I personally knew and many of them were telling me how it literally saved their child’s life. At some point, you prioritise donating,” she says.

Her focus, however, is to spread awareness that such a thing is possible. “The point to drive home is to ensure people know of its existence,” she adds.

The project

Amrita’s project is structured around this very idea of raising awareness. Starting in February this year, Amrita captured six striking images and launched them during ‘World Breastfeeding Week’ that is observed in the first week of August.

Amrita also collected information from Hyderabad-based lactation consultant, Kamana, to help her with her project.

“You may know that 1 ounce = 6 teaspoons, but do you know that 1 ounce of breastmilk can feed a premature baby for a full day? Studies have also shown that 80% of the problems in NICU can be prevented by feeding those babies breastmilk than formula milk,” explains Amrita.

Her project took quite some time to materialise since it involved talking to young mothers, their partners and family to make sure everyone was comfortable with the concept. “I know a lot of dialogue is based around breastfeeding in public. I want to be able to raise awareness on breastmilk donation through my project,” she shares.

Janani Lakshminarayanan, a mother of two who was one of the mothers who posed for Amrita’s project, shares that she has never hesitated to breastfeed her child in public or donate excess breastmilk.

“I have faced the problem myself. It is equal to denying someone their food. Why is it considered a taboo?” she asks.

While excess lactation is not something every mother is capable of doing, those who can most often shy away from talking openly to others. Amrita’s project hopes to wipe away those inhibitions.

How does breastmilk donation work?

Donating breastmilk is a simple enough procedure and is most helpful for premature babies who weigh below one kilogram. Donated breastmilk can also be used for older babies who have need for it.

“Mothers can store their breastmilk in the deep freezer. This milk can be stored in stainless steel containers for up to three months,” explains Dr Vanathi.

The collected milk is pasteurised and goes through screening for infections. Mothers too are requested to submit routine infection screening test reports to make sure the milk is safe for NICU babies. Those who want to learn more can get in touch with Dr Shobana or Dr Vanathi at Child Trust Hospital on 9962252104.

Kollywood
Raiza does a great job playing the bold Sindhuja and Harish plays his “innocently-cute” character equally well.
  • Friday, August 10, 2018 - 18:43

To begin with, Pyaar Prema Kaadhal is Yuvan Shankar Raja’s musical. The film has 12 songs in total. The end credits, in fact, rolls with all these songs in order, crediting every department that had worked on it. Thankfully, the songs do not get excessive, but instead become one with the story.

Starring Harish Kalyan and Raiza of Bigg Boss fame, the film has been written and directed by Elan.

Pyaar Prema Kaadhal (PPK), as the name suggests, is a film on love. Harish plays Sree, a young man who is besotted with the woman (Raiza) who works in the building next to his office. Every morning, Sree rushes to work in time to spend the rest of the day gaping at her from his office window.

As the film would have it, Raiza joins his office, and this is when he finally gets to know her name - Sindhuja. While Sindhuja is unaware of Sree’s stalkerish past, the two hit it off as friends, with Sindhuja inviting him out for a party.

Sindhuja is an independent woman who comes from an affluent family. She harbours a dream of opening a restaurant in LA, and her father (Anand Babu) is a salsa teacher who is supportive of his daughter’s decisions.

Sree’s parents meanwhile, played by Rekha and Raja Rani Pandian, are scouting for a suitable bride for their 26-year-old son, with Rekha playing the ever-worried mother who’s life goal is to get her son married.

PPK actually gets one’s hopes high with its character sketches. While Sree plays a man who is very much wound up in his whimsical world of love equals lifelong commitment, Sindhuja is someone who does not believe in social constructs. In one scene, Sindhuja explains to a teary-eyed Sree that having sex does not necessarily mean that the two have to be in love – a concept that defies his understanding.

The two end up falling in love after a brief, public fall out. The scene that follows this public confrontation is particularly well done, with Sindhuja walking in with a smile, with her head held high. It was also heartening to see Sindhuja to explain that women have always had to sacrifice their dreams to settle down into the institution of marriage and family. A point that was driven home – well, almost.

PPK has shades of the Hollywood film, 500 Days of Summer, with Sindhuja refusing to explain why she wouldn’t love him back or agree to getting married. She’s called selfish for wanting to pursue her dreams, and is also called a woman who gets into “casual relationships”, all of which she wears like a tag.

There are “indha madri pasanga…” moments where Sree’s unfaltering love is presented as reason enough to love him back.

Therefore one might hope that the director would present a well-balanced understanding of social constructs, of love, sex, and marriage.

But PPK comes crashing down with its portrayal of the “modern woman”, who ends up rethinking all her decisions in life, of being the one who was in the wrong for so long. All that the film builds up, it washes clean in the last 20 minutes. There’s even the ‘Is your mother important to you or is it me?’ question that’s actually out of character for Sindhuja to be asking.

The climax in particular leaves you with a bad aftertaste, most of which is disappointment still fresh on your taste buds. 

Raiza does a great job playing the bold Sindhuja and Harish plays his “innocently-cute” character equally well.

In PPK, the director explores what happens if two people with opposing schools of thought fall for each other. While the result should’ve been a middle ground for resolving differences, it swirls down the sinkhole of “stop with all your dream nonsense and fall in line with what the society expects of you” aka “get married if you fall in love.”

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

Food
In this exclusive chat with TNM, the Indian-origin winner of the popular show talks about his favourite spices and how he entered the world of cooking.
  • Thursday, August 09, 2018 - 14:51

“And the winner of MasterChef Australia 2018 is Sashi Cheliah”. The confetti came down as he lifted the coveted trophy and the other contestants ran to the centre to lift him on their shoulders.

On July 10, Sashi Cheliah scored a whopping 93 out of 100 in the finals of the tenth season of MasterChef Australia, becoming a household name across Australia. This is also the highest score any contestant has made in the MasterChef finals.

But did you know this 39-year-old prison officer from South Australia began cooking only in 2012?

A man of many surprises, Sashi who was born and brought up in Singapore, traces his roots back to India, with his grandparents originally from Madurai. Sashi, who was with the Singapore police force before moving to Adelaide, however, has not visited the country yet. 

Does he plan on visiting India soon? “Oh yes, I want to come and see India, go to my native place and learn more cuisines in our Indian culture,” says Sashi.

But Sashi shares a deeper bond with Indian food. He recalls his earliest food memory of having watched his mother and aunts cooking. “My first memory goes far back…when I was 10 or 11 years old. Whenever my mom or aunt used to cook, I would be hanging out in the kitchen,” he says.

So what’s his favourite Indian food? “Definitely biryani is my favourite. I love cooking it at home! Anything that is spicy…I love spicy food!” he says, adding, “My comfort food, however, is sambar with rice.”

The judges of the popular cooking show were quick to notice how cleverly Sashi used spices in his dishes, with his sambal prawns with chilli giving him an edge over his competitor Ben Borsht in the finals.

Sashi admits that the prized chilli is the king of his kitchen shelf. “I have two favourite ingredients, one is chilli and the other is lemongrass. They will always be present in my fridge and kitchen,” he adds.

Throughout the show, Sashi showed his mastery over Asian and Indian flavours – be it the Indian-inspired steamed barramundi with ginger and coriander salsa or the Singapore chicken rice with oyster sauce bok choy and a spicy chilli and ginger sauce.

“I have done a very nice dish in the show called lychee duck, which is a combination of both my favourite Indian curry and some lychee and influences of Thai food. I tried it and it came out really well, it’s my own creation,” adds Sashi.

Sourcing some of these ingredients were a challenge for him though. “At MasterChef, we used a very wide range of ingredients, but there are some specialty ingredients that we can’t source so easily. But I still tried to maximise the flavours as much as possible,” says Sashi.

Despite starting to cook properly only 6 years ago, food has played an integral role in Sashi’s life. “You know, Indian festivals and culture…we have food as a huge part of them. There will be plenty of food at every occasion. Food has been such an integral part of my life.” 

But coming from an Indian family, Sashi had to deal with his share of prejudices. “Usually, you know Indian families don’t really encourage boys to come into the kitchen. So, anytime I was hanging out in the kitchen, I’d observe them closely and it had a huge influence on my love for cooking as well.”

His first step into the culinary world was when he started going to barbeques and experimenting with meats there. “When we go for school challenges and all of that…I keep having all these barbecues and I started cooking with that.” 

But the Sashi didn’t just discover his love for cooking in these barbecues, he also found the love of his life. “The interesting thing is that I met my wife during my school days at a barbecue!” he laughs.

“When I was doing my stint with the police force in Singapore, I was very busy and my cooking reduced drastically. But when I moved to Australia, I started having a lot of time to spend time with my family. I started cooking with family a lot and that’s how I got much closer to food here than I was in Singapore,” says Sashi.

Having signed up for MasterChef on a whim, after having seen a post on Facebook, Sashi does have quite a few food idols. 

“Gordon Ramsay is my idol! Nigella (Lawson) always makes the process of cooking food very enjoyable. This is something that all chefs should learn from her, which is when you enjoy cooking food…the flavours of the food come out better. She does that very beautifully and gracefully! I love Matt Sinclair’s work too and I can relate a lot to his kind of cooking. It’s very hearty and rustic,” says Sashi.

The next step for this MasterChef history-maker is launching a pop-up in Melbourne called Gaja by Sashi, which will have Indian and South-East Asian food.

“I’m trying to incorporate three different cultures into the food; Chinese, Malay, and Indian. It represents Singapore, which is a mix of different cultures, so in my menu you will be seeing all three,” he explains.

His bigger plan, however, is to travel around Australia with pop-ups in different places. “If the response is good, I am looking at opening my own restaurant or cafe,” he signs off.

The tenth season of MasterChef Australia will air in India from September 10 onwards; Monday to Friday at 9.00 pm.

Karunanidhi
His plays were known for their sharp wit, clever narrative, strong political undertones and powerful dialogues.
  • Wednesday, August 08, 2018 - 19:27
YouTube

Kalaignar Muthuvel Karunanidhi has served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for 18 years under multiple tenures. He is also the only Indian Chief Minister to have held the post at different occasions, spanning 6 decades, beginning in 1969.

But, in addition to being a great politician, Karunanidhi was also a poet, playwright and screenwriter and is known for his immense contribution to Tamil literature.

Even before Karunanidhi began writing stories, dialogues and scripts for films, he was a well-known playwright in the state. His plays were known for their sharp wit, clever narrative, strong political ideologies and powerful dialogues. Even while Karunanidhi was active in Periyar’s Dravidar Kazhagam, he continued writing and staging plays, sometimes acting a part or two himself.

Karunanidhi wrote and staged his first play in 1940 titled Palaniappan in his hometown Thiruvarur. This play was written and staged for the Tamil Nadu Tamil Student’s Union fund and had cost him Rs 200. In one of his essays Karunanidhi writes, “We collected Rs 80. Heavy rains on that day had serious effects, affecting collection.”

Fortunately, Nagai Dravidian Artistes Federation bought the play for Rs 100 and Karunanidhi’s Palaniappan was staged under the name Shantha and later as Nachukoppai that was staged even during the late 80s.

The popular classic Manthiri Kumari (1950) starring MGR in the lead was actually based on Karunanidhi’s play of the same name (written and staged in the early 1940s). Based on an incident from the Tamil literary classic Kundalakesi, this play was written for Devi Theatre Group and was first staged in Thiruvarur and later in Kudanthai. Produced by TR Sundaram of Modern Theatres, Manthiri Kumari the film was doyen Ellis R Dungan’s last Tamil feature.

In 1946 came the controversial play Thooku Medai. Karunanidhi had written this play specifically for MR Radha’s troupe and went on to play the role of Pandian himself. Having watched this play, MR Radha conferred the title ‘Kalaignar’ upon him. The moniker stayed.

For its stirring dialogues and powerful narrative that laid bare the inequalities in the society, Thooku Medai quickly came under the government’s radar - independent India’s government. The performance of this play was prohibited in free India by the government in GO No. 1193, dated 25 April, 1959.

A Madras High Court judgement delivered by J Sadasivam has the following passage about the play: “GO Exhibit P-8 shows that the drama Thooku Medai has been prohibited as an objectionable play on the ground that it deliberately intended to outrage the religious feelings of a class of citizens of India and also on the ground that it is indecent, scurrilous and obscene.”

This judgement was delivered in response to a case filed against MR Radha in 1962 stating that he had staged a play Kadhal Bali that had a strong resemblance to Karunanidhi’s Thooku Medai. MR Radha is known to have had a reputation for staging banned plays by restructuring them with a few modifications. One example is his 1946 drama Por Vaal that was later staged under different names - Sarvadhikari and Mahatma Thondan.

Yet, this play was Karunanidhi’s most prominent creation and had a great run, fetching them a profit of Rs 800 during one show in Tiruchy.

Karunanidhi went on write scripts and dialogues for several Tamil films. Yet, he never gave up on penning plays. Having watched Manthiri Kumari, NS Krishnan approached Karunanidhi to write the screenplay and dialogues for his film Manamagal (1952).

It was during this point that Karunanidhi moved to Chennai from Salem following NS Krishnan’s repeated requests.

Soon after his move, Karunanidhi began working on Mani Magudam for SS Rajendran’s troupe. While working on it, Karunanidhi met with an accident that injured his eye. Unmindful of the searing pain, he continued writing this play that went on to run for over 100 days. Incidentally, actor Manorama saw her breakthrough in this play.

This play had strong political undertones and Karunanidhi had interwoven the challenges, doubts and strong forces one might have to face in their political journey. Mani Magudam was later turned into a feature film starring SS Rajendran, CR Vijayakumari, Jayalalithaa, and MN Nambiar in 1966.

In his 1989 essay in Vannathirai, Karunanidhi recounts an interesting anecdote that happened soon after the release of his Parasakthi. On the receiving end of severe criticism and protests staged by Congress party groups, Karunanidhi shares a particular illustration on the cover page of Dinamani Kathir magazine. “They had mocked Parasakthi using an immodest portrayal of a woman on the issue’s cover with the title ‘Parabrahmam’ and underneath it, the words ‘story-dialogues Dhayanidhi’.”

One of the craftiest writers of his age, Karunanidhi chose not to be swayed by emotions. He decided to reply in kind, with the sophisticated temperament of an artist, and out came the poignant play titled Parabrahmam. Soaked in party propaganda, this play was Karunanidhi’s way of responding to those who nitpicked his style of writing and in turn his ideals.

Over the years, Karunanidhi penned several plays alongside feature-length films. Kagitha Poo was a play written and staged by Karunanidhi for Anna’s 1966 birthday celebrations in Chennai. He had also acted a part in it. Kagitha Poo fetched him Rs 11 lakhs from ticket sales and this amount Kalaignar generously donated to Anna for his election funds.

His other plays include Ore Ratham, Naane Arivali, Vellikizhamai, Udayasooriyan and Silappathikaram. He has also authored several books and awarded the "Raja Rajan Award" by Tamil University, Thanjavur for his book ‘Thenpandi Singam’.

He has also written scripts for TV series that were played on his channel, Kalaingar TV - Romapuri Pandiyan (2014), Ramanujar (2015) and Thenpandi Singam (2016).  A writer with a unique voice, a voracious speaker and a great leader - M Karunanidhi was one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century in the country.

Karunanidhi
"Please utter those lines where you call us ‘udanpirappugale!’” wrote Stalin in his letter.
  • Wednesday, August 08, 2018 - 08:58

In a touching letter to Late DMK President, M Karunanidhi, MK Stalin bid goodbye to his father, but not without a request.

"This one time, can I call you Appa, Thalaivare?" wrote Stalin, making a reference to how he always addressed his father in public, as his leader and not as his father.

"You always informed us wherever you went. Now, where have you gone this time without telling us?" he asked.

Stalin, fondly referred to as Thalapathy, has always looked up to Karunanidhi, remaining in his shadow for most of his public life. Hours after the passing away of the DMK stalwart, Stalin penned this letter as tribute to his father.

Read the full letter here:

This one time, can I call you Appa, Thalaivare?

You always informed us wherever you went. Now where have you gone this time without telling us?

My Thalaiva! You are ever present in my feelings, body, blood, thought and heart. Where have you gone?

33 years ago you decided the words to be written upon your headstone, “Here lies he who worked without any rest.” Did you leave with the satisfaction of having worked for this Tamil community?

At 95 years of age, you ran without a break for 80 years for the sake of the public. Are you now hiding and waiting, thinking “Who will cross the heights we have crossed over?”

Having celebrated your 95th in Thiruvarur on June 3, I requested for you to give me half of your strength. I beg for that strength and for the heart you borrowed from Aringar Anna. Will you give it to me, Thalaivare?

With that charity, we will win over your unfulfilled wishes and dreams.

There’s only one request from the crores of your brethren… One last time…

Please utter those lines where you call us “udanpirappugale!” That will help us function for a century with a passion for language and roots.

More than “Appa, Appa”, I’ve addressed you “Thalaivare, Thalaivare”. So this one time can I call you Appa, Thalaivare?

Tearfully,

MK Stalin

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Human Interest
Kumar's chariots are used only occasionally now, but he remembers a time when his family thrived on the business.
  • Tuesday, August 07, 2018 - 15:33
Kumar

“Our horses are very well behaved. If you are okay with the rates, you can call me. Here, take my card.” A shiny blue card with pictures of decorated horses and a grand chariot, with the name S Kumar printed in red above the words “Horses and coach for shooting and functions” is handed over to us.

When we tell him that we’re not there to rent one of his chariots, confusion looms in Kumar’s eager brown eyes. As President of Chennai Kudhirai Savari Thozhilalargal Nala Sangam - Viduthalai Munnetram (a welfare organisation for people in the trade), Kumar manages the remnants of what was once the city’s thriving tanga horse shelters.

“My grandfather Francis was an English man,” he begins with some pride, “and he married my grandmother Sengalamma who was Tamil.”

Kumar’s grandfather worked as a horse-drawn chariot driver for the British and his half English, half Indian sons - Standov Murthy and Daniel - followed their father in their family business. “My father Standov owned 10 tanga vehicles in the eighties," says Kumar.

These tanga horse vehicles were used by the public before Independence and were also in use for a few decades after it. “The public liked travelling in these to places like Central station, Egmore station, snake park and the beach, among other tourist places. It used to look very grand,” says Kumar.

But now, what remains of the quarter-of-a-kilometre long tanga stand near Chennai Central, is a few meters of a cloth covered make-shift stable, supported by bamboo sticks. Six horses, in varying shades of white, stand beneath it and a few chariots are parked on the pavement, covered tightly with plastic sheets and ropes.

We are introduced to the well-behaved inhabitants, some busy scouting for straw on the floor and the others vacantly gazing at everyday traffic, swatting flies with their tails while neighing and kicking the ground intermittently. “Meet James, Yakobe (Jacob), Yeshuva (Joshua), Jhansi and Samuel," says Kumar.

As we speak, Shyam, Kumar’s 14-year-old nephew jumps up and down from the chariot - red and gold, studded with colourful plastic stones, and still encased in its transparent plastic sheet - untying ropes and removing covers for us to see. Standing right next to the chariot is a white horse with tiny grey specks on its skin, a wisp of white hair on its crown. “She’s Laisa. Kumar mama’s first horse,” grins Shyam.

Some of Kumar’s chariots are as old as Independent India.

“I currently own only two chariots. My uncle had 20 but only 7 or 8 are in good condition now. I’d show them to you but they’re not in good condition because it’s not being frequently used. I can send photos on WhatsApp if you like,” offers Kumar.

“You must have seen one of our old chariots in Madarasapattinam - the caged one,” he adds after some thought.

Kumar rents out his horses and chariots for public events and for weddings which brings him a few thousands. “Sometimes, we may not have any event for 6 months. During those times, we borrow money from people we know to feed our horses. Which bank will give us loans? The government in fact is looking at ways to remove us from here. They want their roads to look beautiful, don’t they,” he says with some impatience.

While horse/bullock-drawn vehicles went out of use eventually, the DMK regime, back in the 1960s, banned rickshaws hand-pulled by men. Then came the pedal model rickshaws, which many might nostalgically recall riding to school or to the market. These have now been largely replaced by auto rickshaws and rickshaws fixed with motors. Even today, the pedal model rickshaws are still in use in north Chennai, Mylapore and in few other parts of the city.

But the future for Kumar and his stable of horses remains bleak. “Now people come to us rarely for functions like weddings or for inviting certain leaders in chariots. Who cares about parambriyam (traditions)?” he rues.

Cinema
SPI Cinemas launched SENS, which allows children and persons with heightened sensory issues to be themselves inside the movie theatre.
  • Monday, August 06, 2018 - 11:53

For eight-year-old Vardhana, Sunday was going to be fun. Dressed in a black and cream coloured frock, she hops and skips into the theatre, excitedly holding on to her father’s hand. This is the first time Vardhana, a child with learning disabilities, is getting a chance to be herself inside the movie theatre.

Most often than not, the entertainment facilities in the city are under-equipped to accommodate people with disabilities. But all this is beginning to change with the introduction of SENS by SPI Cinemas.

“More than the film, she is enjoying the experience. We’ve never sat through for a film for so long, this is our first. We don’t get to take our daughter to many places in the city,” says her father, Anwar Basha, adding, “It is the case with most children with learning and intellectual disabilities. Apart from home and school, if they get to go out, it might be to a different city/town."

As Preetha Ramaswamy, Head of PR at SPI puts it, SENS is a part of SPI’s ‘cinema for everyone’ project. “It is an ambitious project. We’ve been looking at ways to use cinema as a social change project. One of it is our inclusive screening. When the pilot show went well, we decided to make it a monthly affair,” she says.

Maala Chinappa, co-founder of A Special World, a support group for families with children with intellectual and physical disabilities, is the brains behind this initiative. “We have been doing this for two years. We used to book an entire preview theatre so parents can come with their children to watch films, but with increasing demand we thought it needs to get bigger.”

The idea behind SENS is that it allows children with heightened sensory issues to be themselves inside the movie theatre. “If this sound is toned down a bit, the lights are kept at dim and if free movement is allowed, they can experience cinema like everyone else,” says Maala.

Maala also adds that people have become more accepting and understanding of such needs. “We recently had a family who had turned up to the wrong theatre to watchPeter Rabbit. But when we told them that the screening here would be different, they were absolutely understanding. People are willing to accommodate and that is important,” she says.

“It is usually very difficult to manage my son inside a theatre. He is also not mobile and needs special care. But because of SENS he’s able to have some fun today. He is 22-years-old and this is his third movie experience inside the theatre,” says Murali adding that making this a monthly routine will be of great happiness for children with disabilities and their families.

SENS is currently available in Chennai and Coimbatore with plans to branch out to Mumbai and Bengaluru later.

Tickets for SENS shows, that’ll be organised on the first Sunday of every month, can be booked online from SPI’s website.

Controversy
Divya who is on conditional bail is being questioned by Masinagudi police every day for two hours.
  • Sunday, August 05, 2018 - 19:02

‘How many bank accounts do you hold?’, ‘What is the basis of coming to the conclusion that the government did not do anything for  fishermen (cyclone Ockhi affected)?’, ‘What is the purpose of uploading the trailer of the film Orutharum Varela in You Tube?’, ‘Do you have any political lineage? Do you belong to any political party or frontal organisation of any political party?’

These are some of the questions from a list of 25 posed at filmmaker Divya Bharathi by Masinagudi Inspector of Police. Following the complaint filed against her documentary on Ockhi last month at Gudalur police station in Nilgiris district, Divya Bharathi is currently on conditional bail and is required to sign at the police station every day for the next one week.

“I surrendered at Gudalur Police station on August 3 and I’ve been given conditional bail. While it is a simple procedure where I sign at 10.30 am every day and leave, I’ve been subjected to a two-hour inquiry on day one by Masinagudi Inspector Muralidharan,” says Divya to TNM.

Divya also observes that it is unclear why an inspector from Masinagudi, which is 25 kilometres from Gudalur where the case has been filed, would conduct the inquiry. “I was cooperative on day one, although it was tiring to answer these questions. They repeated the same questions again on August 5 and that is when I lost my patience,” says Divya.

This time, the inspector also gave her a printed list of questions, asking her to return with written answers on Monday. “It is not legal for them to subject someone who is out on conditional bail to these inquiries. I am planning to submit a complaint with the Gudalur Magistrate tomorrow,” says Divya.

The police asked her other questions including how she came to the conclusion that fishermen had not received adequate warnings before Ockhi and that they were not given proper help by government agencies and the Indian Navy. The list also included a question on the image of a mutilated flag lying on a boat that was used in the documentary.

Divya who is currently staying with a friend in a remote village near Gudalur also shares that she is being followed by uniformed men who are always present around the area she’s currently in. “They don’t let me out of their sight. Even now, as we speak, there are a few standing around that corner, watching me,” she says to TNM over the phone.

A few days after the release of her upcoming documentary, Orutharum Varela’s trailer, the filmmaker received threats and unwarranted visits from police officials at her residence and her workplace in Madurai.

It was announced earlier this year that Orutharum Varela, a documentary on the devastating effects of Cyclone Ockhi that wreaked serious havoc on coastal India in December last year, would be out soon. After much delay, the trailer of her latest documentary titled Orutharum Varela (Nobody came) was released on YouTube on June 28.