With the digitally restored version of Paasa Malar, starring Sivaji Ganesan and Savithri, all set to be re-released on August 15, Malathi Rangarajan takes a look at what the children of the legends associated with the classic feel
His oeuvre remains untouched by time! His films are now revived at regular intervals and attired in digital grandeur and DTS finery, they turn up trumps! Sivaji Ganesan continues to reign supreme as a name to reckon with in Tamil cinema. Paasa Malar, next in the fray, was a major hit in all the centres, when it was released for the first time on May 27, 1961. Till this moment, it is an unparalleled paean to sibling affection!
“More than half a century has gone by, but the overwhelming response from the young crowd that thronged the recent trailer release event shows that Sivaji Ganesan still rules,” says KVP Boominathan, who is releasing Paasa Malar in cinemascope. “Sound has been enhanced to match the latest in DTS.” An ardent devotee of the thespian, Boominathan is also the head of the All India Sivaji Ganesan Fans’ Association. Is it being transformed into colour? “No. The output, we were told, may not be up to expected levels. If the result isn’t worth it, the effort would come to nought. But as the first black and white film refurbished with the latest technology, it will be a treat.”
The present generation may find certain segments melodramatic… “On the contrary, I know for a fact that an incredible number of youth is waiting to watch Paasa Malar on the big screen. Y.Gee. Mahendra, a diehard fan of Sivaji, anchored the trailer release, but his daughter Madhuvanthi, who co-hosted the event, is equally a Ganesan admirer,” is Boominathan’s defending stroke.
“Films such as Paasa Malar should wean youngsters away from today’s trend, which mostly has boy-girl love as subjects, as though no other sentiments exist. It’s sad that they think it is the be-all of life. But in Paasa Malar the brother allows his sister to marry the man she’s in love with, though he’s poor, because to him her happiness is primary,” he adds.
The film may have been released before he was born, but Ganesh Kotarakara, son of the late K.P. Kotarakara, the storywriter of Paasa Malar, knows quite a lot about the film. “Paasa Malar holds the record for having been made in the most number of languages, including Sinhala. The Hindi version, Rakhi, won the Filmfare Award for Best Storywriter for my dad. His inspiration, he would tell us, was his elder sister,” he says.
A moving story
“Paasa Malar was a moving story and I’m extremely happy to have been a part of it,” says M.N. Rajam, who played the wife of Sivaji Ganesan in it. “It showed that without love and affection, life means little.” When she signed the film with Sivaji and Savithri in pivotal roles, did she think she would have scope to perform? “I knew it would fetch me a good name and it did. It was a well-etched role of an understanding wife and a committed doctor.” What saddens Rajam is that neither Sivaji Ganesan nor Savithri, or for that matter its director Bhimsingh are alive to see the sheen that has been lent to their film. “They will be remembered as long as Tamil cinema lives,” she says. The song, ‘Varayo En Thozhi,’ from Paasa Malar catapulted L.R. Easwari to the zenith of fame. “Such melodies never die,” says the singer. “The composers of the day were great singers too. If T.K. Ramamurthy gave life to tunes on his violin, M.S. Viswanathan would sing them for us. Even if we could bring out 25 per cent of it, the song was a hit. Like this one was. We could add nuances here and there and MSV would encourage us if he found them suitable. Paasa Malar is a film that’s a class apart in music, acting and storyline,” says Easwari.
Mention his dad, and actor Prabhu begins to speak with unbridled energy. “I was a small boy when Paasa Malar came out. But I know the impact it made. People began seeing Sivaji Sir [that’s how he refers to his father] as a member of their family. Do you know he sported a tuxedo in the film?”
Prabhu had once asked him about his high eyebrows in the early part of Paasa Malar and the same drooping in the latter part. “Have you noticed the clowns in a circus? Their eyebrows are drawn high as a symbol of joy and gay abandon. So I sported such a look. With prosperity come problems and I thought drooping eyebrows would be apt,” explained his dad.
Boominathan plans to release it in at least 70 theatres. Recently, Karnan proved Sivaji’s staying power. Paasa Malar could do it again.