For some it's the screen presence and powerful performance of Sivaji, while others are addicted to the music score
Watching a film at Sathyam cinemas on Friday, S. Manickam was transported back in time to 1964 when he caught the first show of ‘Karnan' in Ooty. Over four decades later, he was there to watch the same film. And the magic, he says, is intact.
It seemed so, at the end of the matinee show at the multiplex. A woman, easily in her sixties, came out with moist eyes, while a little boy, who looked barely 10, stepped out grinning widely. The ‘Karnan effect', it seems, can evoke different responses in different viewers.
In a week from now, the celebrated Sivaji Ganesan-film will reach the 100-day mark in its re-run. Producer of the digitised version, Shanthi Chockalingam of Divya Films, along with fans of the actor, are planning a big celebration.
“For all you know, the film might complete 125 days too. All the credit goes to Sivaji's fantastic performance, the great music score, the dialogue and the costumes,” Ms. Chockalingam said. Some city schools even made bulk bookings for students to watch the epic film.
Class VII student M. Akshaya, a Vijay fan, seemed on the verge of shifting loyalties. “Sivaji was superb. In the end, when he lies down on his mother's lap and cries, I also cried,” she said, looking mildly embarrassed. What is it about the film that has struck a chord with film buffs across generations, one wonders?
For some it's the screen presence and powerful performance of Sivaji, while others are addicted to the Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy music score. For a few others, it is the charm of watching an epic they have read and how it willingly lends itself to the cinematic idiom.
Interestingly, many of the fans even defend the film anticipating any possible criticism that could arise against it. Geetha Krishnamani, a proud ‘Sivaji fanatic', has seen the film thrice since it was re-released in March. “You can see how passionate these artistes are. Not just Sivaji, even Asogan, NTR and Savithri… all of them are remarkable,” she said. It's not melodrama, but intense performance, she said.
Mr. Manickam said the film seemed longer now than it did the first time around. But he was quick to add, “With such great performances, it doesn't really matter.”
For Sathyam Cinemas and Escape, the two theatres in Chennai where the film is playing now, ‘Karnan' has proved a double delight — good business and a new audience. According to Swaroop Reddy of Sathyam Cinemas, several senior citizens were now spotted at the theatres.
“Karnan has drawn a different set of audience that has, perhaps, not had a multiplex experience earlier. The film has a brand value that has lasted several decades,” he said. Many senior citizens, some using walkers and even wheelchairs, were seen gathering at Sathyam to watch the film. Many of them said they were there for the first time.
Sivaji seems to have won a whole new generation of fans too. His son, actor Prabhu, said many friends, including some young people, called him to say how much they loved the film.
“My father never cared if a role had scope for heroism or not. He always chose characters that had good potential for him as an actor. It is heartening to see Karnan's phenomenal success now,” Prabhu said.
Director Panthulu and his father, Mr. Prabhu said, shared a special bond. “And look at NTR in the film — he comes in just 10 to 12 scenes but just steals the show. All the actors in the film bring in their own charm to the screen. But I am touched to see how daddy's fans love him so much even today. I tell myself, daddy is alive.”