Indian cinema celebrates hundred years, but where are the South Indian films, asks K. Jeshi

As Indian celluloid completes 100 years, it’s time for celebration. But, it has left many cinema lovers in the south disappointed.

“Where are the films from the south,” they ask. Why is everything Bollywood centred? They discuss some of the classics that ought to have made the cut.

Uthiripookal (1979)

Director: Mahendran

Sundaravadivelu (played by Vijayan), the protagonist who is a sadist has to choose how he will die. He decides to drown himself in the river. “This classic is close to my heart,” says S. Anand, who runs Konangal Film Society.

“It’s a subtle, yet harsh ending. The filmmaker leaves it to you.” Anand says, the movie an honest story-telling on human relationships, has all nuances and cinematic elements of a good film.

“It discusses women’s issues and the feudal mindset of a male-dominated society. ” Ilaiyaraaja’s melody ‘Azhagiya Kanne’ haunts films lovers even today.

Veedu (1988)

Director: Balu Mahendra

A middle-aged working woman decides to build a house of her own and the travails she faces. It made for a fine Tamil film.

“My only request to the Government is to re-master or digitise these classics as the new prints kill the original quality. It’s important to watch the original prints to understand the nuances. We need to archive our films too.”

Samskara (1970)

Director: Pattabi Rama Reddy

Script : U.R. Ananthamurthy and Girish Karnad

The Kannada film dealt with the lives and the customs of the Madhwa community. “The film pioneered the new wave cinema movement in Kannada. Karnad’s script was revolutionary, he came from a theatre background and entered cinema with this film,” says V. Jeevananthan, author of Thiraiseelai, an award-winning book on cinema.

Yavanika (1982)

Director: K.G. George

A spy thriller in Malayalam. A murder and the uncovering of the killer. “Apart from filmmakers like Aravindan and Adoor, George evolved as a versatile filmmaker. A murder happens and the film uncovers the killer. The story-telling follows Roshomon style, with multiple narrations. Mammooty who acted in it became a star with this film.”

Mullum Malarum (1978)

Director: Mahendran

“A film about the brother-sister bonding. It introduced the importance of characterisation and set a new benchmark,” Jeeva adds.

Chandralekha( 1948)

Director: S. S. Vasan

Nayagan (1987)

Director: Maniratnam

Chandralekha, Nayagan and Balu Mahendra’s Veedu stand out for their production values, says Dhanapal Padmanabhan, who made Krishnaveni Panjaalai. “Chandralekha had grandeur that was at par with Hollywood standards.”

Mahendran’s Mullu Malarum, he says, scores on content, craft and extraordinary screenplay. Padmanabhan narrates the scene where Rajinikanth (who plays the brother) says “En thangachi thirumbi vandhutta’, after his sister ditches an entire village who plan her secret wedding without the brother’s approval.

Aaranya Kaandam (2011)

Director: Thiagarajan Kumararaja

Soodhu Kavvum (2013)

Director: Nalan Kumarasamy

Dhanapal chooses the contemporary films for refined content and story-telling.

Aaranya Kaandam deals with violence. It questions what creates this violence in our lives and how human beings deal with it. Soodhu Kavvum is natural, a political satire that laughs at us. These films have a matured take on lives. That is what every art form strives to achieve.”

Karagaatakkaran (1989)

Director: Gangai Amaren

Virumaandi (2004)

Director: Kamal Hassan

Katrathu Tamizh (2007)

Director: Ram

“My mom took me to watch Karagaatakkaran when I was hardly two. The film came in the 80s. It highlights the Karagaatam art form and the artists in a positive manner (who are often treated with disrespect) It ran for 270 days in my hometown Erode!,” says S. Kamalakannan, director of Madhubaanakadai.

“In Virumaandi, you travel as the story progresses from jallikattu, prison, hanging…but the primary issue is fight for water, which everyone can relate to. He handles it artistically and the nativity is intact. Katradhu Tamizh is one of the best films in Tamil told in a non-linear style. The issues of societal imbalance, and how they affect the common man is something we grapple with every day.”

Kamalakannan says any art form should reflect society. “These classics highlighted social issues and for that they are timeless.”

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