Anniversary Tamil cinema has crossed the platinum milestone. Eight directors list ten films they like most. S. R. Ashok Kumar

From October 31, 1931, when the first talkie ‘Kalidas,’ was released, Tamil cinema has come a long way. Different directors, different styles... it has been a rich fare. Eight directors list their best ten and explain what makes the first three superior.

Sridhar: ‘Sindhu Bairavi,’ ‘Roja,’ ‘Vedam Puthidhu,’ ‘Thillana Mohanambal,’ ‘Nayagan,’ ‘16 Vayathinile,’ ‘Udhiripookkal,’ ‘Thiruvilaiyadal,’ ‘Servar Sundaram’ and ‘Saraswathi Sabadam.’

‘Sindhu Bairavi’ is a masterpiece in its own way. The screenplay and the actors’ performances make it the best. I choose ‘Roja’ for its patriotism. ‘Vedam Puthidhu’ appeals because of its message that all humans are the same.

K. Balachander: ‘Andha Naal,’ ‘Chandralekha,’ ‘Kalyana Parisu,’ ‘Thillana Mohanambal,’ ‘Pasamalar,’ ‘Ulagam Sutrum Valiban,’ ‘16 Vayathinile,’ ‘Mullum Malarum,’ ‘Kadhal Kottai’ and ‘Kathal.’

‘Andha Naal’ was released in 1954 starring Sivaji Ganesan and Pandaribai. It was the first talkie in India without song or dance. I like the way director S. Balachander tackles this experimental film, an unusual attempt at that time. Just like ‘Sivaji’ today, people talked about ‘Chandralekha’ in the past. Produced at a cost of Rs 30 lakhs (a huge sum at that time), it has grand sets. I have seen it 12 times. ‘Kalyanaparisu,’ a love story, is the first of its kind. I became director Sridhar’s fan after watching it.

J. Mahendran: ‘Chandralekha,’ ‘Ratha Kaneer,’ ‘Thillana Mohanambal,’ ‘Nenjil Oru Aalayam,’ ‘16 Vayathinile,’ ‘Veedu,’ ‘Kadhal,’ ‘Imsai Arasan 23rd Pulikesi,’ ‘Paruthi Veeran’ and ‘Mozhi.’

I choose ‘Chandralekha,’ a remarkable film, because of its grandeur in all departments of filmmaking. There are no graphics or special effects. If anybody tries to remake this black and white film, they will make a mockery of it. ‘Ratha Kaneer,’ made in 1954, has progressive ideas and great acting by M.R.Radha. ‘Thillana Mohanambal’ must make all Tamils proud. It not only fuses Bharatnatyam and nagaswaram, but has an outstanding screenplay and a great cast.

Balu Mahendra: ‘Parasakthi,’ ‘Devadas,’ ‘Ratha Kaneer,’ ‘Pasamalar,’ ‘Silanerangalil Silamanidargal,’ ‘Unnaipol Oruvan,’ ‘Aval Appadithan,’ ‘Kalyana Parisu,’ ‘Nenjil Or Aalayam,’ and ‘Thanneer Thanneer.’

‘Parasakthi’s’ heavy dialogue (written in chaste Tamil by the current Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi) coupled with a stunning performance by newcomer, Sivaji Ganesan, make it a favourite. ‘Devadas’ has superb lighting by B.S.Ranga, excellent performance by A. Nageswara Rao and Savithri and haunting music by C.R.Subbaraman. As a teenager, I saw it 40 times. As a filmmaker, I saw it for the 50th time a couple of years ago. It still captivates me now as it did, when I was a teenager.

‘Ratha Kaneer’ has brilliant dialogue and inimitable performance by M.R.Radha.

K. Bhagyaraj: ‘Adutha Veettupenn,’ ‘Parasakthi,’ ‘Nadodi Mannan,’ ‘Uthama Puthiran,’ ‘Kalyana Parisu’ ‘Thillana Mohanambal,’ ‘Ulagam Suttrum Valiban,’ ‘Aval Oru Thodarkathai,’ ‘Mullum Malarum’ and ‘16 Vayathinile.’

I like ‘Adutha Veettupenn’ for the natural acting, ‘Parasakthi’ for its message of social awareness, reform and powerful dialogue. In ‘Nadodi Mannan’ and ‘Uthama Puthiran,’ I enjoyed the way both heroes combine acting prowess with entertainment.

Mani Ratnam: ‘Udhiripookal,’ ‘16 Vayathinile,’ ‘Aval Oru Thodarkathai,’ ‘Andha Naal,’ ‘Mullum Malarum,’ ‘Uthama Puthiran,’ ‘Anbe Vaa,’ ‘Pitha Magan,’ ‘Moondram Pirai’ and ‘Pasa Malar.’

I had just stepped into the industry and Mahendran’s ‘Udhiripookal’ just bowled me over. It was a breakthrough film in commercial cinema. The negative character in it and the way it ends make it outstanding. ‘16 Vayathinile’ is memorable for its script, high standard and realism. K.Balachandar has done some of the best films before and after ‘Aval Oru Thodar Kathai.’ But I choose it mainly for its storyline. It is not the plot or the story, but the character that carries the film through. Although it was released about 25 years ago, the character remains fresh in one’s memory. That is the greatness of the film.

K.S.Ravi Kumar: ‘Pasamalar,’ ‘Nenjil Or Aalayam’, ‘Aval Oru Thodar Kathai’, ‘Kadhalikka Neramillai,’ ‘16 Vayathinile,’ ‘Mullum Malarum,’ ‘Nayagan,’ ‘Deivamagan,’ ‘Ulagam Suttrum Valiban’ and ‘Puthu Vasantham.’

As a kid I saw ‘Pasamalar’ and cried. As an adult, each time I have seen it I was moved to tears. Recently when I saw it, the film left a lump in my throat. That is the power of the script and the performance of lead players. Sridhar’s ‘Nenjil Or Aalayam’ depicts the supremacy of love. Through his script and direction, Balachandar brings out the tender core of his middle-class heroine, assailed by problems, in ‘Aval Oru Thodarkathai.’

Ameer: ‘Andha Naal,’ ‘Nenjam Marappadhillai,’ ‘Thiruvilaiyadal,’ ‘Ulagam Suttrum Valiban,’ ‘Moondru Mudichu,’ ‘Aval Appadithan,’ ‘Udhiri Pookal,’ ‘16 Vayathinile,’ ‘Moondram Pirai’ and ‘Sethu.’

‘Andha Naal’ by S. Balachander was a trendsetter. When songs were the mainstay those days, this film was a bold attempt as it did not have any. Each camera angle makes watching it worthwhile. In fact one can say that this film changed the sound concept in Tamil cinema. ‘Nenjam Marappadhillai’ not only breaks free from the formulaic screenplay but director Sridhar does something revolutionary by introducing new faces in it. Recently I read in a paper that the film has been remade in Hindi. This is the power of Sridhar’s script. Director A.P. Nagarajan’s ‘Thiruvilaiyadal’ is imaginative. It treats a mythological subject in an interesting way. It is one of the best films in the annals of Tamil cinema.