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What happens when Lenin, Santhana Bharathi and Gangai Amaren meet?

Gangai Amaren, B. Lenin, and Santhana Bharathi at Clusters Media College

Gangai Amaren, B. Lenin, and Santhana Bharathi at Clusters Media College   | Photo Credit: S. SIVA SARAVANAN

The trio laugh, crack jokes, and share their love for the glorious world of cinema

Maestro Ilaiyaraaja’s song ‘Ananda Raagam Ketkum Kaalam’ and the film Panneer Pushpangal is extra special for three people — music director-actor-director Gangai Amaren, actor-director Santhana Bharathi and editor B Lenin.“ The idea of the story came out of friendly banter,” says Gangai Amaren, who wrote the lyrics and produced the film, while Santhana Bharathi directed and Lenin edited it. The coming-of-age romance was a blockbuster and launched their career in cinema.

“No film is one single person’s idea. So many people have made creative contributions in all my superhit films like Kozhi Koovuthu, Enga Ooru Paatukaaran and Karagaatakaaran. It was a time when we worked like family. There were days when Lenin would sit through film rushes for over four days to pick and choose the best ones that took the narration of a film forward,” he reminisces.

A still from Panneer Pushpangal

A still from Panneer Pushpangal   | Photo Credit: UNKNOWN

The three describe themselves ‘friends like family’ who share a deep love for cinema. “We would discuss ideas openly. Lenin brings out the best in you and Ilaiyaraaja would often call Lenin to consult. He recommended the use of chamber orchestra for the ‘Ananda Raagam...’ When Lenin made his first film, I composed the music. There is a lot of give and take that comes from mutual respect and love,”says Gangai Amaren.

Santhana Bharathi says ‘Ananda Raagam...’ is one of the first songs they wrote together. “The song is made of suvasol and not a single avasol and is part of the syllabus at film schools in Chennai. They (Gangai Amaren and Lenin) saw potential in me as a director. We pored over books, short stories, and novels, and watched a lot of films. When a good film wins, we celebrate. And a when a poor film wins, it is a cause of worry. All our conversations revolve around cinema. A healthy, open discussion always paves the way to creating good cinema,” says Santhana Bharathi, who has collaborated with Kamal Hassan and directed award-winning films like Guna and Mahanadhi. “Kamal Hassan and I bonded over books and cinema. We keep referring to each other to bring out the best. While making a sensitive film like Mahanadhi, it’s like walking a tightrope. We took inputs from many people to create the right impact,” he says.

Restoring Coimbatore’s cinematic glory
  • Music director Gangai Amaren sings the philosophical ‘Eththanai Kaalam Thaan Yemaatruvaar’ from MGR’s blockbuster Malai Kallan and says, “Great compositions like ‘Eththanai Kaalam’... originated from the studios in Coimbatore. The city occupies an important place in the history of cinema. So many stalwarts, like MS Viswanathan and TK Ramamoorthy, started their career from here.”
  • Between 1937 and 1960, film production flourished around Central Studios and Pakshiraaja Studios in Coimbatore. Azaad was made in six languages — Malai Kallan (Tamil), Aggi Ramudu (Telugu) ,Taskara Veeran (Malayalam), Bettada Kalla (Kannada) and Sursena (Sinhalese) and all were super hits. “ We want a lot of youngsters from the city to make it big in films. We are here to help you and guide you with our experience,” he adds.
  • The three were in Coimbatore to inaugurate an integrated film school at Clusters Institute of Media and Technology . The school will be headed by Lenin. Theatre person Prasanna Ramaswamy who was also present at the occasion said that films made by Bhim Singh (Lenin’s father) and Ilaiyaraajara’s music can be used to teach lessons on cinema.

“We know only cinema,” announces Gangai Amaren, who is also the chairperson with National Awards committee for Marathi films. “The stories there are simple and rooted. In this role, I want to help people who are passionate about cinema to reach a better level.”

A still from film Karakaattakaaran

A still from film Karakaattakaaran  

His brother Ilaiyaraaja’s music, he says, has been a trailblazer. “Our mother was worried about our future when we took off to Chennai. But we stayed focussed on music and followed the dictum seyyum thozhiley theivam and earned a good name in the industry. Our mother used to be in charge for growing mulaipari (earthen pots with grown grains inside) for the Mariaman festival in our village. She would keep humming songs while growing Mulaipari and that inspired us to make tunes like the classic ‘Aayiram Thamarai Mottukale’...” He is all for praise for music directors like Imman and Vijay Antony. “They follow Ilaiyaraaja’s style and make great compositions. But a lot of others are going the Western way where sounds take over,” he rues.

As for his son Venkat Prabhu’s success as a director, he says, “I don’t give them any inputs. Sometimes, they send me tunes on phone. I listen to it and WhatsApp the lyrics. You have to be connected with the youth in some way,” he laughs.

Any interaction with Gangai Amaren is incomplete without the mention of Karakattakkaran, a cult film that highlighted the art of Karakattam. He says, “What we captured was a slice of life of traditional folk artists, which we saw in our neighbourhood while growing up. We showed it cinematically and it clicked with the audience.”

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 11:56:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/gangai-amaren-santhana-bharathi-and-lenin-inaugurate-an-integrated-film-school-at-clusters-institute-of-media-and-technology-in-coimbatore/article29100554.ece

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