Cinema

In a flashback mode

Prabhu

Prabhu  

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Former director-producer C.V. Rajendran tells Malathi Rangarajan about his tryst with cinema.

The invitation to the 100th day celebrations of a 1974 film recently, organised by NTFANS (a forum for the appreciation of Sivaji Ganesan’s films) came as a surprise. ‘Sivagamiyin Selvan,’ the Ganesan-Vanisri starrer, a remake of Rajesh Khanna’s ‘Aradhana,’ directed by C.V. Rajendran, it is said, had opened to a lukewarm response when it was first released 42 years ago. This time it’s been a different story.

At Srinivasa Theatre, where it was re-released, fans of the thespian apparently turned up in sizeable numbers. The film may not have played to a full house, but it was received well. Opening with three shows a day, it later got reduced to one, but the theatre saw no reason to pull it out completely. A genuine 100-day run of an old film in an era where stretching a new release to even a week is an achievement.

“I’m very happy about the reception it has received after so many years and that too without much publicity,” says Rajendran during a chat at his home in T. Nagar, as recalls his voyage in cinema as a director and producer. An assistant and later an associate of renowned filmmaker Sridhar, Rajendran went on to direct more than 50 films. Most of them were in Tamil, and a few in Kannada, Telugu and Hindi.

“I owe it all to Sridhar. I studied at Pachaiyappa’s College and try as I did I couldn’t complete my graduation,” says Rajendran. “I was more inclined towards writing stories.” A temporary Government job came his way. “But passing the Public Service Commission examination was impossible,” he chuckles. It was then that his cousin, director Sridhar, who had begun to carve a niche for himself in cinema with path-breaking attempts, told Rajendran to join him and Rajendran’s tryst with cinema began with ‘Meenda Sorgam.’ “A boost for my creative bent,” he says.

Sridhar’s Chitralaya was a great training ground for Rajendran and when he got a chance to turn director, Sridhar, was only too happy for him. “Art designer Bharani and ‘Chitralaya’ Gopu made my directorial debut possible,” he says. The film ‘Anubhavam Pudhumai,’ written by Gopu, turned out to be a dampener at the box office and a disconcerted Rajendran returned to his home turf, to work with Sridhar’s unit for the comedy classic, ‘Ooty Varai Uravu.’

“It was just a matter of time before I bounced back, thanks to Sivaji Ganesan, with ‘Galatta Kalyanam’.” Again written by Gopu, the rollicking comedy did well. (Incidentally, no one can forget Gopu-Rajendran’s timeless humour trip, ‘Veetukku Veedu.’)

“Behind the effort of every other technician, is the brain of a director working non-stop,” he points out. “He has to have the scenes and song sequences running in his mind even before he leaves for the shoot.” Rajendran cites an example. Film buffs must be familiar with the famous ‘Engal Kalyanam …’ song sequence that had four pairs of actors dancing together. (‘Galatta Kalyanam’) “Except for just half a day of shoot I couldn’t bring them together , because each was a busy actor. I used cuts, zooms and whizz-pans to circumvent the challenge. The shot with Manorama, for instance, looks as if she is singing from atop the Anna Tower to Nagesh down below, but when we filmed it Nagesh wasn’t there. Visualising and planning of shots show a director’s acumen.”

Beginning ‘Galatta Kalyanam’, Rajendran went on to direct four films with Sivaji Ganesan and Jayalalithaa as the lead pair (‘Sumathi En Sundari,’ ‘Raja’ and ‘Needhi’ were the others) and all of them were hits. “The Chief Minister’s astuteness and boldness stunned me even then.” The respect appears mutual because she recently honoured him with the Living Legend Award.

Rajendran had made Sivaji Ganesan look very stylish and youthful in ‘Galatta Kalyanam.’ He nods. “He had put on weight and hadn’t signed films for almost a year and a half. In that time he reduced his weight and looked fit. I wanted the audience to see it. So I composed a shot in which he had to walk from the manager’s room to his seat. And as I expected the audience went into raptures cheering their hero. Also, his costumes were chosen with an eye on accentuating his appearance.”

Rajendran re-made several Hindi films for actor-producer Balajee. But too many such ventures could corrode his creativity he thought and returned to making straight films. After ‘Chinnappa Das’ with Satyaraj, a few productions and a short sojourn in television, Rajendran decided to hang up his boots. “Rest and retirement well earned,” he laughs aloud.

Proud introduction

C.V. Rajendran’s ‘Sangili’ which had Sivaji Ganesan as the protagonist, warranted a tough looking actor for a supporting role. “I had seen Prabhu during my visits to Annai Illam (Ganesan’s home) and felt he would be suitable.” But when Rajendran suggested it to Ganesan, the actor vetoed the idea. “Forget it. I want him to join the police force,” he said. But Rajendran did not give up. He went to Ganesan’s brother Shanmugam, and soon Prabhu was on board. “I remembered Ganesan would never go against Shanmugam’s words,” smiles Rajendran.

MRN

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 9:30:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/In-a-flashback-mode/article14628558.ece

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