Art

The director’s fine cut

Daredevilry was his constant companion and innovation his middle name — attributes that secured a cult status for Sridhar. The veteran writer-director was a pioneer on incalculable fronts. Not just Tamil, his oeuvre of 75 films comprises Hindi, and other languages of the South.

“‘You need to be a risk taker, Gopu, otherwise you cannot win’, he would tell me,” recalls his friend and associate ‘Chitralaya’ Gopu, as we get talking about the filmmaker. Today (July 22) marks C.V. Sridhar’s 86th birth anniversary.

“He was probably one of those rare filmmakers who had an incredible fan following at a time when MGR and Sivaji Ganesan ruled the roost in Tamil cinema.

Airport or railway station, people thronged him. I would stand there, a silent admirer of his intrepidity and acumen that led to his meteoric rise in cinema,” Gopu continues.

Sridhar and Gopu had been inseparable since childhood. “In fact, there were three musketeers,” laughs director C.V. Rajendran, Sridhar’s cousin and associate of many films, “including writer P. S. Ranganathan (pseudonyms Agasthiyan; Kadugu). They were close friends from childhood.”

When Sridhar turned up at Gopu’s office one day and said, “Quit this job now and come with me. I will be directing a film soon,” Gopu did not think twice. “Such was my faith in Sridhar. I was sure my friend would take care of me, and he did. Not once would he introduce me to others as his assistant. I was always his ‘classmate and friend’,” Gopu turns slightly emotional. “A friend like Sridhar is hard to find.”

The film was ‘Kalyana Parisu,’ a phenomenal hit. Soon successful remakes of it in Hindi and other languages followed and Sridhar became a sensation. “His heroines were strong and sacrificing and his dialogue always dignified. Women audiences adored him,” Gopu adds. “He was the one who spotted the humorist in me …”

“Comedy, tragedy, triangular love, breezy romance, unrequited love, re-incarnation — Sridhar made them all. His films had remarkable climaxes and he was a pioneer in several ways,” says Rajendran. “Whenever we asked ‘Why,’ he would challenge us with, ‘Why not’.”

Cinema was talkie until Sridhar changed it into a movie experience. “‘Why so much dialogue, da? This is a visual medium. Let us show beautiful locations, expressions, close-ups,’ he would say.”

When Sridhar stormed the cinema scene he made film dialogue, which was in chaste Tamil till then, colloquial and conversational. When none ventured outside the studios for shooting, he went to Kashmir to shoot ‘Then Nilavu’ and to Europe for ‘Sivandha Mann’. Contrastingly, he shot ‘Nenjil Oar Aalayam’ on a single set, that too in just 25 days, at a time when a film took more than two years. A river had been created at Vauhini Studios for ‘Sivandha Mann.’ But it gave way before shooting commenced and the entire place was flooded. Unfazed, Sridhar said, ‘Let’s have the riverbed re-built with concrete,’ and went ahead. “Once he made a decision he never changed it,” remembers Rajendran. Again ‘Kaadhalikka Naeramillai’ was the first Eastman Colour film to be processed at Gemini Colour Lab.

When no filmmaker thought beyond bankable heroes Sridhar showed that you could make runaway hits with new faces. He believed that if the script is good it would work. ‘Kaadhalikka Naeramillai’ and ‘Vennira Aadai’ are examples. None of his actors donned make-up for ‘Nenjirukkum Varai.’ Yet another first.

If he made hits with MGR and Sivaji Ganesan, later Rajinikanth and Kamal, he also made stars of first-timers and stage and small time actors. When he needed succour, MGR came forward to play the hero in his ‘Urimai Kural’ — a silver jubilee hit, and Sridhar bounced back with renewed vigour.

Sridhar had an ear for music. Songs in his films, particularly with MSV and Ilaiyaraja, were chartbusters. If he saw potential in singers he made them composers. For instance, A.M. Raja (‘Kalyana Parisu’) and SPB (‘Thudikkum Karangal’).

“He carved a niche for himself among educated filmgoers also. Let me quote Raman, a retired professor and an ardent fan of Sridhar. He wrote, ‘Sridhar’s treatment and presentation were never run of the mill and his mega hits did not boast of star value.’ See what I mean?” Gopu’s voice brims with pride.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 2:29:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/art/The-director%E2%80%99s-fine-cut/article14501577.ece

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