Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A.P.Nagarajan - The Myth Master

As the heroine playing sthreepart

Shooting Agathiyar with seerkazhi and lakshmi
with NTR during Sampoorna Ra,mayanam 1958
APN the Director....

I wrote an article in the Hindu on Shri A.P.Nagarajan , noted film Director/Producer. It was published on Sunday 15th April in the Cinema Plus section , here it is , un edited with a lot more Photographs.

The Master of Mythlogy

The recent release and success of “Karnan” has prompted a lot of interest in the revival of some of the old mythological classics. The early years of both Silent and talkie Cinema was surfeit with Myths and Legends as the subject , slowly by the late 50s the “social” subject had almost fully taken over , the fact that the Dravidian parties and its Leaders contributed a lot to this cannot be denied. The one person who brought the “Mythological” back to celluloid was A.P.Nagarajan.

His son C.N.Paramasivan , an NRI businessman , says that the film Karnan and the warm response given to it has prompted to him to restore and present his father’s films like Thiruvilayadal , Saraswathi Sabatham , Thiruvarutchelvar and Thillana Mohanambal. As they are all films that have been seen many times by people on Television the restoration has to make both a visible and an audible difference to the Theater audience. We need to offer them something more than just viewing a good quality print. Some of the others like Kandhan Karunai , Karaikal Ammaiyaar , Thirumalai Deivam and Sri Krishna Leela too will be considered if the restoration costs reduce says Paramasivan.

Akkammapettai Paramasivan Nagarajan was born on the 24th of February 1928 and christened as Kuppuswamy . His family were very wealthy landowners , almost Zamindars with thousands of acres . His father Paramasiva Gounder died when Nagarajan was a young boy , his mother Lakshmi Ammal followed her husband within a few months . His maternal grandmother Manicka Ammal took charge of the young boy and brought him up. She was afraid that he may not be cared well for by the Family. After a while she took him to a Drama Company and she did not inform them of the boy’s antecedents , later he shifted to Avvai T.K.Shanmugam’s Drama Cpmpany . As there were many Kuppuswamis his name was changed to Nagarajan. Nagarajan learnt his basics of the Dramatic Arts and even went on to play the “lead” in the Play “Gumasthavin Penn”. He was a remarkable actor , who brought to life all the roles he donned. His early “sthreepart” roles being very popular with the audience. He worked with the “Madurai Jayarama Sangeetha Boys Company “ as well as Sakthi Nadaga Sabha along with Sivaji ganesan and Kaka Radhakrishnan.

Nagarajan went on to grow in the world of Tamil Drama and started his own drama company the “Pazhani Kadiravan Nadaga Sabha” and in 1949 married Rani Ammal. He wrote and acted in several plays , when one of his plays “Nalvar” was made into a Movie . Nagarajan wrote the screenplay for his own Story and acted as the Hero in this Film. His film career had begun in 1953 both as a hero and as a writer. In an interview to a magazine he mentioned his father’s name as well as his ancestral village Akkammapettai. Some of his family members read this article and came down to meet him and he was re united with his family after almost 20 Years. Actor Sivakumar reminisced that the entire cast and crew of Thirumalai Thenkumari were hosted by the proud family of Nagarajan at the ancestral home.

He also acted in many movies for Producer M.A.Venu formerly of Modern Theatres like Mangalyam , Nalla Thangal , Pennarasi , wrote for Town Bus and by 1956 decided to focus on his writing. He wrote “ Naan Petra Selvam” , Makkalai Petra Maharasi , in the latter he introduced the “Kongu “ Tamil accent for the hero. The first of his many Mythologicals - Sampoorna Ramayanam ( 1958) was a big success and Rajaji , who had little regard for cinema watched this film and praised Sivaji Ganesan’s performance as Bharatha. He then started to Produce in Partnership with the actor V.K.Ramaswamy Nalla Idaththu Sammandham (1958) , Thayai Pol Pillai, Noolai pol selai (1959) , Paavai Vilakku and made his Directorial Debut with Vadivukku Valaigaappu (1962) . He launched his own Production Company with Navarathri and then went on to make his mark in the field of Mythologicals as well.

In 1965 , a year after Karnan , Thiruvilayadal hit the screens and set Box office records everywhere. This was followed by Saraswathi Sabatham , Kandhan Karunai , Thiruvarutchelvar , Thirumal Perumai , Agasthiyar , Thirumalai Deivam , Karaikaal Ammayaar and Sri Krishna Leela. He made Thillana Mohanambal and Raja Raja Chozhan , both of which too deserve to be restored. His son plans to re release some of the classics next year when Indian Cinema celebrates its century and his father’s 60 th year of entering Cinema.

A.P.Nagarajan passed away in 1977. A self taught man whose life was as much of an epic as were his Movies.

Nagesh On Thiruvilayadal

In his autobiography Nagesh wrote – “ Everyone kept telling me that I had done a superb Job and at times even stole the scene from the hero , so I was extremely scared that it may not see the light of day as the Director was as it is struggling to trim the film’s length. One day as I was in the recording Theatre Sivaji walked in and wanted to see the “Dharumi” piece. He did not notice me in the dark sound engineers room. He watched it once and then wanted to see it again – by this time I was sure that my scene , especially the solo lamenting, will be axed. To my astonishment , Sivaji turned and said – Do not remove a single foot from this episode as well as the episode with T.S.Balaiah , we can cut anything else. These will be the highlight of the film. This is my opinion but as the Director you have the final say. Whatever Dubbing additions have to be done , get that fellow (Nagesh) and lock him up in the Studio and don’t let him run away till he completes it to your satisfaction. He has done outstanding work. That was his generosity to his fellow actors “ .

How prophetic , for these two turned out to be all time classic performances and the backbone for the film’s success.

The Achievement of KARNAN

· When first released it was the first of the mythology series that made a comeback in the 1960s. It was an answer to the “rationalistic” dialogues that started catching up in the early 50s and totally drowned the Mythology genre. A trendsetter even then.

· In its re release Karnan became the First Tamil Old classic to be fully digitally restored.

· The first to be re released in 72 Centers all across tamil nadu

· The first to be re released in 10 Screens in Chennai City

· The first re release to celebrate 25 days in 30 centers , 5 in Chennai and 4 in Madurai.

Despite the Examination season and the IPL it is still showing a healthy collection with many shows sporting the House Full sign. On the day of the first Chennai Super Kings Match while many a Theater went a begging, Sathyam saw an almost full house.


Boobalan said...

Very good article, thanks for this!

Unknown said...

Mohan sir .... What an irony, i tend to read this article and the article on re-release of APN's Thiruvilayadal at the same time! APN, for sure is the master of mythology and i ve loved all his films based on Mythology ! Thanks for the write-up!

mahi said...

After Karnan's success in rerelease,many are interested in bringing back the every-green classics to screen but the sad part is they only want to make profit. In Hollywood , classic film festivals are released every year to honour their legends .
We should also follow them we too celebrate tamil classic film festivals like the retrospective of Rajesh Kanna, Vinod chopra in Bollywood. Why don't we have a screen for classic movies in multiplexes as number of multiplexes are growing and they need different genres of movies and also classic movies have reasonable fan base and distributors can earn profit too.

Film restoration expert

We are doing film restorations at very reasonable price.

Anonymous said...

I refer to the excellent Tamizh movie: "Thirumalai Thenkumari"

Anyone could please guide me re: which building was it that was shown at the beginning of the movie- this is the tall building shown. It is almost 6 stories- fairly tall building in Chennai in 1970!.
In the movie, most of the characters reside in this building.

Ajith Kumar D said...

Great Article and its so informative. People like you taking this great initiative in cascading the efforts and greatness of legends are really remarkable.

Sheela said...

Nicely posted.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.