Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Experiences at Svanubhava-2010

Matrka and YACM have jointly been conducting Svanubhava, a festival of Arts exclusively for students of Classical Arts.
Today is the concluding day of the festival. Different venues were chosen for each day and I could attend two programs during this festival, one on the 3rd and the other on the 4th of August.

The venues chosen for the 6 days were Kalakshetra, The Adyar Government Music College, The Music Academy, Harishri Vidyalayam, PSBB KK Nagar. Today's events will be held at Vidya Mandir, Mylapore.


This session was jointly conducted by veteran actor Sri A.R.Srinivasan (ARS) and Mr.Crazy Mohan. Sri.Y.Gee.Mahendra who was also supposed to have been on the panel, apparently could not make it for the session. The session went on for about an hour and was followed by an interactive question-answer session with the audience for about 10 minutes.

Sri.ARS started the session by giving a brief introduction about humour in films, starting from the earliest "talkies" till the current generation movies, in chronological order. Tamizh cinema is into its 80th year, hence he took us all on a whirlwind tour of the topic.

(Photo Courtesy: K.V.Gopalakrishnan)

I personally feel that it was a very neat and methodical presentation, with several examples and personal experiences cited in between.

He began by saying that our earliest influence in comedy came from Hollywood. Charlie Chaplin-N.S.Krishnan, Eddie Cantor-T.R.Ramachandran, Jerry Lewis-Nagesh, Laurel and Hardy-Senthil and Koundamani and so on, to mention a few. He also added that he could easily think of as many as 35 comedians in Tamizh cinema, but would mention only a few due to time constraints.

He mentioned about the different kinds of comedy in Tamizh movies:

Vaduville comedy (earliest comedy was in silent movies - best examples of comedians who influenced us were Bustor Keaton and Herald LLoyd).
Situational comedy- Chitraalaya Gopu is supposed to have been the pioneer in this type of comedy and has given many hit films. He also commended Sri.Crazy Mohan for several hit films he has given in association with Padmashri Kamal Hassan, like Avvai Shanmughi.
Slapstick comedy - Laurel and Hardy type of comedy. Chandrababu and Nagesh specialized in this kind of comedy.
Dialogue comedy - Thangavelu and V.K.Ramaswamy were the best examples of dialogue comedy.
Unintentional comedy.

The first movie came in the year 1917. Keechaka vadham. This was a silent movie.
The first talkie was Kalidas which came in the year 1931. In this movie, the hero, heroine, other members of the cast- all spoke in different languages ! But the audience didn't mind, since it was the first dramatic change from a silent movie. This movie had no dubbing, hence the actors spoke in whichever language they knew !

Kaalava Rishi was the first movie in which the entire cast spoke in Tamizh and this movie came in the year 1932.

Next Sri.ARS spoke about punch dialogues in movies, and NSK was considered to be the pioneer in comedy punch lines. He was also one of the important people who always made it a point to give thought-provoking comedy (which is unfortunately not seen these days.)

Examples from comedy tracks of NSK,VKR and Nagesh were given and the audience enjoyed every bit of this.

I particularly enjoyed that portion when he spoke high of Nagesh, about the versatility in his acting and how observant he was in normal life and took real-life examples to build several characters of his. One best example was his role in the classic "Tiruvilayaadal". It seems Nagesh, once at Kapali Temple, Mylapore saw a person who was pacing up and down and talking to himself. He is said to have keenly observed this person and his "dharumi" character in Tiruvilayaadal is said to have been largely based on this !

Instances cited from comedy in the old professional stage plays were hilarious ! In the early plays, it seems the hero would sing a famous song and "die" at the end. The audience would shout "once more", the hero would get up, sing once more and die again !!!

There were many idiosyncrasies- for example, an actor dressed up as Lord Rama, was famous for his hit song "Gopiyar Konjum Ramana". Each time Lord Rama came on the stage he was expected to sing this song on Lord Krishna, though the Krishna Avatar comes only after Rama Avatar in our mythology !! The point to be noted here is that the audience didn't mind these idiosyncrasies. People were simple and they just wanted their favorite songs to be sung :-)

The movie Bama Vijayam was another example in which he said GNB as Narada and M.R.Krishnamurthy as Lord Krishna would sing Tyagaraja Kritis in the movie ! Classical Music was an integral part of Tamizh movies then. Also in this movie, the entire cast of mythological characters would sing Janagana Mana in the end ! (Jana Gana Mana was accepted as a national song then, though it became the national anthem much later).

Next he talked about prompting that was done on amateur stage.

Talking about the movie Pavalakodi by Director K.Subramanyam, he talked about the "crow-shooter", whose name even appeared in the end credits as a crow shooter :-). Apparently in this movie, when songs with live orchestra were filmed in daylight at the Sathya Studio, there used to be thousands of crows flying over the area, causing audio disturbance. A man was specially employed as a "crow-shooter" who used rubber bullets to scare away the crows !!

Sri.ARS took us on a very interesting tour of Humour in Tamizh cinema and he finished his talk with a quote of NSK:
"சுருங்கச் சொல்லி விளங்க வை, விளங்கச் சொல்லி முகத்தைச் சுருங்க வைக்காதே"

After this Mr.Crazy Mohan gave a very lively account of humour in real life. He emphasised on the importance of humour in life.

(Photo Courtesy: K.V.Gopalakrishnan)

I would have very much liked it if he had shared with us,the unique experience that he has had in writing comedy tracks for Padmashri Kamal Hassan's films. The combination of these two personalities has given some remarkable hits in Tamizh cinema.


This session was conducted by Sri.Rajiv Menon and the "one and only" SPB.

Rajiv Menon proved to be the perfect combination for SPB. He asked a lot of questions and we were in for an aural treat throughout the session.

(Photo Courtesy: Bharat Sundar)

SPB emphasized on the importance that should be given to lyrics and "Bhavam" while singing.

He gave numerous examples. The song that readily comes to my mind is "உனக்கென மேலே நின்றாய் ஓ நந்தலாலா" from the movie Simla Special which he demonstrated beautifully and also added how Kamal Hassan has added a lot of life to the song with his facial expression in this song.

SPB said true music should bring tears to the eyes and touch the soul, be it whichever form of music.

The movie Shankarabharanam in Telugu gave a lot of importance to classical ragas and he added that songs that he has sung in this movie have fetched him a lot of awards.

(Photo Courtesy: Bharat Sundar)

He talked about how he got influenced by Mohammed Rafi's style of singing.

It was amazing to hear that during his peak period as a playback singer, he recorded as many as 19 songs in a single day !!

The raga Sivaranjani, he said, got hooked on to him after the evergreen hit "Tere Mere Beech Me".

All of the above talks about the legend that he is, as far as playback singing is concerned.

What really touched me even more, was the humility in this great man. This quality,according to me, is a rare trait in great personalities.

He gave the example of a bird. Said any artist is like a bird. If one wing of the bird is विद्या (knowledge), the other wing is विनयम् (humility). Only if both the wings are properly balanced can the bird fly smoothly and reach great heights.

The audience gave him a standing ovation in the end, which he richly deserves.

SPB - A great personality indeed, a human being whom I admire a lot.

....................Both days were very memorable afternoons for me and kudos to the entire team of Matrka and YACM for this wonderful show.


Kalyan said...

Namaskaram Gayathri,

I am Kalyan, friend of Girish. Girish tagged your blog in FB and I never knew that you blog. Your account on the Svanubhava 2010 was so crisp, neat. Your summary of legendaries like 'Crazy' Mohan and SPB were so nice and indeed SPB is humility personifed. ARS quoting NSK's humour provided a fitting finish.

Regards / Kalyan

Gayathri Girish said...

Thanks Kalyan :-)
I would have loved to write about all the events in this 6-day festival, if only there had been time to attend all of them :-(

Anonymous said...

Hi...your thought on Crazy + Kamal is a good one....I suggest you to take lead, interview CM and put a blog on it...that would be a good start, isn't?

good luck...

Geetha Chandrasekaran said...

Good summary of events, Gayathri. Thanks for taking time to write for people like us who didn't get a chance to attend....

Gayathri Girish said...

Thanks Geetha.

That's a great idea. I would love to interview Mr.Mohan (and maybe Sri.Kamal Hassan too :-)) and get an insight into the kind of work that has gone into making those super hits. I have really enjoyed the humor and timing in those films.


nagraj said...

It shows how much you enjoyed the programmes and how much we have missed !

The write up is better than that of the print media, keep it up

Musically Yours said...

So profound and true indeed about an artist's two wings, beautiful anecdote!

Musically Yours said...

Beautiful anecdote about the two wings of an artist. Thanks for sharing these valuable instances, Gayatri!

Musically Yours said...

Beautiful anecdote about the two wings of an artist. Thanks for sharing these valuable instances, Gayatri!