Wednesday, 25 July 2018

A filmmaker who told intense stories of common lives

It was an era when melodrama was ruling Tamil cinema as most of the filmmakers migrating from stage plays to celluloid were making movies with hyped human emotions. And then, came an era when filmmakers like Bharathiraja brought movies from sets to the villages by telling stories of the soil.

In the same era came a lot of creators who wanted to narrate plots with nativity. One among many of those is J Mahendran, who later evolved into an icon, because of the common people’s lives he told about in his films.

With simple storylines, serious plots, and detailed character establishments, the film language of Mahendran's works is meant for analysis even today by a number of film critics.

Apart from being an established filmmaker, Mahendran was also a multifaceted film personality. Before becoming a director, he was a writer and penned scripts for a lot of memorable movies including Thanga Pathakkam, Kaali, Ganga, and Pagalil Oru Iravu.

Lately, he has been appearing on screen in various roles. He essayed the villain role in Atlee's Theri starring Vijay, and in some pivotal roles in Kamaraj and Priyadharshan's Nimir.

On the 79th birthday of the ace writer and director, I'm listing some of the top-notch works among his versatile filmography.

Mullum Malarum - 1978

Though Mahendran was part of the film fraternity since 1966 as a writer, it was Mullum Malarum, starring Rajinikanth, which was the debut for him as a filmmaker. Having already metamorphosed into a seasoned writer, the depth of characters in this flick made them evergreen for decades after the film was released.

The story, about the bonding between a brother and sister, showed the actor in Rajini which was unknown till then. The legendary combination of Balu Mahendra's cinematography and Ilayaraja's music gave greater intensity to the film.

Uthiripookkal - 1980

There was a time when cinema industry believed that short stories and short novels could not be made into movies. Breaking the belief, this Pudumaipithan's short story was made into a film that added Mahendran's name to the list of remarkable directors in Kollywood. Set in a village that hates Sundaravadivelu, played by yesteryear actor Vijayan, the movie revolves around him, who is a sadist. It was a bold experiment by Mahendran as the plot of Uthiripokkal does not possess a full-time hero, but the hedonistic Sundaravadivelu turns out to be the protagonist.

Johnny - 1980

The year 1980 was a successful year for Mahendran, who also had a chance to show his versatility. In Johnny, where Rajinikanth plays dual roles, one a thief and the other a possessive and cruel barber, Mahendran has done a lot of experiments. Showing both the roles played by Rajini with a criminal background itself was new to film buffs at the time. Sridevi played a beautiful, mellow singer in the film. The album of Johnny was a new attempt as all five songs had different singers - Janaki, Jency, Sujatha, Shailaja, and S P Balasubrahmanyam.

Nenjathai Killathe - 1980

This was the movie that fetched a lot of national-level recognition for Mahendran. Starring Mohan and Suhasini, the movie spoke about complications in relationships. It is said Suhasini initially hesitated to do the role, but the movie brought her a lot of appreciation after the release. The song Paruvame in the movie is still a wonder both in terms of composition and filming.

Nandu - 1981

Due to the touch of reality and simplicity of the characters, this movie is still credited as one of the finest works of Mahendran. The movie is based on a triangular love story in which the lead role played by Suresh - a cancer patient - which is denoted by the name of the movie - Nandu.

Metti - 1982

One of the most tragic movies made by Mahendran, Metti is about the reunion of a family. But, the reunion would not turn out as expected. The movie deals with shame plonked upon women in society due to infidelity. The movie also establishes a strong brother-sisters bonding. Despite the tragic climax, this movie was received well by the audience and film critics.

Sasanam - 2006

Based on Tamil epic Silappathikaram, this was the last-released movie directed by Mahendran. The intensity of the story and the nativity of the movie placed it in the lessons for filmmakers in film institutes. With leads played by Arvind Swamy, Gouthami and Ranjitha, the movie that was in post-production for a long time, was released only after all the lead actors retired from acting, though Arvind and Gouthami returned sometime later.

- Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, July 25, 2018.

A part or complete version of this listicle by Santhosh Mathevan has appeared in This is completely based on the perceptions of Santhosh Mathevan alone. This does not reflect the views of two or more people or a community. Queries and criticism shall be addressed to the writer only. Photos/images appearing on the post are sourced from various sites across the web.