(The original article was published in 2009 but I am replenishing the articles with new content and making it native to Medium to popularise it)
The 4th movie on the list is the one that brought the “actor” and dravidian politics to Tamil cinema. I was going back and forth in the years in 2009. The next movie on the list will be from 1966. It was to bring some colour to the articles.
Krishnan — Panju, the most successful director duo, has made some excellent movies that are blockbuster hits and at the same time critically well received. But they were never spoken in the breadth of other famous directors of those times (like CV Sridhar). I have 3 of their movies on my list. The most obvious reason I could see is that the lead actors have become more famous than the director duo in those movies. If it was MR Radha in Ratha Kanneer, Parasakthi announced the arrival of greatest Tamil actor of all times, Sivaji Ganesan and Nagesh in Server Sundaram
Parasakthi was one of the most controversial movies of those times. Those days were full of historical films and commercial entertainers; even the elusive social genre movies had cliched characters and political correctness. Parasakthi was the first movie to break the shackles and tried to talk about social problems openly in mainstream cinema.
The story had a backdrop of World War II. Manickampillai (Duraiswamy) lives with his daughter Kalyani (Sri Ranjani) in Madurai, Tamilnadu. His three sons, Gunasekaran (Sivaji Ganesan), Chandrasekaran (SV Sahasarnamam) and Gnanasekaran (SS Rajendran) live in Rangoon (current day Myanmar). Chandrasekaran becomes a Barrister and lives with his wife, Saraswathi. Manickampillai arranges the wedding of Kalyani with Thangappan, who has Dravidian ideological leanings. The three brothers plan to attend the wedding, and due to the second world war, the shipping company they work provides only one ticket to India. Gunasekaran tries to travel to India, but the ship fails to reach Madras (now Chennai), and Kalyani’s wedding with Thangappan goes ahead without the brothers.
The family is torn in three different places, and Kalyani gets pregnant. On the day of her child’s birth, Kalyani loses her husband to an accident and her father to the shock. She loses all the property because of the bad loans of her father and starts an ‘Idli’ shop to survive. Gunasekaran finally lands in Chennai but loses all his money to a woman who cheats him. He starts begging to survive, reaches Madurai but instead of revealing his identity to his sister, stays nearby and guards her against the people vying for her body. She runs away to Tiruchi and starts working as a maid. Gunasekaran follows and meets Vimala (Pandari Bai), a Dravidian feminist who changes Gunasekaran and makes him realise that he is selfish by thinking about only his family. Although there is a romantic relationship between them, Gunasekaran leaves her to find his sister. Chandrasekaran and Gnanasekaran also leave Rangoon. Chandrasekaran lands in Tiruchi and becomes a sessions judge while Gnanasekaran loses his leg to a Japanese bombing in North East India. At one point of time, a priest tries to rape Kalyani (who finds abode in a temple due to hunger). She escapes from the temple, throws her child in the river and tries to commit suicide. The police save her and arrested and brought to the same court where Chandrasekaran is the judge.
She invokes the mythological story of Nallathangal (who killed her children to save them from poverty), and Chandrasekaran realises that she is his sister. Gunasekaran understanding that the priest tried to rape his sister and confronts him. After a scuffle, Gunasekaran attacks him with a sickle. He is brought to the same court. After a long monologue in the court and Vimala finds Kalyani’s child, both Gunasekaran and Kalyani are acquitted.
The family reunites, and the movie ends with a self-respect marriage between Vimala and Gunasekaran sans any priests, rituals and the Thali (the holy thread).
Parasakthi was directed by Krishnan — Panju and produced by National Pictures. Sudarsanam composed the music, and Maruthi Rao wielded the camera. The cast included Sivaji Ganesan, SS Rajendran, SV Sahasaranamam, Sri Ranjani and Pandari Bai. The most important of all which became the prime reason for the success of the movie was the dialogues of the film written by M.Karunanidhi. Pavalar Balasundaram wrote the original story, and it was staged as a play by Devi Nadaga Sabha.
Why is Parasakthi special?
- The wonderfully written dialogues. Karunanidhi was part of the newly formed DMK party which had Dravidian ideologies at its roots. He used the characters of the movie as the mouthpieces of propagating Dravidian thoughts. The film had fiery monologues shunning the social problems of those times like casteism, cheating through religion, black marketing, poverty, women abuse and the rich-poor divide.
- The acting and especially the dialogue delivery of Sivaji. Nobody expected a newcomer was performing so well and the long monologues were new to Tamil Cinema. He became an instant hit, and the final court scene is still considered to be a masterpiece. According to Thirunavakkarasu (1990), the even weeks after the release of the movie, performers used to recite the dialogue in the public around Moore Market area (in Chennai) to make some money and it became mandatory for actors and political orators to perform the speech .
- The beautiful performances of the supporting cast. Sri Ranjani, Pandari Bai, the evil priest and SS Rajendran especially were aptly cast characters.
- Based on the account from MSS Pandian (1991) in Economic and Political weekly, the reason for the success of the movie because it spoke the discontent of the people on the Congress government. The anti-establishment stance of the movie and even the anti-religious sentiments became popular with the audience .
- Parasakthi became the precursor to the Dravidian electoral politics and became the springboard for their movement.
Why is Parasakthi on the list?
- The first movie to openly talk about the social problems and created a significant impact showing that films can be used as a social medium too (and succeed in it). The anti-establishment and anti-religious dialogues irked the Congress government in power. The Brahmin controlled media outlets made strong negative commentaries on the movie . There were many organisations including Catholic Indian Association, Coimbatore, Choolai Seva Sangam, Gandhiji Desiya Valibar Sangam, Rajaji Kalai Kazhagam, VOC Munnetra Kazhagam, Netaji Valibar Sangam and many other social elites from the state wrote to C.Rajagopalachari, then Chief Minister of Madras Presidency (now Tamil nadu) to represent their concerns to the union government and recensor the movie . Bhakathvachalam (future Chief Minister of Madras Presidency), who was the editor of Bharat Devi, a nationalist daily wrote to the Chief Minister that the movie is purporting the idea of Dravidanaadu and seccession, deginerates The Hindu values, the government and the goddess Parasakthi . Rajaji’s government tried to derail the movie by referring it to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and after 6 months of tussle (you can read about it in this article — quite a long drawn complicated back and forth litigations), the ministry suggested two cuts, by then the movie was a box office hit and the controversy actually helped the movie.
- The movie which brought the dialogue culture and demonstrated the might of pen. The dialogues were so famous that the producers released Gramophone records and books after the movie’s success. Mu. Karunanidhi made the writers as integral part of cinema who were unknown until then.
- The rise of Sivaji Ganesan, the actor. Nobody reckoned that he would become one of the most important stars that Tamil cinema ever produced.
- Although it is an old trivia, the Dravidian leader EVR Periyar gave — the sobriquet Sivaji to Ganesan, after watching his portrayal of Maratha leader Sivaji, in a stage play .
- Sri Ranjani or Sri Ranjani Jr was a Telugu actress who started her career in Bhishma in 1941. She made some memorable portrayals in Tamil including of forlorn wife of MR Radha in Rattha Kaneer. She also did the role of a blind girl in the remake of City Lights — Raji En Kanmani. She passed away in 1970.
- The songs of Parasakthi were based on some famous Hindi film songs of those times. Sudarsanam rehashed the tunes of Sunehre Din (1949), Babul (1950), Dopatta (1951) and even an Urdu song by legendary Ghulam Haidet from a Pakistani movie, Akeli (1952).
- Although the film was said to be produced by National Pictures, it’s a partnership production between AVM & National Pictures. AV Meyappa Chettiar was involved in the script discussion and publicity of the movie. The movie was shot entirely in the AVM Studios. A memorial has been erected for Sivaji in the AVM Studios, where he shot the first scene. The first dialogue he spoke was “Success”. There was a stiff opposition (including AV Meyappa Chettiar) to cast Sivaji as he was puny and had a distinctive dialogue delivery. Perumal Mudaliar of National Pictures was convinced that Sivaji will shine in the role. There was a special dietician to provide healthy food for Sivaji and make him look good .
- Perumal Mudaliar (of National Pictures) wanted ASA Sami to direct the movie but Sami wanted to combine the screenplays of two plays that were popular at that time, Parasakthi and En Thangai (both were about siblings). But Perumal Mudaliar wasn’t convinced and chose Krishnan-Panju instead .
- Initially, KR Ramasamy and Nageshwara Rao were considered for Sivaji’s role. RS Manohar auditioned for the role. But Perumal Mudaliar somehow wanted Sivaji to act in the movie because he watched him acting in a female role in a play titled Noor Jahan .
- Also, Thirvarur Thangaraju wrote the dialogues but Perumal Mudaliar wasn’t happy about it. Mu Karunanidhi was roped in and he rewrote the dialogues .
- Sivaji was acting in a stage play in Trichy when he was called for screen test. He flew down from Trichy, did the screen test and flew back to Trichy for the evening show of the play .
- The Pandari Bai character was created by Karunanidhi and not part of the original play. He wanted to create a strong female character that will be anti-thesis to the other characters in the story, point out the mistakes of the lead character and also act as the narrator .
- AV Meiyappa Chettiar wasn’t sure about Sivaji Ganesan from the start. He wanted to replace him with KR Ramasamy half way through the movie but Perumal Mudaliar made CN Annadurai to talk to AVM and convince him about Sivaji .
- There was a movement to ban the movie due to its revolutionary dialogues and atheist ideology. The head of censor board at that time was ‘Stalin’ Srinivasan (he was called Stalin because he had a “Stalin Moustache”). ‘Stalin’ Srinivasan was running a magazine called “Manikkodi” that gave space for revolutionary authors like Pudumai Pithan. He took up the review petition but declined to ban the movie. In fact, the strong opposition to the movie in certain publications helped to publicise the movie and people thronged the theatres to check what the fuss all about .
- The film employed multiple ways to circumvent the scissors of the censor board. Most of the anti-establishment and anti-religious dialogues were uttered by the mad men character portrayed by Sivaj, so they used the insanity argument. Also, the movie’s timeline was supposed be in the 1940s and India was ruled by the British at that time, so the makers argued that the criticisms were on the British and not the current government in power .
- Tashkent International Film Festival wanted to screen the film but Mu Karunanidhi asked the producers not to send the movie because it might undermine the country’s reputation in the eyes of the foreigners and they wouldn’t understand the social issues of India .
- Incidentally, Sivaji’s grandson was launched as Junior Sivaji in a movie by the name ‘Success’. The film was a disaster and of course the grandson too.
- Tamil Cinema Varalaru — Dinathanthi Publications
- The Pride of Tamil Cinema (1931 TO 2013) by Dhananjayan
- Parasakthi: Life and Times of a DMK Film — MSS Pandian, Economic and Political Weekly
- Dravidar Iyakkamum Thiraippada Ulagamum by Thirunavakkarasu, 1990 (as mentioned in reference 3)
Read the entire list from this link