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Song of the Day # 846

From: bb on: Tue Feb 06, 2007 1:36 am 

Song of the Day: MSV in the 80s: Part IX


- Saravanan writes:

MSV in the 80s: Part IX ~ anbuLLa aththaan ~

anbuLLa aththaan (1981/ Mehta Movies) was a movie that ignited and then extinguished the hopes and aspirations of two sons of Kannadasan- Kanmani Subbu and Kalaivanan. Kanmani Subbu had been assisting his illustrious father and had also ventured into penning lyrics (ninaithaalE inikkum, for instance). He was also under the tutelage of K.Balachandar for a while, and was eager to try his hand in directing a movie. Finding a willing producer, Kanmani Subbu embarked upon ‘anbuLLa aththaan’. He picked his brother Kalaivanan to play the hero, and booked Shobha to play the heroine.

Delhi Ganesh and Tambaram Lalitha had made a winning combination with Shobha in Durai’s ‘pasi’ just then, and Kanmani Subbu got them to act in ‘anbuLLa aththaan’ as well. Y.G.Mahendran, Bhanuchandar and Uma were the others in the cast. V.Gunasekharan drafted the screenplay while Kanmani Subbu wrote the dialogues. Editing was by Nazeer and Ameerjan. Cinematography was by Raghunath Reddy. Kannadasan and producer S.K.Metha wrote the lyrics for the songs. M.S.Viswanthan set the songs to tune.

With all the support of this talented crew, Kanmani Subbu looked all set to make it big. But the movie, when it was released, showed that he still had a long way to go. Of course, the death of Shobha midway was a big blow and I remember reading/hearing somewhere that they had to manage with long shots of a dupe for the remaining sequences. But even otherwise, the movie was pedestrian fare and after watching a preview show a disappointed Kannadasan is said to have chided his sons for this lackluster effort.

Kannadasan passed way soon thereafter, and Kanmani Subbu and Kalaivanan could not make much headway in cinema. Kanmani Subbu wrote the dialogues for few movies like K. Balachandar’s poo vilangu (1984) that was directed by Ameerjan and ‘aasai kiLiyE kObama (1991) directed by T.K.Prasad. He wrote lyrics for a few songs as well, the most popular of them being ‘naan thEdum sevvandhi poovidhu’ (dharmapathini/1986). He later directed ‘chithirai pookkaL’ (1991). Witty and erudite, Kanmani Subbu’s scintillating ‘Vote of Thanks’ in Kannadasan Thamizh Sangam’s yearly jamboree never fails to make headlines in the vernacular media year after year.

As for Kalaivanan, though his dreams of becoming an acclaimed actor remained unfulfilled, he tasted success as a director when his thriller ‘kaN simittum nEram’ (1988) starring Karthik, Ambika and marking the on-screen debut of producer Sarat Kumar set the cash boxes jingling. The movie was remade in Hindi as Sailaab (1990), starring Aditya Pancholi and Madhuri Dixit. Kalaivanan went on to direct movies like ‘thiruppumunai’ (1989), ‘Mr.Karthik’ (1990), and ‘vaa arugil vaa’ (1991). I believe Kalaivanan is no more; he passed way in 1994.

* * * *

The story of Shobha (1961-1980) is a saga of astounding professional success overshadowed by overwhelming personal insecurity and anguish. Shobha, whose real name was Mahalakshmi, was the daughter of actress Prema. Prema had acted in few Malayalam movies in the 60s, but could never make it to the top league. Her own failures had made Prema determined to make her daughter Mahalakshmi succeed where she had failed. Mahalakshmi went to work early; she acted as a child artiste in a few Malayalam and Tamil movies. Noteworthy among her Tamil movies as a child artiste was Chandrababu’s ‘thattungaL thirakkappadum’ (1966/Vishwabharathi) wherein Baby Mahalakshmi’s performance as the child Lakshmi won widespread praise, perhaps an initial indication of the greater laurels to come. And in Malayalam, Mahalakshmi, renamed as Baby Shobha stole the show in ‘udyOgasta’ (1967/Geetanjali) amidst the presence of veterans like Satyan, Prem Nazeer, Madhu, Sharada and Sukumari. She went on to act in few more Malayalam movies as a child artiste, before making her debut in an adult role in Balachandra Menon’s ‘utradaraatri’ (1978/Nangaserry Films).

In a brief period (1978-1980), Shobha made a fetching mark in all the four southern languages, covering herself with glory by winning the coveted ‘urvashi’ award when she was just 19 years old. Shobha was a natural performer and essayed her roles with realistic simplicity. She exploded the myth that only arrestingly beautiful faces could make it big in films. She had an inexplicable charm, and a personality that exuded distinct elegance and charismatic innocence. A miraculous coalescence of endearing vulnerability and immense inner strength, Shobha graced the portals of South Indian cinema like none other. And in that incredible short span of time, she managed to walk away with the honours in exciting projects of exacting filmmakers; both venerable veterans of the craft and young torchbearers of experimental cinema found to their delight that this dusky petite woman’s shy smile was a facade that secreted an intense, smouldering persona, a powerhouse of unbridled talent blessed with an individualistic stamp of expression…

Shobha’s Malayalam movies include Ekakini (1978), ulkatal (1978), Ormakal marikkiumO (1978), bandhanam (1978), entE neelaakaasam (1979), ‘daliya pookaL’ (1980) and ‘shalini entE koottukkaari’ (1980). Shobha won the Kerala Government’s Best Supporting Actress Award for her performance in K.S.Sethumadhavan’s ‘Ormakal marikkumO’ and the Best Actress Award the next year for her essay in Thoppil Bhasi’s ‘entE neelaakaasam’. In her short tryst with Malayalam cinema, Shobha earned the approbation of great masters like M.T.Vasudevan Nair, K.G.George and Sethumadhavan.

The Kannada populace had a glimpse of her extraordinary screen presence in Balumahendra’s ‘kOkila’ (1977), while Singitam Srinivasa Rao and Bapu harnessed Shobha’s histrionic voltage in the Telugu movies ‘tharam maarindi’ (1977) and ‘manavoori pandavalu’ (1978) respectively.

Perceiving a rare spark in the upcoming actress, K. Balachandar cast Shobha in the pivotal role in ‘nizhal nijamaagiRathu’ (1978), his Tamil remake of ‘chilakkama cheppindhi’. But the delayed release of the movie saw Karaikkudi Narayanan’s ‘achchaaNI’ (1978) marking Shobha’s debut in Tamil. Balachandar was followed by Mahendran, who made Shobha a household name all over Tamilnadu with his trail blazing ‘muLLum malarum’ (1978). The Tamil movies that Shobha acted subsequently were oru veedu oru ulagam (1978), agal viLakku, chakkaLathi, oru vidukathai oru thodarkathai, azhiyadha kOlangaL, yENippadigaL, veettukku veedu vaasappadi, pasi-all 1979, moodupani, vEli thaaNdiya veLLaadu, ponnagaram and saamandhippoo- all 1980, and anbuLLa aththaan (1981).

The euphoric celebrations over Shobha winning the coveted National Award for her heartrending portrayal of a rag picker in ‘pasi’ had barely commenced when there came the horrifying news of Shobha’s suicide. Her fragile relationship with Balumahendra had developed irreparable fissures and not being able to cope with the emotional trauma, Shobha is said to have taken the extreme step…

There was a public hue and cry over her death; investigations were ordered with righteous promptness. The air was rife with suggestions of foul play.. In an insightful analysis on celebrities, their insecurity and vulnerability, consultant psychiatrist Dr. Suresh Kumar sums up thus “Often, the victims do not make clear assessments based on proper judgments. The partner might have entered the relationship with entirely different motives. When reality hits the victim, a crisis brews. This sets off memories of an unhappy childhood that is always associated with rejection, abuse, despair and fear of abandonment.” (The Hindu)… Balu Mahendra wrote a sentimental series of musings in Kumdudam titled ‘shObhavum naanum’. K.G.George made a movie that was largely a biography of Shobha- lEkhayudE maraNam-oru flashback (1983) starring Nalini and Gopi told the sordid story with stark reality. However, no investigations or analysis would bring back Shobha…

26 years have gone by… yet memories of Shobha linger on… the humble Thilakam exhibiting rare dignity as she turns away the penitent Chalam contemptuously in favour of the loyal Kasi… Valli almost walking up to the altar to marry her ‘engineer’, only to change her mind in the last minute and run back to the arm of her beloved brother… the widowed Gowri defying public outrage with the courage of conviction to resume her college education… the village teacher Indhu who unknown to herself evokes the first pangs of love and lust in three of her adolescent students… the wretched rag picker Kuppamma gulping biriyani naively after allowing herself to be seduced by a truck driver…. Defining moments of Tamil cinema…

* * * *

‘anubuLLa aththaan’ had 3 songs.

yaarO oruththi ezhuthugiRaaL’ by A. J. Sivaji-
‘paavai malar mottu’ by Jayachandran & P.Suseela
aazhakkadal neendhi vandhEn’ by P.Suseela.

The lyrics of the first two songs are credited to the producer S.K.Mehta, while Kannadasan fills the third with his poetic flourishes.

* * * *

The first is ‘yaarO oruththi ezhuthugiRaaL, ingE ivanum mayangugiRaan’.

Who is Silvia? What is she,
that all our swains commend her?
Holy, fair, and wise is she;
the heaven such grace did lend her,
that she might admirèd be…

- William Shakespeare

A secret admirer fills him with frustrating suspense. She keeps sending him enticing epistles, but refuses stubbornly to reveal her identity. He reads her passionate letters and is filled with a psychedelic kaleidoscope of maddening yearnings… is she beautiful, he wonders… would she overshadow the celestial nymphs in her allure…would she rival the silvery moon’s splendour…will she bloom like the lotus in the pond…will she epitomize the modern woman envisaged by Bharathi… will she be a reincarnation of the virtuous Seeta of Kamban… Oh, when will she appear from behind the curtain so that the play can commence in earnest and put all his speculations to rest, or would she remain forever an unsolved riddle… an elusive image?

Listen to his fantasies of his invisible inamorata here

MSV had this penchant for introducing new voices in songs that cried out for his voice ‘yENdi muththammawas an earlier case in point, and Chandrabose rose to the occasion valiantly.. And here again MSV brings in the bracing A.J.Sivaji to render the lines… A.J.Sivaji is none other than the latter day Sivaji Raja who sprang a delightful surprise as a music director of tremendous promise in ‘kaatRukkenna vEli’. I can hear MSV in every nuance of Sivaji Raja’s performance… I can imagine MSV’s eyes lighting up with joy as Sivaji Raja brings to life all the beauty that the master had adorned the lines with… Listen to the guitar and bongos lend such reassuring support, all the while remaining unobtrusive and the accordion and the flute peep in to lend the song a dreamy ambience…

More on Sivaji Raja here:


Sivaji Raja is in the news again as he is composing the music for ‘maaLigaipuraththu amman’ , a movie being made in all the four southern languages, and Yesudas is said to have sung 16 songs for the movie in a single day!

* * * *

The next song is the duet ‘paavai malar mottu’

So she finally reveals her identity, and he is filled with delirious joy… she is all that he imagined and more…. and the lovers revel in moments of rapture… They have so many pleasures to discover, he exclaims…. would she permit him to explore some of them, he wonders in mischievous banter…She demurs with becoming wariness…

Eavesdrop on their intimate pleasantries here

I had racked my brains here sometime back wondering if Jayachandran and Suseela had sung only 4 duets (‘kannanin sannathiyil’, ‘paalabishegam seiyyavO’, ‘kalaimagaL alaimagaL’ and ‘udhadugaLil unathu peyar’) in all for MSV, and all along there was this fifth one, waiting patiently to be rediscovered!

* * * *

The last song is ‘aazhakkadal neendhi vandhEn’

I hide myself within my flower,
that wearing on your breast,
You, unsuspecting, wear me too --
And angels know the rest.

- Emily Dickinson (With A Flower)

Their idyllic times seem a memory of a distant past…circumstances have driven them apart… she sings forlornly of happier days, of the letters carrying her fervent feelings that had won his love… are those joys gone forever? Were all her painstaking efforts in vain? She was waiting for the auspicious day when their relationship would be solemnized in marriage, but only disappointment and humiliation came her way. Yet, even as she broods, she has not lost hope… for come what may, he surely knows the depth of her love…

Listen to her lament here

“Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts.” said Shelley. Our Kannadasan has a winner here, and he draws parallel here to an oyster that treasures a pearl of rare luster. Hugging the priceless possession, the oyster travels miles in the deep ocean… but caught in sudden crosscurrents, it unknowingly drops the pearl somewhere in the ocean bed… So is the case of this woeful woman, she had won over her man after seemingly insurmountable hurdles, only to lose him…

MSV restricts the orchestration to the minimum, for he knows that his trusted diva would carry the song with her dulcet tones… and so she does! How tremulously she brings out the grief of the loss, how woebegone she sounds as she bemoans the unfairness of it all…. juxtapose these with the resounding assertiveness in the closing lines where she declares her undying faith in him… To Suseela it must have been just another day at work, another assignment to complete… but the Tamilnadu Government thankfully did not think so, and awarded the unassuming chanteuse the State Award (1980-81) for her outstanding work in this song.

* * * *

So let us lift these forgotten songs from the grimy shelves of obscurity, brush off the layers of dust, and display them in the marquee…

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