Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hard to forget: Nagesh

Nagesh will be remembered as one of the most talented comedians in Tamil Cinema, says KK Moidu
Cyril K Nagesh, popularly known as Nagesh, has left a void in the Tamil cinema industry. The death of the septuagenarian on Jan. 31 due to complications related to diabetes and heart ailment put an end to an era. The 76-year-old actor is survived by three sons, including actor Anand Babu.
Nagesh, who carved a niche for himself, was most often casted as the man who stands next to the hero. He had enough luck to share screen space with three generations of actors like MGR-Sivaji, Rajinikanth-Kamal Hassan and the latest Tamil heartthrobs Ilayathalapathi Vijay and Ajith Kumar.
Most of the people today remember Nagesh as a funny man but many don't know yesteryear's front-line heroes like MGR and Sivaji Ganesan were waiting for his arrival on the sets.
For producers, his presence in films was necessary for commercial success. He was not able to find enough time and worked on an hourly basis on each film per day.
For the last couple of years, Nagesh was rarely seen on screen and his last film was Dasavatharam, where Kamal Hassan played ten different roles.
He was one of the leading comedians of the 60s and 70s during the reign of MGR-Shivaji and was a regular in their films. Nagesh, a good dancer, was praised for his pairing opposite Manorama in several films.
CK Nagesh was born as Gundu Rao in a Brahmin community to Kannada speaking Brahmin Madhwa parents in 1933. He left his home as a teenager, telling his parents that he would return only after establishing himself. He travelled to Chennai and started his career as an employee of the Indian Railways.
After watching a Tamil play Kamba Ramayanam presented by his colleagues, he felt that he could do a better job. His role in a play as a man suffering from stomach pain staged at the Railways Cultural Association won him appreciation from MGR, the chief guest of the programme.
Nagesh began his career as a theatre artiste by playing minor roles and finally reached stardom.
He has given life to many memorable characters in his long career spanning more than four-and-a-half decades. Films like Thiruvilayadal, Kadhalikka Neramillai, Thillana Mohanambal, Server Sundaram, Neer Kumizhi, Yarukkaga Azhuthan, Edhir Neechal etc. are only a few examples of his brilliant performance.
His outstanding performance as a waiter, who later becomes a successful film actor in the blockbuster Server Sundaram and a poverty stricken Dharumi, who struggles to meet both ends finally meet face to face with Hindu Lord Shiva in Thiruvilayadal brought him recognition.
Another brilliant performance as an intrepid story teller/film maker Chellappa in Kadhalikka Neramillai and a villainous comic pimp Vaithy in Sivaji-Padmini starrer Thillana Mohanambal were his career's best.
He proved his mettle as an actor not only by playing humorous characters but also gained the audience attention in serious roles in films like Neer Kumuzhi, Ethir Neechal etc. Nagesh played the lead role in Ethir Neechal as an orphan who does odd jobs for a living. Nagesh-Balachander partnership turned out to be a blockbuster hit at the box office. He played a bright but poor student dependent on others for a livelihood and that of a cancer patient in Neer Kumizhi which was well accepted by the audience.
His role as a drunkard in super star Rajinikanth's debut film and Kamal Hassan's first major hit Apoorva Raagangal not only earned good collections at theatres but also doubled the cleaning works of the staffs. His role in the film was an inspiration for other actors, who performed similar roles later.
Nagesh played a drunkard's role in the film, who talks to his own shadow and finishes the dialogue by saying cheers and throwing the cup on the wall. The audience started imitating Nagesh in the theatres by throwing their tea cup on the wall of the lobby during the interval.
His true friendship and professional relations with Kamal Hassan gave him an opportunity to exhibit his immense talents in various styles. Surprisingly Nagesh played characters with negative shades with the same elan. His role as one of the four villains, Dharmaraj, in Apoorva Sahodarangal, where Kamal played a triple role, was illustrative of this. Nagesh excelled in a funny role in Michael Madhana Kamarajan, where Kamal played four different characters. Kamal Hassan produced Magalir Mattum, in which Nagesh played a cadaver.
He was lucky to be a regular in films made by notable directors of the time like K Balachander, CV Sridhar etc. and they were known for exploiting the talent of the gifted actor.
Nagesh trained in acting by watching life and its characters. He would often sit in his car on busy roadsides to watch mannerisms of people from different walks of life and he enacted that on screen.
National recognition came through well known director KS Sethumadhavan's Nammavar along with Ashish Vidhyarthi for Droh Kaal. Nagesh fetched the Silver Lotus Best Supporting actor Award for his father's role in the Kamal-Gauthami starrer Nammavar. The Tamilnadu government recognised Nagesh by presenting him the Kalaimamani Award.
He became popular in neighbouring states by acting in Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi and his mother tongue Kannada films. As an actor, his greatest strength was his effortless dialogue delivery and body language that guaranteed him people's heart — and laughs.

Reel Change: Arya-Naan Kadavul & Casanova

Tamil actor Arya makes his Malayalam film debut with Mohanlal in Casanova, directed by Roshan Andrews. KK Moidu writes
Roshan Andrews hopes to score a hat trick in the forthcoming film Casanova after the success of Udhayananu Thaaram and Notebook. The film will be scripted by Bobby and Sanjay, who penned the script for teenage love story Notebook.
Young Tamil hero Arya plays a pivotal role in the film, where superstar Mohanlal dons a Casanova's role. The big budget film will be produced by Confident Group. Lal is a businessman, who makes huge profits from the flower business based in Vienna. The protagonist believes that love can cure crime.
Casanova will be one of the costliest Malayalam films ever made and the estimated budget is 10 crores. Arya had enough luck to make his debut in a Malayalam film with a leading actor like Mohanlal.
This is not the first time a Tamil hero is trying his luck in Malayalam cinema. Young heroes like Jeeva and Bala earlier tasted success by playing important roles along with superstars like Mohanlal and Mammootty in Keerthichakra and Big B respectively. Jeeva disappeared from the Malayalam industry but Bala continued his career. His latest release Chempada is doing well at the box office.
Like Bala, Arya, one of the sought-after young heroes of the Tamil industry will not be a regular in Malayalam films, even after the success of Casanova.
Lakshmi Rai is the heroine of the film, Priyanka and five other super models will play important roles. The romantic thriller is an Onam release and most of the film is shot in foreign locations in Europe, mainly Vienna.
However, the top notch performance of Arya in recently released Tamil film Naan Kadavul won him praise and reached his career into new heights. The film directed by Bala not only sky rocketed the career of Arya but also put him in the big league of actors.
Naan Kadavul is the critically acclaimed director Bala's fourth film after Sethu, Pithamagan and Nanda. It is in the making for more than three years and the film is noticed by the novel theme and the innovative storyline, which has attracted the audience attention.
Arya played an entirely different role in the film, which portrays the life of Aghori, the long lost tribe of Sadhus. The ardent devotees live a challenging life against all odds of the real world. Powdering themselves with ashes and consuming drugs are a part of their rituals. The film also goes deep into the miserable life of beggars and mentally challenged people controlled by drug mafia.
Bala's previous films have been path breaking and haunted the audience. Superstar Vikram won the Best Actor National Award for his performance in Pithamagan directed by Bala and Nandha took Surya's career into greater heights.
Bala himself pens the script of Naan Kadavul and Jayamohan writes the dialogue. This is the first time someone else is writing the dialogue for his film and also some small character has been adapted from the novel Ezhaam Ulagam written by Jayamohan.
Pooja Umashankar, who made her debut along with Arya in Ullam Ketkumae is the heroine of the film. She plays a visually-impaired poor girl role as Amsavalli, who is forced to beg in the pilgrim centres. Her role in the film is very different from her earlier glamour roles and proved that she can easily handle all kinds of characters with equal ease.

Ace director Bala is making a big leap in the Tamil industry and has done enough homework to bring out details for the film. It is evident in the film showing Arya powdered with ashes, wandering in the crematory grounds. Naan Kadavul set in the backdrop of the temple town of Varanasi is the touching story of a father, who forsakes his little son for spiritual and astrological reasons. The boy reaches Kasi as a refugee and grows up as a Sadhu with dreadlocks and disorderly looks. But the father is shocked to see his son in such a state and decides to bring him back home.
The problems he encounters in Tamil Nadu after leaving Varanasi is the crux of the story.
Music maestro Ilayaraja tunes for the lyrics of Vaali. Among the six songs, five of them are penned by Vaali except Pitchai Paathiram, which has been penned by Ilayaraja himself. Uttam Singh scores the background music and Arthur Wilson is the cinematographer.
Arya was born on Dec.11, 1980 as Jamshad in Trikarippur, Kerala. After completing his schooling, he secured an engineering degree from Crescent Engineering College at Vandalur, Chennai under University of Madras. His passion for filming brought the young computer engineer to modelling.
Arya made his debut in late Jeeva's Ullam Ketkumae. The film was also the launching vehicle of Asin Thottumkal and Pooja Umashankar. It got delayed and the second film, Arinthum Ariyamalum, released earlier. But both the films were hits at the box office. He played a critically acclaimed role as Prakash Raj's son in Arinthum Ariyamalum. Arya won the Filmfare Best Debut Award South and Best New Male Face Award at the Filmfare Awards. The box office success of Oru Kalluriyin Kadhal made him a sought-after hero of the Tamil industry.
However, his low budget film Kalabha Kadhalan, directed by debutante Igore, was only an average hit at the box office. His next release Pattiyal, as a henchman Kosi, along with Bharath, was a money spinner. Pattiyal created collection records in B and C centres. His pairing opposite Pooja as an expert auto racer in Oram Po and a gun leader Burma in Vattaram were also hits at the box office. Oram Po was directed by India's first husband-wife duo Pushkar and Gayathri.
Arya had no release last year and recently completed Sarvam directed by Vishnu Vardhan. Arya-Vishnu Vardhan duo earlier created hits like Arindhum Ariyamalum and Pattiyal.
Trisha Krishnan is the love interest of Arya in Sarvam. Telugu actor JD Chakravarthy plays an antagonist role in the film, which was rejected by Arjun Sarja because of an image fear. Malayalam actor Indrajith plays a prominent role in the film shot in Chennai, Goa and Munnar. Yuvan Shankar Raja, who always rendered hit numbers for Vishnu's films, tunes music and Neerav is the cinematographer.
According to report Arya will play the lead in a period film Madarasa Patinam directed by Vijay of Kireedom and Poi Solla Porom fame. A foreigner will play the heroine role in the film set in the year of 1945. Other important roles of the film will be played by Nasser, VMC Haneefa and Bala Singh.
Arya, still under 30, has never tasted failure in his career has come upto the expectations of audience in his latest release Naan Kadavul. His performance and body language as a rough and tough Rudhran in is unique. His frightening looks and rustic performance, especially in the second half of the film, will never be forgotten by the audience.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sohan Lal: Firmly in the Director's Seat

Young director Sohanlal is delighted by the overwhelming response to his maiden directorial venture Orkkuka Vallappozhum (Remember sometimes). The low-budget Malayalam film, with veteran actor Thilakan in the lead role, is bringing him laurels from all walks of life. There are more reasons for him to be happy, this is his first feature film and it has already placed him among well-known filmmakers in Kerala.
Moreover, the film has not only got rave reviews, but it also won the prestigious Atlas Film Critic Award for the director. Awards and appreciation are not new to him. He has won more than 15 awards earlier for his small-screen works. His teleserials Pedakam, Neermathalathinte Pookkal and other mini screen programmes like Sopanam, Anjali, Cinema Vicharana, etc. fetched several awards for him earlier.

Born in Thiruvananthapuram, he has a postgraduate degree in Web Designing and a degree in English Language and Literature from the prestigious University College, Thiruvananthapuram. He has been working with various television channels in Kerala. His initial years at Doordarshan gave him the opportunity to work with famed directors like Shyama Prasad. His live commentary for a programme called Veettilekkulla Vazhi (Road towards home) is still fresh in the minds of people. He has worked with most of the Malayalam channels like Asianet, Amrita, Indiavision, Jeevan etc.
Sohan Lal
His long experience with electronic media has made him technically perfect in his projects. While working with Indiavision he had the good fortune of working with the legendary littérateur and filmmaker MT Vasudevan Nair. Incidentally, MT is writing the preface for his book Orkkuka Vallappozhum, on which the film was made. A strong critic of present-day commercial potboilers, he always wanted to make good films and Orkkuka Vallappozhum proves his commitment.

Sohan Lal, who was in Dubai recently, talks to KK Moidu for Time Out on his film and other projects.

Here are some excerpts:

Tell us about your first feature film Orkkuka Vallappozhum?
Orkkuka Vallappozhum is a natural film, which tells the story of an old man’s journey into his past. This is the story of Sethumadhavan, a 75-year old expatriate played by Thilakan, who returns to his native land where he was born and brought up, after living out of the state for 60 years.

Rejith Menon and Shilpa Bala in Orkkuka Vallappozhum

How was the initial response to the film?
People gave it a positive response and I am very happy about the good reviews from the media. Orkkuka Vallappozhum is a fresh experience for the audience. I think people accepted the theme and the way it was presented before them.

Did the film achieve success at the box office?
Well, the film did not harm the producer because it was a low-budget venture. My close friend Vinu YS produced it and I can’t imagine any financial loss to him. Like the script of the film, I am aware of the expenses. It has already recovered its cost from satellite and audio CD rights.

How did you manage to get a producer for a film like this, which obviously lacks any commercial elements?
I was really lucky, my friend Vinu YS trusted me because of my long association with him. The film is not a colourful event with mind-blowing stunts, punch dialogues and glamorous dances but it has some commercial elements and its own chances of success at the box office.

Can you explain?
Late directors like Bharathan and Padmarajan had achieved great success at the box office by making good films with stories that touched the hearts of common people. They had the flavour of the soil of Kerala.
Many audience left theatres when some of the new directors started copying the format of the new Hindi, Tamil and Telugu films. I am trying to bring back those audience who are eagerly waiting for good Malayalam films.

Are other language films also hits at the Kerala box office?
Many people are showing interest in other language films with highly charged action scenes and amazing foreign locations. They treat them as just time pass. But they actually long for a good film. That’s why my film made a good impression.
It’s unfortunate that some of our filmmakers are blindly following the format of other language commercial films.
The recent Tamil films have focused on the Tamil life and culture. Look at the recent films like Paruthiveeran, Anjathey and Subramaniapuram. They are super hits. Instead of focusing the camera on our life and culture, Malayalam films are copying other language films.
Orkkuka Vallappozhum is trying to change that trend.

Did you expect commercial success to the film without a crowd pulling hero and a glamorous heroine?
I was not serious about the box office success and audience reaction at the time of making the film.
Shilpa in a scene from Orkkuka Vallappozhum

Your award-winning teleserials Pedakam and Neermathalathinte Pookkal were based on the stories of Maupassant and Kamala Das, what about Orkkuka Vallappozhum?
The film was inspired by a poem with the same title by the great poet P Bhaskaran. But the film is entirely different from the poem and my attempt was to sincerely present it before the audience.

Why did you select Thilakan for the lead role?
My trust in the veteran actor and his great interest in the subject.
Thilakan and Shilpa in Orkkuka Vallappozhum

Did you utilise the maximum talent of Thilakan in the film?
Squeezing the maximum talent out of Thilakan was not my priority. He is a great actor and he can perform the character Sethumadhavan in various styles.
The character in my film is a soft-spoken person and needs only basic expressions. He is living in 2009 and the entire film happens in his mind. After living outside the state for six decades, he is returning to his native place and to an old bungalow there, where he spent his past, his childhood and teenage years.
He is totally shattered when he knows about the death of his childhood darling Paru. He decides to accept death by falling into a cave. His character has only few dialogues and he is talking his mind. The actor had lots of scope for performance.

Why did you choose a newcomer like Shilpa Bala, an expatriate girl as the heroine, instead of an established heroine for the crucial double role?

Shilpa Bala
Shilpa is a talented girl and she has done her part very well. The film is also a teenage love story and I can’t even imagine any compromise on my subject.
I know her for years and she anchored many popular programmes like Playstation on Middle East Television, Dubai, where I was working as a senior programme producer for two years.

Jagadheesh is playing an important role in the film. Is there any comedy element in a film with an emotional subject?
Jagadheesh is playing a pivotal role in the film as the talkative Kasi, the caretaker of the bungalow. Although he is not doing anything purposefully for humour, the audience will definitely get a chance to laugh after watching the genuine performance of the actor and the special treatment of the subject.
Jagatheesh and Shilpa in Orkkuka Vallappozhum
You haven’t assisted any film director and you are also not a film institute student. How did you manage to succeed in the highly competitive film world? The assistance of established and experienced technicians like cinematographer MG Radhakrishnan and Pandit Ramesh Narayan and my mini screen experience gave me the technical knowledge. I am a student of cinema and my tenure in mini screen was my study time. My childhood aim was to direct films and television opened my entry into filmdom.
If a director can view in his mind the first frame to the last frame of a cinema, then he can make films. I learned the grammar of cinema by reading books like Grammar of Cinema.
Communication is also very important and if a director can clearly communicate with the technicians and artistes, half of the work is done.

Tell us about your future projects?
Vinu YS is producing my next film under the banner of Gods Own Moviz and two other films with different producers are at the discussion level. One of them will be produced by a prestigious banner with a leading superstar. The other film is bilingual and a leading Bollywood actor will play an important role in the film.

Will the film with the superstar be a commercial entertainer?
It will have commercial elements. But I am interested in making value-based films — it will not be a colourful event for satisfying the mass audience.

But you have directed colourful events and stage shows earlier for television?
It’s true. I had done that for satisfying a larger audience on the spot with superstars like Mohanlal and the glamorous dances of Ramba, Simran and the songs of Udit Narayan and Sonu Nigam. But my films will be entirely different, I promise.