Posts Tagged ‘MGR’

What Rajni missed when he went out to smoke

12 December 2012

Photo Caption

On his 60th birthday, school children in Bangalore hold up notebooks of the City’s most famous cinematic export: Shivaji Rao Gaekwad also known as Rajnikanth.

The books were supplied by the Rajniji Seva Samithi (RSS).


The website First Post has published excerpts from a new biography of Rajnikanth by the film scholar Naman Ramachandran, with this passage of his relationship with Kamal Haasan.

“In the beginning, in 1975, just how big a star Kamal Haasan was, today’s generation does not know,’ says Rajinikanth. ‘He was an even bigger star in 1975 than he is now. Old or young, a new artiste had never shaken all of India like he did. I had just entered the cinema industry then.

Apoorva Raagangal, Moondru Mudichu, Avargal, these were all my guru K. Balachander’s films—I became a hero with these three films. After that the films that came, big films like 16 Vayathinile, Ilamai Oonjal Aadukirathu, Aadu Puli Attam, Aval Appadithan—these were all hit films.

“For those films, if Kamal had said, ‘Don’t cast Rajini,’ nobody would have taken me. I got Ilamai Oonjal Aadukirathu solely on Kamal’s recommendation.

“So I acted in all these films and then, after I became a big actor, one day Kamal called me and said, ‘Rajini, only if you act alone will you get your own space. If you say no, the cinema world will use us, and you won’t be able to grow.’

“I listened to all that he said. After that I worked on my own.

“Then, after I became a big man, Kamal called me again one day and said, ‘Rajini, you have to be cautious in Tamil cinema. I have seen from a young age—MGR and Sivaji, though they had no rivalry between them, the cinema industry separated them. And because the industry separated them, their fans also separated. That shouldn’t happen with us. The producers and directors I work with, you should work with them too.’

“I don’t know how to thank him.”

Rajinikanth adds, ‘In other industries, people like Mammootty, Mohan Lal, Venkatesh, Chiranjeevi, Amitabh Bachchan and even Dilip Kumar look at me and are amazed how I managed to make a name for myself as an actor in an industry where Kamal Haasan exists. The reason is simple. I grew as an actor just by watching Kamal Haasan acting. I had the good fortune of being able to observe Kamal Haasan from close quarters.

During the shooting of Avargal I was sitting outside when K. Balachander noticed this and got angry. He sent word for me to return to the set and asked me, ‘Did you go outside to smoke? Kamal is acting; observe him. Only then will your acting get even better.’

“From that time, when Kamal acted I wouldn’t go anywhere; I would just sit there and watch. This is the honest truth.”

Buy the book here: Infi Beam

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: A stylish lesson in humility from namma Rajni

11 similarities between Rajni and the iPod

A hit, yes, but why does Rajni have such a hold?

The most testing day in the life of Rajnikanth

Don’t tell us you didn’t know this one about Rajni

How Rajnikanth caught the lion

The fault is not in our stars, but our film stars

5 May 2009

Why two of the southern States have had their political canvas consistently dotted by characters from cinema, while the rest of the Union have not, is one of the eternal mysteries of Indian politics. But that doesn’t stop bankrupt parties from trying to shine in the reflected glory of the stars.

On the strength of their recent legislative performance, T.J.S. George says box-office stardust as a ballot-box  commodity is quickly turning into dust.



Film stars caused their two-paise worth of nuisance in this election. A couple of them may win but it is clear that their appeal as netas is declining steadily.

MGR and NTR meant something in politics.

Hema Malini and Jaya Bachchan meant nothing.

Star-MPs in the last Parliament in fact disgraced the parliamentary system itself. Govinda failure to attend even one session showed an attitude of contempt towards Parliament. Vinod Khanna, once trumpeted by the BJP, attended only 5.5 percent of the sittings. Dharmendra‘s score was 1.5 per cent.

If these guys are so high and mighty, why did they become MPs in the first place? The parties who sponsored them must be held accountable by the people who elected them.

In the South, things are somewhat better.

Actually, film stars turning to politics is a South Indian phenomenon, more specifically a Tamil phenomenon. The reasons are historical. Cinema became an integral part of the Dravida movement and therefore a serious player in politics. It was not a case of roping in pretty faces to get votes.

The anti-Brahmin movement had started earlier in Maharashtra under Jyotiba Phule. But it was Periyar Ramaswamy Naicker who gave it an ideological sweep and a cultural (Aryan-Dravidian) dimension. The revolution he wrought was turned by C.N. Annadurai into a solid political platform. Because Annadurai was the most brilliant film writer of his time, Tamil cinema became a political instrument.

Fascinating details of this union between politics and cinema are marshalled in History Through the Lens, a new book by the greatest living authority on Tamil cinema, S. Theodore Baskaran.

From the 1920s, he tells us, drama artistes were involved in the freedom struggle. In 1958 the legendary K.B. Sundrambal became India’s first film artiste to enter the legislature. After independence, film actors as a community, who had earlier been backing the cause of the Congress, moved on to support the Dravidian movement. The Congress never recovered from that.

Dravidian assertion over Brahmins did not develop in other South Indian states as intensively as it did in Tamil Nadu.

Something else happened in Andhra when that amateur Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, publicly humiliated the then chief minister of the state, T. Anjiah. It was an insult to Telugu pride, but neither Anjiah nor the Congress party was in a position to do anything about it. N.T Rama Rao rose to the occasion and rode to power on the plank of Telugu atmagauravam.

That was a spontaneous response to a moment of challenge. NTR did not have the intellectual resources to turn it into an ideological platform. Even in Tamil Nadu the inspirational pull of the Dravidian movement has lately been diluted by caste and sub-caste politics. Hence the ambivalence of wannabe netas like Rajnikanth and the uncertainties of fresh entrants like “Black MGR”, Vijaykanth.

In Andhra, Chiranjeevi has serious handicaps and dissensions in his personal circle, the absence of an ideological agenda. Whether he can do an NTR will depend on whether the people see him as a credible agent of change.

In Karnataka even a god-like figure like Raj Kumar kept out of politics. The most glamorous Kannada heroine of all time, Jayanti, was defeated by the most unglamorous opponent of all time, Ananth Kumar, in 2004.

Ambarish (in picture) is an exception that proves the rule that stars don’t shine in the politics of Karnataka. He is a strange exception the only minister in the Union Cabinet who never attended office.

That beats even Govinda.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Once upon a time in Bangalore on Route No. 11

7 December 2008


E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Bangalore in the 1950s and ’60s was still a Pensioners’ Paradise and very much a sleepy town. It was mostly divided into “City” and “Cantonment” with Basavanagudi and Malleshwaram the best known among its residential areas.

Jayanagar and its famous mosquitoes had not made their debut yet.

The City Market was really a conglomeration of various petes—Chikkapete, Balepete, Tharugupete, Akkipete, Cottonpete—holding the business community. Dandu, or Cantonment (‘Contrumentru’ as the villagers would call it) was still a very far off place for most Bangaloreans.

Almost as far as London itself.


One got a fair idea of the City when one used BTS, or Bangalore Transport Service to give its full name (“Bittre Tiruga Sigodilla“, was the other full form).

50 years ago, the only other modes of transport for a common man were the Jataka Gaadi (horse driven covered cart) or nataraja service— local lingo for footing it out.

The word ‘autorickshaw’ had yet to enter the lexicon, the contraption was yet to invade our roads.

Those who worked in Atthara Katcheri (18 offices) before Vidhana Soudha was conceived, or those who worked in AG’s office walked to their offices. After an early meal around 9 am, chewing Mysore villedele with sughnadhi betel nuts, most of them changed in to their kuchche panche with their marriage coat, some wearing the Mysore peta as crown, they set off to their office holding a tiffin box which contained their afternoon snack: a couple of idlis, uppittu, etc.

The same tiffin bag was used to bring back Mysore mallige in the evening along with badami halwa for the waiting wife. The only addition to the office gear was a half-sleeve sweater during winter, and a full-length umbrella which sometimes doubled as a walking stick, during the monsoon.

Bangalore looked almost empty during the day as most of the eligible science and engineering graduates or diploma holders were herded into buses at the unearthly hour of 6.30 in the morning and ferried to HAL, HMT, BEL, LRDE, ITI, NGEF, Kirloskar, BEML, etc.

The city suddenly perked up after the factory hands returned to their favorite haunts like Yagnappana Hotlu opposite National High School grounds or Bhattra Hotlu in Gandhi bazaar for the mandatory ‘Three-by-Four Masale’ or ‘Two-by-three coffee’ in the evenings.


The best way of seeing Bangalore and getting an idea of what was happening in the city in those days was to travel by BTS route no. 11.

Route no. 11 started its journey from Gandhi bazaar in Basavanagudi opposite Vidyarthi Bhavan and took you to Tata Institute (now Indian Institute of Science) on Malleshwaram 18th cross, after eons of time spent amidst chatter, sleep and fights over annas and paisas.

Morning visitors to Vidyarthi Bhavan would already be waiting for the delicious masale dose after eating rave vade when the conductor asked the last of the commuters to get in to the bus and shouted ‘Rrrrighhttttt!’

The bus, initially coughing and moving in fits and starts, would go past the only taxi stand in the City and take its first left turn at K.R. Road and pass through Basavanagudi post office and enter Dr. H.Narasimhaiah’s National College circle and stop at diagonal road opposite Dr. Narasimhachar’s dispensary.

Here in the evenings, Gokhale, a Maharashtrian, sold ‘Brain Tonic’—a tangy kadalekai (groundnut) concoction with the goods atop his bicycle carrier. The light from his dynamo illuminated the area for you to see what you were eating and for him to check whether he has not been palmed off with ‘sawakalu kasu‘ (disfigured  coin).

Gokhale claimed that students of the National High School and National College figured in the state rank list (and hence dubbed ‘kudumis’) only because his brain tonic was their staple food!

Everything on route no. 11 had “laidback” stamped on it: the issuing of tickets, getting in and out of the bus, and the bus ride itself.

At the end of Diagonal Road you entered the sanctum sanctorum of Shettys or Komatis of Bangalore who sold anything and everything that could be sold from gold to pakampappu, gulpavatte and gunthaponganalu.

The Sajjan Rao temple and choultry by the same name was much sought after for society weddings. The Satyanarayana Temple came much later as politicians became more and more crooked.

Kota Kamakshayya choultry was opposite to the best bakery in Bangalore and may be the whole of south India, the V.B. Bakery.

Dressed in spotless white panche and banians with sleeves, the staff looked as if they were running on  skates taking and fetching orders for chakkuli, kodu-bale, veg “pups”, om biscuit, kharada kadale kayi, ‘Congress’ kadale kayi and  ‘Badam Haalu’. V.B. Bakery’s stuff was made for the gods who, I suspect, had descended on Bangalore not only for this but also for the weather, the doses, and mallige.

Next, after passing Modern Hotel and New Modern hotel where the whiff of SKC —sweetu, khara, coffee—hit your nostrils, was the stop opposite Minerva talkies, which in those days mostly showed Tamil pictures for three shows and wore a culturally superior hat with Bengali movies and that too only Satyajit Ray for the morning shows!

I suspect most Bangaloreans got introduced to Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar—and roso gulla—only through Minerva.

A 200 meters dash from Minerva took you to Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR) in a dingy lane, which morphed into MTR as one of the best eateries in town.


A crash course in bonhomie for our hate-mongrels

18 November 2008

From an era of co-operation and camaraderie, the Tamil and Kannada film industries have quickly sunk into a vortex of distrust and dislike for each other; both sides being held hostage by fire-spitting linguistic and parochial hatemongers whose lives and livelihoods depend on whipping up passions.

At the Dasara exhibition in Mysore, a simple churumuri peddler pays  a sepia-tone tribute to the good times that have gone with M.G. Ramachandran and Dr Raj Kumar, giving the screen gods an even higher pedestal than the hallowed ones adorning the shop floor.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Life is the chief cause of death. Do we ban life?

12 August 2008

S.R. RAMAKRISHNA writes from Bangalore: Fashion designers and DJs are hardly the sorts you would expect to see at a protest, but they came out on M.G. Road on Sunday to do what the affluent think only the riff raff do: shout slogans and create a hullabaloo.

The event provided us in the media excellent photo ops. It isn’t often that you get to see a street demonstration where well-scrubbed, stylishly dressed people strum guitars and sing songs.

It was, all in all, good fun for everyone.

We all know what brought the glamour gurus out on to the streets: the night curfew that the police have clamped on restaurants and drinking joints, and an order against live music and dancing.

In the 1990s, when the software crowd started streaming into Bangalore, a frequent crib in newspaper columns was that this City did not have an exciting enough nightlife. Bangalore is often considered—and I believe it is—the most Westernised of India’s cities. And this complaint sounded strange to many ears, including mine.

For those not complaining, it meant many new citizens had the inclination, and more importantly, the money, to drink and party every day, and could get quite vocal if they couldn’t. There was no police curfew then, so the new settlers blamed Bangalore’s “small town mindset”, and believed it had yet to grow up to the psychedelic pleasures of the big city.

The crib mostly left the older residents of Bangalore cynical, if not angry.

Their reading was that the brash new lot had no clue about the cultural life that had sustained old Bangalore—its lectures, concerts, literary symposiums, art and music classes…. The new Bangalore knew nothing about Ravindra Kalakshetra, Sri Rama Seva Mandali or the Indian Institute of World Culture.

When Tamil Nadu had banned racing and drinking during MGR‘s time, hundreds of middle-class Madras citizens regularly took the Brindavan Express to Bangalore and spent their weekends at the turf club and this city’s watering holes.

They will probably find it unbelievable that Bangalore is shutting its pubs and restaurants at 11.30 pm. And they’d be even more astonished to know who’s forcing the city to go home half an hour before Cinderella’s deadline.

It’s not the moral police, but policemen in uniform, armed with the law.

The police have their arguments: Crime soars if drinking and dancing is allowed beyond the deadline. Brawls break out, and drunk drivers crash. Live bands encourage immorality. Young people ruin themselves at rave parties. And so on and so forth.

Without getting into an argument about whether the City will sink into depravity if it is open beyond 11.30 pm, I am convinced we still have an irrefutable case to keep restaurants open late.

Thousands in this City work through the night, and need to feed themselves at odd hours. Not everyone has the luxury of a canteen. To deprive them of food is not just unfair, it is cruel. Software engineers, BPO employees, cab drivers, journalists, why, even policemen, burn themselves out working odd hours.

They aren’t spoilt brats itching for a fight.

They aren’t dying to get drunk.

For every Nikhil Gowda who goes out and smashes an Empire Hotel, there are thousands who just want to eat a hot meal and go home. Think of them, Mr Police Commissioner, even if you are unmoved by the DJs’ demand for a nightlife.

S.R. Ramakrishna is resident editor Mid-Day, Bangalore

Photograph: Jnanapith award winner Girish Karnad, Rubi Chakravarthy and designer Prasad Bidapa join artists and DJs for a dharna at Gandhi statue in Bangalore on Sunday (Karnataka Photo News)