Last week, the 1973 film Suryagandhi ‘re-released’ along with a couple of horror flicks. The publicity was on a par with any new film for this yester-year super-hit saga of a homemaker, who proved her self-worth and progressed in her career ahead of her husband. The relationship drama unfolds primarily as a husband-wife ego tussle and heralds the stoic portrayal of a working woman by our Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
Remembered as one of her finest performances, (the other favourites being Sumathi En Sundari (1971), Engirundho Vandhaal (1970), Adimai Penn (1969) and a stylish presence she lent to the romantic comedy, Galatta Kalyanam (1968)) Suryagandhi, however, is not the first such re-release to see a grand opening now.
Sivaji Ganesan’s Karnan (1964) set the trend and MGR’s Aayirathil Oruvan (1965) followed — the theatre(s) thronged with film-lovers, who watched their once-upon-a-time favourite flicks on the big screen, with their grandchildren while grown-ups took their parents. The kids came back with much awe at the dialogue delivery, the emotional play and the music, with equal admiration for the rock solid performance of Sivaji Ganesan and the swashbuckling sword-fighting panache of MGR. With colours enhanced and sounds re-tuned to the best possible level, the box office numbers for the re-releases proved that their producers stood to gain from a content that was made decades ago.
Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy’s mind-blowing orchestration and Kannadasan’s lyrics stand tall in these flicks. Karnan is a musical mythological saga (with 17 songs) that had duets (Iravum Nilavum Thodarattumey), a hero introduction song (Aayiram Karangal Neetti), a philosophical number (Ullathil Nalla Ullam) and situational songs aplenty (Karnan’s wife leaves for her parent’s house for her delivery and Duryodhana’s wife sends her off with the mild yet haunting shehnai-based Poi Vaa Magale Poi Vaa, haunting because the child would later be killed in war). Aayirathil Oruvan’s most famous song is Adho Andha Paravaipola but the entire film is spelt out in Odum Megangaley Oru Soll Keleero.
Karnan also had evocative scenes of friendship between Karna and Duryodhana (played by Asokan, an otherwise MGR film villain), which comes through not only in the battlefield but also when Karna and Bhanumathy (Savithiri as Duryodhana’s wife in a superb cameo) play a game of dice. In his bid to stop her, Karna pulls her hip chain as she gets up! Instead of becoming upset with his friend for crossing the lakshmanrekha with his wife, Duryodhana merely asks, “Sithariya muththukkalai edukkavo koarkkavo?” (Should I pick up these scattered pearls or should I string them up for you?)
Shridhar’s epic-laugh-riot Kadhalikka Neramillai (1964) also had a rousing welcome at the box office on its re-release and the breezy romantic numbers and comedy scenes are ‘modern’ and ‘trendy’ even now. Timeless story-telling, powerhouse performances with enthralling music ensure that older hits become super-hits!
So, what’s the next film you would like to see in this line-up?