How could a filmmaker, who never made a single Tamil film in a career spanning more than four decades, ever leave a mark in this part of the country?
Probably Thillu Mullu, starring Rajinikanth and Thengai Sreenivasan in their iconic roles, that set the benchmark for comedy films made thereafter, has the answer. A remake of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Golmaal starring Amol Palekar and Utpal Dutt, the film even today has its appeal intact and timeless. Thillu Mullu was a milestone in Tamil cinema in its own right, apart from being the first full-fledged comedy role by Rajinikanth.
Mukherjee could be called the doyen of the pure comedy genre that he constantly explored through his vast range of films that also comprised drama. The characters and the elements that he created and repeated in many of his films were the ones that a common person could relate to— a hard working middle class man, a close-knit family, a happy-go-lucky group of friends and the good Samaritan, who was always happy to help, and not to forget the comedy of errors and the string of mistaken identities.
But, Golmaal wasn’t his first association with Tamil cinema, as the link dates back to the seventies. Several Mukherjee flicks, for which he collaborated with Gulzar and music composer RD Burman, had a Tamil remake
The long-standing influence had already begun in the seventies. Guddi that introduced Jaya Bhaduri to Bollywood, was one of the first films to prod the filmmaking business as a movie plot. The same was remade in Tamil as Cinema Paithiyam with Jayashankar, Jayachithra and Kamal Haasan in the lead roles.
With the Beckett-inspired drama that covered the tribulations of the working class that struggled with poverty and rough weather for workers’ union, Unakkaga Naan, a remake of Namak Haram that starred Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna in the original film had an equally illustrious actor-duo -- Sivaji and Gemini Ganesan-- portraying the roles.
If Khubsoorat had Rekha, Ashok Kumar and Dina Pathak playing the lead roles, it was nothing short of another star cast affair in Tamil. Lakshmi Vanthachu had Revathi, Sivaji Ganesan and Padmini. The remakes maybe a few, but the impact they had and the memorable roles and the subsequent films that were inspired by these films remain unmatched.