The Best of Tamil Cinema - A book to be treasured

September 25, 2015, Chennai

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 The Best of Tamil Cinema - A book to be treasuredI sit leafing through  ‘The Best of Tamil Cinema 1931 – 2010’ published by Galatta Media and authored by G.

Dhananjayan; it is a journey through eighty years of Tamil Cinema.

It is a set of two books; the first one covers movies from 1931 through 1976 and the second one from 1977 through 2010.

Your could pick any one of these at any point in time; flip to any page at random. You are still amazed by what you learn. There is something of interest in every page of the book. Pictures, stories and more. Each movie is described in terms of its message, its cast and crew and its plot, and the significance of the movie.

Veteran director K. Balachander in his foreword says thus. “… The Tanjavur temple and the Taj Mahal are the archeological footprints and fingerprints of our heritage...... Cinema is the equivalent celluloidal footprint of our time that we leave behind for future generations..”

No one could have said it better. Nothing can illustrate it better than this book.

This book allows you to trace the history of India, Tamilnadu, Indian Films, Tamil Films , the history of Indian popular music and your own history at the same time.

Anyone from Chennai can easily relate (the timeframe of) events in their lives to films released during that time. For instance, I can never forget the blaring of the song ‘machchanai patteengala’ in loudspeakers throughout my 10th standard and my playing it on the violin at school! Or the songs ‘ennadi meenakshi’, ‘koyil mani osai’ and ‘senthazam poovil’ during my PUC days in Madras. The release of popular movies and the soundscape of their songs has a direct personal correlation with events one life (this doesn’t apply to those indifferent to movies).

This book allows you to go back in time. When you flip the pages of movies that were released during your lifetime, it feels like you are reading your own diary. You also realize that you have seen a good number of these movies.  You also realize that there are periods in time when you have seen most of the featured movies. You also realize that when you read about the movies of the late 70s and the early 80s, you were actually part of a history making epoch where many landmark classics were released.

You recollect ‘Ananda Vikatan’s grading scheme and learn about some of the record scores given by a rather tight fisted Vikatan review board!

You  remember your own reaction to these films when they were released. You remember how you stood in line and purchased tickets. You remember friends of the period that you cherished these movies with . You remember the first movie that you saw after your marriage. You also see how movies have evolved in your lifetime. How the musical soundscape has changed; how the approach to re-recording has changed; how the portrayal of ideas have changed and how ‘what is accepted as the norm’ has evolved over your lifetime.

It is only after thumbing through the movies of your lifetime and going over the list of popular songs in each (and actually humming some of the long forgotten tunes)  that you go look at the other (older) movies that are described in this book. You learn that the first ‘talkie’ movie in Tamil was ‘Kalidas’ which apparently even featured patriotic songs. You learn of the incidents associated with filming movies like Mira. You learn of forgotten actors and crew(wo)men. You remember watching some of these movies on ‘Chennai Tolaikkatchi Nilayam’ without commercial breaks.

I realized that I was not the only one mesmerized by this set of books. Most guests at home have expressed the same feelings upon thumbing through this book.

And I can see that most people gravitate towards movies corresponding to the teenage period in their lives.

This is when you realize the truth in KB’s foreword. Films are indeed a celluloidal footprint.  They are more than mere entertainment. They represent their times.

Indeed, a book collection to be cherished. It is a great gift to pass on.

Kanniks Kannikeswaran
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