RUDRAIAH: HIS ONE FILM was wonderful enough

Posted: November 29, 2014 in Kamalahasan, Tamil cinema

Nov 20 2014 : The Times of India (Chennai)


C. Rudraiah, maker of the offbeat milestone film, Aval Appadithaan (She’s like that) is dead and the slogan surely is going to be, ‘Long live Rudraiah’. It would be fitting, for it would be an exact re-run of what happened to his film after it was released in 1978.

‘Aval Appadithaan’ could not find proper theatres then and was released in Chennai (then Madras) in Blue Diamond (now demolished), and Kamadhenu, known more for screening re-runs then and now defunct. The film barely managed a run of two weeks, by which time the elite crowd had apparently seen enough of the ‘Adults only’ film to be all agog about its bold theme and creative cinematic style.

As Vannanilavan, noted novelist and co-script writer of Aval Appadithaan says, ‘‘The film quickly disappeared without much fanfare when it was first released. But after three or four years, the appreciation and applause began to grow’’. By this time, Rudraiah had made his second film, ‘Gramathu Adhyaayam’ (Village Chapter, 1980), which sunk without a trace and took him along. We later heard of some valiant efforts to resurrect his career, but nothing came of them.

Aval Appadithaan focuses on an independent-minded misandric woman (Sripriya) who works in advertising under a male chauvinist boss (Rajinikanth) and is attracted to a sensitive documentary film maker (Kamalahasan). It was spoken of as a feminist film later but its makers did not have such notions when they set about writing the screenplay. Credited to Vannanilavan, Somasundareshwar and Rudraiah himself (in that order), the script simply sticks to its plan of highlighting the individual and societal forces and contradictions faced by its characters. A sense of realism in not veering away from contradictions that a plot has to unravel has given Aval Appadithaan and Rudraiah a distinctive place in making Tamil cinema a meaningful medium.

Aval Appadithaan signalled the new visually oriented cinema and its bright new sound (Ilayaraja) that emerged in the latter half of the seventies. Rudraiah, fresh from the Adyar film institute then, made the film with technicians who had also graduated from the same institution. It was a time when the products of the Institute were looked down upon by mainstream cinema-wallahs as bookworms who made boring ‘art’ cinema that would fall flat in the theatres. Such institute kids had Ananthu, K. Balachander’s script man for a father figure, and Aval Appadithaan is significantly dedicated to Ananthu.

The sound track of the titles of the film (mostly in Kamalahasan’s voice) bears eloquent testimony to the challenges faced by the film’s makers and their ambition to break the barriers in Tamil cinema towards celluloid significance. ‘‘I can bear it no further…I am fed up..I have to say something..’’… the offscreen voice says with feeling. It anticipates the resistance. ‘‘Puriyaadhu…they won’t understand. The villagers won’t understand. There is a communication gap…’’ says the disembodied voice. We are then told, ‘’This is cinema. This is ‘take one’. You know, this is not the full picture. It’s only the rush print.’’ .

A percipient critic of Tamil cinema speaks of the rebellious voices in Tamil cinema. that made bold to break away from escapist entertainment and melodramatic fare. Back in 1960, leftists came together to expose the manipulations of the stock market with ‘Paadhai Theriyudhu Paar’. Despite it lovely songs which are heard to this day, the film bombed and disappeared for ever. Singitham Srinivasa Rao made Dhikkatra Parvathi (1972) based on Rajaji’s story on the evils of alcoholism. The film was released in a little theatre (Little Anand!) before vanishing! Maverick writer Jayakanthan directed his own novel, ‘Unnai Poal Oruvan’ on a shoestring budget. The film won him a national award but the box office kept clear of it. The nationalist filmmaker B. R. Panthulu made a feature film on freedom fighter V.O. Chidambaram (Kappalottiya Tamilan 1961). Despite Sivaji Ganesan’s charisma and an array of bright Bharati songs and superb performances, audiences did not take kindly to a biographical film, so much was their aversion to ‘realism’.

Jayakanthan’s novel treatment of the aftermath of rape on a young college girl in Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal (1976) succeeded in its celluloid version because the integrity of the story was backed by the excellent treatment and sensitive performances. Durai’s Pasi, a realistic take on slum dwellers in Chennai succeeded bigtime because of a sterling award-winning performance from Shobha,

Balu Mahendra (Veedu 1987, Sandhya Ragam 1989, Thalaimuraigal 2013), Jayabharati (Kudisai 1979, Uchi Veyil 1989) and K. S. Sethu Madhavan (Marupakkam 1990), among others have achieved varying degrees of success in presenting a more sensitive cinema..

In recent times, directors are tackling offbeat storylines and emerging real-life issues to make cinema more evocative, though they are not entirely ‘realistic’ in their narrative and style. Films with novel subjects – Haridas (autism), Dhoni (leaving children to pursue their aptitude) and Thanga Meengal (father’s love for girl child) for example – need to become a trend.

But it requires more than good intent and risk-taking to make celluloid tick…and even if with a single success Rudraiah was a one-film wonder, the tag line is that he made one wonderful film.

(The author is a historian of Tamil film music and an author of many books on Tamil cinema)


  1. earthling says:

    Dear VamananJi,
    We, at Accessible Horizon Film Collective made an Independent Tamil Feature Film in 2012 called “AYYNOORUM AYYNTHUM – 500&5”. This has been an Independent film project done outside the confines of the studio system without major financial resources and mostly through the Do-it-ourselves movement. Since its completion, things have been extra hard and extremely challenging for us to take it to the audience. We managed to bypass the system of making a Film but in the end had to get to the so-called distribution system which is all about bureaucracy, hierarchy and inhumanness.

    The difficulty of releasing a film conventionally without financial backing or industry influence is just unimaginable especially when the film doesn’t conform to the norms or the ‘formula’ (which mostly is patriarchal, objectifying & intolerable). We, at first, thought of going conventionally only to reach a wide audience, because the film is about money, which everyone can relate to.

    We live in an era where artists not only have the responsibility to create art but also have to somehow know to take it to their audience. This cruel, injust system demands the most difficult thing from creative people – which is impossible for them to do – taking art to its audience (or in capitalistic words – selling the art to its consumers). How sad that it favors only the privileged few, crushes creativity, art and most of all, artists with a purpose. The theme of our film was also meant to challenge the status quo which annoyed many distributors in our interactions with them.

    We believe that the purpose of a powerful visual medium like cinema in social dynamism is to set a direction for society and it is scary that the system has created monsters who control the fate of majority of the other beings. 10 people decide what 100 crore people want to see. What is given to the people widely in the name of cinema is being misunderstood as people’s taste. It is not so.

    Filmmakers should not have to compromise on the quality of the film that they want to bring to their audience. Because if we want our films to become more progressive, we should be able to try unconventional and radical things. And we want ‘people’ to watch it and give their verdict.

    We feel that our film is not a commodity to be marketed but it is a message to be disseminated. So, willing to bear all the material losses but not willing to succumb to the demands of a system that force us to change formats of our film, we took ‘Ayynoorum Ayynthum’ straight to the masses on this MAY DAY 2016 giving it the due respect.

    The film was part of the Official Selection at the and part of the Top Angle Indian Cinema Section of the International Film Festival of Kerala, Trivandrum, and Stuttgart Film Festival, Germany and had a lot of independent screenings in Pondicherry, Chennai, Trivandrum and some parts of the U.S.
    We believe that everything changes through the movement of opposing forces. Contradictions and conflict in any existing phenomenon will bring about a Quantitative change which in turn will result in a Qualitative change and CHANGE the entire phenomenon!

    Since we have dealt with the distribution process of AYYNOORUM AYYNTHUM, in a unique way by releasing it online for FREE (the first tamil feature film ever), we request you to collectively question this phenomenon called MONEY through art and bring about a Qualitative CHANGE in the human society which will benefit animals, oceans, trees, skies, mountains, Nature and this PLANET on the whole!!!

    We wanted to share this experience with you and also would like you to watch the film if you could and let us know what you think.
    I recognize that we are parts of a whole trying to make a heal the functioning of the whole – in this case, the human society.
    If you are interested and have the time, do visit the link & please share it with friends and your world if you think it deserves to reach more humans.

    in solidarity
    Accessible Horizon Film Collective Team