Sentimentally Kollywood: ‘Pa’ for Sivaji Ganesan

In his first movie Sivaji Ganesan proclaimed to the world ‘Success’ aloud thrice and he never looked back. In his first movie, Superstar Rajinikanth pushed open a giant gate to enter the frame for the first time, gates have never closed for him since. Ilaiyaraja singing the title song has always ensured a hit and beginning the shooting of a movie with a song has always been Shankar’s way of getting into the groove. Call them superstitions, beliefs, sentiments or idiosyncrasies, Kollywood is full of them. Not just Kollywood, every field has its own share of beliefs that we cannot seem to do without. IT professionals seem to believe in certain screensavers or desktops, students have their lucky pens and everyone has their share of small beliefs. Cricket might give Kollywood a run for its money when it comes to such beliefs, players are not allowed to move from their positions in the dressing room while the batsmen in the middle are doing well, then there was Steve Waugh’s red cloth, Harbhajan Singh’s red turban and many more such silly but enjoyable things.

Getting back to Kollywood. There has been a recent

grapevine, more among the public than anywhere else that Rajini’s movie titles are lucky for Dhanush. We have only Polladhavan to point out for an example with Padikkadhavan in the pipeline, but the belief is already in our minds. If this is what one movie can do, then think about how strongly the industry would have believed in Sivaji Ganesan’s ‘Pa series’. If you don’t get the import of ‘Pa series’, then it is to do with the letter ‘Pa’ which was considered extremely lucky for Sivaji Ganesan starrers. We have Paasamalar, Pachchaivilakku, Paavamanippu, Paagappirivinai and a few more. If it was Sivaji Ganesan and a Pa movie, it was a sure shot blockbuster.

Movies within movies never work, said people in the industry. A belief that seems to have taken shape in keeping with the rules of probability. Kodambakkam and Vellithirai in recent times are movies that have validated the belief, though there have been trend breakers like Anbulla Rajinikanth. Speaking of Rajinikanth, a huge number of beliefs surround his films. Not surprising as the success or otherwise of his movies can have a huge impact. A Superstar movie should not release in August say many. Baba released on August 15 and Kuselan on the 1st and so reigns a sentiment, fans and distributors will certainly not enjoy it if Endhiran by some chance gets slated for an August release. Another Superstar sentiment, his intro song, has to be in the voice of the inimitable SPB for the movie to be a success, again Baba and Kuselan uphold this sentiment. Sivaji Ganesan raised his right hand to bless people in a movie that went on to become a superhit, he had to keep doing it for a long time afterwards. So we see, success can spark off a string of beliefs, so can failure. People are desperate to replicate all elements of success and eliminate all elements that they believe were part of a failure.

It is a well known sentiment that movies that are long delayed past the originally scheduled date will never make it big at the box office. Producers used to get the jitters whenever a movie was delayed. That might have been more due to the fact that interest rates have an uncanny knack of rising like inflation, but the belief that delayed movies never work was a strong one until Vettaiyadu Vilaiyaadu, Varalaaru and now Dasavatharam came along and smashed it to smithereens. One sentiment put to rest- and hopefully it remains so forever. But one failure and it will bring it right back. But one feels it was a good sentiment to have because it could keep directors and producers on their toes.

All that we saw till now were sentiments and beliefs that do not have much bearing on cinema. They are just personal preferences or ways of functioning that became habits and norms. Their presence or otherwise doesn’t make much of a difference. But there is a sentiment, myth or superstition that prevails wherever there is cinema and prevents it from getting better. It is the commercial cinema-art cinema classification, something that has always been plaguing cinema. The myth that for a film to run well at the box office it has to conform to a formula (again mythical) which generally includes songs, dances, fights and comedy. The belief that anything deviating from this formula doesn’t stand good chances. An appeal to those who follow these Kollywood sentiments closely: a movie is not a hit because of such sentiments. A movie becomes a hit because it deserves to be a hit

Though there have been telling blows at the very foundations of this belief in the recent past, it has managed to stand because it has been so deep rooted in cinema over the decades. If anything, it is this belief that has to be felled as soon as possible for that is the only one that stands in the way of cinema’s progress. All others are pure fun to write, read and talk about. Why did Venkat Prabhu name his second film Saroja? Can’t be a mere coincidence. And we also believe that SPB will be back as the voice of Superstar in Endhiran. And any young star will always get a ‘something’ Thalapathi tag around two years after his debut. Sentimentally, Kollywood.

(By Sudhakar, with inputs from Arun Gopinath.)

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