The booming voice that goes unheard!
It was by sheer chance that I happened to come across an interview of Malaysia Vasudevan in a magazine. The reason I said chance is because the interview was almost like a footnote (not literally) in an otherwise star laden, glitzy magazine. But, the magazine did do quite a commendable job by choosing to publish the interview of a yesteryear great who, these days, seems to have been forgotten as the past of Kollywood. I was a bit grieved to know that he was suffering from poor health and was almost always confined to the interiors of his house. To a fan like me, he (or his voice) has always been the symbol of energy and vigor; which he has proven many times with super-hit renditions, especially for Superstar. And the same man, who invigorated us so much with his voice, is now hardly able to make enough noise (again, not literally) to get people’s attention.

The part of the interview that affected me the most was where he said that the confinement to the indoors was suffocating him no end and that he missed the buzzing activity of his heydays. Now, that is not unique to anyone,
it is an experience that everyone facing retirement goes through and one would presume that it could take quite some getting used to, but one would eventually readjust to a life indoors. But, what bothered Malaysia Vasudevan even more was that he missed his friends and acquaintances from the film industry. According to him, no one from the industry has cared to visit him and have a word.

This is not the first time that we have heard such a complaint from a yesteryear star. There have been many instances where aging and ailing stars have repeatedly complained of the complete neglect that they face from the industry. Manorama, for instance, once said that no one cared to even pay her a visit during her illness. There are many such cases, not only from the Tamil film industry, but also the Malayalam, Hindi and other industries where artistes, who are no longer able to make their presence felt in cinema, have found life tough and isolated.

But, is this unique to the film industry? Isn’t this (the neglect of senior citizens who are no longer ‘productive’) something common to the society as a whole? Well, the topic is far too serious and deep to be discussed by me. But, the reason I chose to highlight this issue is to enable everyone to be able to imagine certain things.

Now, we have discussed the loneliness and partial neglect faced by artistes like Malaysia Vasudevan, Manorama etc. Now, these are names that are popular and were quite big in their heyday. That is the only reason why their voices, however feeble, get heard by the media and finally reach us. But, think of how a small time artiste will be able to deal with the same problem? There will be no media or organization that is present to make his voice heard because neither his face nor name is known or recognized by the public. The only way for the person to get heard is to get embroiled in some sort of controversy involving a big star – seriously, there is no other way for a small artiste to be heard through the media.

Cinema is a fickle field where artistes lose their salability very soon. Only the lucky few get to stick around for a long time. The others are left behind with only the memories of their golden days. Is there a way to protect the interests and basic needs of artistes who are no longer active in the industry?

One is aware of the various organizations like the Nadigar Sangam which hand over memberships and are actively involved in sending pensions and medical benefits to their members who are no longer in work, which is a wonderful thing. But, when names like Malaysia Vasudevan and Manorama complain of neglect, one finds it hard to imagine that all would be well with those small artistes who worked all their life to make cinema possible.

Perhaps it is easy to dismiss the woes of Malaysia Vasudevan and Manorama as moans from old timers who are just not able to accept the change that time brings with it. But, as a fan it does pain me to see some of the huge names from my growing up years now being reduced to mere shadows of their self, fighting, not for a place in the industry, but for a little bit of respect, dignity and recognition for all those years of dedication. I don’t think it would be too much to ask from an industry to which they gave a lifetime! Let’s give them their due.

(By Sudhakar, with inputs from Arun.)

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