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25 years of Amaithipadai

Amaithipadai, Tamil Cinema’s most popular political satire film, starring Sathyaraj, Manivannan, Sujatha, Kasthuri, Ranjitha and directed by Manivannan got released on January 13th in 1994. This January marked 25 years of the film that has a cult following. Amaithipadai could endure for generations because anyone would be able to connect to the film mainly because of its screenplay, dialogues and the interesting political drama that takes us through. The movie still stands tall because of its unadulterated content. During any elections or poll results, be it center or state election, the one meme content that doesn’t get missed out is that of the film’s famous election results scene. That is how popular the film is.

Behindwoods spoke to Sathyaraj, the lead actor of the movie who played the iconic character of Nagaraja Chozhan alias Amavasai in the movie, to know how he felt about this remarkable feat of the movie. The overwhelmed actor shared his memories and views on Amaithipadai.

He said, “I came to know Manivannan during my PUC years. But Manivannan discontinued in the very first year to go after his career in films. I graduated with a B.Sc degree and went after my movie dreams. I was introduced in Sattam En Kaiyil in the year 1978. The time period from 1978-1983 was a struggling phase for me both opportunity wise and economy wise. Since my family was self-sustaining, I was able to stay in Chennai and cope with my career. I met Manivannan in 1984 for the movie Nooravadhu Naal and we reconnected well and our friendship rejuvenated instantly. I did a villain role in that film and it was a big success. It was the time, I was getting many good chances along the way, for instance, against Kamal Hassan in his Kaaki Sattai, Maniratnam’s debut film Pagal Nilavu and many more and these movies gained a good name in the industry as a performer.

At that point in Tamil Cinema, there were 3-4 big heroes and there was seeming to be a situation when there was a hero scarcity. Myself becoming a hero was an accident, but 13 out of my first 15 movies as a lead hero were a success, that includes Kadamai Kanniyam Kattupaadu, Makkal En Pakkam, Mandhira Punnagai, Poovizhi Vasalile, En Bommukutty Ammavuku, Chinappadas, Annanagar Mudhal Theru etc that ran more than 100 days and importantly Walter Vetrivel notably ran more than 200 days was a huge success.

After years, Manivannan approached with a script and asked me to play a negative role again for his film. At first, I was reluctant to play a villain again but as Thalaivar Manivannan insisted me to hear the story, I listened to it. There was a particular election result scene he narrated which portrayed the ambitious villain that the character is about to become. I stopped him right there and I agreed to do the film but Manivannan made me listen to the entire story and I surrendered myself to him to act in Amaithipadai.

Manivannan was one of the most brilliant directors that Tamil Cinema had. He could write extremely interesting screenplays and pull off an amazing story with it. He was not a usual director who would plan his shots a day before. He could come up with something so good, instantaneously on the spot. He came up with a scene, where the main character fights for broken coconut pieces with a dog, on the spot. The art department was called and asked to make costumes right away. My banyan was placed on a rock and beaten with stone to bring out the texture naturally. In fact, from all of the scenes that were edited out, 2 films like Amaithipadai could be made.

No film until or after Amaithipadai was able to match up to its plot of politics. That is because director Manivannan understood the nuances in politics better than many. He has learned the way of Periyar, Ambedkar and Karl Marx so well and it subtly reflects in his movies. That is what drove both movie buffs and common man to his movies. His contents were not half-baked as he was well-informed.

Amaithipadai is a byproduct of great works from a cast that included people like Sujatha Mam, the amazing work by the cameraman Shankar, the excellent music by the one and only Ilayaraja and many more. I remember like it was yesterday and it is hard to believe that 25 years have passed by. I only realised that it was that long when my son Sibi reminded about it. It gives me so much nostalgia and it feels like a wonderful surreal memory.

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