By Mithun
Balu Mahendra’s Unfilled Wish, Balu Mahendra


In Thalaimuraigal, Balu Mahendra’s last movie, the grandfather says to his grandson, “Son, never forget our Tamil.” And, the grandfather dies the next day. The grandson went on to become a Tamil student. On similar lines, Balu Mahendra made a request for preserving Tamil Cinema, on his blog, for which no steps have been taken yet.

What follow are his words, that are translated from his blog.

About two years ago, my movie Veedu, which grabbed two National Awards, and a few International Awards, was to be screened in an International film festival for women, at Chennai.

I wished to give a new digital copy of my movie to the organizers. But, when I opened the case, in which I had stored the negative copy of Veedu, I found that the negatives of the movie were totally damaged in a way that not even a single copy could be made out of it. I rushed to see the fate of my other movies - Sandhya Raagam and Marupadiyum. Those negatives were also beyond repairable.

A pain of losing my three children right before my eyes engulfed me.

I had spent many sleepless, tearful nights thinking about my movies which were destroyed during my time itself. I have never been able to walk out of the loss, even now.

I have no strength left in me to see what happened to my other children: Kokila - my first movie, Azhiyadha Kolangal – my first Tamil movie, Moodupani, Moondram Pirai – the movie that got National Awards for me and Kamal Haasan. I don’t want to see their state. I will never be able to bear the pain of losing them. Instead, I will live on, with a blind faith that they are hale and healthy.

Veedu, Sandhya Raagam and Marupadiyum were considered to be some of Tamil Cinema’s important movies. Had they been preserved in the way they should have been, this demise would not have happened.

Azhiyadha Kolangal was released in 1977, Veedu in 1987 and Marupadiyum in 1993. If these movies cannot be printed again, what would have happened to our earlier Tamil Classics? What happened to our Parasakthi(s), Ratha Kanneer(s), and Pasamalar(s)?

Cinema runs in the blood of Tamilians. It is the only entertainment that our people can afford without a big hole in their budget. Our media’s biggest revenue streams are from cinema. Tamil music is the cinema songs. Tamil prose is the cinema dialogues and scripts. Tamil art is the cinema posters. The rules of fashion are framed by cinema.

Cinema makes a big mark in our everyday lives, and our everyday politics. All our Chief Ministers right from Mr CN Annadurai to Mr M Karunanidhi and Ms J Jayalalitha are from this field. And, looking at the prevailing trends among actors, not just the past, even the future politicians are likely to be from this field.

In spite of all its importance and cultural value, no one seems to care about preserving Tamil cinema. No one seems to consider the fact that Tamil cinema’s biggest classics can never be seen in theatres. Researchers will never be able to research on the changes and transformations that were brought in our cinemas over the years.

To see our classics, we will have to visit the National Film Archive, Pune or search for pirated DVD copies or watch it in TV along with advertisement baggage.

An easier, yet fruit bearing alternative, would be setting up a Film Archive for Tamil cinema in Tamil Nadu, with state of art equipment and devices. Every movie should store its duplicate negative copy and its digital version here. This repository should be of international standards, equal to those of America, France and Germany.

The initial costs for setting up the repository can be shared by the Tamil film fraternity (actors, producers, musicians and other technicians) and Tamil Nadu Government. If we want our children to enjoy our classics, the steps for setting up such a repository have to happen immediately.

As a Tamilan, as a person deeply passionate about Tamil cinema, I plead the Tamil Nadu Government and the Tamil film fraternity, to take the necessary steps. And, do it as early as possible.

Balu Mahendra

June, 2013



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