Valliyoor Satya


The Immortal Visu, Visu, Arunachalam


Visu was one of the few stage actors who made a successful transition from stage to celluloid. He stood tall among the few others who tried but did not succeed - thanks to K Balachander who gave an opportunity to Visu when he needed it the most. 


Let us talk about some of Visu’s most successful movies. Manal Kayiru was ripped apart by a popular Tamil magazine for its lengthy dialogues. Today in the era of hero and heroine talking through their eyes, such a practice does look redundant but when you watch the movie, it certainly does not strike a jarring note – the dialogues that is.

The 1983 Tamil blockbuster movie “Manal Kayiru” (Rope made of sand) had a poignant scene towards the end. The heroine runs after the marriage broker (a role immortalized by actor-director-screen play writer Visu). Even as he looks at her with a surprising gaze, she gasps for breath and quickly thanks him saying that without his help, she could have never got married considering her family’s poverty stricken background. The heroine’s words act as a balm to sooth the frayed nerves of the marriage broker.

Even though the main theme of the movie was resonant with the famous tamil proverb that audaciously advocates the philosophy that – “it is alright to fix a marriage by telling a thousand lies” - this one climax scene in the movie stands out.

To digress a bit, the movie is about a bachelor boy who puts forth seven conditions that have to be fulfilled by his prospective bride. The marriage broker manages to get the heroine Uma married to this boy even though she does not fulfill even a single condition of his. Uma’s timorousness is eclipsed by the marriage broker’s brazen attempts to get the girl married to the boy at any cost – by hook or crook. Once the truth is out, all hell breaks loose. The boy is almost on the verge of divorcing the girl when the broker chips in again to build bridges between the estranged couple.

Even as the couple are united after a series of experiments conducted by the ingenuous broker (who else?), the broker is in for a shock as everyone ends up blaming him for all their afflictions. Forget gratitude, they end up lambasting him for arranging the marriage by forcing them to tell lies. Heartbroken, the marriage broker walks away and it is at this point that the girl Uma runs up to him to thank him.

The movie was blown to smithereens by critics for its lengthy dialogues. Notwithstanding this, the movie went on to become a super hit. Eventually, Visu had the last laugh. With this movie, playwright Visu hit pay dirt as he went on to make one successful movie after another.

Visu had a good run in the box office for close to a decade after which he started losing the magic touch. Then he eventually turned to television. But in the decade that he was active, he proved to be a prolific film maker who was able to make movies where family was the focus. His movies were such that they could be watched in the theatres along with all family members. Occasionally, he did falter. In the 1984 release Raja Thanthiram that starred Karthik, Sulakshana and Pramila, as expected, Pramila had to portray the vamp and there was some adult fare in the movie that could have been avoided. But with Pramila in the movie, I think including such scenes became mandatory. Visu played husband of the vamp who takes revenge on her. 

In one of his interviews, Visu shared his experience of working with the legendary Kannadasan. Visu narrated the story but the poet seemed to be doing something else. A perplexed Visu was wondering whether the poet was paying any attention at all. To his surprise, the immortal poet came up with the splendid title song – Kudumbam Oru Kadambam Palavannam. The movie was – Kudumbam Oru Kadambam that had an ensemble cast – Nithya, Bhaskar, Suhasini, Sumalatha, S V Sekar and Pratap Pothen. Needless to add, the movie was a roaring success. So were “Thirumathi Oru Vegumathi” where Visu made an actress out of baby doll Jayashree. 

In “Penmani Oru Kanmani” it was Seetha’s chance to get her talent burnished by none other than Visu. The movie was another big success. Am I forgetting something ? Oh, yes, how can I forget “Samsaram Athu Minsaram” ? This is one movie that has stood the test of time. Years have passed but the lessons that this movie taught audiences will forever remain entrenched in their memory. The climax scene was a classic one where Lakshmi proved that she was one of the most versatile actresses in tamil cinema. Who can forget Haja Sheriff and his broken Hindi  or the haughty Ilavarasi or Chandrasekar or Madhuri ? I think all of them got a new lease of life with the thumping success of this movie. Oh, my god, how I miss Raghuvaran today - what a great actor Tamil cinema had! “Janaki Devi Ramanai enni, iru vazhi vaasal thiranthu vaithal” still rings in my ears. So sad that actresses like Ilavarasi and Madhuri had such short careers in Tamil cinema. Oh, tamil cinema, why do you waste so much talent?

Among all his movies, the one that is closest to my heart is – “Urimai Oonjaladugirathu” (I hope that I am right – this movie starred Kasturi in a demure avatar along with Kannada actor Ramesh Aravind, Kutti Padmini and Major Sundarrajan).

Visu’s decline began with a few forgettable movies that he made during the fag end of his career. Varavu Nalla Uravu was dark, somber, pedantic and boring. His brother Kishmu had died a premature death and may be Visu lost the drive. Lakshmi and Mohini could not do justice to Visu’s later movie (that criticized the practice of having receptions clubbed along with Mapillai azhaippu). I can’t even recollect this movie’s name – was it Pattukottai Periappa? Visu’s meendum savithri was a box office disaster. Even when the story was serialized in Ananda Vikatan, it sounded awful. So, no wonder, it bombed at the box office. But Visu did play a good character artiste in “Arunachalam” and I think he also wrote the story and screen play of “Vanaja Girija” – a movie that I want to see from time immemorial, but I am unable to.

Notwithstanding all the flops that he churned out during the end of his short career, the truth remains that Visu carved out a niche for himself in Tamil cinema. He was an actor, a producer, a director, a writer – a person who wore many hats. Among all his roles, he excelled as a writer. As long as people remember Tamil movies, Visu’s name is bound to stand out as someone who made a significant contribution to Kollywood.

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