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Need more biopics of musicians, says Aruna Sairam

Posted on 16/06/2019 in The Hindu

  • By Srinivasa Ramanujam

    The Carnatic vocalist on why she considers 'Thillana Mohanambal' a classic

    I have been a huge film buff since childhood. Having grown up in Bombay, our family used to frequent two theatres (Arora and Rivoli), where we have watched several Sivaji Ganesan and MGR films, and they impressed me greatly.

    But one film that has had a big impact on me is Thillana Mohanambal. I watched it first when I was in Class 8, I think, but have re-watched it more than a dozen times since then. As a musician, I think that film is an absolute classic and it has always struck a chord with me.

    The reaction of a musician to certain life situations is pretty specific, and that’s something only another artiste can empathise with. There were several moments like that in Thillana Mohanambal, especially in the scene when Sivaji Ganesan is asked to play in a wedding, but walks out and starts playing outside the gate due to his ‘thozhil garvam’. The way Balaiah supports Sivaji in the film is incredible — he always keeps a watch out, on and off the stage as well.

    Even AVM Rajan, cast in a smaller character, shone — people who have seen a live nadaswaram band in action will understand the importance of such a character. People dismiss the second nadaswaram as just an accompaniment, but they have to keep playing and cannot stop at all. As an aside, there’s an interesting real-life anecdote. I’ve heard about a wedding host honouring the second nadaswaram player because it was him who played a lot!

    I have enjoyed every character and nuance in Thillana Mohanambal. I can never forget Nagesh as ‘Savadal’ Vaithy, the way in which he’d fold his angavastharam like a fan, and how he’d stride into an auditorium without a ticket. I have seen several real-life characters just like that in Chennai’s music sabhas. I recently taught at a music school in Canada, and I played scenes from this film to tell the students about the importance of nadaswaram.


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