CLASS ACT Vs. MASS APPEAL
Publication: THE TIMES OF INDIA, Chennai, Date: Jun 10, 2012, Section: Times City, Page: 4
THE FANS OF SIVAJI GANESAN AND M G RAMACHANDRAN ON WHAT MAKES THEIR HERO NUMBER ONE EVEN TODAY
Kamini Mathai | TNN
In the real world, it's been more than a decade since Sivaji Ganesan passed away, and more than two since M G Ramachandran died. But to their fans, the actors are still alive in spirit, the movies still make them laugh and cry. And, surprisingly, the rivalry between the fans of the two actors continues just as it was in the 1950s and 60s.
If you ask the fans of the two superstars of Tamil cinema to stand together for a photograph, the answer is a firm no. "We cannot pose with the fans of 'the other person'," says Murali T, 51, who works for a bank, and a Sivaji fan. "They are our enemy," says V S Shiva Perumal, 45, a hard core fan, or as he says, devotee of MGR.
To the two groups, the boundary lines are clear. Sivaji's fans always thought of him as a class act; to MGR's fans he still is a mass hero.
For Sivaji fans, the movies make the man. All 305 of them. "We love the movies. They are excellent and his acting is impeccable," says Murali, who adds that the fans recently got together to form a Nadigar Thilagam Film Appreciation Society. It plans to screen Sivaji movies every month and bring together the artists who worked in them to analyse them further.
Murali says that because the fans are only there for the movies, that are screened every two months at Shanti Theatre, the actor finds new fans. "While most fans are in their 40s and 50s, you have others still in their teens," he says. Almost as if the fan-dom is inherited.
Like Anirudh V Rangarajan, a class 10 student from Vidya Mandir, who was introduced to Sivaji movies by his father. "When 'Karnan' was re-released this March, I saw it seven times. The first time, because my father asked me to go, but the other six because I loved it," says Anirudh.
In the world of the MGR fan, it's not so much the actor that they adore, but the man of action. So, even though he was hero in only 136 films, they are enough to teach you lessons for life, they say. Ask them about his movies, and you are given an earful about the great man he was. "Did you know that up until the day he died, the kitchen fire in his house was never put out? He gave food to everyone and provided us messages to follow from his films – don't tell lies, honour your parents. We watch his movies to learn about MGR," says Perumal, who runs a printing press.
Unlike the Sivaji club, where the movies are screened once a month and usually at the actor's family-run theatre Shanti, MGR's movies run to houseful shows every week in several theatres across Chennai. While Sivaji's movie screenings are a more sober affair, with fans greeting each other politely, at the theatres showing MGR movies, there are firecrackers, paal abhishekams, dancing and music. "You would think it was a new movie releasing," says S Vijayan, fan and editor of a monthly on the life of MGR.
"Sometimes, the prints of the movies are so bad that you cannot even tell what is happening on the screen. But that has not stopped us from whistling, dancing and shouting out the dialogues," says Perumal. They are now gathering funds to restore some of the old prints. "A few are in such bad shape that we are at risk of losing them forever," he adds.
At this point, the Sivaji fan, politely interjects that the reason for the extra fervour in the MGR theatre is that most fans have political aspirations. "They want to get in good with the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) as MGR is the party's founder," says a Sivaji fan.
The MGR fan doesn't try to hide his aspirations. "We wouldn't mind being recognised for the work we do," says Perumal. "We gave out pamphlets in support of the AIADMK in the last elections, which we are sure contributed to the win," he adds.
MGR And Sivaji Ganesan Continue To Entertain Audiences With Their Onscreen Exploits And Offscreen Charm
The duo may have had an on-screen rivalry but behind the scenes they were known to admire each other. At a public gathering, MGR referred to Sivaji as his 'thambi', and as chief minister, he showed a foreign delegation the Sivaji movie 'Thillaanaa Mohanambal' as he felt it best showcased Tamil culture.
MGR always stood for the upliftment of the poor in his movies
Sivaji had no overall theme in his movies, which is why he failed in politics. But he believed in the script and acted in a variety of roles, from a murderer to a patriot
The star actors acted in only one movie together; In 'Koondukili' (left), Sivaji played the villain
Every week is a party for the MGR fans, but the 'devotion' pervades every moment of their lives, insist the fans. "We never say his name, just call him thalaivar," says one fan. "When his movies are shown on TV, we make sure we are dressed properly and sit in a respectful manner, even if we are in our own homes. We feel he is watching us," says another.
Young fan of Sivaji Ganesan, Anirudh Rangarajan
While Sivaji's fans always prided themselves in their maturity, one could say they were a little more excited than usual during the release of the thespian's movie 'Karnan' in its digital format this March. All the women who came for the show on May 1, what would have been the actor's 60th wedding anniversary, were given thalis and turmeric to celebrate the happy occasion.