I consider 70s to 90s as the Golden period of Tamil Cinema. It’s the time when both hard core masala movies and radical directors co-existed. Both types of movies were lapped by audience with open hands. It also saw the rise of the “B” directors (Bharathiraja, Balachander) and moreover it gave the genius by the name Ilayaraja.
16 Vayadhinile (1977)
16 Vayadhinile changed norms, broke rules and created a new trend in the world of Tamil movies. The movies till then were shot in indoors, had melodrama overdose, chastised Tamil and even sometimes had elitist music. 16 Vayadhinile was the first movie to get to the real Tamilian in the village and spoke his language. It was a team of geniuses who came from the villages who broke the norm – Bharathiraja, Ilayaraja and SA Rajkannu.
16 Vayadhinile is about a young girl Mayil (Sridevi) from a village in her sixteens who dreams of independent life as a Teacher and getting married to a prince charming. Her mother Kuruvamma (Gandhimathi) nagging but a strong woman also raises Chappani (Kamal Hassan), a slightly crippled innocent guy who adores Mayil. Parattai (Rajinikanth),the village ruffian also has an eye on but Mayil falls for the Veterinary Doctor, who enters her village. After a fling, the doctor dumps Mayil and her mother passes away due to the same. Chappani becomes the only hope of Mayil and love blossoms between them gradually when Mayil realises the innocent heart of Chappani. When they are about to get married, Parattai tries to rape her and Chappani in a rage kills him. Chappani is taken to jail and Mayil waits for his arrival. The movie was produced by SA Raj Kannu with story,screenplay and direction from Bharathiraja. The music was composed by Ilayaraja.
Why it’s special ?
1. It not only broke the norms of melodramatic Tamil cinema but also the rules of a typical Tamil cinema. The movie proved that the audience will accept a loin cloth clad, paan chewing, shabby looking hero too. The story revolves around the woman in question and the bold decisions she takes even after being the wronged woman. This was path breaking in Tamil cinema.
2. The wonderful casting and acting of the leads. Nobody could have though that Sridevi could pull off such a character. The character has multiple nuances – on one end she falls hopelessly in love and on the other hand she snares on Parattai and co. The shades change to a determined woman when she transforms Chappani. A kickass performance, I should say. Kamal should be glorified for taking such a role although he was popular at that time. Chappani will be one of his most memorable roles. Rajinikanth as Parattai was brilliant and in fact his punch dialogue “Idhu yeppadi irukku” had it’s roots in this movie.
3. The music – although Annakili (1977) was a perfect launch pad for Ilayaraja, 16 Vayadhinile showed why Raja will become the most prolific music composer the Tamil cinema ever produced. Senthoora Poove – an awesome melody, Aattukutti muttayittu – the comic rendition, Sevvanthi Poova edutha – a folk overdose – are just awesome compositions. More than anything else, what showed up was his penchant for background scores. The sendhoora Poove which comes as a happy song sung to Mayil’s prince charming becomes a pathos BGM at the end when she waits for Chappani. Few changes in the notes explains you the mood of Mayil perfectly.
4. The brilliant script of Bharathiraja. The movie slowly evolves and driven by the characters. There are no drastic twists and turns in the movie. It’s realistic, grounded sans melodrama with sharp dialogues. And moreover it’s a original script taken from the roots of the villages.
Why it’s in the list?
1. As it’s the first movie to break the norms of Tamil cinema. It’s a real trend setter not like the marketing gimmicked movies of recent times.
2. The first movie to touch the roots of Tamil villages. It appealed to the normal people in a more realistic way.
1. Bharathiraja was born in a small village called Alli Nagaram near Theni. He even worked as a Sanitary Inspector
2. He along with Ilayaraja brothers used to stage dramas where from acting, casting, songs were done by the team
3. They were persuaded to enter the movie world through the persuasion of SP Balasubramaniam, who was establishing himself as a playback singer
4. Bharathiraja started his career as Asst. Director with Puttana Kanangal and later worked with many directors
5. The song Senthoora Poove was written by Gangai Amaren and I think it marked his debut as lyricist. The song won the National award for S.Janaki
6. Sridevi started her career as a child artist and I think she was about 16 years when she did this movie. Her Hindi movie debut was a remake of this movie titled “Solva Sawaan” directed by Bharathiraja himself. Kamal’s role was donned by Amol Palekar and it was a failure in box office
I shall reserve more trivia about Bharathiraja for the next post, which is incidentally another of his classics.
YouTube link for the movie (with subtitles)
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