Sai Bala Sundari, 70
When I was growing up, the two major pillars of the Telugu industry were NTR and ANR. NTR was the Robin Hood, always saving the poor and he also featured in many rags to riches stories. All this helped him when he entered politics. For instance, NTR’s Jaya Simha, was our generation’s Lion King. Even the stories are very similar. It’s a film people from this generation should also watch. ANR, in comparison, was our biggest heartthrob, and women were head over heels in love with him. His films also gave a lot more importance to heroines. In my own house, my husband and his brother would fight over NTR and ANR. You ask about Bahubali today but Vittalacharya made movies like that decades ago. He managed to pull of sequences like a monkey becoming a man, horses dancing, and a lot of magic, even when there was no technology. I think its because we’ve grown up on Vittalacharaya’s films that we don’t connect with Bahubali much.
In general, the fact that Karnan was a Sivaji Ganesan film was enough to lure everyone to the tent-kottas and theaters back then. So when it was a film about the Mahabharatham, with Sivaji playing Karnan, obviously everyone from all around went for the movie. One of the memories of watching the film was how I met one of my friends in the theatre. It was really surprising because she was from a very orthodox family, the kind that would not encourage watching films at all. But because the film was steeped in mythology the film became more than just fun or entertainment. So for many, it was probably the first film they ever watched.
Mughal-E-Azam took my breath away when I saw it as a kid. It was huge and grand, unlike anything of that time. Even individual songs were made with the budget of an entire film. When you see Bahubali now, it’s different because you have already been exposed to great visual effects from Hollywood films. That wasn’t the case for many of us back then. It was the first time we were watching a film of this scale. Mughal-E-Azam was also real, in a sense because the war sequences actually involved 1000s of real people. It was not graphics. It was also a film that became a legend even before it released because everyone knew and spoke about how this massive film was being made for over a decade. At that time, it was a film that had been in the making even before I was born! So when it released people stood in queues for entire days, sometimes in vain, to get a chance at watching the biggest film of their lifetime.
Enthiran was the kind of film which made me feel proud about the Indian film industry, especially Tamil. I know it isn’t the greatest story out there, but the pure scope that it managed to achieve was remarkable. Especially the climax portions where the robots get together to become a megabot, and the following sequences were so well done and conceived by Shankar and team. It is really commendable. And need I say about Rajini and chitti?
More than it being about a major star or a major movie, K Vishwanath was the ‘Bahubali’ of my generation. Because he made movies that were ahead of our times. For instance the way he dealt with topics like caste, untouchability and child marriage. They were also women centric. His films spoke to me personally because I did not get a conventional education. So his films were my biggest learnings. Chelleli Kapuram, O Sita Katha, Sankarabharam, Saptapadi, are films I can never forget. I got married when I was just 11 and my husband worked in a theatre. So most of my youth, including that of my children, revolved around the theatre and the films we watched there. Compared to those days, films today have nothing to offer apart from double meaning jokes and skin show. Even now, I can only enjoy films that were made in that period. I struggle to relate to films today.
I’ve been working as an auto driver for many years and from early on I made it a habit to go watch the night show in a theatre. It was my only form of entertainment. Of course I have seen many Tamil films in period, including those that can be considered blockbusters. I’m a huge fan of both MGR and Sivaji, even though I later became a Kamal Haasan fan. For instance, MGR’s Padagotti can be considered the biggest film of my generation. But everything changed one day when one of my customers started regularly taking me along with him to watch English films. It changed my idea of what was big. I remember this starting with a James Bond films and I was blown away by scenes of a car transforming into a boat in one of those films. Even his gadgets were amazing. I was totally converted and I started riding my rickshaw like how James Bond would drive his cars in the films.
The nearest theatre was a 7 km-walk away from my village and this also included a river in the middle. So going to the theatre was a big task for us. On one occasion, I was going for a movie with my friends and one of them started drowning because of the sudden force of the water. We started panicking but we somehow managed to save him. But that didn’t stop us going for that movie. We even made it right on time for the show. That film was MGR’s Uramai Kural…that was our craze for his films.