Humans of cinema
Shooting still | Manivannan on the spot.
The second picture was taken in the shooting spot of Manivannan’s ‘24 Mani Neram’ in 1984 and I like it a lot for many reasons : because it’s an invitation to 1980s Tamil film shootings, because it’s quite difficult to say if they are actually shooting it or reproducing a shooting scene for the photographer, and above all, because it made me read more about Manivannan.
For the ‘little me’, he was only the father in Sangamam, the house owner in Avvai Shanmugi or the funny comedian companion in some Sathyaraj’s films. Many years ago, the ‘middle me’ understood that he was so much more than that, as a director and as a political activist. In 1979, he joined Bharathiraja’s team after sending him a letter as a fan. Those were simpler days, illayaa ? From there, he wrote dialogues and stories for some of Bharathiraja’s major films just as Alaigal Oivathillai, Nizhalgal or Tick Tick Tick. In the 1980s, he started his own career as a director, exploring various genres of movies, with always a special attention for the writing part, his first love after all. From ‘Gopurangal Saivathillai’ in 1982 to ´Naga Raja Chola, MA MLA’ in 2013, he directed more than 50 films. Of course, ‘Amaidi Padai’ is always described as his best film, but there is a quite interesting Manivannan screenwriting touch which shows that he was certainly a big cinephile, especially for the thriller genre. Another specificity that colors his filmography is the way he brought politics into cinema, not through heroism like MGR, but mostly through comedy : the cherry on the cake being ‘Amaithi Padai’, a real game changer in terms of political satire in Tamil cinema with Sathyaraj, the best buddy and muse of Manivannan. And it actually reflects his own political activism : after joining very soon the Dravidian movement and Periyar ideology, he claimed to be a Marxist, then a supporter of the Naxalite movement and above all of Eelam Tamilians and the LTTE, so well that, at his funeral, his body was covered with the flag of Tamil Eelam as he wished.
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