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Bharathiraja

Birthday
17 Jul 1941 (Age 77)

Bharathiraja Biography

K. Bharathiraja is a critically acclaimed South Indian filmmaker. He displayed a story-teller's potential from an early age. Bharathiraja is known for his realistic and sensitive portrayal of village life in his movies.

His mother Karuththamma received the National Award from the President on his behalf for his film named after her. Among his other landmark films are Muthal Mariyathai (with Sivaji Ganesan in the lead), Karuththamma, Alaigal Oivathillai, Mann Vasanai, Vedham Pudhithu, Kizhakku Cheemayile and Anthimanthaarai.

Personal Life

Bharathiraja a Kallar, was born in Alli Nagaram, a small village near Theni as Chinnasamy on 17 July 1941. He was the fifth child to his parents, Periya Maya Thevar and Meenatchiammaal alias Karuthammaal.

He is married to Chandra Leelavathi, and they have three children - two sons Manoj (the hero of 'Taj Mahal'), Kishore and daughter Janani.

Early Days

His childhood passions were deer hunting and literature. As a full-blooded youth, he aspired to the dream world of film-making. He had an unremitting passion for acting and other theatrical pursuits from his earliest days. He also happened to be a good platform speaker and travelled around, spreading social awareness among the villagers. He got a job as a Sanitary Inspector in the Public Health Department in 1963, at a monthly salary of Indian Rs.75.

Bharathiraja wrote, directed and acted in his first dramas "Oor Sirikkirathu" (The Town Laughs) and "Summa Oru Kadhai" (Just a Story) in Theni Pazhani Chettiyapatti village during festival seasons. This kindled his creative spirit and gave him the confidence to seek an opening in the Tamil film industry.

As he moved to Madras to seek his creative future, Bharathiraja staged his "Summa Oru Kadhai" and "Adhigaaram" (Power) with the help of his friends. He also took part in radio dramas and music programs & Kallar Sangam.

But since these opportunities were too infrequent to be depended upon for a living, he took up a job in a petrol bunk, keeping his cinema ambitions intact and fell in the eyes of the South Indian singing Legend S.P. Balasubrahmanyam who paved his way into the film industry.

Film Career

Bharathiraja started his film career as an assistant to director P. Pullaiya and Kannada film-maker Puttanna Kanagal. Eventually working with Krishnan Nair, Avinasi Mani and A. Jaganathan, he learned the grammar of film making and got his first directorial opportunity in 1977. His first film 16 Vayathinile for which he wrote the story and the script broke convention to create a new genre of village cinema.

Costumes were uncomfortably true-to-life, dialogue was as-is-spoken, and village characters were tellingly genuine. As Bharathiraja himself agrees, the film was expected to bring in lots of accolades - which it did - but to do moderate business at the box office - which it did not. The film was a huge commercial success and kept the cash registers jingling even after several re-releases.

His next film Kizhakke Pogum Rail produced similar results and eventually brought in criticisms that Bharathiraja was capable of catering only to village audiences. This led him to make Sigappu Rojakkal, about a psychopathic woman hater that was totally westernized in terms of both conception and production.

But contrary to what several observers expected, this film met with box office success and everyone agreed that Bharathiraja was here to stay.

Bharathiraja confirmed his versatility and refusal to be tied down to one particular genre with an experimental film Nizhalgal and an action thriller Tik.. Tik.. Tik. But, undoubtedly rural themes proved to be his forte as his biggest hits in the 80s Alaigal Oivadhillai, Mann Vasanai and Muthal Mariyathai were strong love stories in a village backdrop.

Muthal Mariyathai deserves special mention starring veteran actor Sivaji Ganesan in the lead, playing a middle-aged village head. Radha is a poor young woman who moves into his village for a living. The love that bonds these two humans, separated not just by age but also by caste and class, is told by Bharathiraja with poetic touches. Without a doubt, this film remains one of the most successful films for both himself and Sivaji Ganesan.

Vedham Pudhithu dealt with the caste issue in a stronger manner. The film's narrative was seamless and starred Sathyaraj as Balu Thevar. It contains some of Bharathiraja's trademark touches as well as several ground-breaking scenes. However, it does follow the anti-Brahmin trend common in Tamil films - in this respect it departed from his earlier success, Alaigal Oiyvadhillai, where the caste and religion factor was given a more balanced treatment.

Bharathiraja has successfully managed to modernize his film-making techniques for the 1990s. The commercial success of Kizhakku Cheemaiyile and the awards Karuththamma garnered stand as testimony for his ability to thrill the younger generation as well.
He had plans of making short films with varying themes to attract the international audience and completed his venture Kadal Pookal and picked up a national award for the best screenplay writer for the same film. The well-known Tamil film director Bhagyaraj was one of his assistant directors. He has directed movies in Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi also.

Controversies

He attended the Heroes Day conference at Jaffna and appreciated its heroism and valour. Tamil Nadu Congress president Krishnasamy claimed he met the LTTE's leader, Prabhakaran, accused of planning the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and banned in India.

He organised a protest by Tamil Nadu artists against the Indian state of Karnataka for not releasing Cauvery water at Neyveli. During a SUN TV interview, co-film stars like Sarath Kumar and Radhika who attended the conference accused him of using that opportunity to eulogise ex-Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha and launching attacks on Rajinikanth's ethnicity.

A staunch supporter of the Eelam Tamils and their right to self-determination, Bharathiraaja has expressed full support for the independence of Tamil Eelam.

Bharathiraja returned his Padma Shri award because he felt that his emotions as a Tamilian supporting fellow Tamilians in Eelam were not heard by the Government of India.
 

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