Last week I stumbled upon a conversation involving a Rajnikanth film of the early nineties. The name of the film was, “Dharma Durai”. Rajnikanth was paired opposite Gouthami in this mainstream masala entertainer which went on to become an inevitable blockbuster. Incidentally the title of this yesteryear blockbuster is being borrowed for a new Vijay Sethupathi film which eventually brings us to the topic of this discussion – Rajasekhar, the director of the original Rajnikanth starrer.
It is sad to document that neither the industry nor the audience remember the man who directed more than a dozen important films during his short career which spanned throughout the eighties. Rajasekhar was the man behind films like, “Vikram”, the Kamal Hassan starreer which incidentally was the highest budget south Indian film of its time. His directorial repertoire consists of films such as Kakki Sattai, Padikaadhavan, Maapillai, Malayur Mambatiyaan, Thambikku entha ooru and Maaveeran. To his credit he has alo directed a couple of Hindi films primarily featuring Mithun Chakraborty.
What made Rajasekhar’s films such crowd pleasers. His flight of imagination could always accommodate the unthinkable. It literally knew no bounds. In Dharmadurai, Rajnikanth takes a bullet out of his flesh using a fragment of a broken whiskey bottle. Even worse, he then pours the remaining whiskey into the fresh wound and lights it on fire with a cigarette lighter. He then puts it off by tapping it with his other hand in order to close the wound. Who else but Rajnikanth could carry such a scene with effortless ease.
It is hard to believe that a filmmaker who gave us such entertaining classics is seldom remembered through a retrospective at a festival or an award named in his honour or an entertainment show in a Tv channel. This brings us to the quintessential question – Why aren’t “commercial” filmmakers being talked about in the same breath as filmmakers like K.Balachander or Balumahendra. After all these are the people who contribute to a large extent towards pumping in the money that is needed to run an entire industry.
I often wonder about the prospects of the media becoming a little responsible once in a while in passing on the legacy of these masters to the new generation. When a film like “Mullum Malarum” is mentioned, people immediately recall the director of the film – J.Mahendran, but when you talk about a film like “Thambikku Entha Ooru”, which was more successful and more of a classic in today’s times, nobody ever recalls its director. It is because nobody knows who the director is. I must confess that it is rather confusing at times to observe this phenomenon.
Rajasekhar did not live to see all this. He died in an accident in the year 1991. The year of his last film Dharmadurai’s release.
– Avinash Moyidi