The Director’s Union celebrated the 101st birthday of veteran director Anthony Mithradass on a rainy Monday morning. Most popular for his hit film with Prem Nazir Avakashi and the Tamil film Sivakami, the director’s presence elicited gushing praise from everybody present.
Yes, One Hundred And One.
Holding onto Bharathiraja’s hands, the director went onstage to thunderous applause from the crowd. And received many ponnadais from people; leading our neighbour to remark, “He must be the warmest thatha on earth.” He was also the sweetest, for Mithradass insisted on shaking hands with everybody onstage even though it visibly tired him. “He has been looking forward to this for a very long time. It’s the happiness that gives him the energy to do this. He’s finally getting the recognition he deserves and he’s over the moon about it. He keeps telling us that the biggest high for an artiste is getting recognised. Sadly, he hasn’t gotten that until very recently,” his daughter whispered to us as we watched.
It was a surprisingly well-attended event – the venue was packed to the rafters by quite an appreciative crowd. Literally everything was celebrated and made a fuss of. Radha Ravi made the most of this by coming up with one-liners (on the spot, mind) and entertaining the crowd. No one was spared from his biting wit. Bharathiraja’s ‘youthful’ look was also made much of. “Bharathiraja is from Theni, but look at him now and you’ll never even realise it. He is credited as the director who brought pudhumai to Tamil cinema, so it’s only natural that he dresses the part. Add to this his generous use of English – I heard that he even curses in the language these days – and there’s no way you can find the Theni native in him now.”
The birthday boy was not spared, either.”Kaththi controversy is raging now, but I request everybody to keep mum. Let us not scandalize Mithradass sir by narrating sordid tales from our industry.”
Though Bharathiraja and Mithradass took this ribbing lightly, Lingusamy, another victim, was not in the mood to do so. “I saw Lingu earlier today and asked him about his weight loss – is he on a diet or have his movies made him lose weight?” Radha Ravi said on-stage, referring to Anjaan‘s crash and burn at the box office. After getting the congratulations and happy birthday out of the way, Lingusamy addressed Radha Ravi’s remarks. “I wanted to talk about what Radha Ravi sir said. I have not lost weight because of the movies I’ve made. I am a big believer in the power of Yoga and want to keep fit. What he’s insinuating is not true.”
Bharathiraja stepped in to pacify. “This is the reason why I don’t speak much at events. If we voice personal opinions and don’t stick to the usual platitude, we risk the chance of entering into a full blown debate. This is not healthy.” And with a reassuring pat on Lingusamy’s shoulder, Bharathiraja neatly put an end to what could have been a war of words.
Meanwhile, Mithradass, who’d keenly observed the proceedings, finally spoke to the audience. He spoke in a measured tone and told everybody that he was very much a man who progressed with the times. “I’ve kept in touch with Tamil cinema and its changes. I may be old, but I’m not done yet. I read the reviews of Kaththi and told my daughter that I’d like to watch it.”He requested the audience to keep him in their memories and prayers forever. “There is no higher praise than that for an artiste. All we want is to be remembered. My hard work has paid off even though I’m a cherished memory for just a small group of people. Fame is nothing in comparison.”
After a rousing rendition of happy birthday, the cake was cut and distributed to everyone.
Later, director Vikraman nearly worked the crowd into a frenzy when he talked about his plans to eradicate plagiarism from the industry. “Assistant directors can now register their scripts directly with the union. I have been hearing about some cases in which assistant directors were ripped off by more established ones. We have taken note of this and will be putting in place stringent rules to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”
That this announcement was followed by a screening of Kaththi (AR Murugadoss has been accused of stealing the story from an assistant director) was rather unfortunate. We were sad that Radha Ravi left early. For he would have definitely had something to say about this.