Tamil Features

A Natural: The SS Rajendran Tribute

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220px-Rajendran.S.SThe movie was called Parasakthi. It was day one of the shoot.

Roommates Sivaji Ganesan and SS Rajendran, who were to make their debut with the movie, were waiting at the entrance of their mansion in Triplicane. The car that was supposed to pick them up hadn’t arrived.

Kalai aarvam thaanga mudila,” SS Rajendran had said in an interview to Yugi Sethu, “so we took bus no. 25, and went to AVM Studios in Vadapalani.”

The security guard barred their entry.

SS Rajendran shoved Sivaji to the front and told him – “He’s the hero of the film, let him in.”

But the guard wouldn’t budge.

A member of the crew then rushed to the entrance and said, “If the car didn’t come, it means there’s no shooting today.”

The debutants sulked. They were looking forward to beginning work.

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When Parasakthi released on Deepavali in 1952, the Tamil industry discovered two phenomenal actors. Sivaji Ganesan died in 2001; SS Rajendran passed away yesterday.

He was 86.

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“Those days, before watching a movie, the audience would ask a question,” Rajendran had revealed in the interview, “yaaroda padam idhu? Sivaji, MGR or SSR?

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Unlike today, the audience watched movies for the actors. Not for the directors.”

SS Rajendran was not just known for his impeccable Tamil diction and dialogue delivery, but also for his pal kuzhi. It made him a heart-throb. His dimple became so popular that director KS Gopalakrishnan included a song about it in his film, Deivathin Deivam, featuring SSR and Vijaya Kumari. The song – Kannukul Ethanai – was penned by Kannadasan and rendered by SSR’s favourite singer, TM Soundararajan.

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While almost all actors from that era verged on melodrama, SS Rajendran was among the few that believed in being “natural” on-screen. It wasn’t a conscious choice, he had said. “I still don’t understand how I did it.”

Off the screen though, the actor was known to speak his mind. “That very trait of mine keeps me young. Manasula onnum illa.”

MGR, whom SSR used to fondly call ‘anna’, said once, “If I call SSR at 10 in the night, tell him something and ask him to keep it to himself, he won’t be able to sleep until he has spoken to two other people about it. Rendu perukku phone poduvaar.” MGR had called it ‘innocence’, and the ‘ability to be free of baggage’.

That was, apparently, the secret to his youth.

SSR, recalling the anecdote, had said, “ennikkum oru sumaithaangiya irukka koodadhu.”

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Here are five of our favourite songs from his movies:

1. Thendral Urangiya Pothum from Petra Maganai Vitra Thai: Composed by Viswanathan-Ramamurthy, AM Raja and P Susheela lent their voices for the song. A popular melody that was often played on radio.

2. Gnayiru Enbathu Kannaga from Kaakkum Karangal: Sung by TMS and Susheela, and composed by KV Mahadevan, the song had SS Rajendran starring opposite Vijaya Kumari. He had acted with her in 29 films.

3. Poo Pola Poo Pola Pirakkum from Naanum Oru Penn. An R Sudarasanam composition. His regulars – TMS and Susheela – were the singers.

4. The philosophical number, Aasaiye Alai Pole from Thai Piranthaal Vazhi Pirakkum. Penned by Kannadhasan, the track was composed by KV Mahadevan, and sung by Trichy Loganathan.

5. Ennai Mudhanmudhalaga from Poompuhar: Sung by TMS and Janaki, the romantic melody was composed by R Sudarsanam.

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

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