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Two incidents rocked the Tamil film industry recently. One was the audio release function of Enna Solla Pogirai starring Ashwin, the anchor of Vijay TV’s show, Cooku With Comali. Speaking in the event, Ashwin coolly said he listened to some 40 movie story pitches from directors and they all put him to sleep. Film industry folks were miffed by the attitude and arrogance of a new kid on the Kollywood block who has zero entries in his filmography. Meme makers trolled Ashwin incessantly. Taken aback, Ashwin later said stage fright and nervousness made him blurt out things he never intended to say on a public platform.

Another incident brought out the sad story of M Thyagarajan who directed Vijayakanth’s Managara Kaval for AVM in 1991. Thyagarajan died without ever directing another movie. The director had separated from his family and was living in poverty. His body was lying just outside the gates of the same production house.

Thyagarajan came from Aruppukottai near Madurai. He made a boxing movie called Vetri Mel Vetri decades before Sarpatta Parambarai. Starring Prabhu and Seetha, the movie featured Dara Singh as a boxing trainer. Two dialogues in that movie seem to indicate what was to come. “Failure is common in life. But that’s for others. I neither like defeat nor the defeated.” “I don’t like anything but winning.”

Success eluded Thyagarajan after Managara Kaval. He met with an accident and was hospitalized. He went into coma in the hospital but somehow revived. He tried to return to the film world and sought opportunities to direct. But none came his way. He separated from his family and was living alone. He ate in Amma Unavagams to sustain himself. Only after his death did many in the film industry knew that such a person had been living in their midst.

Thyagarajan ate in Amma Unavagams to sustain himself. Only after his death did many in the film industry knew that such a person had been living in their midst. 

Thyagarajan’s story is typical. There are many directors and actors and actresses who don’t get opportunities after doing one or two films. They are unable to quit but keep seeking success. They knock on the doors of film companies and producers in vain.

Directors who deliver hits sometimes fade into oblivion. But instant celebrities like Ashwin get a free pass.

Babu acted in Bharathiraja’s En Uyir Thozhan released in 1990. Speaking the Madras dialect effortlessly and portraying the role of a slum dweller, Babu acted in Vikraman’s Perumpulli. While acting in Manasara Vazhthungalen, he met with an accident. He has been bedridden for nearly 20 years. Babu is the son of the sister of former minister and Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker K Rajaram.

Bharathiraja went to see his hero in hospital. The pictures went viral. Actor and director Ponvannan tried to help financially.

Babu’s story is a filmy tragedy. An actor making a dream debut and getting an opportunity to act in another leading director’s film is then flooded with offers. But cruel fate intervenes. His brother who looks after him and bears the cost of treatment dies. His father’s finances are stuck in a finance company. And he too dies. With only his eighty-years-old mother by his side, a bedridden Babu is facing life alone. Such stories are not uncommon in the film world.

Udayprakash acted as one of Khushbu’s brothers in Chinnathambi. But he didn’t get many film offers after that. Udayprakash hit the bottle. One day in 2004, he was found sprawled near the Nadigar Sangam office buildings. The police took him to a hospital but doctors found he had already died. Udayprakash was a law graduate.

The story of Vijayan who acted in Udiripookkal and Niram Maratha Pookkal is also similar. Rudraiah who made Aval Appadithan and whose film, Oru Gramathu Adhyayam, did not make a mark, was never able to direct a film again.

Immature people who become instant celebrities talk like loose cannons. Thyagarajan’s story should be a warning sign for them

The film industry thrives on the sacrifices of such people. Yet, more and more people come to Chennai seeking to be part of the industry. They are drawn to the spotlight. As long as the flame is there, moths will keep coming and getting consumed by the flame.

Yet, immature people who become instant celebrities talk like loose cannons. Thyagarajan’s story should be a warning sign for them.


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