Prologue: This is the continuation of the feature article (Sivaji Ganesan & The Sadists) on Sivaji Ganesan mailed by one of our viewers from Malaysia.
Here's more about getting shot, with bullets since they deposited all the arrows they had in Karnan. Director T.R. Ramanna will forever be remembered for bringing both MGR and NT together in Koondu Kili, where naturally the first scene was that of NT attempting to commit suicide. But that's another story. Well, Ramanna resurfaced a decade later when he directed NT in Tannga Churanggam. This film was his answer to the spy flick craze that was hitting worldwide thanks to the success of James Bond films. NT gave our own OO7, Jai Shanker, a run for his bullets, appearing cool, stylish but not without some emotional moments. Just when you thought all would be safe, he is given electricity jolt halfway, and worst, at the time when singing duet mean open space and beautiful garden, our man was given only a small water well to have a duet with his date. Then, all seemed to be safe and sound till the climax. When NT hunts down the bad guy (Ramdass) in a church...of all place...he gets shot at both his hands AND legs. Hey, even Hollywood make do with a single shot in either the hero's leg or arm, for Eastwood's sake.
Well, similar slug-related fate naturally awaited NT when he was cast in multiple roles. This time in a beautiful film called Navarathiri, directed by the gifted director A.P. Nagarajan, NT was made to take on 9 roles and the cruel thing was no rubber prosthetics was involved. Kidding. Well most characters are well and healthy; we then meet the brutish NT with a rifle, sling belt full of bullets, really looking very fiery and what happens to him? He gets shot and takes a really long time to die, trashing his feet about till they slowly stopped. Gruesome scene. I bet Savithiri was genuinely horrified that moment. Then, we meet few more NTs till towards the end when here comes crawling, literally on his four a leper. Who played this leper? Your guess is as good as mine. But that's another story.
Single role or multiple role, number does not matter. All has to suffer. Just ask director A.C. Thirulogachander. Remember Bheem Singh's plot twist involving acid thrown at NT's face in Pava Manippu and permanently scarring it? (It also had Nagaiyah playing NT's dad who still looked like he would keel over clutching his heart, except that he was propped to the wall by a humongous Quran) Well, inspired ACT had not one, but two NT's in Deiva Magan to have a really brutish nasty facial scar. Given away to orphanage as a child and originally intended to be killed by the scar-faced dad, NT Jr had to endure enough psychological trauma before at the climax where even the director felt enough is enough and had him take in more than one slug in his belly. Oh, Nagaiah again plays NT's dad and this time dies without keeling over and clutching his heart.
Another director not a stranger to onscreen gunshot wound is P. Madhavan. How can we forget the unnecessary death of the lead character in Rajapart Ranggathurai, where someone puts in real bullet in the gun used for a stage play in which NT, as stage actor Ranggathurai, plays a freedom fighter. Yes, P. Madhavan was also the director of Tanggapathakkam, in which NT plays Inspector Chowdary, whose defiant son goes to the other side of the fence, leaving him with a crippled wife who dies heartbroken. This time it is not NT, but his onscreen son Srikanth who gets the bullet. Who does the shooting? NT of course, but his own son...the trauma he has to live through is worst than death.
And so we saw all that from the 50s to the end of 70s, NT was blinded, half blinded, crippled, shot at, attacked, made to be alcoholics, given various psychological trauma, not forgetting silly costumes (late 70s) and preposterous wigs, and other horrific stuff like being paired with Sri Priya. It's staggering that NT the person remained the sane intelligent man right till the end.
One could go on and recall onscreen traumas mentioned above. But it is perhaps having been through these predicaments throughout the entire 50s, 60s & 70s, that the immune audience failed to give proper emotional response to NT in his 80s films, even though he suffered regularly onscreen, with his characters having multiple heart attacks, dying conveniently to spruce up bad script or sharing the screen with nightmare child Baby Shalini. But history is there to show the sadistic directors and scriptwriters had in their hand a brilliant artist who was willing to suffer in front of the camera. And being fans of this magnificent actor, we too are perhaps, equally, sadistic. But that's another story.
Rakesh Kumar, Malaysia.