The Tamil film ‘நடிகையர் திலகம்’ (Queen among the female actors) is a biopic that glorifies an actor to the extent that it does injustice to her husband.
Savithri, the erstwhile lead actor in Tamil that the film is based on, was supposed to have been the female equivalent of the then doyen of Tamil film industry – Sivaji Ganesan. There was supposed to be no role that she could not emulate.
The film portrays the meteoric rise, the path of slow and painful decline and ultimately the pathetic end of Savithri. Gemini Ganesan, the then male superstar and heart throb of girls of that age, is painted in a bad light and is shown to be the precursor to the decline and demise of Savithri.
Given the headstrong nature of Savitri, she had never heeded sane advice and had ventured into uncharted territory – film direction and production.
The biopic could have covered the different conspiracy theories that had surrounded the life and times of Savithri and Gemini Ganesan. The film does not speak of the role of another leading female actor of those times, Banumathi, who was supposed to have enticed Savithri to produce films. What had made Banumathi to lure Savithri into this film production business, did Gemini Ganesan have any role in this, was there anyone else behind this ill-thought out move, what transpired between Savithri and Chandrababu, a comedy superstar who also had a sad end – the film could have investigated on these lines.
When Savithri, the then reigning superstar was undergoing such turmoil in her finances, what did the the other leading movie players do? What was Sivaji’s stand? Did MGR, an erstwhile superstar and the then Chief Minister of the state, do anything to ameliorate Savithri’s sufferings? What did the film industry associations do? Had these been addressed, the biopic would have given a complete perspective of the situation that prevailed in the state in general and Tamil film industry in particular. A chance missed.
The film meanders on an unnecessary love story of an investigative journalist while trying to provide a third person narrative to the biopic. The time spent in these sequences could have been better spent in going over the intertwining factors behind the decline of a gifted actor Savithri.
Malayalam actor Keerthi Suresh dons the role of Savithri and her performance is a treat. She speaks more through her eyes like what Savithri was supposed to have done. She emotes Savitri so much so that, at times, the viewer begins to see Savithri in Keerthi Suresh. Dilqar Salman, who plays Gemini Ganesan, does justice with the necessary dose of tom boyishness and grace.
The scene transition between two films that run in parallel and that too entangled with the personal lives of Gemini and Savitri, the color transition from black and white image to color costumes of the then real life characters, the then Madras’s imagery, the mellifluous background score and an outstanding song that brings out the romance between Gemini and Savithri and many more finer aspects of the movie bring out the needed talent that the Tamil movie industry has, but seldom uses.
‘Nadigaiyar Thilakam’ — one-sided biopic, supported well by the lead actors, but laid waste due to unnecessary characters and a not-so-needed sub-story line. The surprise upside – the discovery of a great talent ‘Keerthi Suresh’.
A welcome different attempt in the Tamil / Telugu film industry. Hope more of such emerge on the life and times of Jayalalithaa, yet another enigma and a power to reckon with until her mysterious death in 2016.