Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tamil Cinema Teachers

Teachers are usually not treated with much respect in Tamil cinema. They are, more often than not, present as comedy elements in movies that are set in school/college campuses. Usually played by comedians like ‘Venniraadai’ Moorthy and ‘Typist’ Gopu , they are little more than caricatures, becoming the target of pranks and being scared of the students. The lady teachers don’t fare much better. They are usually harassed by the ‘bad’ students and in the movies that really sink low, they are treated as sex objects and become victims of vulgar comments from the students.

Thankfully, our heroes and heroines have come to the rescue of the profession a few times. When they play teachers, they are honest, upright teachers who are trusted by the students, are friends with them and are ready to lead them to a better tomorrow. And they reflect the real world since those are the kinds of teachers I’ve had in school and college. On the occasion of Teacher’s Day, my thoughts went to characters in the teaching profession portrayed by our leading men and women.

If the professor Rajni played in Dharmathin Thalaivan had appeared in a better movie, he might have become a much more popular character. Aimed squarely at the children, the good-hearted, absent-minded professor was a sweet and very likeable character. But he was stuck in a boring movie with a ridiculous plot. On the other hand, the professor in Naan Sigappu Manidhan was serious and had only revenge on his mind. Kamal is on record saying that Nammavar is one of the movies he wished he had not done. But it did allow him to take on the role of a teacher who brought some errant students in line. Ramanaa, where our Captain played a professor, was the only movie in recent times where he played a down-to-earth character. That character was probably the most action-oriented among the teachers we’ve had so far on the big screen. Bagyaraj played the teacher twice – in Mundhaanai Mudichu and Sundarakaandam – and in both cases, he added his own brand of self-deprecating humor, allowing the students to go one up on him. That resulted in a lot of laughs.

I don’t recall many of our actresses playing teachers. Rekha played a teacher in her debut film Kadalora Kavidhaigal. It was a good film but I remember my biology teacher in school saying that she didn’t like the movie since it would give every guy the idea that he could say “I Love You” to a teacher! Nadhiya in M.Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi was a feisty teacher who put the rowdy students in their places. And Simran exited Tamil cinema after playing a headmistress in Kicha Vayasu 16.

More than the people in any other profession, its our teachers who are responsible for shaping tomorrow's world. Wish our movies would treat them with a little more respect...

21 Comments:

At 11:33 PM, Anonymous ram said...

bb, cpl of questions, first...was dharmathin thalaivan a hit or a flop? i kinda enjoyed the movie...dunno why u hated it...i mean, it was very, very 80-ish but my guess is, the entry of the second rajni (esp. his 1/100-baked relnship with suhasini) killed the movie's charm for u...am i rite?
coz i remember immensely enjoying the movie (esp. rajni-prabhu's chemistry which was zilcccccch in c mukhi) till the death of rajni #1. and, nammavar-why did kamal say that? as in, in what context was that? did he actually think it was a crap movie or did he say that in some other context? i lovvvvvved the kamal-gowthami romance in that movie - was sweet n sophisticated and evoked a lot of smiles...

n coming to teachers in thamizh cinema, here's the best teacher character of thamizh cinema:

the immortal Shoba in Azhiyaatha Koalangall

 
At 12:12 AM, Anonymous Srijith Unni said...

A noble theme like a student-teacher relationship or a character sketch of a good teacher will never get explored within the boundaries of Tamil Cinema. Heroes, want to be macho and making a teacher that, reduces the importance of the "teaching" part of it.

 
At 1:07 AM, Anonymous F e r r a r i said...

I remember one Jaishankar movie. Was it 100/100 ?

 
At 1:54 AM, Blogger skanda said...

Why didint Kamal like "Namavar"...it was quite a riveting movie with great songs...Btw what u think arjun has to offer in his forthcoming "Vathiyar"...i am sure he will be teaching the students to bash up goons and still stay within the law...

Also have u seen "Chinna Vathiyar" with prabhu in a double role...Prabhu was quite funny despite the film being hilariously bad..

 
At 2:04 AM, Blogger Rajesh Thiagarajan said...

One of the teacher characters(other than the ones BB mentioned) I enjoyed/respected was by Prathap Pothan in Paneer Pushpangal.

Good one on Teachers Day BB.
-Rajesh

 
At 6:10 AM, Blogger prakash said...

Rajesh picked the one I remembered well. And yes, 'Nammavar' wasn't great, but definitely a different effort. And not a bad mix of commerical and message. Kamal-Gauthami-Srividya was nice, Nagesh was super.

I am really stretching here, but there was a movie with Nagesh ages back. Think the name is 'Vaathiyaar'. Nagesh is a teacher of some kind in that one. Remember the poster. Nagesh is an old man, with an umbrella. I think the only reason I remember it is because it was Durai's movie, shortly after 'Pasi' (for which of course Shoba won the National award).

Come on Sandya or one of the other dbs, you can help me out here ...

 
At 7:00 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

didn't bagyaraj act as one in puthiya varpugal?
prathap in panneer pushpangal had a great role.
Deepa in munthani mudhichu :-)
Nasser in Yuga (forgettable really)
karthik (was it?) in gopura vasalile
There was another one with vignesh or ranjith, based in ooty I think.
I thought Nammavar was good, it probably could have been done better.

 
At 7:00 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

didn't bagyaraj act as one in puthiya varpugal?
prathap in panneer pushpangal had a great role.
Deepa in munthani mudhichu :-)
Nasser in Yuga (forgettable really)
karthik (was it?) in gopura vasalile
There was another one with vignesh or ranjith, based in ooty I think.
I thought Nammavar was good, it probably could have been done better.

 
At 8:37 AM, Blogger Filbert said...

Though he did not don the role of a teacher in the movie, SPB as the principal in Thalaivaasal was superb and it was the first name that came to my mind when I started reading your post. A beautiful movie with good songs and some matured handling of the student-principal relationship.

 
At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Sandya said...

One of many memorable films in Hollywood include "Dead Poets Society," "Good Will Hunting," "Dangerous Minds," and the most recent "Akeela and the Bee".. where teachers are shown as real human beings who inspire, support and nurture the students' need to learn and thrive. Take the case of "Legally Blonde." Despite its emphasis on comedy and slapstick, the film still does a commendable job of the professors that it features in law college.

The problem with our Tamil films in comparison is that our society always looks at teachers' from a sermonizing point of view and don't look any further than that. They feel that teachers would only make way for heavy sermonizing, preaching and long winded speeches and nothing more. Or as you said Balaji, they fit well for being the butt of rude jokes and inane comedy.

Unless someone like Maniratnam, Gautham or Ameer designs a screenplay worthy of a showcasing a good teacher- student relationship, tamil films will continue to spell doom for teachers. The worst case-in-point is the lady (who also acts in Sun TV's Selvi) is shown to flirt with her student, Srikanth in Kanaa Kandaen. It only further reflected the rut that we already are in with relation to teachers.

Hmmm..

 
At 12:03 PM, Anonymous mythili said...

I liked Madhavan in Lesa Lesa. Especially because he was a chemistry professor, my major :-)

 
At 12:23 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ram, dt was definitely a big flop. and yes, it was after the 2nd rajni's entrance that the movie took a nosedive.

i've been trying to find that interview where he said that about 'nammavar' but havent had much success so far. he said it was a movie he wished he hadn't done and that he did it to help out the producer or director or something like that... don't remember why he doesn't think too much of the movie though...

haven't seen 'azhiyaadha kolangal' :(

srijith, yes. i think 'ramanaa' did a good job of combining those 2 aspects... wish few more directors thot along those lines...

ferrari, yes thats a good pick. that 1 was a good courtroom drama...

skanda, that storyline would still be welcome considering the stories we've had so far!

i did think of 'chinna vaathiyaar' but couldn't remember if he was a college professor or a scientist in that one :)

rajesh, good one. that was a very dignified role and would count among the best teacher roles :)

prakash, no idea about that film. and u actually remember the poster too! u may be a new entrant to the dbs club urself :)

munimma, cant believe i missed deepa in MM esp. since i talked about those kinda characterizations :) completely forgot about nasser in 'yuga' though i just saw it. probably because he was called 'professor' but didnt have a single scene in a college or classroom! don't remember 'puthiya vaarpugal' or 'gopura vaasalile' :)

filbert, yes SPB was great in that one. very matured and dignified performance...

sandya, good point. i actually couldn't think of a single movie where college professors were shown in a bad light... sure there have been movies where they were villains but they've never been portrayed as jokers i think...

mythili, i did think of all present-day actors and considered maddy too... but completely missed 'lesa lesa'. good pick :)

 
At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BB, the movie Kamal did to help out the producer was "Maharasan" in which he acted for free. It was a horrible and vulgar movie with Bhanupriya as his heroine.

SK

 
At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

padmini was a good teacher in guru datchanai -- i really love that movie for its portrayal of the yearning for education...

there was a good teacher in ethir neechal too, small role but not a buffoonish portrayal at all.

 
At 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The verdict on the best tamil movie with a teacher / lecturer as a central theme will never be made because it is simply, at least till now, NOT a prospective theme for any of our heroes... the alpha male who sings the best songs, fights with immense might, dutifully bound to morals & puts mother (& motherland) above all.

Till that mould is broken, or least stretched, we will have to put up with more of Sivakasi, Tirupathi, Madarasi and the likes.

 
At 8:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dead poets scoiety is one of the dumbest movies ever made.

 
At 9:41 PM, Blogger Bart said...

Alright.. My addition to the teacher / professor movie list.
- Maddy, also in Minnale (NIIT instructor?)
- Radhika in Keladi Kanmani
- Ofcourse, parody parade of professors/ teachers in movies like Jolly, Thulluvatho ilamai, Dhum etc.
Some of the other language movies that strike my mind immdly:
- "Vadakkumnathan" in Malayalam. Lal does an amazing job as usual.
- "A beautiful mind" where the hero is also a professor / lecturer other than being a mathematician.
- "NaagaraHaavu" (one of the very few kannada movies that I've seen) where the main thread is a student - teacher relationship. It is supposed to be one of the evergreen classics of kannada filmdom, laden with extreme sentimentalism ...

 
At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least for me, Kamal's Namavar was to some degree inspirational...but with some compromises, esp with the climax confrontation with the college hoodlum for example. Otherwise, it was an above average take with a refreshing central theme of a lecturer (a dying one, at that!)

 
At 7:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wat about our very own JO in kaakha kaakha.......

 
At 8:31 PM, Anonymous rekhs said...

bb mayb kamal said so cos gauthami went thru trauma of cancer in real life( cured now) and that may hv struck a chord!????
sandhya what abt to sir with love i thot sid poitier is all time awesome portrayal of prof-student rel...???
ram cldnt agree with u more:)
those of u who missed azhiyadha kOlangaL shd watch it..its a must-c movie!

 
At 11:57 AM, Blogger S.Ganesh Kumar said...

Just right;Bala.But why don;t you see Shankarabharanam?That is one movie which paid an ideal tribute to our carnatic music and teacher community.That is why it's my all-time favourite.(As many movies indulge in same-old parent-son rel. like Baghban;vietnam veedu etc.)

 

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