It was a Maniratnam film that kick started a fascinating movie marathon ending with a Roman Holiday
‘Iddaru’ (Iruvar, originally in Tamil) was being shown on one of the recent Sundays on Maa TV. Being a sucker for biographical/historical films, I watched it yet again, from the titles onwards till the last scene with such diligence, much to the consternation of the family that it stayed in my thoughts through the day. And, I ended up reflecting on the dramatic political developments in Tamil Nadu that led to the on-screen sensation MG Ramachandran entering politics and how he became the undisputed political king. My thoughts shifted to Jayalalitha, the current CM, who is today, the most powerful person in Tamil Nadu. From a very young actor who went on to become the top actress, to getting into the good books and life of MGR, the ensuing drama, the let down and the insults that followed, the struggle and the destiny making her a larger than life persona.
One thing led to the other, and before I knew it, I was reading whatever I could get on the MGR-Jayalalitha story. I also watched a wonderful interview that Simi Garewal did of Jayalalitha, the CM, one of the best interviews of hers, I would say. On deeper exploration, courtesy Google, I came across the MGR-Jayalalitha starrer ‘Chandrodayam’ on YouTube and ended up watching the whole movie. Lo and behold, it turned out to be the evergreen story of a runaway princess falling in love with a journalist – evergreen because there have been few other films with similar story line and each one was a big success in its own way.
The Tamil one too was a huge success of its time that in addition to the hit lead pair had legendary actors like MR Radha, MN Nambiar, Nagesh and Manorama. The film was directed by K Shankar who has to his credit many Telugu (‘Bhookailas’) and Tamil films and the music by MS Viswanathan was a big hit too; songs like “Engiruntho aasaigal” and the title song – “Chandrodayam” continue to haunt movie buffs even today. The story line, apart from the changes made in order to cater to the regional audience, is strikingly similar to the original Hollywood film, ‘Roman Holiday’. And, the sweet and cute Jayalalitha, in her heydays, was nothing less than the effervescent Audrey Hepburn, the dream lady of English cinema. If you ignore the obnoxious wig as the unavoidable ill that one had to endure in south Indian cinema during the 50s, you will fall in love with her as Zamindar’s daughter, Devi. MGR is his usual good, noble young man self, also giving out a good word or two when opportunity rises. The film towards the end does get a little tiring, but that may also be because you are the 2k version of film audience and ‘Chandrodayam’ was made for a different generation (1966) all together.
On the other hand is the English film, ‘Roman Holiday’ directed by William Wyler that had Audrey Hepburn (her first film) and one of the suave-est of Hollywood actors Gregory Peck as the lead pair that was made in 1953. It has such tight screenplay that takes you from one engaging scene to the other and ends a little less than two hours with the hero, a simple journalist going his way leaving the princess to her busy royal life.
By now I am so over-fed with Indian versions that, at a couple of instances in the film, I actually hoped Peck and Audrey would jive to a nice lively number. By the way, the Indian adaptations all had the hero living happily ever after with his lady unlike the original.
Among the many inspirations is also a Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman starrer ‘Solva Saal’ – How can we forget the memorable Mohammed Rafi number, ‘Hai Apna Dil Tho Awara’ from the film. Later in the 90s came the Mahesh Bhatt creation or shall we say – re-creation, ‘Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahi’ with his daughter Pooja Bhatt and Aamir Khan in the lead – the same story, Bollywood ishtyle – and a lot of memorable songs thrown in. It has always been good music, lovable actors and good production team employed to recycle the familiar story to make it a hit in every decade, again and again, in one language after the other.
Rendezvous with Simi Garewal
Clips from Roman Holiday
Dil Hai ki Manta Nahi