The Rajni festival at Bangalore’s Natraj theater!

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18 Responses to “The Rajni festival at Bangalore’s Natraj theater!”

  1. Jeez. The building was probably in danger of collapsing under the sheer weight of those maalais…

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  2. This is really cool. Our house was just about a mile from this theater. Have been to several movies there. I have seen traditional arathi (as performed to Hindu Gods in temple ) for Rajni’s entry) scene for the screens in Natraj theater.

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  3. Alright then, a Natraj theater experience. When I first arrived in Bangalore(has always been Bengaluru in Kannada) I lived in lodging hostel for a few months that was situated right behind Natraj in Sheshadripuram. This was the late eighties, and the beginning of the nineties. It was a terrifically convenient location, for I did own a vehicle yet(two wheeler is what I mean) and I would take the bus to get to my place of work which was just off MG Road(on Lavelle Road actually for all bangaloreans). Each day prior to catching 74A(i hope i have gotten the # right) i would catch breakfast at a small restaurant right opposite from Natraj. And I would always see the posters of the movies that played each week in amazement that NOT single week did it ever play a movie other than Tamil! This by the way is true of many theaters in the Majestic area as well. I dont know if it is true today, however during the time I lived there, there were some that would only play Telegu, some Tamil and some a mixture of everything.

    In any case since I do not follow Tamil, there was no question of catching a movie knowing there would not be subtites. Cut to several years later, I am now courting my present day wife, and she is a big fan of select Tamil movies(read Mani Rathnam/Kamal Haasan etc.). So we have THEVAR MAGAN running at Natraj which she wanted to catch. I told her she could possibly find me dozing off if the goings on did not engage me since following the dialog was beyond me. She paid no heed and forced me along. But man it was a great experience. Though just a couple of years prior I had had been cajoled to watch ANJALI with several friends at Urvashi, i was a sceptic yet. But the cinematography and the visuals of TM gripped me. It opened my eyes to a whole world of heirarchy in the Tamil hinterland. And Kamal Haasan was awesome. This was also my first Sivaji Ganesan movie on the big screen and trust me that guy exudes screen presence. There were none of his theatrical histrionics on display and it was by and large a great experience. When Kamal Haasan transfors from the pony tail sporting NRI to the large handle-bar moustachioed THEVAR, i said to myself, here’s the power of good story telling in visuals!

    Cut to several years later in the USA now and when VIRASAT released I had to go catch it again. This time I understood everything and realised that Priyan though had followed the original screenplay to a T, he had done a mighty fine job of telling the tale. And though Anil Kapoor is no Kamal and Amrish Puri no Sivaji, it was still a fairly decent experience. And my movie watching experience had come a full circle.

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    • Your responses are slices of cultural history but are also intimate and moving. A world is immediately conjured up for the reader. You’re putting up so much fine stuff that I am running out of ways to say all of this! And yet each new reminiscence inspires me to add to what possibly sounds cliched at this point but this is beautiful stuff.

      On Thevar Magan I agree completely with your characterization. And yes Sivaji was preferable in older or old age! Glad you mentioned Anjali also because this is a Rathnam work that often gets unfairly neglected.

      You chose the right wife by the way. You can’t go wrong with a Rathnam/Kamal lover!

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      • “You chose the right wife by the way. You can’t go wrong with a Rathnam/Kamal lover!” – LOL, amen to that and as crazy a film goer as me(of course I am a little over obsessive).

        On a side note, I have been a fan of Kamal since his EK DUUJE KE LIYE days in any case. Reading Filmfare was a huge passtime growing up, which in those days really was a decent film magazine. Bikram Singh used to be the editor and Khalid Mohammed just a regular columnist and your Sunday reviewer for the TOI. They used to have a section on South Indian films and a fairly prolific one on Tamil films. Which is where i read about movies like PADHINARU VYAYATHINILE, SIGAPPU ROJAKKAL, MOONRAM PIRAI, MUNDANU MUDICHU(spell check on each one of them guys). So I had some vicarious knowledge of Bharatirajaa, Prathap Pothen(did you know he used to work at an ad agency in Mumbai before going back to Chennai), Bhagyaraj, K.Balachander etc.

        So going to college in Mumbai, i bunked many a class to watch Tamil film remakes after Kamal Haasan graduated to hindi filmdom and enjoyed movies like YEH TOH KAMAAL HO GAYA even apart from of course SANAM TERI KASAM, EK NAI PAHELI & ZARA SI ZINDAGI.

        However my first exposure to Mani was with NAYAKAN on video and ANJALI in the theater.

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        • I love the Kamal of that period. he was very effortless, very spontaneous and had a certain vulnerability. Lost all of it rather too early in the service of constantly attempting the ‘great’ part which in his case turned to be as often as not the excuse for yet another new getup (or multiple ones!) or becoming needlessly obsessed with the different-bordering-on-the-freaky. This probably sounds harsh but admirable as Kamal’s energy and passion are as well as his dedication to the idea of elevating Tamil cinema to a better place he has sadly been derailed too often by simply the glimmer of the different rather than actual reality of such. He has some noble failures but many more ignoble ones! I could have taken films like Hey Ram or Virumandi forever from him (not suggesting he direct everything). I could also have taken regular commercial fare quite often. But there was a lot of stuff from the truly silly comedies unworthy of his talents to the different predicated on not much more than a disguise that I object to. In many ways Mohanlal with so many mindless commercial entertainers offends me far less. Partly I haven’t seen many of this but here I understand the logic of a star with many years behind him simply taking up whatever’s offered to him within a genre that also yields huge results from time to time. But this wasn’t so with Kamal. He was the Aamir kind of star taking enormous care and so but then delivering Thenali (though many like it) where speaking with a nasal twang (a Sri Lankan accent) was supposed to be the big deal doesn’t quite cut it. I enjoy even his mediocre stuff from the 80s precisely because of who he was then. But over the last two decades I’ve enjoyed him only in the exceptions.

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        • didn’t know the deal with Pothen and Bombay..

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    • just found another picture..

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    • ‘THEVAR MAGAN’ in Natraj theater, Bus # 74A was it from Yeshwanthpur to Shivajinagar  ? my memory says 74, 75 series was always from Yeshwanthpur to Vijayanagar, ..we would have crossed roads at Malleswaram 8 th cross for sure :)..I did see that movie there too. I happened to catch that movie for FIRST day show Natraj theater with my cousins. Not a very big fan of Kamal then, but not sure why we all ventured for a first day show ? As always the tickets were Sold out, with a big Houseful board. Having set our minds for the movie, we started to scout for buying tickets in Black and ended up buying tickets for after a bargain for the front rows which was we could pay. This was the second row in front of the screen  For Bangaloreans then it had slang word which was “Gandhi class”. Since Gandhi preached simplicity and led a simple life, somehow this word was coined for the cheaper tickets for the Movie-halls by some boys. Always felt bad though calling it that way.
      Anyway, when we entered the theater it was big chaos, celebration going on. We could not hear ourselves speaking. Only whistles and screams from Kamal fans. Some were distributing sweets too. The Entry scene for Kamal was like Diwali festival inside the theater. People were hurling coins ( 25 paisa, 50 paisa), flowers towards the screen. A few folks were jumping over to collect them. A few of them started the traditional Arathi to the screen. The same for Shivaji’s entry too. We did not know what was happening in the movie for the first 30 minutes. I guess nobody in the front rows cared either. They just enjoyed the presence of these 2 stars in the screen. For every dialogue a huge whistle from the stands. In the hindsight, I enjoyed the whole experience now and miss those days in Single screens.

      But all these were ten fold bigger for Dr Rajkumar movies.

      Natraj theater was always a focal points for Kannada movie goers. Whenever there was any disturbance b/n the 2 states. It had full police protection  The only weeks it played Kannada movies was during the Kannada Rajyotsava day (Karnataka Formation Day) in the first week of November. There was no choice. Otherwise they would be out of business.

      Opposite from Natraj was a Central theater. Wish we get a picture of this. It was one of the oldest in Bangalore. Now I believe there is a busy Mall there. Also there was ‘Shivaji’ theatre in JC raod, the abode of Tamil films with a statue of Shivaji, the warrior, riding a horse on the top of the building. (MNS leader Raj Thackeray or for that matter the original tiger, Bal Thackeray, would have been pleased to see a Shivaji statue in Bangalore). Used to always pass by this theater travelling in route # 1E to the college.

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  4. “When I first arrived in Bangalore(has always been Bengaluru in Kannada)…”

    also a city that has an important pre-British history as well unlike some of the others..

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