Movie - Salangai Oli (Tamil dubbed version of Telugu movie Sagara Sangamam)
Director - K Vishwanath
Producer - Nageshwara Rao Edida
Cast - Kamal Haasan, Jayaprada, Sarath Babu, SP Shailaja, Chakri Toleti
Music - Ilaiyaraja
Cinematography - PS Nivas
Editing - GG Krishna Rao
Art Direction - Thotta Tharani
Story, Screenplay - K Vishwanath
Release Year - 1983
I hadnt seen this movie because I usually dont like watching dubbed movies. And since I dont understand Telugu, I was searching for a DVD with subtitles. But I couldnt get that, so I had to settle with the dubbed Tamil version. Thankfully, Kamal himself has dubbed for him and the DVD was slightly pixelated, so the lip movements cannot be seen clearly. That made me forget that I was watching a dubbed version after all. This movie is directed by veteran director K Vishwanath who is best known for the all time classic Shankarabharanam. This movie is also rated amongst his best works. It is a musical which is based on Indian classical dance forms, something which has turned into a rarity nowadays. The movie had also won the National Awards for Best Regional Feature Film in Telugu and Best Music Direction for Ilaiyaraja.
The story is about Balakrishna (Kamal Haasan), a versatile dancer who wants to make it big in the field of art. But he keeps missing chances and his talent goes unnoticed and is ridiculed most of the times. He tries to battle poverty and at the same time realize his mother's dream of him turning into a great dancer. His life changes when he comes across Madhavi (Jayaprada), a beautiful girl who is also seriously interested in classical dance. She is fascinated by Bala's talent and she tries to help him get the recognition he deserves. They both soon become close friends and Madhavi gets Bala an opportunity to dance at the All India dance fest along with the country's best dancers. But a tragedy happens in Bala's life and he misses that chance. Their relationship further grows and Bala falls in love with Madhavi and proposes to her. But due to the unfortunate turn of events, they get separated and Bala sacrifices his love for the well-being of Madhavi. He turns into a drunkard ruining himself and his talent. What happens when Madhavi meets Bala several years after this, forms the rest of the story.
The story is narrated in flashback mode through the memories of Bala's best friend Raghupathy (Sarath Babu) and Madhavi. There is much more to the movie than the basic premise I have mentioned above. The movie merges together the emotions of love, friendship, guru-shishya relationship and of course, devotion and commitment to art. And the best part is that the movie did not lose its authenticity even while it was dubbed into Tamil, with the help of great dialogue and lyrics which go perfectly in sync with the original Telugu version.
The movie boasts of a bravura performance from one of the best actors the world has seen, Kamal Haasan. This movie came much before he turned into a multitasker, so he is used just as an actor in this movie. And what a performance he has given!! Hats off!! I'm still wondering why he didnt get the National Award for Best Actor for this movie. (He won in the very next year for Moondram Pirai). He dances like a dream and you just cannot take your eyes off him while he is dancing. He is perfect whether he does Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak or Kathakali. And when it comes to acting, we all know what that man is capable of. So there is no use going on talking about it. He plays both the young and old parts of Bala with equal effect. One thing I noticed was that, even in Tamil dialogues which were dubbed later, he has brought out all the minute emotions and modulations perfectly. God knows how he does all this. His performance in the movie is reference material for many actors even today.
My mother always used to say that Jayaprada is very beautiful. I never felt that way from what I had seen of her in songs and clips. But in this movie, she looks like a Goddess. My mother was right!! And she has given a wonderful performance too. To be acting well, alongside an actor like Kamal Haasan throughout a movie is not such a simple task. She also dances gracefully along with Kamal in a marvelous song sequence where they practice for the All India dance fest. Another brilliant performance comes from Sarath Babu who acts as Kamal's best friend. He was so good that from then on, he was the first choice to play the best friend of the superstar hero (Annamalai, Muthu, etc.). The now famous director of Kamal's Unnaipol Oruvan, Chakri Toleti is there in the film as a child who roams around with a camera and provides comic relief. SP Shailaja as the arrogant daughter of Madhavi also does a good job.
The music of the movie is spectacular and won a National Award for the composer Ilaiyaraja. The most remembered song is of course, 'Thakita Thadhimi Thanthana' by SP Balasubramaniam where Kamal dances on a plank on top of an open well. People still keep wondering how he did that. 'Mounamana Neram' is one of the most melodious and soothing songs I have ever heard. 'Vaan Pole' is another beautiful song and has been picturised ridiculing the way film songs are shot usually. Then there are 4 other songs composed for the elaborate dance sequences, each of which are equally brilliant. The background score, as usual is wonderful.
The other technical departments also support the movie very well. I became a fan of K Vishwanath by watching this movie alone. He has handled the movie with so much elegance and grace. The best part is that he has kept the movie simplistic while being extremely authentic. The dialogues are another highlight of the movie. Several heart-tugging lines and moments are there in the movie. And the climax was absolutely brilliant. The movie immediately found a place in my all time favourites list. Certainly a masterpiece!! Hats off to the team, mainly K Vishwanath, Kamal Haasan and Ilaiyaraja!!
(Leaving you with an amazing scene from the movie)