Another Anandan in the making
Need information on Tamil cinema? Ask Janakiraman
Every day, from ten in the morning to 1 a.m. the next day, he works feverishly, listing, checking, re-checking and organising in folders, the details of every Tamil film that has been released from 1932 to the present! “The first talkie, Kalidas, came out in 1931. I’m still trying to find out more about the film,” says R. Janakiraman. “But 1932 onwards, I’ve got all the information.”
I’m reminded of Kamal Haasan’s words about a year ago, at the ceremony held to unveil the portrait of film historian, ‘Film News’ Anandan. He said, “It’s an irreparable loss. Where do we find another such to chronicle Tamil cinema?” To some extent, Janakiraman could be the answer.
In an apartment that looks reasonably modest, Janakiraman has an entire room filled with film news. The computer is his inseparable companion.
“This is a passion and I’ve been at it for more than four decades. Full time, after retirement. Nothing commercial about it,” he reiterates. In fact, making Janakiraman talk is quite a challenge.
What began as a teenager’s hobby turned into a die-hard habit for Janakiraman. In those days, with every movie, a booklet, ‘Paattu Puththagam,’ with lyrics, cast, director, composer, synopsis and sometimes even dialogue, was released, and people crazy about cinema bought it. But unlike them Janakiraman preserved every booklet.
“After 1973, they weren’t published. Today the net is a saviour,” he says.
As reference material
Over a period of time, the booklets began to crumble. So he photocopied them and now has them bound into volumes. His cupboards are also filled with CDs of old films and music. “This is my personal collection, useful as reference material.” Besides the chronological record, he has also listed them hero, comedian and composer wise.
Janakiraman travelled to Tiruchi, Madurai, Tirunelveli and, of course, Parry’s Corner and Moore Market, in Chennai for information on films. The passion is evident, but the purpose? “I plan to publish them. If I don’t find a publisher, I’ll go ahead and do it myself. It will be useful for those who wish to study Tamil cinema.” Scanning, photoshop, photocopying, Janakiraman does them all at home. Work till the year 1963 is complete.
“So far, around 8,000 films have been released, but we have information just about 4,500. Gemini Ganesan’s ‘Manam Pol Mangalyam’ and ‘Thirumanam,’ Sivaji Ganesan’s ‘Poonkodhai’ and ‘Manidhanum Mirugamum,’ MGR’s ‘Sathi Leelavathi’ and Saali Vahanam’ and many others are missing. Preserving films costs money and somewhere down the line, those concerned could have lost interest,” Janakiraman observes.
Do industry folks know the quantum of work he is doing? “No, only a couple of them, like director Shakti Chidambaram, have approached me,” is the matter-of-fact reply.