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With elections around, Jayalalithaa puts up a film show

Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa's 1965 film with MG Ramachandran, Aayirathil Oruvan, has been digitally re-mastered and is releasing this Friday. What's suspect is the timing - the film releases about a month before Lok Sabha elections.

regional movies Updated: Mar 13, 2014 13:50 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Hindustan Times

Now that India's general elections have been announced - scheduled to take place from early April to mid-May - a strict code of conduct is in place. Politicians and their parties have to abide by this code, formulated by the Election Commission (EC).

But what happens if someone is both a film star and a politician? Or, what if someone had been a popular actress once upon time, and who is now a leading politician? A film releasing at this point of time may help in the political fortunes of a candidate.

Officials of the EC have made sure that public walls and spaces are stripped of the posters of politicians. But a way out can be found, as we are witnessing in Coimbatore, the second largest city in Tamil Nadu after Chennai, and perhaps richer by far.

In Coimbatore or Kovai as it is called for convenience, the posters and banners of the Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa - whose All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is now in power in the state - have all gone.

But they have been replaced by the posters of the hugely popular 1965 Tamil movie, Aayirathil Oruvan (One in a Thousand), starring Jayalalithaa and MG Ramachandran (former Tamil Nadu chief minister).

An old poster of the 1965 film.

Why have the movie posters appeared now? In what seems like perfect timing, Aayirathil Oruvan has been digitally restored and re-mastered, and the brand new prints will be screened in theatres across Tamil Nadu from Friday. The film may well run for weeks.

When it first opened in the mid-1960s, it proved to be a great hit, and had some of the leading actors of the day, like Nambiar (who was as great a screen villain as Pran in Hindi cinema), comedian Nagesh (as witty as Mehmood), RS Manohar and Madhavi.

Directed by the legendary BR Panthulu (who made classics like Kappalotiya Tamizhan and Karnan), Aayirathil Oruvan ran for 100 days in Chennai and other Tamil Nadu centres, and helped the filmmaker clear the debts he had accumulated earlier

What is more, the movie firmed up the lead pair, and they went on to act together in 28 other films - a relationship that eventually led to a political understanding. Jayalalithaa became MGR's successor in the AIADMK.

Cinema owners are sure that the restored version of Aayirathil Oruvan will do as well as, if not better than, the 1965 original. The plot is an exciting mix of piracy, adventure on high seas and romance with some lilting numbers thrown in.

With the songs from the Aayirathil Oruvan playing and the posters from the movie showing a young Jayalalithaa and MGR splashed across, the implication cannot be missed.

Even if these film posters are removed, one presumes that the movie itself cannot be taken off the theatres. And Aayirathil Oruvan with its powerful message may well move the electoral masses.

First Published: Mar 13, 2014 11:46 IST