The iconic Tamil writer Kalki once described her as ‘Kollum Vizhiyaal’ — one who could kill with her eyes! [X]
Thyagaraja also had a very good stage presence sporting long hair and earrings. [X]
Around the time that video cassettes became popular in India I spent a good amount of time with my grandparents. They were teenagers in the 40s but given the times had not seen many famous films of the decade. The video shop had not so good prints of many of these Tamil films which delighted them no end. So I ended up binge watching with them in the weekends. I love these films for a number of reasons but I wouldn’t exactly recommend them because they are very much of the time.
Many of these films starred TR Rajakumari, even with the bad prints you could see why she was a “Dream Girl” and captivated an entire generation of young men with her somewhat heavy-lidded gaze. In Haridas, where she is pretty glamorous in a negative role, her “flying kiss” was a bit of a sensation and many a college lad probably went to the movies just for that moment.
Many films also starred MK Thyagaraja Bhagvathar who was a favourite of my grandparents. Like KL Saigal in the North, he was a star known for his singing. It wasn’t his singing alone that captivated audiences, according to my grandmother “even married women would buy postcards with his picture and kiss it all day long” (1940s Tamil fangirls!). My grandfather had once seen him and proclaimed him “golden skinned and wearing brilliant diamond earrings”. Some of the hyperbole may be due to my grandfather being an impressionable boy at the time but along with the curly locks this was in accordance with male beauty standards of early 20th century Tamil Nadu. It may not be apparent to a modern audience but it was the kind of looks sought after for the mythologicals and historicals MKT often starred in.
The 30s and 40s are not very popular when it comes to Indian cinema but they set up a lot of the tropes we see in cinema in later decades. Which is why I love them. 40 songs per film and all:)