Wednesday, October 29, 2008

'Meera' by Ellis Dungan

"Katrinilie Varum Geetham... Kangal Panithida Pongum Geetham..."

For most tamils, these lines would invoke memories of a young and beautiful M.S. singing the song as Mirabai. The song is from the film 'Meera' - released in 1945 and one of the classics in the Tamil film history. The song will be more familiar and will invoke greater emotions to our earlier generations - of our parents & grandparents. I have not seen the movie, but have heard/seen the song a few times - A really nice melodious song.

Now, why did this suddenly come up? Yesterday(28-Oct-08), Wikipedia sported a small snippet on this movie in its front-page. I followed the links and was really surprised to learn the movie was directed by an American director 'Ellis R. Dungan'.

Ellis is a native of Ohio, USA. He came to India after completing his studies in the 'cinema department' and directed tamil films from 1936 - 1950. He directed many hit films such as 'Sathy Leelavathi', 'Meera', 'Sakunthalai', 'Manthira Kumari' etc. 'Meera' and 'Sakunthalai' (both starring M.S.) are considered all time classics. Many of his films were based on historical settings and required shooting inside temples. At such times, he would disguise himself as a Kashmiri Pundit. He apparently introduced many new and modern filming techniques to Indian cinema and Tamil cinema in particular.

Personally, I feel that it is great to be able to direct such 'Classic' films in some language that he does not know, reflecting a culture that he's not very familiar with. In those days, most of the films were almost poetic and contained so many songs. The dialogues are so pure and poetic, that many young Tamils of today do not understand them. Even though he would've had so many to help him, I feel that it requires a real skill for a non-native to effectively direct such a film, bring out all the emotions and reach the audience as powerfully as these films did.

Some links on Dungan:

For those who would like to hear the song that I've specified at the beginning:


Rajiv said...

wow...that is just incredible!!