Why the Sivaji Ganesan kind of stardom isn’t possible anymore

Posted on January 24, 2019

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Read the full article on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/baradwaj-rangan-column-southern-lights-why-the-sivaji-ganesan-kind-of-stardom-isnt-possible-anymore/

The ability to sustain a seriously long career with one’s performances alone seems to have become a lost art.

Any time is a good time to talk about Sivaji Ganesan, but in case you want to peg this piece on an anniversary, Thillana Mohanambal turned 50 last year. Veerapandiya Kattabomman (1959), the film that launched a thousand audition monologues, turns 60 this year. Deiva Magan (1969), in which the actor played three roles, turns 40 this year. Note that each of these landmark films is in a different decade. What about the 1970s? We have another triple role in the blockbuster Thirisoolam, towards the end of that decade. And we come to the theme of this piece, that an actorly actor — someone who was sought out for his performances rather than his “mass appeal”, someone who made dramas rather than “mass” movies — was a huge star across four decades. Yes, I’m cheating a little and including the 1980s, too, which yielded hits like Mudhal Mariyathai.

This kind of stardom is not possible anymore. The only kind of long-lasting stardom possible today is that of the “mass” star, doing “mass” movies. This is not to mourn those lost times when a great actor could also be a big box-office draw. But the recent release of Petta and Viswasam made me think about how every big star, these days, is defined by a certain hysteria around their stardom. Yes, their films may be good. But with the exception of a Rajinikanth — who, in the past year, has stretched to accommodate the very different films of a Pa. Ranjith, a Shankar and a Karthik Subbaraj — many of our biggest stars end up making a particular strain of film that revolves around their “mass” appeal rather than their performing capabilities. (Of course, you could argue that the Sivaji Ganesan kind of actor doesn’t exist in the current generation, but that’s another discussion.)

Continued at the link above.

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