Sivaji Ganesan’s ‘Vietnam Veedu’ turns 50: A rewind to the film, its time, and its leading man

Posted on April 11, 2020


This 1970 melodrama is a great place to begin looking for Sivaji Ganesan’s transition point from an actor who elevated a scene to someone who needed to keep acting far beyond the requirements of a scene.

Spoilers ahead…

The coolest film of 1970 was R Sundaram’s CID Shankar: within the first ten minutes, a politician in a Jeep is assassinated by a suicide bomber. She’s originally a terrified woman, abducted by this gang headed by a man addressed only as “Leader”. But she’s injected with something, and voila! — she turns into a robotic obeyer-of-commands. I can only imagine what a change of pace all this must have been to audiences after a decade filled with sentimental melodramas that revolved around the family unit. The same year, the film’s hero, a young star named Jaishankar, would be seen in another retro-cool film: R Karnan’s Tamil Western, Kalam Vellum. (Do not not miss the “epic fight scene” in the clip below.) At first, he’s a farmer with a kudumi. A few reels later, he’s an outlaw with a stetson. By the climax, when he surrenders to the police, he’s wearing a sombrero and a poncho. Viewers used to bajji were getting a taste of burrito.

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Posted in: Cinema: Tamil