After Aravaan the next movie I watched on the big screen also happens to be named after a Mahabharatha character. However the comparison ends there. Even though it was made almost 50 years back Karnan still is an amazing movie and the audiences just seem to love it. I have really wondered a few times how different an experience it would be to watch some movies from the past on the big screen. I got that chance today thanks to the efforts of Shanti Chokkalingam, who has taken the trouble to digitally restore this masterpiece. While the restoration is far from perfect, the movie still holds magic.
Karnan, the epitome of friendship, is one of the powerful characters in Mahabharatha, which people can easily identify with. Karnan is a victim of circumstances and ends up being on the wrong side for no fault of his. He is denied recognition all through his life though he has the required skills and is a martyr who sacrifices himself for someone who helped him in need.
Sivaji Ganesan, the great thespian has awesome screen presence and carries the movie completely on his shoulders. There are only 2 other actors worth mentioning in this movie. Savithri as Duryodhana’s wife has only a small role to play but she does such a great job, that one wishes she had a few more scenes in the movie. NTR as the man (painted) in blue – Krishna, is very good and he makes some interesting quips which has the audience in splits and compensates at places for the lack of a comedy track in an otherwise serious movie.
B.R.Panthulu is a great director and he has ensured that the movie is fast paced with very good screen play. While the movie on the whole is good, a few scenes really stand out and the movie is worth a watch for just these:
1.The scene where Karna is playing the game of dice with Duryodhana’s wife Bhanumathi and Duryodhana enters suddenly. This is one of the popular scenes in Mahabharatha which brings out the depth of the relationship that Karna and Duryodhana had and the mutual trust. The scene showcases the excellent chemistry between Sivaji and Savithri and has some interesting dialogue exchanges between the two great actors and some really cute expressions from Savithri.
2.The court scene where Karna confronts Bheeshma has the great man roaring and even the rest of the cast just seem to sit back and admire the great actor. No wonder he was called simma kuralon.
3.The scene where Karna meets his mother Kunti is the highlight of the movie. Nadigar thilagam handles this scene with so much ease and steals the show.
The battle scenes are also quite decently shot considering that the movie was made 50 years back. The last part of the climax scene after Karnan falls is a bit of a comedy and exposes the weakness of other actors in the movie and only reinforces my earlier statement on Sivaji carrying the movie on his shoulders.
Kannadasan the gifted poet that he was, brings out the essence of Bhagavad gita in a 5 minute song “maranathai enni kalangidum vijaya” and the pitiable story of Karna in the song “Ullathil nalla Ullam”. The movie is full of some melodious songs from Viswanathan – Ramamurthy and it is any day a pleasure to hear them, whether it is on DTS or not.
The movie was released on 16th Mar and it was heartwarming to see the theatre fully packed even after 2 weeks. There was a lot of clapping and whistling when the hero entered and through the movie and the audience really seemed to enjoy the movie and seemed to be celebrating the glorious history of Tamil Cinema.
Karnan is a classic which seems to enthrall audiences even today. The re-release is a celebration of Tamil cinema and a tribute to two of its greatest actors, fittingly called Nadigar thialagam and Nadigayar thilagam.