“Kamal and Rajini are fit for politics. but they should have announced the decision earlier,” says Parthiban C R, a character actor who has worked with almost five chief ministers and a Union Minister in the late 60s.
Belonging to the lineage of freedom fighter Rajagopalachari, the actor moved from Vellore to Madras (as Chennai was then known) in 1946. After holding a degree in economics, he wrote the Madras Public Service Examination,which later helped him pick up a job in the Secretariat.
From here, the actor started to venture into playing lead roles in Madras Secretariat party dramas. Inspired by late actor Sivaji Ganesans stellar role in Parasakthi, he quit his Secretariat job and chose acting as his career. His debut was in Hindi movie, Insaniyat.
Later on, in 1957, he became a professional artiste and member of the South Indian Artistes Association (SIAA), recommended by late chief minister, M G Ramachandran, and actor Sahasranamam.
Parthiban has acted in around 120 films with M G Ramachandran, Sivaji Ganesan, N T Rama Rao, Gemini Ganesan, Sivakumar, Ravichandran, A V M Rajan, Jai Shankar, K Bhagyaraj, Prabhu, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan.
He worked in films produced/directed by Gemini S S Vasan, Ramanna, B R Panthulu, Sridhar, Gopalakrishnan, Kasilingam, T N Balu, K Balachander, Singeetham Srinivasa Rao, Jagannathan, A P Nagarajan, Gangai Amaren.
He is popularly known in cinema circles as ‘Jackson Durai’ for having played the role of a British officer in the iconic film, Veerapandiya Kattabomman, opposite Sivaji Ganesan.
When News Today caught up with Parthiban, this 85-year-old, spoke about his long film journey.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Tell us about your experience with legends of black-and-white cinema.
A: I have acted with all stars, including MGR, Sivaji and a few other legends. Among everyone, the experience with MGR was the most remarkable. I admire him because of his thoughts. Despite being an actor, his interest in society and people attracted me. I still remember that the first question MGR asked anyone he met in production, was whether the person has eaten. Such was his concern for others.
Q: Can you share a few interesting moments with MGR and other actors?
A: Even though I had done minor roles with the lead actors, the first movie I did with MGR was Pudhumai Pithan. It was the first day of my shoot and I was seeing MGR for the first time. In the scene, I introduce myself to him. In real life also I got introduced to him then.
Another memorable person was Gemini Ganesan. Gemini was 11 years older to me. But our wavelength was the same and this created a bond between us. My first day with Gemini was in the movie, Vanji Kottai Valiban. After doing movies together, we became good friends. During my days, I was a good sportsperson and won various many prizes in sports events held at SIAA, where Gemini and I used to play.
Q: What were the difficulties faced by actors those days?
A: Earlier, people often visited studios asking for chance. But they would find it very difficult to land one. Movies starring legends like MGR took more time to complete. I have seen many actors work in production for a meal and money. This was how cinema was in those days. Now, the trend has completely changed.
Q: How are actors different from their on-screen persona?
A: If you see MGR, he is a gems who was the same on-screen and off-screen. Whereas in the case of Nambiar, he was different. Everyone would have seen him as a villain, but he has the qualities of a hero, but a little naughty at times.
Q: What is your favourite role in the movies you have acted so far?
A: I have acted in more than 120 movies, but till today, my role with Gemini, as a friend in Sumai Thaangi, movie is my favourite. And my role as Jackson Durai in Kattabomman was liked by everyone. It is my favourite and also a famous one.The dialogues were awesome, since they were written aesthetically.
Q: How about Kamal Haasan?
A: I had done only 2-3 movies with him. But I know him personally, as he is one of my distant relations. In a movie called Thaen Sinthuthae Vaanam I acted with Kamal. He would speak with ease dialogues that even dubbing artistes would find difficult. He is innovative and extraordinary and experiments with new things.
Q: Who is your present-day favourite actor?
A: Well, my favourite actor is Vijay Sethupathi. He is the only one who has the natural acting of Sivaji Ganesan.
Q: Who is your favourtie director and tell us why?
A: I like S S Vasan movies. He was the only director who takes more efforts to market the characters and properties of a film. And I should not forget director Pantulu – he taught everyone.
Q: Would you like to say something to help newcomers succeed?
A: Well, I dont think I am fit to do that. But if one wants to reach the top, one should think about the other actors and do better than them. On screen, a good actor will never give up his/her place to others.
Q: What is your opinion about Kamal and Rajini’s political entrance?
A: They should have entered five years ago. Though its not late, they can enter the field now. One thing I have to say about them. Kamal always had political thoughts. Whenever we met on the sets, he would talk politics. As far as Rajini is concerned, he handles certain things carefully. It would be nice if they paired up in politics..