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Special: The A to Z of Tamil Cinema

Last updated on: April 18, 2012 15:27 IST

Special: The A to Z of Tamil Cinema

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Pavithra Srinivasan in Chennai

A look at the Tamil films which best symobolise the letters of the alphabet!

Categorising the best of Tamil cinema in the 26 letters of the alphabet seems like an impossible task -- there have been so many actors, actresses, technicians, and directors who have taken films to new heights, explored new concepts, struck out on paths of creativity no one dared think of at that time.

But we have tried our hand at it.

Here's an A to Z of iconic Tamil movies that made history one way or the other. Do check out the A to Z of Hindi cinema as well.

A for Aayirathil Oruvan

Director: B R Panthulu

Cast: M G Ramachandran, Jayalalitha

B R Panthulu's film that set Puratchi Thalaivar MGR firmly on the path of adventure with pirates on the high seas, gave him the dashing image of a do-gooder-turned reel who fights for a cause.

The film also starred a certain young actress who would later re-write Tamil Nadu's politics, J Jayalalitha. This film was a blockbuster for all the right reasons.


Image: M G Ramachandran and Jayalalitha in Aayirathil Oruvan


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B for Baasha

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Director: Suresh Krssna

Cast: Rajnikanth, Nagma

Auto-rickshaw drivers all over Tamil Nadu exulted when they saw their beloved Superstar Rajnikanth don the same role in Baasha directed by Suresh Krissna. And, of course, he came with a suave past as an infamous don as well. What more could anyone want?


Image: Nagma and Rajnikanth in Baasha


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C for Chandralekha

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Director: S S Vasan

Cast: M K Radha, Ranjan, T R Rajakumari

S S Vasan's mega-venture was a lavish production even in 1948. The film boasted an ensemble cast, great production values and a story that ensured it became a blockbuster all over India, the first of its kind. 


Image: A scene from Chandralekha


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D for Dasavatharam

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Director: K S Ravikumar

Cast: Kamal Haasan, Asin

Kamal Haasan is known for coming up with something new. This time he outdid himself and came up with 10 different avatars as he searched for a biological weapon of mass destruction that eventually happens to be a key to the 2004 tsunami.


Image: Kamal Haasan in Dasavatharam


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E for Enga Veetu Pillai

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Director: Thapi Chanakya

Cast: M G Ramachandran, B Saroja Devi, Rathna

Is there anyone in the state who hasn't heard the song Naan Aanaiyittal? Such was the record-breaking appeal of this song, in this case of identical twins and mistaken identities, that it secured MGR's iconic status for good.


Image: A scene from Enga Veetu Pillai


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F for Friends

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Director: Siddique

Cast: Vijay, Suriya, Devayani, Vijayalakshmi

This Siddique film saw friends in real life, Vijay and Surya, get together, and appropriately enough, the film happens to be about the same emotion.


Image: A scene from Friends


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G for Ghajini

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Director: A R Murugadoss

Cast: Suriya, Asin, Nayanthara

Not many would have expected that a murder-thriller based on a patient with short-term memory loss would prove to be such a big hit, but Surya and Asin made it so in the film directed by Murugadoss.

Not to mention its remake in Hindi by the same director that was a blockbuster in every sense.


Image: A scene from Ghajini


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H for Hey Ram

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Director: Kamal Haasan

Cast: Kamal Haasan, Rani Mukherjee, Vasundhara

Kamal Haasan's path-breaking film set in pre and post-Independence India was miles ahead of its time, cataloguing a lone man's quest to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi. Its meticulous research, dialogues and fascinating storyline made it the critics' favourite.


Image: A scene from Hey Ram


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I for Iruvar

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Director: Mani Ratnam

Cast: Mohanlal, Prakashraj, Aishwarya Rai, Tabu

Ace filmmaker Mani Ratnam has never shied away from picking sensitive subjects and this one, allegedly based on the lives of MGR and his political opponent, M Karunanidhi, made waves right away.

It's a landmark film and a cult classic with A R Rahman's period-perfect music and excellent performances by Mohanlal and Prakashraj. The film also marked Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's debut.


Image: A scene from Iruvar


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J for Johnny

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Director: Mahendran

Cast: Rajnikanth, Sridevi

Director Mahendran's timeless classic of love and identical leads, Ilaiyaraja's music and Superstar Rajnikanth's intense portrayal made this an instant hit.


Image: A scene from Johnny


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K for Karakattakkaran

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Director: Gangai Amaren

Cast: Ramarajan, Kanaka

For a movie that was a modern rehash of the hit Thillana Mohanambal, this tale of two folk dancers who fall in love and unite after various debacles was a smashing hit and owed much to the rural milieu, songs, and freshness of the lead actors.


Image: A scene from Karakattakkaran


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L for Love Today

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Director: Balasekaran

Cast: Vijay, Suvalakshmi

At a time when lovers spurned parents and home, this Vijay movie celebrated a father's love for his son, which eventually trumped romance itself.


Image: A scene from Love Today


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M for Mundhanai Mudichu

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Director: K Bhagyaraj

Cast: K Bhagyaraj, Urvasi

Few directors would have had the temerity to cast themselves as a young widower who arrives to teach at a village, with a child in tow, but K Bhagyaraj could and did.

His frank, refreshing screenplay with plenty of double entendre, and a perky Urvasi in her debut film ensured that it became a blockbuster.


Image: A scene from Mundhanai Mudichu


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N for Nayagan

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Director: Mani Ratnam

Cast: Kamal Haasan, Saranya

No article on great Tamil films is complete without a mention of this Godfather-esque classic by Mani Ratnam; a movie that catapulted him and Kamal Haasan to unheard of heights.

It documented the life of underworld don Velu Nayakkar in Mumbai. Small wonder, then, that it has been included in Time magazine's All Time 100 Best Films.


Image: A scene from Nayagan


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O for Oomai Vizhigal

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Director: R Arvindraj

Cast: Vijaykanth, Arun Pandiyan, Chandrasekhar

Murder-thrillers are a rare genre, and this one, starring Vijaykanth, met with critical and commercial success for its novel screenplay.


Image: A scene from Oomai Vizhigal


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P for Paruthiveeran

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Director: Ameer Sultan

Cast: Karthi, Priya Mani

Ameer's film of a loafer and girl who persists in loving him came as such a breath of fresh air among a plethora of cliches and stereotypes that it swept away the audience -- not to mention Karthi and Priya Mani, who won great acclaim.


Image: A scene from Paruthiveeran


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Q for Quarter Cutting

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Director: Pushkar - Gayathri

Cast: Shiva, S P Charan, Lekha Washington

This quirky film about one man's search for that elusive 'quarter' before he leaves for Saudi Arabia, reminds you of Guy Ritchie's work. It's good fun and definitely off the beaten track.


Image: A scene from Quarter Cutting


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R for Roja

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Director: Mani Ratnam

Cast: Arvind Swamy, Madhoo

The tale of a young village woman, who battles to retrieve her husband from terrorists in Kashmir, struck a chord with the whole country, spawning a boatload of copycats. But Roja, with A R Rahman's music, still remains a classic.


Image: A scene from Roja


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S for Subramaniapuram

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Director: M Sasikumar

Cast: M Sasikumar, Jai, Swathi, Ganja Karuppu

This tale, set in an imaginary Madurai suburb in 1980, was the first film made by M Sasikumar. That's difficult to believe, so meticulous was the research and intriguing the screenplay. Unsurprisingly, it emerged as a critical and commercial success.


Image: A scene from Subramaniapuram


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T for Thiruvilaiyadal

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Director: A P Nagarajan

Cast: Sivaji Ganesan, Savithri

The legendary Sivaji Ganesan provided a treat for the senses as a fantastic Lord Siva in the three stories that unfold in the movie. It's the best of the many divine tales he acted in.


Image: A scene from Thiruvilaiyadal


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U for Uthamaputhiran

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Director: T Prakash Rao

Cast: Sivaji Ganesan, Padmini, M N Nambiar

This Tamil version of Dumas's Man in the Iron Mask saw Sivaji Ganesan play both a proper young man and a Casanova in dashing style.


Image: A scene from Uthamaputhiran


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V for Veera Pandiya Kattabomman

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Director: B R Panthulu

Cast: Sivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan, Padmini

Yet another coup by Sivaji Ganesan in which he portrays one of Tamil's best-known freedom fighters. With its fantastic dialogues and Ganesan's presence that set the screen on fire, this one became a cult classic.


Image: A scene from Veera Pandiya Kattabomman


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W for Walter Vetrivel

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Director: P Vasu

Cast: Sathyaraj, Sukanya, Ranjitha

First a villain, then a competent hero, but it was this cop story that gave Sathyaraj a new lease of life in films.


Image: A scene from Walter Vetrivel


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Y for Yaar Nee?

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Director: Sathyam

Cast: Jai Shankar, Jayalalitha

Known as Tamil Nadu's James Bond, this film saw Jaishankar in a new and pleasing avatar -- a doctor who is seemingly, haunted by his wife's ghost, and his struggles as he desperately tries to solve the mystery.


Image: A scene from Yaar Nee?


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