A tribute from iflickz to the multitalented actor, on his birth anniversary
by Mani Prabhu
When the film industry was ruled by two stalwarts – Sivaji Ganesan and MGR – a multi-talented comic actor held on to his own forte and commanded remuneration on par with the leading stars and at point in his short career, went on to become a true celluloid sensation. The name is Chandrababu. Born in Tuticorin as Joseph Panimayadasan Rodriguez to freedom fighter J.P. Rodriguez, his on-screen moniker is still a mystery. A charming dancer and singing comedian, this man initiated ‘yodelling’ in playback singing, as early as the 1950s.
Chandrababu’s chaplinesque on-screen movements and unique crooning style made him intensely popular from the late 1940s to the early 1970s. The talented actor went on to star in seventy six films in this period and through his versatility, managed to carve an indelible niche for himself.Known for his generosity and extreme candor, his habit of calling a spade a spade earned him a lot of enemies, restricting his opportunities slowly, and his last years turned out to be a tragic tale. On the occasion of his birth anniversary today, we look at seven timeless musical classics that bear witness to the unimaginable talent of this misunderstood genius.
1. The sweet pain of love
Bambara Kannalae (Manamagan Thevai – 1957)
Chandrababu brings out a man’s yearning for his lady love with such style and passion in this dance number, that just a random viewing is sure to lift your spirits at any time of the day. Sung with a vivacious charm, the song speaks about the girl’s beauty, and the kind of changes it incites in her lover. You have to watch Chandrababu break into that spontaneous jig in the middle of the song to believe this little piece of addiction.
2. Intimate fun
Kunguma Poove (Maraghadam – 1959)
A peppy, lovable tune made magically appealing by the voices of Chandrababu and Jamuna Rani, this cheerful romantic number is so relevant even today that it could be easily introduced into any of our contemporary mainstream love stories. Every single time you hear it, it’s sure to bring out the hopeless romantic in you! Babu’s naturalistic ballistic skills, combined with his brilliantly funny facial expressions elevate this song to a different level. An absolute delight.
3. Life lessons with a pun
Buddhi Ulla Manithenellam (Annai – 1962)
Babu decides to play his real life character in this deeply insightful, yet delightful number. Never at a moment mincing words, the song lays bare the painful truths of life in Babu’s trademark funny and unapologetic style. The way he nonchalantly delivers some profound and powerful thoughts like “Kanavu kaanum manidhanuku ninaipathellam kanavu; Avan kaanuginra kanavinile varuvadhellam uravu”, while shaking a leg speaks eons about the man’s capabilities. An evergreen beauty.
4. Social satire
Sirippu varudu Sirippu varudu (Aandavan Kattalai – 1964)
Chandrababu gives us a thoughtful, political satire blended with his usual antics in this song, most of which holds true even today. He addresses issues like social hypocrisy, ugly money power, empty political promises and deceitful double-faced personalities of people in power, with a degree of gleeful boldness, bordering on smug audacity. Somewhere down the song, when he goes like “Kasai Eduthu Neetu ..Kazhudai paadum Paatu”, all we can do is grin in pain. Simple, funny but yet, razor-sharp!
5. Romantic bliss
Unakkaga Ellam Unakkaga (Puthaiyal – 1957)
The comedian brings out his quintessential charmer and consummate performer in style in this lovely song from Puthaiyal, where he speaks of the unlimited love for his girl. He attributes the whole purpose of existence to her, and goes on to emphasize that he would go to any lengths to prove the same. Despite the heavy poignant content of the lyrics, Chandrababu makes it seem amusing and chucklesome, setting him apart from the crowd. Truly blissful!
6. Heart-wrenching pathos
Onnume Puriyale Ulagithile (Kumara Raja – 1961)
Reflecting the mental struggle of someone who had recently lost his dad, Chandrababu brings myriad feelings of desperation, confusion, regret, scepticism, guilt, absolution, and pain alive on screen in this heart-wrenching number. Chandrababu is known to many as someone with a terrific comic scene but this scene where he excels brilliantly as an actor, portraying complicated emotions for his wayward behaviour that cost his dear father’s life, is proof of his other side. If this doesn’t make your eyes moist, probably nothing will!
7. Fusion swag
Rock n Roll (Pathi Bakthi – 1958)
Truly way ahead of its time! The song composed by MSV-TKR pans out a dashing fusion of rock and roll (a genre of popular music that originated in the United States during the early 1950s from a combination of elements like blues, jazz, country music) and Carnatic music at its best. Chandrababu unleashes his renowned free style foot-tapping to some swashbuckling beats, while Ballaiya intervenes with a fervent recital of some divine jathis. A treasure for a life-time!