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16 Vayathinile

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16 Vayathinile
16 Vayathinile.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by P. Bharathiraja
Produced by S. A. Rajkannu
Written by P. Bharathiraja
P. Kalaimani (dialogue)
Starring Kamal Haasan
Sridevi
Rajinikanth
Music by Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography P. S. Nivas
Edited by R. Bhaskaran
Production
company
Sri Amman Creations
Distributed by Sri Amman Creations
Release dates
  • 15 September 1977 (1977-09-15)
Running time
139 minutes[1]
Country India
Language Tamil
Budget 425,000 – 500,000[2]

16 Vayathinile (English: At Age 16; read as Pathinaaru Vayathinile) is a 1977 Indian Tamil language drama film written and directed by P. Bharathiraja in his directorial debut. The film features Kamal Haasan, Sridevi, and Rajinikanth in the lead roles, with Ganthimathi, Sathyajith and Goundamani in supporting roles. 16 Vayathinile's soundtrack album and background score were composed by Ilaiyaraaja, with cinematography by P. S. Nivas. P. Kalaimani wrote the film's dialogue.

The film focuses on the strengths and vulnerabilities of Mayil (Sridevi), a 16-year-old schoolgirl, and the challenges she faces and overcomes. The film, originally titled Mayil, is set in rural Tamil Nadu and is Rajinikanth's first colour film. 16 Vayathinile is the first Tamil film to be shot completely outdoors; Tamil films were primarily filmed in Chennai studios.

The first Tamil film distributed by a producer across Tamil Nadu, 16 Vayathinile was released on 15 September 1977 to critical praise for Bharathiraja's script, Ilaiyaraaja's music and the performances of Kamal, Sridevi and Rajinikanth. It was commercially successful, with a 175-day theatrical run.

16 Vayathinile, considered a Tamil cult film, is the bellwether of films featuring realistic portrayals of rural life. Making stars of its director and lead actors, the film won the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for S. Janaki, the Filmfare Award for Best Actor (Tamil) for Kamal and five State Awards, including Best Film (First prize), Best Director and Best Actor for Kamal. It was remade in Telugu by K. Raghavendra Rao as Padaharella Vayasu (1978) and in Hindi by Bharathiraja as Solva Sawan (1979), with Sridevi reprising her role in both versions.

Plot[edit]

Mayil (Sridevi) is a 16-year-old schoolgirl who lives in a village with her mother, Guruvammal (Ganthimathi). Guruvammal also takes care of the limping orphan Gopalakrishnan (Kamal Haasan), who is called "Chappani" ("Lame") by the villagers and does whatever he can to earn a living. Mayil's ambition is to become a teacher, and she hopes to marry a sophisticated, educated man; although Chappani is in love with her, she ignores him.

An urban veterinarian named Sathyajith arrives in the village to work and falls in love with Mayil. Mayil, believing that Sathyajith is the man for her, falls in love with him, to the point of refusing an opportunity to attend a teacher-training course in Madras to remain with him. Despite loving Sathyajith, she does not allow him to exploit her sexually, which disappoints him. Never intending a serious relationship with Mayil, he proceeds to his native place to get married to another woman. When Mayil begs Sathyajith not to leave her, he says he befriended her for pleasure—not marriage.

A dejected Mayil confesses this to Guruvammal, who quickly plans to betroth her to someone else. The village ruffian Parattaiyan, alias Parattai (Rajinikanth)—who lusts for Mayil—spreads rumours about her relationship with Sathyajith. Because of this, Mayil's engagement plans are halted and the village becomes hostile to her. Unable to bear the shame, Guruvammal commits suicide and leaves Chappani to take care of Mayil.

Chappani takes good care of Mayil, cheering her up when she needs it. She warms to Chappani, making him more confident and assertive and grooming him and his manners, to the surprise of many in the village. Mayil tells him to slap anyone who calls him "Chappani" and to respond only to those who address him by his name, Gopalakrishnan. When Sathyajith and Parattai call him "Chappani" despite his request to use his real name, Gopalakrishnan slaps them. Mayil and Gopalakrishnan celebrate his newfound courage. An insulted Parattai later beats Gopalakrishnan badly. Mayil saves him, spitting on Parattai for the brutal attack.

Mayil decides to marry Gopalakrishnan, and sends him to the nearby town for buying wedding supplies. Learning of Gopalakrishnan's absence, Parattai goes to Mayil's house and tries to rape her. Gopalakrishnan returns to Mayil's house and pleads with Parattai to leave her. When Parattai refuses, Gopalakrishnan kills him with a rock and is arrested. He promises Mayil that he will return, and she waits everyday for him.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

16 Vayathinile was P. Bharathiraja's directorial debut and his first screenplay. He originally planned to make a film funded by the National Film Development Corporation of India under the title Mayil, with Nagesh and Roja Ramani in mind for the lead roles, but the NFDC rejected his script.[3] In an October 2013 interview, Bharathiraja said that the script was rejected at the last minute without a reason.[4]

When singer S. P. Balasubrahmanyam heard about the rejection he introduced Bharathiraja to S. A. Rajkannu, and Bharathiraja told Rajkannu about his ideas for Sigappu Rojakkal (1978) and Mayil. Although Rajkannu was uninterested in the first, he agreed to produce Mayil.[3] Feeling that 16 Vayathinile sounded more artistic than Mayil, Rajkannu asked Bharathiraja to change the film's title. A few alterations were made to the screenplay, and the dialogue was written by P. Kalaimani.[5]

Although Bharathiraja was initially hesitant to direct the film, Rajkannu insisted and he received an advance of 500.[a][3] 16 Vayathinile was initially made on a low budget of 425,000.[3][a] P. S. Nivas was signed as cinematographer, Somnath-Kamalasekharan as art director and R. Bhaskaran as editor.[7]

Casting[edit]

Bharathiraja wanted Chithra Lakshmanan (assistant director with K. Bhagyaraj) to sign Kamal Haasan for the role of Chappani,[8] expecting to pay Kamal 15,000[a] since the actor had received 17,000[b] for Aayirathil Oruthi (1975). When Kamal asked for 30,000,[a] Lakshmanan suggested that Bharathiraja offer the role to Sivakumar since the production unit could not afford Kamal's request; however, Bharathiraja saw Kamal as the ideal choice and agreed to pay him 27,000.[a][8] For his character, the actor grew his curly hair long and wore lungis and khadi high-buttoned shirts.[9] Dhananjayan states in his 2011 book The Best of Tamil Cinema that Sridevi received 9,000[a] for her role as Mayil.[3]

Bharathiraja, who had been an assistant director to Puttanna Kanagal, included Rajinikanth in the film after seeing his performance in Katha Sangama (1976).[2] Although he had finalised 3,000 as the salary for Rajinikanth after the latter initially charged 5,000, he had paid 2,500 to Rajinikanth.[10][11][a] 16 Vayathinile marked Rajinikanth's first appearance in a colour film.[12] Since the actor was not fluent in Tamil at the time, Bhagyaraj read him his lines and Rajinikanth repeated them until he mastered them.[13] For Mayil's mother Guruvammal, Bharathiraja wanted someone who could speak the village dialect fluently and chose Ganthimathi for her acting style.[14] Receiving a salary of 150,[13][a] Bhagyaraj was initially considered for the veterinarian's role but wanted to concentrate on directing;[15] that role finally went to Sathyajith.[16] Although comedian Goundamani made his major film debut with Annakili (1976), it was 16 Vayathinile which made him popular.[17]

Filming[edit]

Shot in 25 days in Mysore, Sivasamudram, Velakkadu, Kolakkadu and Kollegal, 16 Vayathinile was the first Tamil film made completely outdoors and no sets were used.[3][18] The actors wore normal village clothing and wore no make-up.[7] According to Kamal, due to budgetary constraints the technical crew could not afford a camera which could film slow motion and Sridevi had to run in slow motion for the song "Chendoora Poove".[2] Kamal's salary helped increase the budget from 425,000 to 500,000.[2][a]

The scene in which Mayil spits on Parattai required several takes before Rajinikanth insisted that Sridevi actually spit on him for realism.[19] Rajinikanth finished his part of the film in five or six days.[3] While Bharathiraja wanted the film to follow a linear narration, it was Bhagyaraj's idea to begin the film with a flashback sequence. After the film completed its shoot, it was screened at least 20 times for the distributors and the narrative switched every time between the linear and non-linear versions. Eventually, the producer himself released the film, with the flashback narrative.[13] A total of 8,534 metres (27,999 ft) of film negative was used,[3] and its final length was 3,822 m (12,539 ft).[7]

Themes[edit]

16 Vayathinile focuses on rural Tamil Nadu,[20] and the vulnerabilities of Mayil.[21] Film critic Naman Ramachandran compared Parattai to Rajinikanth's character Kondaji from Katha Sangama (1975), stating "Like in that film, Rajinikanth is a card-playing wastrel with henchmen in tow. Just like the Thimmaraya character in Katha Sangama runs errands for Kondaji, here Chappani/Gopalakrishnan performs services for Parattai, but the similarity ends there because Thimmaraya is evil and Chappani is good." He also described the film as the first instance when a villainous character played by Rajinikanth does not have a change of heart or get away without getting his just deserts: "Here he pays for his deeds with his life." [22] According to film scholar Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai, the film is marked by "ambiguous and dark protagonists, new subjectivity, [and] avoidance of clichéd and cathartic closures".[23] Kumuthan Maderya, writing for Jump Cut, described 16 Vayathinile as a "neo-nativity" film — a story set in rural Tamil Nadu, valorising the rustic and foregrounding the lives of villagers.[24]

Music[edit]

16 Vayathinile
Album cover of a woman pouring liquid on a man sitting on the ground
Original album cover
Soundtrack album by Ilaiyaraaja
Genre Feature film soundtrack
Length 16:53
Language Tamil
Label EMI Records
Producer Ilaiyaraaja

The soundtrack album and background score for 16 Vayathinile were composed by Ilaiyaraaja with lyrics by Kannadasan, Gangai Amaran and Alangudi Somu.[25] Ilaiyaraaja, in an April 2015 interview with Maalai Malar, stated that Kannadasan accepted salaries ranging from 1,000 to 1,500. Ilaiyaraaja requested Kannadasan to accept 750 citing the film's budget constraints, to which Kannadasan agreed.[26] The album was released on EMI Records.[27] The album cover shows a scene from the film where Mayil (Sridevi) pours water on Gopalakrishnan (Kamal), with several other women from the village awaiting to do the same to him.

16 Vayathinile was Ilaiyaraaja's first collaboration with Kamal.[28] Bharathiraja insisted that the director and Rajkannu meet Ilaiyaraaja, although Rajkannu doubted if Ilaiyaraaja would sign on since he had become well-known after his debut film Annakili (1976). Ilaiyaraaja initially refused because of an earlier bet with Bharathiraja that Ilayaraaja's mentor, G. K. Venkatesh, would compose the music for Bharathiraja's first film. Venkatesh later insisted that Ilaiyaraaja compose the music.[26]

Although Ilaiyaraaja wanted S. P. Balasubrahmanyam to sing "Chavanthi Poo" and "Aattukkutti", the singer had pharyngitis at that time and was replaced by Malaysia Vasudevan.[29] "Chavanthi Poo", the first song recorded, was the first written by Kannadasan for the film,[29] and Gangai Amaran's debut as lyricist.[30] Ilaiyaraaja also debuted as a singer with this film,[31] singing the number "Solam Vidhaikkaiyile", although it does not appear on the soundtrack.[32] According to film critic Baradwaj Rangan, "Chendoora Poove" used Viennese musical tropes.[33] B. Kolappan of The Hindu wrote that the song "employs a rush of violins to set up the intro for the folk melody that follows."[34]

The album, a blend of folk and Western classical music,[35] was praised by critics and "Chendoora Poove" remains popular among the Tamil diaspora.[36] Film producer and writer G. Dhananjayan wrote that Ilaiyaraaja "achieved great heights with the music and background score" of the film.[36] About "Chendoora Poove", B. Kolappan of The Hindu wrote, "The maestro's genius is most evident in his ability to combine forms seamlessly."[34] Tribune described "Chendoora Poove" as a "silver lined melody that paced the film and added to its brilliance. Do not miss it at any cost."[37] The song inspired the title of a 1988 film starring Vijayakanth,[38] and a television serial of the same name.[39] The film's songs were remastered in DTS 5.1 six-channel audio by A. Muthusamy of Honey Bee Music in June 2013.[40]

Side one
No. Title Lyrics Singer(s) Length
1. "Manjakkulichi"   Alangudi Somu S. Janaki 4:26
2. "Chendoora Poove"   Gangai Amaran S. Janaki 3:33
Side two
No. Title Lyrics Singer(s) Length
1. "Aattukkutti"   Kannadasan Malaysia Vasudevan, S. Janaki 4:20
2. "Chavanthi Poo"   Kannadasan Malaysia Vasudevan, P. Susheela 4:34

Release[edit]

16 Vayathinile was released on 15 September 1977.[41] During its early theatrical run, the audience could not understand the film and there were catcalls outside theatres. Within a week its box office improved due to positive reviews and word of mouth, and it became commercially successful.[3] 16 Vayathinile completed a theatrical run of 175 days,[42] making it a silver jubilee film.[3][c]

The film earned $1 million at the box office according to a 2010 estimate by South Scope, and the producer went into hiding to avoid income-tax raids.[44] It was the first Tamil film released by a producer across Tamil Nadu without distributors.[36] When 16 Vayathinile became successful, distributors bought the theatrical rights for a number of areas across the state.[36] The film was remade in Telugu by Kovelamudi Raghavendra Rao as Padaharella Vayasu (1978) and in Hindi by Bharathiraja as Solva Sawan (1979), with Sridevi reprising her role in both.[45][46] In October 2009, Kannada actor Ganesh revealed that he and his wife bought the remake rights of 16 Vayathinile for Kannada.[47]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received critical acclaim, with praise for Bharathiraja's script, Ilaiyaraaja's music and the performances of Kamal, Sridevi and Rajinikanth.[48] The Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan, in its original review, gave the film 62.5 marks out of 100, their highest rating for a Tamil film.[49] Rediff called 16 Vayathinile a "new genre of pastoral film, which was true to village life in characterisation, costumes and dialect".[50] The Times of India stated that it "showcase[s] the best of the superstar [Rajinikanth] and the universal hero [Kamal Haasan]".[51]

Awards[edit]

In addition to the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for S. Janaki, 16 Vayathinile won Kamal the Filmfare Award in the Best Tamil Actor category. The film won five Tamil Nadu State Film Awards,[52] and Rajinikanth won the Arima Sangam Award for Best Actor for his role as Parattai.[50]

Award Ceremony Category Nominee(s) Outcome Ref.
National Film Awards 25th National Film Awards Best Female Playback Singer S. Janaki Won [52]
Filmfare Awards 6th Filmfare Awards South Best Actor – Tamil Kamal Haasan Won
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards 4th Tamil Nadu State Film Awards Best Film (First prize) S. A. Rajkannu Won
Best Director P. Bharathiraja Won
Best Actor Kamal Haasan Won
Best Music Director Ilaiyaraaja Won
Best Female Playback Singer S. Janaki Won

Legacy[edit]

I am [Bharathiraja's] very first fan ... These are not empty words. Before 16 Vayathinile's release, when he showed me the film, I wrote him a letter of appreciation. That's why I say that I'm his first fan and proud to be so.

— Director K. Balachander, on Bharathiraja.[22]

16 Vayathinile is considered a cult film and a landmark in Tamil cinema, diverging from traditional Tamil films of the time.[53][54][55][56][57][d] With Annakili, the film was a bellwether for realistic portrayals of rural life[59] and made stars of Bharathiraja, Kamal, Sridevi and Rajinikanth.[60] According to Naman Ramachandran and S. Shiva Kumar of The Hindu, Kamal's performance was considered a tour de force by critics since he was typecast as a romantic hero at that time.[22][61] The dialogue "Idhu Eppadi Irukku?" ("How's this?"), the first catchphrase of Rajinikanth's career, became very popular;[62] IANS and Rediff included it on their lists of lines popularised by Rajinikanth.[50][63] Manisha Lakhe, writing for Forbes India, noted that 16 Vayathinile "paved the way for unkempt villains who had a singularly disgusting laugh."[64] A digitally remastered version of the film was being planned for a late 2013 release; although its trailer was released in October that year,[65] the film has yet to see a theatrical release as of 2016.[66]

In July 2007, S. R. Ashok Kumar of The Hindu asked eight Tamil directors to list their all-time favourite Tamil films; seven – C. V. Sridhar, K. Balachander, J. Mahendran, K. Bhagyaraj, Mani Ratnam, K. S. Ravikumar and Ameer – named 16 Vayathinile.[67] According to Ratnam, the film was "memorable for its script, high standard and realism."[67] The magazine South Scope included Kamal's performance on its list of "Kamal's best performances" in July 2010.[9] S. Shiva Kumar of The Hindu included the film on his December 2010 list of "Electrifying Rajinikanth-Kamal Haasan films" with Moondru Mudichu (1976), Avargal (1977) and Aval Appadithan (1978).[68] In April 2013 CNN-IBN included the film on its list of "100 greatest Indian films of all time", saying that it was a "decisive move away from the studio-bound productions and paved the way for successful integration of subaltern themes and folk arts into mainstream commercial cinema."[69] In December 2014, The Times of India included 16 Vayathinile on its list of "Top 12 Rajinikanth movies".[70] In August 2015, CNN-IBN included the film in its list of "10 performances that make [Sridevi] the 'Last Empress' of Indian cinema".[46] In November the same year, Daily News and Analysis included the film in its list of "Films you must watch to grasp the breadth of Kamal Haasan's repertoire".[71] Actors Vijay Sethupathi and Vikram included 16 Vayathinile among their favourite films.[72][73] After seeing the film, director K. Balachander wrote in a letter of appreciation to Bharathiraja, "You have hit the bull's eye".[74]

16 Vayathinile was spoofed in Murattu Kaalai (2012) by Vivek, whose character Saroja is called "Mayil" by Cell Murugan's character (a veterinarian similar to Sathyajith's character in the film).[75][76] Sridevi's line, "Aatha Naan Passaayitten" ("Mother, I've passed the exam"),[77] was the title of a 1990 film starring Arjun Sarja.[78] In Sivaji (2007), Vivek's character delivers one of Rajinikanth's catchphrases and finishes by saying: "Idhu eppadi irukku?".[79] The film's title and characters have inspired other film titles: Parattai Engira Azhagu Sundaram (2007),[54] Mayilu (2012)[80] and 36 Vayadhinile (2015).[81]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i The exchange rate in 1977 was 8.7386 Indian rupees () per 1 US dollar (US$)[6]
  2. ^ The exchange rate in 1975 was 8.3759 Indian rupees () per 1 US dollar (US$).[6]
  3. ^ A Silver Jubilee film is one that completes a theatrical run of 175 days (25 weeks).[43]
  4. ^ Tamil films were mostly made in studios in Chennai till then.[58]

References[edit]

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