Bond of Tamil screen
Action-oriented thrillers earned Jaishankar the sobriquet.
A man of principles Jaishankar
The arrival of Hollywood’s latest Bond revives memories of our very own version — the unostentatious Jaishankar, who would have been 70 this year. One of the most popular Tamil cinema stars of 1960s and 1970s, he was involved in several
action-oriented, thrilling entertainers and family drama. But justice has not been done to this actor, who was an excellent human being too.
Subramaniam Shankar was born on July 12, 1938. His father was a judicial magistrate. A typical Mylaporean, he went to the famous P.S. High School and on to Vivekananda College, where he did his Honours degree. He enrolled for Law but gave it up after a year because of his interests in fine arts.
A brief stint with Cho’s Viveka Fine Arts was followed by playing the lead role in Kalki’s “Amara Thara,” staged by Koothabiran’s Kalki Fine Arts. That, however, did not pave the way for his entry into cinema. Disappointed, he took up a job with Simpson and Co in Delhi. But he soon returned to Chennai and this time he was lucky.
His first success
A fine performance in a historical play drew the attention of Joseph Thaliath Junior, who cast him in his production ‘Iravum Pagalum’ (1965) in which he was christened Jaishankar.
The low budget movie produced by Citadel Productions and directed by Thaliath JR. also had a pretty new face, T.K.S. Vasantha. The taut thriller turned out to be a surprise package scoring well at the box office. Jaishankar had arrived.
The same year got him another success — AVM Productions’ ‘Kuzhandaiyum Deivamum.’ His charming manners, total absence of airs and ability to get on with people endeared him to the movie world. And opportunities poured in.
‘Panjavarna Kili,’ directed by editor-turned-filmmaker K. Shankar and written by noted screenwriter-filmmaker, Valampuri Somanathan with Jai and K.R. Vijaya in lead roles was again a hit.
Rama Sundaram, T.R. Sundaram’s son who took up production under the family banner Modern Theatres cast him in a number of films. Ramappa (as he was affectionately known) was an engineering graduate and the two men became close friends.
Jai was hero for many of Modern Theatres’ thrillers — ‘Iru Vallavargal’ (1966), ‘Vallavan Oruvan’ (1966), ‘Kaadalithaal Podhuma’ (1967), ‘Naangu Killadigal’ (1969), ‘CID Shankar’ (1970), ‘Karundhel Kannaayiram’ (1972) and others. And this earned him the sobriquet James Bond of Tamil cinema.
Jai’s hits in other genres include ‘Pattanathil Bootham’ (1967, directed by editor turned noted multilingual filmmaker M.V. Raman and written by Javert Seetharaman), ‘Nilagiri Express’ (1968, written by Cho, it was a well done suspense thriller with Vijayanirmala the female lead) ‘Jeevanamsam’ (1968, written and directed by Malliam Rajagopal. It was the launch pad for Lakshmi) ‘Nil-Gavani-Kaadhali’ (1969, directed by C.V. Rajendran and written by Chitralaya Gopu), ‘Poovaa Thalaiya’ (1969, produced by politician film producer Rama Arangannal and written and directed by K. Balachandar, the film was an excellent domestic comedy) ‘Nootruku Nooru’ (1971, written and directed by K. Balachandar ) to mention a few.
Sympathetic, he never made an issue when the cheques given by producers came back like a bad penny. He volunteered to step in when a new star scheduled to preside over an entertainment show let down the organiser.
The audience went hysterical seeing their James Bond on the dais. When the sponsors insisted on presenting him cash, Jai requested them to donate it to charity outfits. A man of principles, his support to the needy was always quiet and steady.
The family is continuing the good work, the best tribute that can be paid to a philanthropist and man of principles, which Jaishankar was.
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