Bharathiraja, Born in 1941 in Alli Nagaram, a tiny village in Tamil Nadu, he displayed the story-teller's gift very early. Before Bharathirajaa entered film world, village life on screen was a sanitised and unrealistic caricature. But in 1977, Bharathirajaa took the camera out of the studios and captured village life with a rare sensitivity and respect for its reality.
His mother Karuththamma was to receive the National award from the President on his behalf for his film named after her. Among his other landmark films are Mudhal Mariyaadhai (with Sivaji Ganesan in the lead), Alaigal Oyvadhillai, Mann Vaasanai, Vedham Pudhithu, Kizhakku Cheemaiyile and Anthimanthaarai.
This National award winner is also credited with having launched the careers, of the who's who, in Tamil cinema. Bharathiraja is married to Chandra Leelavathi, and they have two children - son Manoj (the hero of ‘ Tajmahal’) and daughter Janani.
The die-hard romantic Bharathiraja was born in Alli Nagaram, a small, sylvan village near Theni as Chinnasamy on 17 July 1941. He was the fifth child to his parents, Periya Maya Thevar and Meenatchiammaal alias Karuthammaal. His childhood passions were deer hunting and literature. As a full-blooded youth, he dreamt of making it to the dream world of filmmaking. He had an unremitting passion for acting and all the other theatrical pursuits right from his earliest days as a vagrant youth. He also happened to be a good platform speaker and went places spreading social awareness among the unlettered villagers. By the way, he got a job as a Sanitary Inspector in the Public Health Department in 1963, at a monthly salary of Indian Rs.75/-
Bharathiraja wrote, directed and acted in his first dramas "Oor Sirikkirathu" (The Town Laughs) and "Summa Oru Kadhai" (Just a Story) in Theni Pazhani Chettiyapatti village during festival seasons. This kindled the creative spirit in him and gave him the confidence to look for an opening in Tamil film industry.
As he moved to Madras to seek greener pastures and to give vent to his creative thirst, Bharathiraja staged his "Summa Oru Kadhai" and "Adhigaaram" (Power) with the help of his friends. He also took part in radio dramas and music programs. But since these opportunities were too infrequent to be depended upon for a living, he took up a job in a petrol bunk keeping his cinema ambitions intact.
Bharathiraja started his film career as an assistant to director P.Pullaiya and Kannada film maker Puttanna Kanagal. Eventually working with Krishnan Nair, Avinasi Mani and A. Jaganathan, he learned the grammar of film making and got his first directorial opportunity in 1977. His first film 16 vayathinile for which he wrote the story and the script broke convention to create a new genre of village cinema. Costumes were uncomfortably true-to-life, dialogue was as-is-spoken, village characters were tellingly genuine. As Bharathiraja himself agrees, the film was expected to bring in lots of accolades - which it did - but to do moderate business at the box office - which it did not. The film was a huge commercial success and kept the cash registers jingling even after several re-releases.
His next film Kizhakke Pogum Rail produced similar results and eventually brought in criticisms that Bharathiraja was capable of catering only to village audience. This led him to make Sigappu Rojakkal, about a psychopathic woman hater that was totally westernized in terms of both conception and production. But contrary to what several observers expected (and wanted) this film met with great box office success as well and everyone agreed that Bharathiraja was here to stay.
Bharathiraja confirmed his versatility and refusal to be tied down to one particular genre with an experimental film Nizhalgal and an action thriller Tik.. Tik.. Tik. But, undoubtedly rural themes proved to be his forte as his biggest hits in the 80s Alaigal Oivadhillai, Mann Vaasanai and Mudhal Mariyaadhai were strong love stories in a village backdrop. Of these films, Mudhal Mariyaadhai deserves special mention. The film starred veteran actor Sivaji Ganesan in the lead, playing a middle-aged village head. Radha is a poor young woman who moves into his village for a living. The love that bonds these two humans, separated not just by age but also by caste and class, is told by Bharathiraja with poetic touches. Without doubt, this film remains one of the most successful films for both himself and Sivaji Ganesan.
Bharathiraja's Vedham Pudhithu, a masterpiece that can be considered his best film so far, dealt with the cast issue in a much stronger manner. The film's narrative was seamless and starred Sathyaraj as Balu Thevar. It contains some of Bharathiraja's trademark touches as well as a lot of path breaking scenes. Barathiraja has successfully managed to modernize his film making techniques for the 90s. The huge commercial success of Kizhakkuch Cheemaiyile and the awards Karuththamma garnered stand as testimony for his ability to thrill the younger generation as well.
From the day 16 Vayathinile was released in 1977, Bharathiraja's path has proved to be inspiratory for several young filmmakers. He surely must have sent several more young hearts into raptures when his mother Karuththamma received the National Award on behalf of him from the President in 1994 for the film named after her. Bharathiraja was back on the same stage in 1996 to receive another National Award for Anthimanthaarai. The legendary film maker has plans of making short films with varying themes to attract the International audience and has currently completed his latest venture Kadal Pookal and picked up a national award for the best screen play writer for the same film.
He as directed movies in Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi also. Recently he introduced his son Manoj as an actor in his latest film Taj Mahal.