I was watching Sabapathy (1941) for the umpteenth time yesterday.
Much is made of Bharathiraja getting films out of studios - the veracity in that claim is perhaps a tad less wholesome than the conviction in it - but, precious little is made of who confined it indoors in the first place.
With every movie one watches from the early eras of TFI, one only gets surer about a nuanced film-aesthetic dropped in favour of a -how does one put it- a rather loquacious alternative.
But then, possibly, what we get to see on TV today is a positive-select of the best ones of the era. And to that extent we aren't exposed to the 'average aesthetic' of the day enough to come to a reasonable understanding to make a comparison. But what are blogs for, if not to shoot from the hip.
Here is a short-song from Sabapathy
It is a concept song - song is about hastening the bullocks and picks up pace and changes tone as the ride progresses. The lyrics keeping very much in synch with the character - the characters are what this movie is about anyway - and not some clever imagination of a 'poet', tucked in smugly.
We see shots at various levels of proximity, with movement. The clouds and the trees move in the background. The need to show multiple angles, the need to show mid-shots with the visible background - is obvious in this song.
And watch out for the cut at 1:20. I have no idea how they do these things so precisely. Transition from one shot to another in mid-line with perfect synch. Maybe easier than I think, but is still a conscious choice made by the filmmakers and effort to achieve that. They could have just as easily waited till that line ended and transitioned to straight shot. But looks like they felt they needed to push themselves atleast that far - in 1941.
And then you have this from Periya Idaththu peNN (1963): 22 years later!
Shot indoors with the 'reel' backgrounds (rear projection). We don't even see as much a bullock horn in the same frame as MGR :-)
Shaky - in more ways than one - PoV shots are the only new things brought to the table.
And if you hang on for seven more years and add-in a shoulder shake and..colour of course, you get
this from en aNNan (1970)
This isn't to diss rear projection - I am not sure what the technical name for this is - sequences automatically mean you can't do much.
Watch 0:35 to 1:30 in the video above.
The screechy turns of the car seem to be in line with how the background changes and the actor puts in the visible efforts on the steering wheel needed to effect the turn.
The same 1963 as Periya Idaththu peNN.
But then again it could be argued that it is not the same 1963 because it is Ray and Ramanna and their audiences - whose tastes are routinely second guessed - arguably slightly vary.
So, it would perhaps be more pertinent is trying to locate where the attempts of 1941 petered out.