On September 5, Teachers’ Day, we turn the spotlight on the on-screen portrayals of teachers and gurus in South Indian cinema
While early films and even some recent ones – especially those set in college campuses – have parodied professors and principals, often using them to add an element of humour, there are also films that pay tribute to the revered profession. On-screen teachers who have left an indelible impact on the audience’s mind while they upheld the noblest values of the profession have a special place among film characters. We bring you some of the most memorable ones…
Kamal Haasan’s Nammavar wasn’t a commercial success, but told effectively the tale of a college professor who transforms the lives of the young students who come within the circle of his influence. His methods are unconventional, but life-changing. An admirable portrayal of a teacher to be sure!
The movie in which Rajinikanth plays a double role was a typical ‘80s masala flick. Still, the senior Rajini, who plays a dhoti-clad professor of Tamil, trying to tackle the unruly bunch in his class makes a definite impact, especially with his literary quotes. After a series of tragedies, the other Rajini arrives on the scene and the movie treads the usual path.
This early Bharathiraja creation had the low-profile K Bhagyaraj playing a teacher in a village school, a role he handled deftly and with a touch of humour as he attempts to settle into the village. In typical Bharathiraja style, he falls in love with village girl Rati Agnihotri, but their romance faces huge hurdles. Throughout, Bhagyaraj remains committed to his job and the little village boys in his care.
This is also a Bharathiraja creation, set in a dramatically beautiful coastal village. Rekha plays the gentle teacher who comes to work in the local school. Sathyaraj is the illiterate but sensitive fisherman whose life she changes with her presence. Rekha is certainly one of the most memorable on-screen teachers of Tamil cinema.
One of the earlier Vijaykanth films, Ramana was a huge box-office success. It tells the story of Ramana, a professor, leading a happy, contented life. But when his life is shattered by an incident that is caused by corruption in the system, he becomes a crusader, relying on his former students for support. This one was unusual, presenting the teacher as fighter.
In this film, too, Arjun Sarja plays an honest teacher forced to take on the system when his school falls victim to the actions of the baddies. After that, he goes after the villains, shedding his gentle demeanour and becoming a virtual don with a golden heart.
In Lesa Lesa, Madhavan plays a memorable cameo as a professor in a college, again taking on the baddies in the system, who are also disrupting the college. Trisha is in love with him, but Madhavan deliberately turns her away from him as his future is bleak. He won many fans for this portrayal.
Mohanlal as Iringannoor Bharathan Pisharody, professor at the Sanskrit University, must be one of the best portrayals of a teacher in Malayalam cinema. Immersed in the Vedas and astrology, he struggles to ward off the overtures of Padmapriya, his student. He eventually agrees to marry her, but goes missing on the day of the wedding. He is missing for years and is found by his family in the Himalayas. Then unfolds the rest of the saga. Mohanlal is at his best as the knowledgeable and still-seeking professor.
This Telugu classic was about a guru-sishya relationship, set in his own home, rather than a classroom. Somayajulu was impeccable as the seasoned teacher of Carnatic music, while Manju Bhargavi is his devotee and student. The film explored the subtle nuances in the bond between them.