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Updated: February 25, 2010 18:38 IST

Blast from the Past — Ratnakumar 1949

RANDOR GUY
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fine cast: Ratnakumar
fine cast: Ratnakumar

P.U. Chinnappa, P. Bhanumathi, K. Malathi, M. G. Ramachandar, D. Balsubramaniam, Nagercoil K. Mahadevan, K. P. Kesavan, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Mathuram, T. S. Durairaj, ‘Yathartham' Ponnusami Pillai, ‘Kaka' Radhakrishnan and Parvathi

During the early decades of Tamil Cinema, Murugan Talkie Film Co. [MTF] was a well-known production company based in Madurai. Like the other better known Rayal Talkie Distributors, also from Madurai, the two companies were established by prosperous yarn and dye merchants of the famous temple town who entered movies as distributors and later graduated to film production. Murugan Talkie Film made the famous MKT Bhagavathar-P. Kannamba starrer Ashok Kumar (1941) which is still remembered for its melodious music. However in later years, for many reasons, the two companies slid down the grease pole and today not many remember the significant contribution the two Madurai movie units made towards the growth of early Tamil Cinema.

One of the films of the above company was Ratnakumar. Though it was released in 1949, it was launched in 1946 with the then successful singer-cum-hero Chinnappa in the title role. Bhanumathi played the heroine. She made a splash as vamp in B. N. Reddi's milestone movie Swargaseema (1945) where she shot into limelight with the immortal melody ‘Oooohhoo, pavuramaa…' An intellectual, she did not suffer fools gladly and often clashed with producers, directors and co-stars. During the shooting of Ratnakumar, she had problems with Chinnappa one day when she found that he was smelling of liquor — she walked out of the set threatening to opt out of the movie.

Realising her nature and her extraordinary talent, Chinnappa amended his ways and the film was somehow finished and released three years later.

The story was built around the theme that a king might become a pauper and a beggar might be crowned. Ratnakumar (Chinnappa), a beggar singing for alms, sleeps in a haunted cave at night. He hears mysterious words and moves to a nearby hut where he meets a female beggar (Bhanumathi) Bhagavathi. They live together, singing and dancing in the streets, make money and marry…

Meanwhile, a king celebrates his daughter's (Malathi) birthday at the palace where the couple arrive to perform. Ratnakumar falls in love with her and decides to win her hand. A magic ring helps him fulfil his desire and he forgets his loving wife. After many crises, the couple reunite…

The later day cult figure and icon of Indian Cinema M. G. Ramachandran plays a minor role and his name appears in the credits as ‘Ramachandar'. The film also had veteran K. P. Kesavan and singer-cum-actor Nagercoil K. Mahadevan.

Krishnan, Mathuram and Durairaj provide the comedy element.

The film was directed by the well-known duo Krishnan-Panju and the later day noted multilingual filmmaker A. Bhim Singh worked as assistant director. The music was composed by G. Ramanathan and C. R. Subburaman. Some of the songs such as ‘Nee dayai', ‘Varattum vandhaal' (Bhanumathi), ‘Geli miga' (Chinnappa) and ‘Enadi indha ullasam' (Malathi) became popular. The lyrics were by Papanasam Sivan and ‘Surabhi'.

The film had dance sequences choreographed by Vedantham Raghavaiah and Vempati Satyam.

Despite the talented stars, melodious music and good comedy, the film did not fare well at the box office.

Remembered for melodious music and the fine performances of Chinnappa and Bhanumathi.

Had “Kaththi” been a film with loftier ambitions, we might say it begins in medias res — but it does begin with a bang. »

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