One of the popular writers of Modern Tamil Literature was Vai. Mu. Kodhainayaki Ammal. Hailing from an orthodox Brahmin family in Triplicane, she wrote many successful novels, including detective fiction (a genre women rarely attempted in those days). Besides, she single-handedly wrote, edited and published Jaganmohini, a magazine which was popular among female readers. Popularly known as Vai. Mu. Ko., she was also a patriot involved in the Indian Freedom Movement. Her most popular novel was ‘Anadhai Penn,’ which was filmed by Jupiter Pictures. The film was directed by the sadly forgotten south Indian pioneer Raghupathi Prakash, whose father Raghupathi Venkaiah brought movies to Madras.
The hero was a fashionable young man. M. K. Radha was chosen for the role with the concurrence of the writer who insisted on knowing from time to time how her novel was being dealt with on celluloid. Perhaps, Kodhainayaki Ammal was the first writer in this country to make such demands, which were happily met by the producers. Indeed she had told her friends that she had Radha in mind when she created the character and fondly hoped that it would be made into a movie, which came true!
The film narrates the story of an orphan girl (Sundarambal) who falls in love with a rich, handsome young man (Radha) and dreams of marrying him. Much to her shock, he takes off to England for further studies, and she loses sight of him. Back home, she undergoes many trials and tribulations, and when her dream man returns her problems are solved and everything ends happily.
Anadhai Penn established Radha as a handsome hero, destined for stardom. Sundarambal who played the heroine faded fast after this movie.
(Radha’s well-cut suits, top hat, gloves and stick made a sartorial statement. After the film’s release, many young men started imitating him! Anadhai Penn was one of Radha’s favourite films. An enlarged photo of Radha in this attire adorned his Mylapore home, and he showed it to his friends with joy and pride.)
Another factor that contributed to the success of Anadhai Penn was its comedy line built around a rich but tight-fisted Chettiar who is taken for a ride by a bunch of crooks. They lure him into film production. This role was acquitted well by one of the interesting figures in the Tamil film world, Kothamangalam Subbu. Writer, poet, actor and filmmaker, Subbu, blessed with a fine sense of humour, rose from humble beginnings to occupy a prominent position in the industry.
Earlier in his career, Subbu showed a flair for comedy but soon changed tack and concentrated on writing and direction. In the early 1940s when S. S. Vasan established Gemini Studios and turned producer, Subbu joined Gemini. He made a mark quickly and became a close confidante of the Gemini boss. He wrote and directed films for Gemini and Miss Malini (1947) was the best. He played “Bit Notice” Sampath, a character created by the famous Indian writer R. K. Narayan. As Sampath, a suave fraud, Subbu was brilliant.
Cast: M. K. Radha, T. A. Sundarambal, P. U. Chinnappa, S. M. Subramaniam (Kothamangalam Subbu), L. Narayan Rao, T. S. Krishnaveni, P. R. Mangalam, M. R. Swaminathan, P. G. (Azhvar) Kuppusami and E. Krishnamurthi
Remembered for: Radha’s performance and his sartorial elegance which became a craze those days, and Kothamangalam Subbu’s comedy.