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Updated: March 5, 2011 20:12 IST

Blast from the Past - Madanamala 1948

Randor Guy
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T. R. Rajani in Madanamala
T. R. Rajani in Madanamala

Sriram, T.R. Rajani, P.B. Rangachari, ‘Vidwan’ Srinivasan, P.S. Veerappan (later Veerappa), R.N. Nambiar, S.R. Janaki, T.S. Jaya, V. Rajalakshmi and V. Kumar

Sriram, a tall, handsome and charismatic actor who did not receive the attention he deserved, began his career as a horseman in the Gemini Studios-S.S. Vasan magnum opus Chandralekha — his name didn't even feature in the credits. His full name was Madurai Sriramulu Naidu. As there was already a top producer of the same name, he called himself ‘Sriram'. For a while, he enjoyed stardom playing major roles (known as ‘second hero' in the local movie world lingo!) in movies such as Navajeevanam, Samsaram and Moondru Pillaigal and the hero in Madanamala.

Rajani was a stunning actor from Pudukottai. Originally named Govindamma, she entered movies as a group dancer calling herself ‘Rajbala' and played minor roles in movies such as Palanati Yuddham (Telugu). Later, she named herself T. R. Rajani. (Rajani attracted considerable attention in those days when she modelled for a popular hair oil and jewellery company dressed in a revealing costume!)

In this film, she was introduced as the heroine and created good impact. But somehow she was not able to sustain the momentum. However, she began playing supporting roles in many films in Tamil and Telugu. She lived in Purasawalkam with her family for many years and later faded from public memory.

The writer and director, K. Vembu, made successful movies in Tamil and Malayalam with some of them becoming major hits such as Pichaikari (Malayalam and Tamil.)

However with changing trends in Tamil cinema, he kept himself occupied with looking after the Madras office of a well-known readymade brand ‘Liberty' based in Bombay promoted by another forgotten Tamil filmmaker, S. Notani who made films for the Salem-based south Indian movie mogul T. R. Sundaram and his Modern Theatres.

The dances were choreographed by Vedantham Raghavaiah and Muthuswami Pillai.

This film was financed by the multilingual filmmaker and talent scout S. Soundararajan of Tamil Nadu Talkies and had impressive sets befitting a costume movie (art direction F. Nagoor) and was produced at Newtone Studios, then a beehive of film production in Kilpauk, Madras.

(Today on that celebrated site stands the famous school named after Rajaji and run by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.)

At a celebration in a king's (Mani) court, a famed poet (‘Vidwan' Srinivasan) sings his praise, and talented dancer Madanamala (Rajani) performs. When the king offers a prize to all, Vikraman asks for Madanamala! Enraged, the king banishes Vikraman. He goes to a neighbouring kingdom where he meets the dancer and both fall in love. A fake sadhu (Rangachari) takes Vikraman to a temple to be sacrificed for obtaining divine gifts. However, Vikraman destroys the sadhu and succeeds in getting the divine blessings himself!

Disguised as a sadhu, he meets Madanamala and both spend a night together. Soon the fake is exposed and the lovers face complications. How they overcome hurdles and marry to live happily thereafter forms the rest of the movie.

The music was composed by M. S. Gnanamani, another forgotten figure of Tamil Cinema, with the lyrics penned by C. S. Varadarajan who wrote the dialogue along with noted dialogue writer of the day P. A. Kumar.

Remembered for the impressive dances of Rajani and others, and Sriram's charismatic presence.

Keywords: Tamil cinema


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