T.M. Soundararajan, M.R. Radha, B.S. Saroja, Sarada, Lakshmirajam, K.S. Angamuthu, Sethupathi, N. S. Kolappan, Kumari Vimala, ‘Baby’ Dakshayani, R.S. Manohar (credited as R. Manohar!), ‘Ennatthey’ Kannaiah
Devotional movies (Bhakthi Padangal in Tamil ) was a popular genre in Tamil Cinema in the early 1930s. Many such movies turned out to be box office hits and the trend lasted till about the 1950s when the Dravidian political outlook with its tinge of atheism began to make inroads into the Tamil ethos.
The familiar tale of Arunagirinathar had been made into a film twice in 1937 and was produced for the third time in 1964 after nearly three decades by noted filmmaker Ramanna for Baba Art Productions. It featured the brilliant playback singer T.M. Soundararajan as the saint and the multilingual star B.S. Saroja as his sister Aadi who offers herself to him when no other woman would because of the incurable diseases he had as a consequence of his depraved lifestyle. This shocks him to the core and changes his outlook. He attempts suicide by jumping off a temple tower when Lord Muruga disguised as a Brahmin saves him, shows him the path of devotion and initiates him to compose the Thiruppugazh, an anthology of songs dedicated to Lord Muruga.
The first offering begins with ‘Muthai Tharu.’ This hymn with tongue-twisting lyrics in Tamil is difficult even to read at leisure and TMS created history by recording it in a single ‘take’! Composed in raga Shanmughapriya, the music directors were G. Ramanathan and T.R. Papa who were big names in those days. Soundararajan recalls that the tune was composed by Papa, and before the recording he called on the religious savant Kripananda Variar who translated every word of the song and TMS had rehearsals for an entire day before he recorded it. An amazing performance indeed and, not surprisingly, the song is one of the immortal melodies of Tamil Cinema. Sarada, the multilingual actor, played his wife and M.R. Radha and R.S. Manohar (credited as R. Manohar in the titles) played two egoistic persons who face defeat at the hands of the saint. Lakshmirajam, a dancer-actor, played the vamp.
Remembered for: the brilliant music and in particular the hymn ‘Muthai Tharu…’ by Soundararajan.