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Updated: October 22, 2011 18:53 IST

Blast from the past: Chinnadurai, 1955

Randor Guy
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“Chinnadurai” is a film adaptation of the novel “Iru Mohinigal” by Vaduvoor K. Duraiswamy Iyengar. Photo: Special Arrangement
“Chinnadurai” is a film adaptation of the novel “Iru Mohinigal” by Vaduvoor K. Duraiswamy Iyengar. Photo: Special Arrangement

T. R. Mahalingam, S. Varalakshmi, B. R. Panthulu, T. K. Ramachandran, V. K. Ramasami, J. P. Chandra Babu, G. Sakunthala, S. R. Varalakshmi, K. Sayeeram, ‘Stunt' Somu, ‘Jayakodi' K. Natarajan, ‘Buffoon' Sankara Iyer, ‘Kottapuli' Jayaraman, N. Thiruvengadam, K. S. Hariharan, Ramaiah Sastri, K. Ramu, Venubai, K. S. Angamuthu and C. R. Rajakumari, Sowdhamini and Rita (dances)

Vaduvoor K. Duraiswamy Iyengar was the most successful detective fiction-writer in Tamil in the decades gone by. Indeed, he, along with J. R. Rangaraju, Arani Kuppusami Mudaliar and Vai. Mu. Kothainayaki Ammal, virtually founded the genre in Modern Tamil Literature. Many of Iyengar's multi-volume novels were bestsellers and quite a few of them, like ‘Digambara Samiyar', were made into successful movies.

Like most writers of this genre in Tamil, Iyengar too adapted or took the content of popular English crime novels. For example, the classic novel of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's (the creator of Sherlock Holmes) ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles' was adapted in Tamil as ‘Bhaskara Vilas Puraanam!'

One such novel of his, ‘Iru Mohinigal', was adapted to the screen as Chinnadurai by noted writer and character actor K. T. Santhanam. Produced and directed by the singing star of yesteryear T. R. Mahalingam, the film was made in the famed Newtone Studio, in Kilpauk, Madras. (Sadly, the studio closed down some years ago, and the site was taken over by the Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan to whom it was gifted by the owner V. Pattabhiraman, known as ‘Cricket' Pattabhi, thanks to his close association with the affairs of the then Madras Cricket Association. Now, the popular Rajaji Vidyashram functions on this hallowed site.)

Popular Tamil and Kannada film music composer T. G. Lingappa was the music director of this film. A song rendered by singing star-comedian J. P. Chandrababu, ‘Poda raajaa podinadayaley', became popular because of his ‘yodelling', a novelty in Tamil cinema, then and now. Kishore Kumar made it popular in Hindi cinema; and the only singer who sang in that style in Tamil cinema with a good measure of success was Chandrababu.

Chinnadurai narrates the tale of Raja Sir Krishnan (Ramasami) who has two daughters, Indramani (Varalakshmi) and Chandramani (Sakunthala). They run an association for the uplift of women.

One day their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and Rajabahadur (Mahalingam) saves them. He falls in love with Chandramani. His father tries to fix his marriage with another woman, and in protest he walks out of the house. Noticing an ad for an English tutor for Chandramani, Rajabahadur disguises himself suitably and takes up the job!

Now Chinnadurai, a rich zamindar boy (Mahalingam again), returns from England after his studies and falls in love with Indramani. When she wants to learn Sanskrit, he goes in disguise and takes up the job! After several twists and turns, involving kidnap and murder, the lovers are united.

Mahalingam packed the movie with song and dance sequences rendered by Rajakumari, Sowdhamini, Rita and several others.

Chandrababu as the secretary provides comic relief with his wisecracks and stylish singing.

In spite of an interesting storyline and impressive cast comprising veterans such as Ramasami, Ramachandran, Chandrababu and Sayeeram, the film did not fare well because of Mahalingam's lack of directorial skills. His earlier films were directed by the veteran writer-director-producer A.T. Krishnaswami (ATK). For some personal reasons, ATK opted out, and Mahalingam took over the mantle for which he was not really qualified.

Remembered for the interesting storyline and the comedy and yodelling of Chandrababu.

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