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Updated: December 31, 2009 17:01 IST

Blast from the past: Kanavaney Kankanda Deivam

Randor Guy
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Kanavane Kankanda Deivam
Kanavane Kankanda Deivam

Gemini Ganesan, Anjali Devi, Lalitha, M. N. Nambiar, Chittoor V. Nagaiah, M. N. Rajam, T. P. Muthulakshmi and ‘Friend' Ramasami

Kanavaney Kankanda Deivam, a Narayanan Company production directed by noted filmmaker of yesteryear T. R. Raghunath, was rather like folklore, written by Sadasiva Bramham (he was so famous and successful in Telugu cinema that he was known as Katha Sivabramham!), Umachandran (Poornam Viswanathan's brother), and K. V. Srinivasan, (also a filmmaker sadly forgotten now). It had music by well-known Hindi film music composer Hemant Kumar and noted Telugu film music composer Addepalli Rama Rao.

Gemini Ganesan by now established as a star played the lead opposite Anjali Devi. (He took his bow in cinema as hero at 33 with Manam Pol Mangalyam in 1953). Lalitha was cast as a vamp. Not many are aware that she was brought on board after production commenced, as a substitute for P. Bhanumathi. Surprising, yet true.

Bhanumathi who made a splash way back in 1945 as a vamp in B. N. Reddi's Swargaseema entered Tamil cinema playing such roles in her first few films. She was similarly cast in this film and a song filmed later on Lalitha, ‘Unnai kann theduthey...' was first rendered by Bhanumathi and the sequence was shot when she chose to walk out of the film. This song (P. Susheela) is still fondly remembered by Tamil movie buffs.

(Bhanumathi told this writer years later that in the song recorded with P. Susheela, the hiccups were hers! This was one of Susheela's early hits as a playback singer.)

Others in the cast included M. N. Nambiar, V. Nagaiah, M. N. Rajam, T. P. Muthulakshmi and 'Friend' Ramasami.

This film narrated the story of a king who loses his sight and needs a ‘Nagi Jyothi' (‘serpent light'!) found in ‘Sarpaloka' (serpent world!). A young man (Gemini Ganesan) working in the palace and in love with the princess (Anjali Devi) undertakes the hazardous journey of going to the netherworld and getting the magic light from the hood of a snake in the custody of the serpent queen (Lalitha). The queen is attracted to the young man who pretends to be in love with her mainly to get the light. He succeeds in getting it and the queen curses him to become an ugly man. The princess marries the prince, but they are banished and live in a hut. Soon a boy is born. The devoted wife faces many trials and tribulations before she and her son help her husband regain his original form. And they live happily thereafter…

The interesting story with many twists and turns was well narrated on screen by Raghunath, younger brother of well-known director Raja Chandrasekhar. He began his life as a sound recordist after getting his M.A. degree, and later joined his brother in Bombay to work as his assistant and soon graduated to film direction. Not many are aware that he directed the dance sequences of Madhavi in Kannagi and married the actor (M. Saroja). The multilingual filmmaker of today, Kartik Raghunath, is his son.

One of the contributing factors to the box office success of the film was the melodious music. Some songs became hits, the most popular being, ‘Unnai kann theduthey…'

The movie ran for hundred days at many centres and was dubbed into Malayalam and Hindi (Devta). Anjali Devi, then in her late 20s, was glamorous in this movie, and in the later sequences as the devoted wife fighting for the well-being of her husband revealed that she was also an actor capable of touching emotional heights. The popularity of the handsome as ever Gemini Ganesan soared and the success of this film helped him reach the top where he stayed for many decades ….

Remembered for: Excellent onscreen narration and melodious music with some of the songs becoming hits.

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