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Updated: December 4, 2010 19:57 IST

Blast from the past: Kula Deivam 1956

Randor Guy
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Kula Deivam
Kula Deivam

S. V. Sahasranamam, M. R. Santhanalakshmi, Pandari Bai, S. S. Rajendran, M. N. Rajam, C. R. Vijayakumari, J. P. Chandra Babu, Mynavathi, ‘Kuladeivam' Rajagopal and M. K. Mustafa

A significant film made at the AVM Studio as a partnership venture with S. K. Pictures was Kula Deivam. It had a socially relevant message about the efficacy of the joint family system and remarriage of young Hindu widows. The lot of the Hindu widow has been one of untold misery, anguish and denial of comforts and she was ostracised even by her family. She could not wear jewels or flowers and had to be attired in white. Besides, she was considered an ill-omen. In some orthodox communities, she had to tonsure her head regularly. In some families, she was taken to task if she laughed loudly! Indeed, the Indian Government passed “The Hindu Widow Remarriage Act” as early as 1856, but it didn't help matters. The tradition-bound society felt it was an intrusion by the British rulers into the time-honoured customs. The practice continued for centuries and during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, some social reformers took up the cudgels and fought for widow remarriage. The most famous of them were Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar and Kandukuri Veeresalingam Panthulu who faced opposition and danger to life and limb. A strong religious group took Panthulu to court on this issue! He created history by performing a widow remarriage in Purasaiwalkam, Madras. Yet it took a long time for such marriages to be accepted by Hindu society. Not surprisingly, the issue was the fulcrum of plays and movies in many languages during the early 20th Century.

Many memorable movies revolved around this social problem — Y. V. Rao's Malli Pelli (1939, Telugu), B. N. Reddi's Sumangali (1940, Telugu), Kishore Sahu's Sindoor (1947, Hindi) and M. R. Vittal's Hannaley Chiguridhaaga (1968, Kannada).

Kula Deivam was based on a Bengali story by noted writer Prabhavathi Devi Saraswathi. The Tamil film script was written by “Murasoli” Maran. During the 1950-60s, there was a distinct trend in Tamil cinema of seeking story material in Bengal, the Land of the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee and such literary giants. Many Bengali stories, novels, plays and films were adapted for Tamil cinema. Indeed, in that period there were even ‘Bengali story- brokers!'

Kula Deivam highlighted the joint family system, the need for family unity and widow remarriage. An old man on his deathbed makes his eldest son (Sahasranamam) promise to look after his younger brothers (Rajendran, Mustafa, Rajagopal) and only young sister (Mynavathi), a child widow. The brother ekes out a living as a travelling cloth merchant and soon opens a shop of his own and prosperity smiles on the family. He gets his brothers married; the sisters-in-law begin to create problems, destroying the joy and peace of the family. His wife (Pandari Bai) is a great source of strength. How both fight adversity and bring sunshine into the family again and also get the widowed sister re-married form the rest of the story.

A socially significant film, Kula Deivam met with great success. Directed by Krishnan-Panju, the film had music by R. Sudarsanam and lyrics by Subramania Bharati, Bharathidasan, Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram, K. P. Kamatchi and Athmanathan.

V. R. Rajagopal, a stage comedian with large, expressive eyes and excellent sense of timing, made a splash and came to be known as Kuladeivam Rajagopal. He remained a top comedian for some years, but later faded into oblivion.

The film was awarded a Certificate of Merit awarded by the Government of India. In 1957, Meiyappan remade it in Hindi as Bhabhi which was a phenomenal success.

Remembered for the socially relevant storyline, excellent performances by Sahasranamam and Pandari Bai, pleasing music and touching on-screen narration.

Keywords: Kula Deivam

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