Thyagaraja Bhagavathar had yet another song-studded 52-week-run hit Thiruneelakantar. His own production, it was inspired by the folk tale of the Siva-worshipping potter-saint Neelakanta Nayanar. The movie was directed by the Indian film pioneer Raja Sandow. Like any Bhagavathar film, it had many memorable songs mostly rendered by him. One of them ‘Dheena Karunakaraney, Natarajaa, Neelakantaney!’ became a rage with the masses and classes and continues to be popular even today. The music was composed by Papanasam Sivan who also wrote the lyrics.

The other songs which became equally popular were ‘Sarasarangal varum suzhandrey...’, ‘Maraivai puthiatha odu...’, ‘Un azhagai kaana iru kangal pothathey...’ (a breezy duet featuring MKT and heroine Thirunelveli Papa) and ‘Oru naal oru pozhudhagilum...’.

Neelakantam gives away the mud bowls he makes to people because of his devotion to Siva. To test him Siva (Serukalathur Sama) comes disguised as a yogi and is welcomed as an honoured guest. The yogi asks him to keep his mud bowl which he would take back after visiting some places. When he comes back the bowl disappears and the yogi charges his host with misappropriation and to prove his innocence he and his wife are asked to take a dip in a temple pond. And lo, the couple come out purified and are blessed by the yogi who reveals himself, along with his consort Parvathi.

This pond sequence was shot inside the temple in Thiruvanmaiyur which during that time was a small village. Today it is a prime south Madras neighbourhood.

Another major attraction was the comedy by N. S. Krishnan-T. A. Mathuram with T. S. Durairaj. Krishnan is asked about the reason for Lord Ganesh’s belly. In a song, he says it is because of his eating too many ‘kozhukattais’, his favourite food!

Another comedy item then considered rather vulgar was Mathuram licking NSK’s leg while he pretends to be fast asleep to check whether in his previous birth he was an ‘uppukoravan’ (a caste whose members used to make a living making salt)! Durairaj tells NSK that his wife was a dog in her previous birth and still fond of licking! Wide awake, both trade insults about their previous births. Today such sequences would most likely be censored.

Remembered for MKT’s scintillating songs and the comedy by NSK-TAM.

Cast: M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, Serukalathur Sama, Thirunelveli Papa, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Mathuram, T. S. Durairaj, R. Balasaraswathi and S. S. Rajamani

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