Vaduvur K. Duraiswami Ayyangar, J. R. Rangaraju, Arani Kuppuswami Mudaliar and Vai. Mu. Kothainayaki Ammal were the pioneers of detective fiction in Tamil with Ayyangar being the most successful. Some of his novels have been filmed such as ‘Menaka' and ‘Digambara Samiyar'. Another one was ‘Vidyasagarar'.
The novel was staged as a play by the TKS Brothers as ‘Vidyasagar', and its movie version was titled Vidyapathi. Written and directed by noted writer-filmmaker of that era A. T. Krishnaswamy (ATK), the film, a comedy, had T. R. Ramachandran, K. Thavamani Devi and Trichur Premavathi in lead roles.
T. R. Ramachandran was known as ‘the Eddy Cantor of India', thanks to his saucer eyes. Cantor was a famous Hollywood comedian whose box office hit Roman Scandals was adapted by the legendary N. S. Krishnan as Naveena Vikramadityan. A big name in his day, Ramachandran played lead roles in films, which were not mere comedies. His Sabapathi (1941), Vazhkai (1949) and Kalyanam Panniyum Bramhachari (1954) were huge hits. (In Kalyanam Panniyum…, he received top billing in the credit titles above Sivaji Ganesan! Indeed during a certain period, MGR spelt his name as ‘M .G. Ramachandar' to distinguish himself from TRR! )
Jupiter Pictures produced the film at Central Studios, Coimbatore.
In Vidyapathi, Thavamani who played the vamp had song and dance sequences befitting her role as a devadasi (named ‘Dasi Mohanambal'). She also performed a ‘titillating Western type' dance (to quote ATK!) Mrs. Rainbird choreographed the dance for which the background score was by C. G. Rob and his party. The song had English words along with Tamil, a novelty in the 1940s!
Here goes the song.... ‘Atho rendu (there the two)....Black eyes! Ennai paarthu (Looking at me)...Once, twice! Kannai chimitti (winking!)... Dolly! Kai kotti (with hands)...Calls me! I will dance for you!'
(ATK told this writer during the early 1970s that Thavamani wrote the English words herself and designed her costumes!)
An eccentric wealthy boy (Ramachandran) believes in marrying for love and reads matrimonial columns daily! He tells his parents that he will ‘woo panni ….love panni...marry panni…', and get his wife! (the famous lines written by ATK).
Attracted by a matrimonial ad, he leaves home to meet the woman. On the way, he is drugged and robbed by some crooks, and is left with nothing except his loincloth! A fake sadhu (Swaminathan) picks him up and converts him into a ‘Bala yogi' to make money. By his clever publicity, the yogi becomes popular.
A zamindar (Balasubramaniam) carries on with a devadasi (Thavamani) and neglects his wife and daughter (Premavathi) who becomes insane, as she is not getting married. To make money, the sadhu introduces the yogi to the young, insane woman. The two fall in love and after many twists and turns Vidyapathi settles all scores, and finally marries the now cured young woman!
Despite an interesting storyline, witty dialogue by ATK and delightful song and dance numbers by Thavamani Devi and Premavathi, Vidyapathi did not fare well at the box office.
Remembered for the interesting storyline, witty dialogue, fine song and dance numbers and Thavamani's exciting screen presence.
Keywords: Tamil Cinema History