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Updated: February 8, 2014 18:06 IST

Blast from the Past: Chandra Mohana or Samooga Thondu 1936

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Chandra Mohana or Samooga Thondu
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Chandra Mohana or Samooga Thondu

Cast: M.K. Radha, S.V. Venkataraman, T.N. Meenakshi, K.P. Kamakshi, K.R. Jayalakshmi, ‘Clown’ M.S. Sundaram, S.M. Subramaniam (later Kothamangalam Subbu)

This film marked the debut of noted writer, lyricist, folk poet, actor, filmmaker and more — Kothamangalam Subbu. He wrote the story for this film in which his name appears in credits as ‘S.M. Subramaniam, Kothamangalam’; shortly, he began to call himself ‘Kothamangalam Subbu’, a household name wherever Tamil is spoken.

After he joined Gemini Studios, he became the right hand man of S.S. Vasan, known as ‘the Cecil B DeMille of Indian cinema’, and served him for several years. Subbu directed the cult film Miss. Malini (1947), in which he also played the role of a sophisticated crook. The film was based on a short story by famed writer R.K. Narayan, who later wrote it as the novel Mr. Sampath. The film was produced in Hindi by Vasan, with Padmini in the lead. The character Subbu played — popularly known as ‘Bit Notice’ — was believed to have been based on a real-life person in Mysore, where Narayan had lived! Critics and crowds consider his portrayal of the suave villain perhaps the best for such a character in Tamil and even Indian cinema.

In this film, M.K. Radha, the hero of hit films such as Chandralekha, Apoorva Sahotharargal, Samsaram, Sathi Leelavathi and several others, played the lead as a graduate social activist Chandra Mohan who works for the betterment of society and people around him. That is why the film had an alternative title Samooga Thondu (Tamil for social service).

The film narrates the story of a socially conscious hero Chandra Mohan and his love for a young woman Mohana (T.N. Meenakshi) and the various problems the loving couple faces, thanks to the evil plans of a mill manager Kamalanathan (S.V. Venkataraman). S.V. Venkataraman, a well-known music composer of Tamil cinema was originally a stage actor gaining good reputation, and came into films doing major roles, including the villain. An accident while acting rendered it impossible for him to continue acting, and he switched to composing music and was quite successful at it. He composed songs for the rest of his career — for films such as Meera, Sakunthalai and others. Some of his songs became super hits and are still remembered.

Noted lyricist K.P. Kamakshi (full name Kamakshisundaranar) played a major role while Jayalakshmi played the dancing girl who is brought into the drama to destroy the bond between the couple.

Kothamangalam Subbu wrote only the screen story while noted Tamil writer, stage producer, screenwriter and popular figure of Tamil literature M. Kandaswami Mudaliar penned the dialogue.

The film was directed by noted filmmaker Raja Chandrasekhar, who studied art direction in Bombay. He directed some of the hit films of M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, the first super star of South Indian cinema.

This film was produced by the Madurai-based company Mohan Movietone and made at Film City Studios in Bombay. No details are available about the lyric writer and music composer. There was an additional attraction of a dance sequence by noted dancer of that era, Ragini Devi.

As a social activist, the hero also takes up the cudgels against the evil of drinking, and sings songs propagating prohibition. The last song of the movie had the freedom movement and Bharat Matha as the theme.

The film was only an average success, and old-timers remember it as the debut of Kothamangalam Subbu.

Remembered For The interesting storyline of social activism written by Subbu, the impressive performance of M.K. Radha, and pleasing music.

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