Serukalathur Sama, Pasupuleti Kannamba, Visalur Subramania Bhagavathar, Nagainallur Lakshminarayana Bhagavathar, R. D. Balasubramaniam, ‘Sandow’ Natesa Pillai, S.S. Mani Bhagavathar, ‘Battling’ C.S. Dhansingh, M.A. Ganapathi Bhat, N.S. Krishnan, T.A. Mathuram, T.S. Krishnaveni, M.N. Vijayal, Janaki Bai (V.N. Janaki, Dance), ‘Baby’ Ranga and ‘Baby’ Sulochana
Also known as Sri Krishnan Thoothu, this film was produced by SM. Letchumanan Chettiar (better known as ‘Lena Chettiar’) who later became one of the leading figures of Tamil cinema. He wielded enormous influence beyond the confines of the movie business in official and political circles. Soon after this film, he promoted his own unit, Krishna Pictures, in T. Nagar. His office on Thanikachalam Chetti Road (named after the noted Justice Party leader O.T. Chetti) was indeed a landmark of that area with its Krishna temple besides the building put up by Lena.
This film, produced under the banner of Rajagopal Talkies, was directed by R. Prakash who, along with his father Raghupathi Venkaiah, was responsible for the growth of cinema in this part of the country. Trained in the U.K., Prakash was a brilliant technician with innovative ideas at a time when there were hardly any facilities like today. However, this film earned its place in the history of Tamil cinema for the debut in Tamil cinema of a brilliant multilingual actor, Pasupuleti Kannamba. Hailing from Andhra Pradesh, she made a mark in Telugu theatre playing the role of Chandramathi (Harishchandra’s wife) in the play ‘Harishchandra’ which was soon made into a movie with her playing the same role. She had her drama troupe, which was managed by Kadaru Nagabhushanam who soon became her husband.
Kannamba became a major star with the Telugu film Grihalakshmi, directed by the ‘Grand Old Man of South Indian Cinema,’ H.M. Reddy, and produced by the icon of Telugu Cinema, B.N. Reddi. This film told the story of a suffering married woman, a role in which she excelled, and it was a grand success all over South India despite it being in Telugu. And then Kannamba was introduced to Tamil cinema with Krishnan Thoothu.
The film narrated the familiar story of Lord Krishna undertaking the mission of getting justice for the Pandavas from the king of the Kauravas, Duryodhana. Serukalathur Sama, one of the most popular artistes of Tamil cinema of the early decades, played Krishna. Artistes who are all forgotten today played the other roles. D. Balasubramaniam played Balaraman.
The film also had N.S. Krishnan and T.A. Mathuram contribute their brand of comedy. V.N. Janaki, not yet a star, did a dance number and was credited in the titles as ‘Janaki Bai.’
Papanasam Brothers (Sivan and Rajagopal Iyer) composed the music. The cinematography was by the master lensman, Kamal Ghosh, while Jyotish Sinha, a noted audiographer of the day who also directed films, handled the audio. The film was shot at Motion Picture Producers’ Combines studios promoted by K. Subramanyam which later became Gemini Studios owned by S.S. Vasan.
Despite the familiar story well directed by R. Prakash, the film had a drawback in the heroine Kannamba’s poor Tamil accent. At this time, she did not know Tamil and spoke it with a Telugu flavour, which did not go down well with the Tamil audiences. All this of course became a thing of the past when she played the role of Kannagi in the masterpiece of 1942, and it stands to this day as perhaps the best performance of an actress in a difficult role consisting of long-winding dialogue in high-flown Tamil (courtesy, the master of dialogue and the first star screenwriter of Tamil cinema, Elangovan).
As for Krishnan Thoothu, it fared badly at the box office…
Remembered for the Tamil film debut of the great actor Pasupuleti Kannamba.