T.K. Shanmugham, T.K. Bhagavathi, Madhuri Devi, S.A. Natarajan, Krishnakumari, Pandari Bai, C.V.V. Panthulu, M.S. Karuppaiah, K. Ramasami, Ragini-Kamala (dance)
TKS Brothers, one of the legendary theatre groups of India, was known for its meaningful and socially relevant plays. Many of those plays were also made into movies. One such was Manithan.
It is the story of a young wife (Krishnakumari) living in a joint family, away from her husband, an Army doctor (Bhagavathi) who is in a war. An artist (Shanmugham) is given refuge in the husbands’ home. Taking advantage of her loneliness, the artist seduces her, and she becomes pregnant. The painter is thrown out of the house, and he goes in search of peace. In Bombay, he is involved in a car accident in which the doctor is travelling. And, the doctor admits the artist in the hospital where he begins to work. The injured artist tells his tale of woe and the wrong he did to a woman, and the doctor is shocked to find that she is his wife. What happens then forms the rest of the story.
T.K. Shanmugam as the artist played the guilty man with conviction as did Bhagavathi as the kind-hearted doctor. Krishnakumari (Sowcar Janaki’s sister) gave an impressive performance too.
Panthulu played the doctor’s aged father while Madhuri Devi played his wife, yearning for love. Initially, Pandari Bai was chosen to play the role Krishnakumari played. Later, however, she played just one of the family members.
The film was directed by K. Ramnoth, with script by Pa. Adimoolam and Na. Somasundaram. The music was by S.V. Venkataraman with lyrics by Kanaka Surabhi.
There was also a dance-drama by Kumari Kamala and Ragini in the film. The film was shot at Neptune Studios (then under lease with Jupiter Pictures), and produced as a joint venture between Jupiter Pictures and Lavanya Movies (owned by yarn-and-dye merchant S.K. Sundararama Iyer).
Despite presenting a human story of an erring wife and pardoning husband, the film did not fare well at the box-office because it was ahead of its time.
(In fact, Ramnoth, a friend of this writer, had told him that he was not sure if such a story would be well-received by the conservative moviegoers of the period. He was proved right, and the producers suffered loss)
Interestingly, as a stage play, Manithan had created a good impact because theatre-goers of the day appreciated the controversial story content!
Remembered for: The story, impressive performances by Shanmugham, Bhagavathi and Krishnakumari, and Ramnoth’s deft direction.