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Updated: July 27, 2013 16:18 IST
BLAST FROM THE PAST

Pankajavalli (1947)

RANDOR GUY
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P.U. Chinnappa, T.R. Rajakumari and Kumari Rukmini

A successful production of the pioneer of South Indian cinema S. Soundararaja Ayyangar (he signed his films as S. Soundararajan) under his popular production banner Tamil Nadu Talkies, the film Pankajavalli was completed by 1946 but released only early in 1947. Not many are aware that he was one of the first to use the words Tamil Nadu to refer to the State way back in the 1930s.

When this film was being planned and song situations were being worked out, there was a brainstorming session for music composing. Soundararaja Ayyangar, his creative team, music composer and lyricist Papanasam Sivan, his assistants and the hero — the leading singing star of the day P.U. Chinnappa — sat together. Back then, Chinnappa apparently felt that Papanasam Sivan favoured M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar. So, during the session he expressed this to Papanasam Sivan, who smiled and told him that while MKT had a high-pitched voice conducive for songs such as ‘Manmadhan Leelayai’ (Haridas, 1944) Chinnappa had a low-pitched voice. After this, Sivan wrote the opening line of the first song of the film — a prayer song — in raga Karaharapriya. Sivan also sang the song — ‘Nee Illaamal Anuvum Asaiyumo Nithyananda Harey Murarey’. A visibly impressed Chinnappa is said to have prostrated before Sivan and touched his feet! The song was rendered well by Chinnappa, and it became a hit. In cinemas, moviegoers listened to it and applauded.

The film was inspired by the popular Kerala folktale ‘Malayala Pankajavalli’, which Ayyangar duly adapted for Tamil, writing the screenplay himself. It was basically the story of Alli, who dominates men in her kingdom, treating them like slaves. Drawn by the beauty of Pankajavalli (Rajakumari), the Pandava hero Arjuna (Chinnappa) decides to conquer her. However, she captures him, and he prays to Krishna (Kumari Rukmini), who turns him into a woman (named Brihannala)! After many interesting twists, the truth comes out and everything ends happily. One can see similarities between this story and the Tamil movie Pavalakodi. There were duets between T.R. Rajakumari and Chinnappa, which were quite popular. One interesting feature of this film was that the role of Lord Krishna was played very well by a woman (Kumari Rukmini). It was a daring act by Ayyangar who was well-known for his innovative ideas and new approaches in filmmaking. The movie was quite successful at the box-office mainly because of its opening song.

Remembered For The melodious song ‘Nee Illaamal’, impressive performances by Rajakumari, Chinnappa and Kumari Rukmini.

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