Starring Akkineni Nageswara Rao, Anjali Devi, S.V. Rangarao, (Sivaji) Ganesan, Janardhan, Pandari Bai, Vasantha, Suryakantham, Master Mohan

When Anjali Devi and Adinarayana Rao launched their maiden production, they had no idea they were also launching the career of an actor who would go on become an iconic figure in South Indian cinema. After breaking away from Aswini PicturesMayalamari, the couple founded their own production company, Anjali Pictures and acquired the remake rights of the Hindi film, Raj Rani (1950) directed by Satish Nigam. They signed ANR for the lead role and L.V. Prasad to direct the movie in both Telugu and Tamil.

As they were looking for a young actor to play the second male lead, P.A. Perumal Mudaliar, a prominent producer-distributor in Tamil who financed Anjali Pictures, recommended a talented young stage actor – Villupuram Chinnaiahpillai Ganesan. The title of ‘Sivaji’ was conferred on this actor by the Dravidian movement leader, E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker, after he saw Ganesan enact the role of the Maratha warrior in a play, ‘Sivaji Kanda Hindu Samrajyam,’ penned by the later day Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, C.N. Annadurai. Without any hesitation, Anjali Devi took ‘Sivaji’ Ganesan on the rolls. Thus the actor had his first screen test done for the Telugu-Tamil bilingual, Paradesi/Poongodhai. A. Vincent, the operative cameraman for cinematographer Kamal Ghosh, did the make-up test for Ganesan. At the same time Perumal’s National Pictures too started shooting for Parashakthi, written by M. Kaurnanidhi with Sivaji Ganesan in the lead. Perumal requested Anjali Devi that his movie be allowed to be released first. Anjali and Adinarayana Rao agreed to this and thus Parashakthi became Ganesan’s debut movie, though he had faced the camera for the first time for Paradesi.

L.V. Prasad did not make a copy of the Hindi original. Taking the central theme, he and dialogue and lyrics writer Malladi Venkata Krishna Sarma, brought in several changes to suit the nativity.

Lakshmi (Anjali Devi) is a flower vendor in a hilly village called Seethagiri. Chandram (ANR) is left in penury after his father’s death in an accident. Chandram’s friend Raghu (Janardhan) dies from a heart attack, but not before asking Chandram to take care of his wife Suseela (Pandari Bai) and young son Anand (Master Mohan). Chandram’s health deteriorates as he works overtime to support the dependents. The doctor advises him to take rest at a hill station. Chandram arrives in Seethagiri where he meets Lakshmi and marries her in a local temple. When Lakshmi reveals to her father Rangadu (SVR) that she has married a ‘paradesi’ (as tribals called city folks) and is pregnant he asks her to bring Chandram to him. But when she goes to the hotel where he stays, she finds that Chandram has already left the village. Unable to bear the insults from the villagers, Rangadu kills himself. Declared an outcaste, Lakshmi lives all alone and gives birth to a baby girl. Chandram, who had to leave for the city on an urgent call, returns to Seethagiri to take Lakshmi with him, but is told that she has died in a fire accident. Years later, a grown-up Anand (Ganesan) and Lakshmi’s daughter Tara (Vasantha) fall in love when Anand comes to Seethagiri. Lakshmi tries to wean away Tara from the ‘paradesi.’ There on the story takes a few twists before leading to an intriguing climax.

L.V. Prasad could extract the best from ANR and Anjali Devi, who effortlessly showcased the change in their roles as they turn from young to old.

Kamal Ghosh’s cinematography, especially the use of slow motion technique in the Sakunthala dance sequence, perhaps for the first time in a South Indian film, received rave reviews. V. Shantaram and his Raj Kamal Kalamandir obliged by lending the slow motion capturing camera equipment for the purpose. Vedantam Raghavaiah choreographed the dances and Adinarayana Rao composed the music. He relied mostly on the Hindi film tunes. Four art directors – T.V.S. Sarma, Vali, Thota Venkateswara Rao and veteran A.K. Sekhar created the sets.

But, unfortunately, both Paradesi and Poongodhai, failed at the box office. However, the movie is remembered as the launch pad for Sivaji Ganesan. Years later, Sivaji repaid his gratitude to Anjamma (as Anjali Devi is reverently referred to) by acting as Chatrapathi Sivaji in Anjali Pictures’ Bhaktha Thukaram without taking any remuneration and by footing all his bills himself. And later when Sivaji Ganesan needed, the costumes he had worn in the movie, for use in the Government of India commissioned documentary on Chathrapathi Sivaji, Anjali Devi promptly responded by sending him the costumes.

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