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Updated: April 19, 2014 18:47 IST
BLAST FROM THE PAST

Pilot Premnath 1978

RANDOR GUY
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Pilot Premnath
Special Arrangement Pilot Premnath

Sivaji Ganesan, Malini Fonseca, ‘Thengai’ Srinivasan, ‘Major’ Sundararajan, Vijaykumar, C.R. Manorama, Sridevi, Jai Ganesh, Jayachitra, Satyapriya and Venkat. Srilankan cast — Mara Sinha, Vijayendran, Chinnaiah, Srisankar and Abraham

This film was an Indo-Sri Lankan joint-venture produced by businessman T.M. Menon and M.M. Saleem, noted building contractor (son of Mohammed Meeran, the famed architect and civil engineer who designed and built the landmark Gemini flyover on Mount Road) and D.M. Chandrasena of Sri Lanka. This film in colour was shot entirely in the picturesque island nation and the post-production work done in Madras (now Chennai).

Sivaji Ganesan played the title character, a Sri Lankan pilot, whose lovely wife, played by Sri Lankan star Malini Fonseca (currently she is a member of the Sri Lankan Parliament), dies in a stove explosion while making tea for her husband.

The story is by R. Venkat, about whom nothing is known, and the dialogue is by the well-known screenwriter Aaroor Das. Screenplay and direction were handled by A.C. Thirulokachandar (popularly known as ‘ACT’), one of the leading filmmakers of India with an enviable number of hits and classics in Tamil and Hindi to his credit.

‘ACT’ hails from an aristocratic Mudaliar family. After his M.A. degree, he did not want to take up a job since he was keen on appearing for the Indian Administrative Service exams. Even as a student, he wrote short stories that went on to be published in magazines; soon the writer in him took over and he became a screenwriter. He joined the top-of-the-bracket production house AVM and became one of its creative pillars. He wrote and directed many of the AVM productions and promoted his own production company and made successful films. Now in his 80s, he is retired and lives in his happy home in Kilpauk.

The picturesque scenic splendour of Sri Lanka and more particularly Colombo, especially at night, was brilliantly recorded on camera by talented cinematographer Vinayagam.

Music was composed by maestro M.S. Viswanathan, assisted by Joseph Krishna, with lyrics by Vaalee. One of the songs, which conveys the central idea and theme of the film, ‘Who Is The Black Sheep…?’ (voice, T.M. Soundararajan) became a hit and is still popular.

Pilot Premnath (Sivaji Ganesan) has three children — two sons (Vijayakumar, JaiGanesh,) and a visually challenged daughter (Sridevi). The children are the apples of his eye, especially the girl. His wife (Malini) dies in an accident.

The deceased wife continues to live in the hero’s heart, and every time he returns from a flight journey, he goes to their room, and sees her in his mind’s eye. Once while talking about her in the room with his co-pilot (‘Thengai’ Srinivasan), he shows him the bundle of her letters. One letter is found, not posted. In it, the wife states that one of the three children was not born to her!

The world around him shatters and it is then he breaks into the song ‘Who Is The Black Sheep…?’ The suspense is revealed later. Premnath goes to America for training, leaving his pregnant wife behind. She delivers a stillborn child. Simultaneously, his friend Balu’s (‘Major’ Sundararajan) wife gives birth to a visually-challenged baby girl and to prevent tragedy in Premnath’s family, Balu substitutes his baby with Premnath’s.

The two sons find sweethearts (Jayachitra and Satyapriya) and the daughter falls in love with a young man (Prem Anand), who saves her from a thief near a shop. All get married and happiness is restored once more in the household. ‘

'Thengai’ Srinivasan as the co-pilot and his wife (Manorama) speaking Sri Lankan Tamil were quite impressive. So were Vijayakumar and Jai Ganesh, and Prem Anand in a brief role, which includes a fight with the robber.

The film was made at Vijaya Studio, Colombo. It has songs rendered by T.M. Soundararajan, P. Susheela, Jikki, Jayachandran, Vani Jairam and ‘Ceylon’ Manohar.

Noted choreographer P.N. Chopra and Chandrakala from Sri Lanka composed the dances. Well-known art director Chalam handled the art. The film was later dubbed into Sinhala and released in that country. It was a reasonable success in India and Sri Lanka.

Remembered For The interesting storyline, the fine performances of Sivaji Ganesan, Malini Fonseca, Major Sundararajan, Sri Devi and others, the pleasing music, deft direction and impressive cinematography.

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