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Updated: April 28, 2013 12:07 IST
BLAST FROM THE PAST

Rattha Paasam 1954

Randor Guy
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This film introduced an amazing talent to screenwriting and direction who went on to become a cult figure in south Indian cinema.
This film introduced an amazing talent to screenwriting and direction who went on to become a cult figure in south Indian cinema.

T.K. Shanmugam, T.K. Bhagavathi, Anjali Devi, M.S. Draupadi, T.S. Balaiah, N.R. Vidyavathi, M.S. Karuppaiah, Gundu Mani, P.S. Venkatachalam, T.S. Dakshinamurthi, K.R. Seetharaman, K. Saayeeram and T.R.B. Rao

TKS Brothers earned their place in the history of Tamil theatre and cinema. T.K. Shanmugam, the most famous of them all, and T.K. Bhagavathi are considered the icons of Tamil theatre, who performed commendably in several movies. One of them is Rattha Paasam, first staged as a play, which was hugely successful, and later made into a movie.

This film introduced an amazing talent to screenwriting and direction who went on to become a cult figure in south Indian cinema — Sridhar (his full name was Chitthamur V. Sridhar). Hailing from a small village Nelvoy near Maduranthakam, Sridhar had a flair for writing plays and enacting them even as a schoolboy in Chinglepet. He was assisted by an equally creative person, T. A. Satagopan, who was in school with him. Satagopan later came to be known as ‘Chitralaya Gopu’ after Sridhar’s famed movie company Chitralaya.

Sridhar’s first play, Rattha Paasam, was picked up by T.K. Shanmugam and when it was staged by the Brothers, it turned out to be a success. Not surprisingly, they produced it as a movie under their banner ‘Avvai Productions’ with the screenplay written by the playwright himself, marking his debut in movies.

Noted editor-filmmaker R.S. Mani, who was closely associated with the American Indian filmmaker Ellis R. Dungan, directed the film. Graduating to direction, Mani was quite successful, and produced movies on his own. This film was made at Neptune Studios, now MGR-Janaki College for Women. Noted lensman and filmmaker Nimai Ghosh, affectionately known as Nimai-da, photographed it. The art direction was by the celebrated genius A.K. Sekhar.

The lyrics were by M.K. Atmanathan and Ku. Ma. Balasubramaniam, and the music was composed by Atmanathan. A talented person, he did not get the recognition he deserved.

A family drama, Rattha Paasam is all about Raja (Shanmugham) loitering around the streets of Bombay indulging in pocket picking and petty thievery. In the same city, making a living dancing in the street corners is Rani (Anjali Devi) and the two meet and fall in love…

In Madras living in high style and luxury is Raghu (Bhagavathi), the owner of ‘Supreme Cycle Company’ with his loving wife Sarala (Draupadi). Madhu (Balaiah), his manager, is a crook. He has been misappropriating the company funds with the help of his lover Manorama (Vidyavathi, Jayalalithaa’s aunt and N.R. Sandhya’s sister) who casts her seductive spell on the cycle company boss. Soon the company is closed due to losses, and Sarala and her kids are on the streets.

Raghu heads to Bombay to seek new avenues, leaving his family behind. Sarala goes in search of him. One day, Raja picks Raghu’s pocket and finds photographs in his purse which reveal that Raghu is his brother. He goes in search of his long-lost brother who, however, does not bother to recognise him because of his snobbery. Sarala faces many problems and after many twists and turns, the problems are solved and the family is reunited….

Anjali Devi as the street dancer was in top form, while Shanmugam and Bhagavathi played their roles in a commendable manner. Draupadi as the suffering wife was impressive. Balaiah as the villain was his usual brilliant self, while Vidyavathi excelled as the vamp.

A song filmed on Shanmugam rendered off-screen by Tiruchi Loganathan, ‘Dullu… dullu… very dullu…,’ became a hit. The lyrics were a satire on the economic situation and hypocrisy of the city in the 1950s and of how people lived their lives.

Tautly directed by Mani, the film did fairly well at the box office.

Remembered for: the moving story, commendable performances and the song ‘Dullu… dullu… very dullu…’

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