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Updated: March 15, 2014 19:16 IST
blast from the past

Sree Andal (1949)

RANDOR GUY
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U. R. Jeevaratnam in Sri Andal
U. R. Jeevaratnam in Sri Andal

U.R. Jeevaratnam, P.S. Govindan, ‘Vidwan’ Srinivasan, S.D. Subbaiah, ‘Kumari’ Selvam, Kali N. Ratnam, P.K. Madhavan, V.M. Ezhumalai, ‘Kottapuli’ Jayaraman, S.K. Ramaraj, P.S. Gnanam, M.E. Madhavan, G.R. Sriramulu, M.K. Kamalam, S. Subbulakshmi and G. Sowdhamini

Unjalur Ramayamma Jeevaratnam was one of the leading singing actresses of Tamil cinema of the bygone decades. A trained musician with a high-pitched melodious voice, she appeared in lead roles in movies such as Bhaktha Gowri, Poompaavai, Arundathi, Abhimanyu, Sri Murugan (as Sage Narada!), Kannagi and several other box-office hits. Hailing from a small village called Unjalur near Erode, she learnt music and equipped herself for a successful film career. She was closely associated with T.R. Sundaram of Modern Theatres and Central Studios in Coimbatore. She married T.S. Venkataswami, a nephew of the Jupiter Pictures’ boss M. Somasundaram (‘Jupiter Somu’). With advancing years, she retired from acting and settled down in Madras. She helped her husband produce Tamil movies such as Pona Machaan Thirumbi Vandhaaan, which were reasonably successful.

She played the lead in this movie about the Vaishnavite cult figure and icon Andal who had sung memorable songs (such as the ones in Thiruppaavai, sung even today) in praise of Lord Krishna. Andal is worshipped especially during the Tamil month of Margazhi.

P.S. Govindan hailing from Poocharampati near Madurai, a popular, handsome stage and movie star of yesteryears earned a reputation as a singing actor. In this movie, he played many roles such as Lord Krishna and the Lord in disguises such as a cowherd, bangle seller, an old man to win over Andal.

While Lord Vishnu rests in Paarkadal (the Ocean of Milk), Bhooma Devi (the Earth goddess) visits him with a floral garland. He tells her that he would like her to offer him garlands of songs (Paamaalai). The goddess asks him for such a boon and accordingly, she is born in Srivilliputhur. She is found by a devotee Vishnuchithan (Vidwan Srinivasan), who raises her as his daughter and names her Andal.

When she grows up, she refuses to marry anybody except her Lord Kannan (Govindan) and worships him every day. She makes a floral garland for the Lord, which she wears herself upsetting her father. When a new garland is made and offered to the deity, he refuses to wear it and asks for the one Andal had worn! Her father is astonished, and names Andal ‘Soodi Kodutha Sudarkodi’, also known as ‘Soodi Kodutha Naachiyar’ (Naachiyar means divine consort). In the old days, Naachiyar was a popular name for women, and men were named Nachiyappan.

Kannan appears in several disguises before Andal to make her love him more, and ultimately when the family goes on a pilgrimage to the Srirangam temple, Vishnu appears before Andal and takes her into his heart as his bride.

The interesting tale of Andal was made into a gripping movie at Modern Theatres Studios, Salem, and was directed by S. Velsamy Kavi. Kavi was associated with MT Studio and worked with Sundaram on many of his productions.

As usual, there was a comedy track enacted by noted comedian Kali N. Ratnam and S. Subbulakshmi. They also sang a duet, which became popular. Master movie-music charmer G. Ramanathan composed the music while noted poet Yogi Suddhananda Bharathiyar wrote the songs.

J.G. Vijayan, noted cinematographer, was on the staff of the Studio and handled the camera for this film too. Dances were composed by noted Classical dance exponent and choreographer Vempati Satyam, assisted by Gopalakrishnan.

The film was a reasonable success mainly because of the popularity of the tale.

Remembered For The interesting storyline, impressive performances of Jeevaratnam, Govindan, and the melodious music of Ramanathan, with most of the songs sung by Jeevaratnam and Govindan.

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