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Updated: October 26, 2013 15:58 IST
blast from the past

Valayapathi (1952)

RANDOR GUY
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‘Sowcar’ Janaki, G. Krishnamurti, T.A. Jayalakshmi, K.K. Perumal, A. Karunanidhi, T.P. Muthulakshmi, M.S.S. Bhagyam, ‘Pulimoottai’ Ramasami, M.N. Krishnan, M.E. Havana, S.R. Lakshmi, K.K. Soundar, S.M. Thirupathisami, C.K. Soundararajan, K.T. Dhanalakshmi, M.A. Ganapathi, ‘Master’ Sudhakar, ‘Master’ Ramakrishnan and A.S. Mani

Valayapathi is one of the five classics of Sangam literature, the other four being Silappadhikaaram, Manimekalai, Seevaga Chintamani and Kundalakesi. According to Tamil scholars and critics, the full text of Valayapathi has not become available until now.

T.R. Sundaram, the South Indian movie mogul and boss of the Salem-based Modern Theatres took it up for filming in 1952. Interestingly, the credit for the story in the film is given to Modern Theatres Story Department, and the dialogue is by celebrated Tamil scholar and poet Bharathidasan. He wrote the lyrics too for the film along with Kannadasan and K.T. Santhanam while S. Dakshinamurthi composed the music.

The film was directed by T.R. Sundaram and the famed cinematographer-filmmaker M. Masthan who worked as cinematographer-filmmaker not only in south India but also in Sri Lanka. He was associated with Modern Theatres for a while and worked on its projects either individually or in association with other filmmakers such as Sundaram and Acharya (T.G. Raghavachari).

This film marked the Tamil cinema debut of the famed multilingual, multifaceted star ‘Sowcar’ Janaki, who made her debut in cinema with Sahukaru (1950), the Telugu classic movie produced by Nagi Reddy-Chakrapani and directed by the Indian maestro L.V. Prasad. Though the film was not a box-office success, it blossomed forth as an iconic movie and the word ‘Sowcar’ became a prefix for the new heroine. Even the personal studio chair she carried around had the word ‘Sowcar’ written on the back!

G. Muthukrishnan was cast as Valayapathi, and came to be known as ‘Valayapathi’ Muthukrishnan. But sadly, he did not make a mark and faded away. T.A. Jayalakshmi of Naam Iruvar fame played the other major female role. After a few films, she married the multilingual producer K. Vasudeva Menon, the boss of Vasu Studios, and retired from films. She passed away some time ago. Valayapathi (Muthukrishnan) is a rich businessman sitting on tons of gold and even after being married for six years to Andhari (Jayalakshmi) he is not blessed with children. Consequently, he dislikes his wife and soon after, marries Sathyavathi (Janaki), the daughter of his friend Kanakavelalar (Perumal).

Expectedly, Sathyavathi becomes pregnant, and Andhari hates her and plans to create ill will in the mind of her husband and chase her away. She also tells her husband she is pregnant and brings a child born to her brother’s mistress. Andhari indulges in many subterfuges and creates doubts in her husband’s mind about the chastity of Sathyavathi, which results in the latter being driven out of the house. However, an elderly woman saves her, and Sathyavathi gives birth to a baby boy. Many years later, a tattoo on the boy’s body reveals the truth about him. After a few more twists, the husband takes back Sathyavathi and the son.

The film has a dance sequence performed by Chitra and choreographed by A.K. Chopra and K.N. Dhandayuthapani Pillai. Noted singers such as T.M. Soundararajan, S.C. Krishnan, A.L. Raghavan, K. Unjam Rani, K. Rani and A. Ratnamala lent their voices, but the songs did not become popular.

Despite the customary technical finesse of a Modern Theatres production and direction by Sundaram and Masthan, the movie did not do well at the box-office, much to the disappointment of the producers. The film was dubbed in Telugu as Savathi Poru, but it sank without a trace.

Remembered For The interesting storyline, ‘Sowcar’ Janaki’s debut performance in Tamil cinema, and the high-flown Tamil dialogue of Bharathidasan.

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