C. Honnappa Bhagavathar, V. N. Janaki, U. R. Jeevaratnam, T. R. Ramachandran, M. S. Murugesam, T. S. Jaya, E. R. Sahadevan, K. S. Angamuthu, T. V. Sethuraman, V. P. S. Mani, Rajabala (later T. R. Rajani), M. A. Ganapathi Bhat, ‘Joker' Ramudu, ‘Loose' Arumugham, M. R. Swaminathan, K. P. (later Kottapuli) Jayaraman, S. A. Padmanabhan, Kalyani, P. B. Srinivasan and Chakrapani Ayyangar
R. Padmanabhan was one of the active filmmakers in the early decades of Tamil Cinema. A native of Sivaganga, he developed a keen interest in the growing motion picture business and had some kind of familiarity with Sri Lanka, dealing in distribution, exhibition and handling movie equipment. Moving to Madras, he established an office for his business interests and then understandably ventured into making motion pictures even during the Silent Era. He established a studio in the Triplicane area of Madras city, known as Associated Films Studio, where the popular Paragon cinema came up later. Today, even the theatre has vanished giving rise to high-rise apartments.
The credit for introducing lawyer-turned-filmmaker K. Subramanyam to the industry goes to Padmanabhan. That was not all. He brought the iconic figure of Indian Cinema Raja Sandow from Bombay to Madras where he made films and also acted in them. It is a matter of deep regret that Padmanabhan is forgotten today. He made films in Madras and Calcutta. Besides, he promoted the Italian technicians who worked in India. One of them, T. Marconi, was the cinematographer in almost all his films. Marconi was a familiar figure in Madras moving around on his heavy motorcycle. As he was fond of the spicy curd-based South Indian dish ‘Morekuzhambu', his friends called him ‘Morekuzhambu' Marconi! During the Second World War (1939-1945) he was detained as ‘an undesirable alien' for the mere reason that he was an Italian citizen!
During those early decades, many mythological movies were produced and one of them made by Padmanabhan was Devakanya.
In this film, a king's daughter (Janaki) wishes to learn all the arts. Her father fixes a palace courtier's son (Honnappa Bhagavathar) to teach her music, and to prevent any untoward happening, a curtain is hung between them! As it often happens, the curtain drops and the two fall in love and elope to lead their own lives. This causes a crisis in the palace and while in the forest the hero meets an angel (Jeevaratnam) who comes down to Earth along with her friends to have fun and also offer a magic fruit to someone she likes. That eventful day, she offers it to the hero who is transformed into an angel. She takes him away, creating a new heaven for his pleasure.
Unable to trace her lover, the missing princess joins a group of street gymnasts. An accident results in her death and her body is abandoned. The hero sees it and remembers his wife. With the help of the same magic fruit, the princess is brought back to life and the angel blesses them....
Honnappa Bhagavathar, a well-trained Carnatic musician from Karnataka, entered Tamil Cinema in the late 1930s in a modest way and finally became a key player following in the footsteps of M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, the superstar of the day. When Bhagavathar was imprisoned for his alleged role in the sensational Lakshmikantham Murder Case, Honnappa took over most of his films. He had a bright innings and turned producer which landed him in trouble. He went back to Karnataka where he made films and acted in theatre.
The young and pretty Janaki added to the visual appeal of the movie, while Jeevaratnam contributed with her singing talent.
Ramachandran contributed to the comedy as the half-wit who wishes to marry the princess! The film had an impressive cast comprising Swaminathan, Sahadevan, Jaya and others. Jayaraman, a heavyweight comedian, made an impact playing the role of ‘Kottapuli' and came to be known as ‘Kottapuli' Jayaraman, He had a successful career. Starlet Rajabala, who mostly appeared in dance sequences in the early movies, became a heroine and later played matriarchal roles under a new name T. R. Rajani.
Padmanabhan wrote the story and dialogue, assisted by Sundara Bhagavathar. The lyrics were by S. G. Chellappa, one of the brothers of the legendary S. G. Kittappa. The music composer was Palavangudi Sama Iyer who was active then. It was made under the banner of Padma Pictures at Pragjyothi Studios situated in Adayar, which vanished soon after the Second World War.
Remembered for the interesting storyline well-narrated on screen by Padmanabhan and the good performances of Honnappa Bhagavathar, Janaki, Jeevaratnam and Ramachandran.