T. K . Shanmugham, T. K . Bhagavathi, M.V. Rajamma, K. R. Ramasami, M. S. Draupadhi, ‘Friend’ Ramasami, P. G. Venkatesan, K. N. Kulathu Mani and A. R. Sakunthala
Gumasthavin Penn, a memorable Tamil movie, turned out to be the biggest grosser of 1941 — it competed with 29 other movies produced that year in that language.
One of the famous novels of Bengali writer Nirupama Devi is ‘Annapoornika Mandir’, which was translated into many Indian languages and English. Shanmugam, the most famous of the TKS Brothers, saw the Malayalam play of the novel, and staged it as “Gumasthavin Magal” in Tamil — his brother T. K. Muthusami wrote it. C. N. Annadurai wrote a glowing review of the play in Kudiyarasu.
Buoyed by its success, the TKS Brothers produced it as a movie in association with Murthi Films bankrolled by S. S. Vasan under his Gemini Pictures Circuit banner.
Interestingly, Vasan who watched the play told Shanmugham that the artiste who played the heroine could reprise the role in the movie. He was stunned when the ‘actress’ turned out to be a man doing the female role. That was the later day famed Tamil filmmaker and star A. P. Nagarajan!
The film narrated a tale of two sisters, Seetha (Rajamma) and Sarasa (Draupadhi). Their father Ramaswami (Subbaiah Pillai) who works as a clerk under a rich philanderer Mani (Bhagavathi) is unable to get them married. Ramu (Shanmugham), another rich man in the village, is an idealist with reformist ideas. He is against marriage for it would interfere with his ideals. Ramu’s mother wishes to get him married to Seetha. But Ramu refuses, and the desperate father gets her married to a doddering old man (‘Friend’ Ramasami). The poor woman becomes a widow even before the wedding ceremony is over. Mani tries to molest her one day, but Ramu saves her. Unable to bear the agony, Seetha commits suicide. Ramu feels he is responsible for her tragic end, and comes forward to arrange Sarasa’s marriage. When the bridegroom and his family walk out over an argument over dowry, Ramu steps in and marries Sarasa.
The comedy track proved to be the highlight of the film which was indeed a revengeful spoof attacking the noted director of the day, P. V. Rao. Lacking discipline, Rao made a mess of TKS’s earlier film Balamani and to get even they created a director in this film calling him ‘V. P. Var’ (reversing his name!) This role played by KRR is hilarious, proving the talented star’s flair for comedy too.
The movie was a mammoth success, and led to youngsters raising their voices wherever girls were being married to old men as second or third wives. Annadurai even wrote a sequel titled ‘Seetha Vidhavaiyaanappin’, in which Seetha marries again and shoots her husband when he proves to be a womaniser.
The film was directed by B. N. Rao and K. V. Srinivasan (credited as KVS Vas). (Srinivasan, a cousin of the noted filmmaker K. J. Mahadevan, made some films and wrote some. However today he is totally forgotten.)The assistant director was ‘S. Panjabi’ who later rose to be one of the top filmmakers of Indian Cinema — Panju of Krishnan-Panju fame. The film was well photographed by Rustom M. Irani. The music was composed by Narayanan and Padmanabhan Party.
One song by P. G. Venkatesan (known as the ‘Saigal of south India’) as a beggar, “Paarai maanida… mooda… paarai” became a hit.
Some years ago, when the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce produced a souvenir in which South Indian movies were indexed, this movie appeared under ‘C’ as “Clerk’s Daughter” and there was no entry under ‘G’ as “Gumasthavin Penn”!
Remembered for: its interesting storyline, impressive performances by Rajamma, Shanmugham and KRR.