K. T. Rukmini, K. Natarajan, Kulathu Mani, Babu, K. Kokila, K. T. Sakku Bai, S. Baasha
The practice of demanding dowry has been eating into the vitals of Indian society for many generations and continues unabated even after six decades of Freedom and many legislations being passed in the country. Even today, newspapers carry reports about dowry victims. Not surprisingly, this menace attracted the attention of filmmakers in the days gone by and one such film highlighting the burning issue was Jayakodi.
Not many are aware that the Hindi movie star, producer and director Bhagwan (of Albela fame) was active during the 1940s, making movies in Tamil and his biggest success was Vana Mohini. He made a fistful of Tamil films during that period and one was Jayakodi for which he also wrote the story and the screenplay. Produced by the South Indian United Artistes Corporation, the film had K. T. Rukmini as the heroine.
Slim and athletically built, she blazed a trail in the industry doing daring action sequences. Attired in pants and a full-sleeved shirt, she rode motorcycles, horses, jumped from vehicles and fought with men, holding revolvers. Her death-defying devil-may-care stunt sequences earned her the title ‘Stunt Queen.' According to her close friends, she had problems with vision and wore glasses when away from the camera. Her famous films include Menaka, Veera Ramani, Bhagya Leela and Jayakodi — the last mentioned made her a top star of her day.
The hero was K. Natarajan. He was fairly active but did not achieve the success people expected him to. In later years, he did act in a number of films in minor and supportive roles. His performance in this film earned him the prefix ‘Jayakodi' and he came to be known as ‘Jayakodi' Natarajan for the rest of his career.
The music composer was Ram Chitalkar. Soon after he blossomed as an iconic legend in Hindi cinema as C. Ramchandra! A good singer, he also sang several songs in Hindi movies off the screen. He worked with Bhagwan in his Tamil films, including the hit Vana Mohini.
Rajam (Rukmini) is a poor Brahmin girl. She remains unmarried because of the family's inability to offer dowry. A neighbouring family helps Rajam's family in times of need. Attempts to get her married even to a dumb boy fail miserably. Due to misunderstandings over money, a greedy moneylender kills Rajam's father and sets their home afire. Now Rajam rises in a new avatar as a social rebel and takes up the cudgels against dowry. She is now known as ‘Jayakodi' and prospective bridegrooms demanding dowry begin to vanish mysteriously making people wonder whatever happened to them! After solving many dowry problems, she marries a man after her heart (Natarajan) and the couple carry on their chosen battle against the menace.
This socially relevant film was greeted with success, and achieved a sort of cult status during that period. In later years, Rukmini gracefully retired from movies and married a senior doctor and professor attached to one of the top government hospitals of Madras city and led a happy, contented life.
Jayakodi is still fondly remembered by old-timers. Regrettably, no print of this movie exists.
Remembered for the socially relevant and significant storyline, and the brilliant performance of Rukmini and her daredevil stunts.