Produced and directed by editor-turned-filmmaker R. S. Mani who also worked on the storyline (credit Mani Productions Story Department), Maaman Magal revolves around a rich widow and his only daughter Malathi (Savithri). The mother leaves a will stating the daughter should be married to her missing brother’s son who would inherit her considerable wealth. The rich man sends his friend, who has an eye on the young woman and her property, in search of him. The crook sets up his nephew as the missing man and the father decides to get the two married.

Meanwhile, another shy young man, who never looks any woman in the eye, becomes the heroine’s teacher. The two fall in love and decide to marry. Scared stiff, the villain (Balaiah) manages to get the young man dismissed from his job. His grandmother gives him magic armour which will make him tough and bold. The hero (Gemini Ganesh) returns to his heartthrob disguised as an elderly gardener. The will suddenly disappears and more complications crop up. However, truth surfaces as it always does, the villain is exposed and the lovers are united.

A predictable story, it was made into an interesting film by Mani. The dialogue was by Sridhar who had not yet graduated to filmmaking.

The film had many songs (music S. V. Venkataraman, lyrics Papanasam Sivan, Thanjai Ramaiah Das, Kambadasan, Surabhi, Atmanathan and V. Seetharaman). A number of playback singers lent their voices, including T. M. Soundararajan, A. M. Raja, P. G. Krishnaveni (Jikki), T. V. Ratnam and Rani. However, the film attracted public attention mainly because of the comedy by Chandrababu who played the fake cousin. T. S. Dorairaj, an underrated comedian, lent him excellent support. A comic song sequence involving Chandrababu and Dorairaj (‘Govaa maambazhamey, malgovaa maambazhamey...’) became a hit, where the former expresses his love for Savithri, looking at her photograph. A number of funny words such as ‘samaalakkidi girigiri…, saavuttu paaru vadakari…’ made the song famous!

Maaman Magal was a reasonable success and the comic duet is often telecast even today.

The romantic sequences involving Gemini Ganesh and Savithri electrified the screen. That was the period when their intimacy was no longer confined to the reel but was real, resulting in marriage.

D. Balasubramaniam as the widowed father was as good as usual. During those days he was one of the few actors who in spite of his theatre background played his roles cinematically, without exaggeration or overacting. He enjoyed a long innings as a character actor and travelled in a hand-drawn rickshaw he owned, a familiar sight in George Town where he lived. Many people owned such rickshaws in those days which had a bell at the foot which the owner would press like a horn!

Remembered for the lead pair’s romantic sequences, D. Balasubramaniam’s acting and the comic song sequence between Chandrababu and Dorairaj.

(This is the 100th article in this column)