Kalpana, B.S. Ravichandran (later Ravichandran), Nagesh, Manorama, A. Karunanidhi, ‘Pakoda’ Kadhar, V.K. Ramasami, V.S. Raghavan, A. Veerappan, ‘Kalla Part’ Natarajan, K.S. Angamuthu, O.A.K Thevar and Karikol Raju
‘Road’ movies are popular in the West, but rarely are such films made in India. It is a genre in which the main character or characters leave home to travel from place to place. They usually leave home to escape their current lives and meet with many adventures that have a profound impact not only on their lives but also on those they come across during their travel.
Popular road movies include Easy Rider, which created a sensation in America and elsewhere, especially among the youth of the Beat or Flower Power era, and Bonnie and Clyde, a story of criminals robbing people and having fun in the process. Both these films created history at many levels and also fared well in India. Another such film, If It’s Tuesday It must be Belgium enjoyed a 100-day run in Madras city.
An unusual film in this genre (script: Usilai Somanathan), Madras To Pondicherry was made in Tamil in the Sixties by the successful multilingual filmmaker, producer and studio owner A. Bhim Singh who created many classics in Tamil and Hindi.
This film was his production shot at Venkateswara Cinetone, the name he gave the historic Newtone Studios in Kilpauk, Madras, which he took on lease for a period. Sadly, the historic studio has vanished and the famed Rajaji School run by Bharathiya Vidhya Bhavan functions today on the site.
The film was directed by Thirumalai-Mahalingam, a talented duo brought into the limelight by Bhim Singh. They made quite a few films and this was one of them which proved successful.
In this film, a young woman (top Kannada movie star Kalpana who acted in a few Tamil films) leaves home because of her interest in a movie career which is kindled by a group of crooks. One of them shoots a member of his gang which she witnesses. To escape them, she jumps onto a running bus going from Madras to Pondicherry and then the fun starts.
The gangsters engage a man who boards the bus the young woman is in to eliminate her. However, a young man also gets in (Ravichandran, credited in this film as ‘B.S. Ravichandran’, his original name being B.S. Raman.) During his heyday, Ravichandran was a top star ranking only next to Sivaji Ganesan, MGR and Gemini Ganesan. Handsome, he played the hero in many movies with success and this was one of them.
He too travels on the bus with his pals and realises that the young woman is in trouble. He takes up the task of saving her and in the process falls in love with her. In the end, it turns out that he is her prospective bridegroom to avoid whom she leaves home!
There are many subplots involving interesting characters who travel on the same bus — the wisecracking conductor (Nagesh) and driver (Karunanidhi), a Brahmin couple (Veerappan and Manorama) with a thumb sucking, fat son crazy about ‘pakoda’ (Khader). His role attracted so much attention that he came to be known as ‘Pakoda’ Khader. He went on to act in quite a few films.
The film also had tuneful music (T.K. Ramamurthi), and a song filmed on Ravichandran (sung by T.M. Soundararajan) in the running bus with his friends playing Western instruments became popular (lyrics: Alangudi Somu, Panchu Arunachalam, Thanjai Vaanan and Namakkal Varadarajan).
The film was a success and was remade in Hindi by comedian Mehmood as Bombay To Goa. Mehmood was a great admirer of Nagesh and played many of his roles in the Hindi versions and this is one such. The lead role was performed by Amitabh Bachchan in one of his early roles and it fetched him name and fame.
(Not many are aware that Rajiv Gandhi was offered this role by Mehmood, but for many a reason he turned it down.) Veerappan, who plays the Brahmin, was a popular comedy writer and wrote comedy dialogues for many comedians such as ‘Gounda’ Mani and Senthil. Manorama, as the Brahmin woman, impresses in her inimitable style. Angamuthu also raises laughter…
Nagesh with his brand of comedy impresses a lot and so does the sadly underrated comedian Karunanidhi.
A road movie with a religious theme and background was later made by A.P. Nagarajan as Thirumalai Thenkumari which also fared well.
Remembered for the interesting storyline, subplots that raised laughs, pleasing music and fine portrayals by Nagesh, Manorama, Kalpana, Ravichandran and ‘Pakoda’ Khader.