M.G. Ramachandran, K. Savithri, P.S. Veerappa, M.N. Rajam, O.A.K. Thevar, K.R. Ramsingh, J.P. Chandra Babu, T.P. Muthulakshmi, P. Susheela, A. Karunanidhi, S.M. Thirupathisami, ‘Master’ Murali, K.N. Venkataraman and N.S. Narayana Pillai

Ram Ganesh Gadkari was one of the leading playwrights of Maharashtra who created history within his short lifespan of 35 years. His most famous play was ‘Punya Prabhav,’ hailed as a classic of Indian theatre.

‘Punya Prabhav’ was adapted for the big screen by the cult figure of Tamil Cinema Kavignar Kannadasan as Mahadevi. The film was directed and produced by the sadly neglected figure of Indian Cinema, Sundar Rao Nadkarni.

Nadkarni, who hailed from Mangalore, was multi-faceted — an actor, editor, cinematographer, director, producer and more. His most successful film which created history is the M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar-T.R. Rajakumari-starrer Haridas (1944), which ran uninterruptedly for 114 weeks in a single cinema ‘Broadway’ in Madras City, witnessing three Deepavali festivals….

Nadkarni made Mahadevi under his banner ‘Sri Ganesh Movietone,’ named after his father-in-law Ganesh Rao, a well-known medical practitioner in Bangalore decades ago, to whom the movie is dedicated. B. Radhakrishna, his brother-in-law, was the co-producer. He worked with Nagi Reddi-Chakrapani and the Vijaya-Vauhini unit as production executive.

Mahadevi featured M.G. Ramachandran and Savithri in the lead roles. Actor-producer P. S. Veerappa played the villain. An interesting cloak-and-dagger romance about the intrigues in a royal family, Mahadevi proved a success. A Tamil king defeats his rival in battle, but impressed with his bravery, he treats him and his daughter (Savithri) as his guests. The king has an adopted daughter (Rajam) and a prince (‘Master’ Murali). His senior commander (Veerappa) lusts after the heroine (Savithri), who, however, chooses the junior commander (MGR).

The villain asks his sidekick (Chandra Babu) to kidnap the heroine at night, who makes a mess of it by kidnapping the other woman (Rajam). To cover up his folly, the commander marries her. The two women have children and the villain indulges in many subterfuges to seduce the heroine, but all his plans like blinding the hero and killing his child fail. In the process, he loses his own child. Shocked on learning the truth, he kills himself, and so does his wife.

The somewhat complicated tale was well narrated on screen by the talented filmmaker. Another contributing factor for the success of Mahadevi was its melodious music composed by Viswanathan-Ramamurthi and the lyrics were by Kannadasan, Thanjai Ramaiah Das, Marudhakasi and Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram.

Songs such as ‘Singara Punnagai,’ ‘Thanthana Paattu Padanum,’ ‘Kaa Kaa Mai Kondaa,’ ‘Thaayathu Amma Thaayathu,’ ‘Kurukku Vazhiyil’ and ‘Kamugar Nenjil’ became popular.

Remembered for the impressive performances by MGR, Savithri, Rajam and Veerappa, and the melodious songs.