M. R. Radha, Kalyankumar, Chittoor V. Nagaiah, C. R. Vijayakumari, ‘Kumari’ Rukmini, Muthuraman, Nagesh, Pushpalatha, M.S.S. Bhagyam, Pushpamala, Vijayan, ‘Karikol’ Raju and ‘Baby’ Chandrakala

A. L. Srinivasan, popularly known as ‘ALS,’ was a leader of South Indian Cinema with a brilliant track record as a producer, studio-owner, distributor, financier and talent scout. He was instrumental in introducing many directors to the industry, giving them their debut break which soon took them to the top of the ladder. The glittering list includes A. Bhim Singh, Puttanna Kanagal, K. S. Gopalakrishnan and P. Madhavan, who took his bow with Mani Osai. Madhavan, a graduate of the Madras University, was an assistant under the multifaceted filmmaker C.V. Sridhar. Written by Pa. Su. Mani, this film obviously owes its inspiration to the famed French writer Victor Hugo’s classic novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and its famous Hollywood version of 1939 featuring Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara. The hero of this movie is a hunchback with warts and lumps on his face, brilliantly portrayed by one of the top heroes of Kannada Cinema, Kalyankumar, who enjoyed a brief but bright innings in Tamil Cinema with movies such as Sridhar’s Nenjil Ore Alayam. An egoistic rich man (Radha) abandons his son (Kalyankumar) because of his physical imperfections and tells his wife (Kumari Rukmini) that the baby was born dead. He has another son (Muthuraman), who leads a lazy life often getting into trouble. He falls in love with his cousin (Vijayakumari), who is very close to the hunchback treating him like a brother. The hunchback hero sacrifices his all, taking the blame for others. He finally restores sight to the hero and dies. That’s when the father tells the world that he was his first born.

Radha as the hypocrite father played the role with his customary zeal and enthusiasm, while Rukmini offered able support. Pushpalatha shone in a supporting role. Kalyankumar excelled in his role as the hunchback. Muthuraman was also impressive.

The film had melodious music (composers Viswanathan-Ramamurthi; lyrics: Kannadasan; voices: P. Susheela, L. R. Eswari and Sirgazhi Govindarajan) and some of the songs such as ‘Payuthu Payuthu’, ‘Devan Koil Mani Osai’ and ‘Aaatukutti Aatukutti Maamaavai Paaru’ became popular. Madhavan showed much promise in his directorial debut which was amply evident later in his work especially with Sivaji Ganesan. Even though the film had catchy songs, brilliant performances and deft direction, it did not do well at the box office; the storyline was rather morbid with an ugly hero. That was the period of handsome heroes in Tamil Cinema such as MGR, Sivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesh and S. S. Rajendran. However, Mani Osai won much critical acclaim.

Remembered For the brilliant performances of Kalyankumar, Radha, Vijayakumari, Kumari Rukmini and Muthuraman, melodious songs and and Madhavan’s impressive direction.

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Kamadhenu 1941September 22, 2012