Ranjan, Anjali Devi, M.K. Radha, T.S. Balaiah, P. Kannamba, E.V. Saroja, K.A. Thangavelu, E.R. Sahadevan, P.S. Veerappa, K. Sayeeram, M.M.A. Chinnappa Thevar, Nanjappan, T.V. Sethuraman, C.P. Kittan, ‘Baby’ Uma, ‘Master’ Vijayakumar, ‘Boy’ Ponnappan, ‘Baby’ Maragatham, Iqbal (horse) and Tiger (dog)
After the thumping success of the Gemini Studios-S.S.Vasan magnum opus Chandralekha (1948), this film consolidated Ranjan’s star status by becoming a hit. This production has an interesting ‘back story’ worth telling.
Chinnappa Thevar wanted to make a film with MGR and planned the screenplay and song situations accordingly. Much to his surprise, MGR did not give him dates for shooting as he was busy with several productions, including his home production Nadodi Mannan. Touched to the quick, Thevar brought Ranjan on board which upset MGR some more! During the making of B.N. Rao’s Salivahanan in which Ranjan played the hero and MGR the villain, there was some misunderstanding between the two especially while filming the stunt sequences.
S. Ayyapillai wrote Neelamalai Thirudan. The lyrics were by Thanjai Ramaiah Das, Marudhakasi and Puratchidasan with music by K.V. Mahadevan. Noted singers such as T.M. Soundararajan, Jikki, S.C. Krishnan, Ratnamala and Kasthuri lent their voices. Bombay-based cinematographer and filmmaker V.N. Reddi handled the camera assisted by C.V. Murthi. The audio recording was by noted audiographers A. Krishnan (Vauhini) and P.V. Koteswara Rao (then with Bharani).
The film was edited by M.A. Thirumugam, Thevar's brother who also directed the film assisted by another brother M.A. Mariappan, M.G. Balu Rao and P.S. Marimuthu. Shot at Vauhini Studios, Neelamalai Thirudan was a movie in the Robin Hood genre. A good-hearted brother (Radha) has a kind sister (Kannamba) and a villainous brother (Veerappa), who has his eyes on the family wealth. The kind brother has a son (Ranjan) and the sister, a girl (Anjali Devi). Aware of the evil brother’s plans, the good brother leaves home and entrusts his son to the care of his sister. Getting to know about his exit, the villain goes in search of him and his family and orders his henchmen to kill them. The boy now grown up (Ranjan) takes up the cudgels against the evil uncle. Like Robin Hood, he helps the downtrodden. How he exposes the villain and restores peace forms the rest of the plot.
A song filmed on the rural Robin Hood, ‘Sathiyamey lakshiyamaye kolladaa,’ became a hit. Marudhakasi penned the song, and Soundararajan sang it in an impressive manner. This song, which underlines the philosophy of life and the importance of helping the downtrodden and destroying the villains, became very popular and is often aired on television channels.
Ranjan’s performance à la Robin Hood contributed to the success of the film.
After this film, MGR and Thevar forgot their differences and came together to make several hits such as Thai Sollai Thattathey and Thaiyai Kaatha Thanayan. The two had known each other from their early days in Central Studios — MGR was on the studio rolls as an employee and Thevar was supplying milk to the studio canteen and played more than one role in their movies often without credit!
The two animal characters in the movie, Iqbal (the horse) and Tiger (the dog), liven up quite a few sequences. In a famous scene, Ranjan, who always rides the horse, is caught alone by his enemies in the woods. The dog follows him, notices his problem and rushes to the horse. The dog gets onto the horse and both ride away fast and rescue their master! The sequence never failed to raise cheers from the audience in those days.
Remembered for Ranjan’s impressive performance, pleasing music and the sequences featuring the horse and the dog.