Kalyankumar, Devika, M. N. Nambiar, S.V. Sahasranamam, Nagesh, Manorama, Padmini, Priyadarshini, Mali, Karikol Raju and Mahalingam

On November 26, 1935, an interesting news item appeared in The Hindu which attracted much attention. In it a nine-year-old girl named Shantha Devi residing in Delhi claimed that she remembered all the details about her previous birth in which she lived in the small town Mathura, hundred miles from Delhi. She gave several details — the name of her husband in that birth was Casey and she had a child, a female, after which she died. She also described the house in which she and her family lived and recalled many details about her domestic life and her child! Not many believed her statements, but a leading advocate thought why should a person not be able to recall details of the previous birth which the Hindus have always believed in. He got in touch with the husband, who was still alive, and the daughter in Delhi and Shantha Devi was able to recognise them immediately and gave details about their day-to-day married life. Casey also agreed that such events did take place and believed that Shantha Devi was the reincarnation of his wife in her previous birth.

There have been similar occurrences in 1939 in Palakkad, Kerala and places in Rajasthan which found coverage in local newspapers. Attracted by these unusual happenings, noted Indian filmmaker Sridhar worked on a screenplay built around these incidents and titled it Nenjam Marapathillai (‘The heart or soul never forgets!’)

This unusual storyline was made into an interesting film by Sridhar with Kalyankumar and Devika, the lead pair of his earlier success Nenjil Ore Alayam, in lead roles with Nambiar, Sahasranamam and others playing supporting roles. Nagesh and Manorama provided the comedy.

T.A. Satagopan, popularly known as ‘Chitralaya’ Gopu, was the associate dialogue writer assisting, while Sridhar’s brother C.V. Rajendran was the associate director. (Later, Rajendran made the grade as a multi-lingual filmmaker.)

The music was composed by Viswanathan-Ramamurthi. The lyrics were by the iconic Kannadasan assisted by his nephew Panju Arunachalam. Govardhan and Henry Daniel assisted the maestros in composing the music and the background score.

The film had brilliant cinematography by Sridhar’s associate and ace cameraman Aloysius Vincent, who later became a leading filmmaker and was assisted by P. N. Sundaram. Editing was by the master of his craft N.M. Shankar. The credit for the storyline was given to M.S. Kasi, son of the famous Jupiter Somu. The film was produced by M.S. Kasi Viswanathan under his banner Manohar Pictures.

Nenjam Marapathillai had many melodious songs sung off screen by T.M. Soundararajan, P.B. Sreenivos, P. Susheela, S. Janaki and L.R. Eswari. The title song, ‘Nenjam Marapathillai’ (PBS and Susheela), and ‘Azhagukkum Malarukkum,’ a duet by PBS and Janaki, became quite popular. The lead pair Kalyankumar and Devika gave impressive performances well supported by Nambiar and Sahasranamam. The pretty starlet of her day Padmini Priyadarshini played a supporting role. For a brief while, she enjoyed fame but opted out of movies shifting to Karnataka.

In spite of its unusual storyline and excellent on-screen presentation, the film did not fare as well as expected because many were sceptical about people having recollections of their previous birth.

Remembered for the unusual storyline, Sridhar’s masterly presentation, the excellent photography of Vincent, heart-warming performances by Devika and Kalyankumar and the pleasing music.