T. M. Sankaran, M. S. Muthukrishnan, Padma, T. P. Manoj Rao and Ambujam

Padma Jyoti was the second production of T. R. Sundaram's Modern Theatres, the first being Sathi Ahalya, in 1937. Released in August the same year, Sundaram introduced a new feature in Padma Jyoti, a first in Tamil Cinema, and most likely in Indian Cinema.

In the credits, when the name of the heroine, Padma, appeared, Sundaram had a cartoon of a woman's face moving, showing the varied emotions of the character — a path-breaking feature at a time when animation was virtually unknown to South Indian Cinema. In the absence of an animation camera, he obviously produced this effect using what is known as ‘single frame exposure.' The cartoon is done over and over again with each one showing a slight difference in expression and movement as may be necessary. Each frame is separately exposed in the camera using this technique, and when edited, the animation effect is achieved! The first cartoon short was produced by Gemini Studios and S. S. Vasan as an additional feature for the film Miss. Malini (1947). Titled ‘Cinema Kadhambham', the cartoon film running for 5 to 10 minutes had major stars of the day, Ranjan and Vasundhara who played the lead in the Gemini Studios' sensational hit, Mangamma Sapatham, making several movements onscreen. The cartooning work was done by noted cartoonist ‘Thanu', then on the rolls of Ananda Vikatan. The technical work was taken care of by K. Ramnoth. Years later during the 1960s, ‘Muktha' V. Srinivasan used the cartoon technique in the titles of his successful film Then Mazhai which attracted considerable attention. This was done by Mr. Nair who had an animation unit, and the outcome was humorous and highly interesting.

Coming back to Padma Jyoti, Padma, the heroine, is the daughter of a poor potter. While working on the potter's wheel she sings, which enrages the father. He shouts at her and sends her to the local village fair to sell the pots. On the way, the stones thrown by a young man at a fruit-laden tree happen to hit the pots breaking them. He immediately offers to pay for the damage. But Padma refuses to accept it for it was an accident. The hero, impressed with her good nature, is drawn towards her. A rich man attracted to Padma kidnaps her, but she manages to escape and joins her lover — both take refuge in a hut. The villain sets fire to the hut, leading to the interesting climax — a group of street entertainers save the lovers and take them to the police station, where the cops get them married! T. M. Sankaran played the hero, while another forgotten actor, Padma, played the heroine.

The film had 25 songs. One song in praise of the Bharata Matha became popular and was remembered by people for a long time.

Sundaram had a slogan in the advertisements that ‘the film highlights all the problems of India.' However, Padma Jyoti was only an average success.

Remembered for the patriotic storyline, music and the animation technique used for the first time in South Indian Cinema.

Keywords: Padma Jyoti