B. R. Panthulu, T. R. Ramachandran, Trichur Premavathi, T. Suryakumari, M. J. Andal, T. R. Upendra
Samsara Nowka (1935) was the first Kannada movie with a contemporary theme, known as ‘social' in the Indian cinema parlance. The film was based on a stage play, considered one of the biggest hits in the history of Indian Theatre. Written by H. L. N. Simha, this play is believed to have been staged more than 4,000 times all over South India. Kannada plays were popular even in non-Kannada speaking areas of the old Madras Presidency, including Madras City. The play was staged successfully at Soundarya Mahal on Govindappa Naicken Street, once a popular entertainment venue in the George Town area of the city.
K. Rajagopal Chetty and his brother Nanjappa Chetty (later of the Devi cinema group) made it into a Kannada movie, written and directed by Simha. The movie was also a major hit and created Kannada film history. The lead pair of the play and the film, B. R. Panthulu and M. V. Rajamma, came into Tamil movies and both became stars of South Indian cinema. Panthulu made a mark as a successful multi-lingual producer-director, while Rajamma enjoyed a long innings, first as a heroine, and later as a character actor excelling in maternal roles. In the Kannada movie, the hero wanders restlessly fighting against the problems of life.
This sequence was shot in the well-known Paanagal Park area of T. Nagar in Madras. As the harassed hero wanders, famed musician Dhandapani Desikar sings in the background a Pattinathar composition in Tamil, which reflects the hero's mental state. Isn't it difficult to believe that a Kannada movie could have had a song in Tamil? But those were the happy days when people appreciated art irrespective of the language.
The hero (Panthulu) marries the heroine (Premavathi) against his father's wish and is later falsely accused of murder. He almost loses his child even as his loving wife looks on helplessly. How the problems are solved form the rest of the film. His brother (Ramachandran) leads a decadent life encouraged by ‘Dikki' (Krishnamurthi).
The Tamil version produced by Star Combines and Pragathi Pictures turned out to be a pale shadow of the Kannada version, and was more a filmed play and not cinematic. The dialogue was by noted writer-director A. T. Krishnaswami (Arivali, Manam Oru Kurangu, Sri Valli and Sabapathi) and the film was directed by Simha himself but it did not do well as expected.
In the Kannada play and film, the most important character which created history was that of the evil genius ‘Dikki' (‘Kanyakumari Dikshit') immortalised by the brilliant character actor ‘Dikki' Madhava Rao. However, his character was totally scaled down, and played by ‘Vikatam' Krishnamurthi (MLV's husband and Sri Vidya's father), it made no impact.
In keeping with the post-Independence euphoria, Suryakumari sang two songs, ‘Vaishnava Janatho', and Gandhiji's favourite hymn ‘Raghupathi Raghava Raja Ram' (Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948). Somewhat ironically, these were the only features that attracted attention to the film.
Remembered for: the pleasing songs of Suryakumari.