M. G. Ramachandran, P. Kannamba, Jamuna, Raja Sulochana, M. G. Chakrapani, D. Balasubramaniam, K. A. Thangavelu, E. R. Sahadevan, V. Gopalakrishnan, ‘Kaka’ Radhakrishnan and O. A. K. Thevar

Thaai Magalukku Kattiya Thaali (1959) was based on a story written by C. N. Annadurai and brought to the screen by cinematographer-filmmaker R. R. Chandran who was active in the industry during those years. Rama Arangannal, a follower of Anna, wrote the dialogue. A property grabber (M. G. Chakrapani) goes about killing people, setting fire to houses and doing other such dastardly deeds. A low born but strong-minded woman (P. Kannamba) takes up the cudgels against him for which she pays a heavy price — her house is burnt down and she is forced to move out with her daughter (Jamuna). She ekes out a livelihood, selling ‘aappams’ on the roadside. The daughter falls in love with an upper caste young man (M. G. Ramachandran) who is, however, against caste, community or religious barriers. He marries the poor girl in the registrar’s office without anybody’s knowledge. She also has a child by him. When the woman’s house burns, he, like the others in the village, presumes his wife is dead. To save his father from being blackmailed by the property grabber, he marries his daughter (Raja Sulochana). When she gets to know his first wife is alive, she sacrifices her life. Astonished by her revelation, the hero settles scores with the villain, and re-unites with his wife and child. When he meets Jamuna, he is surprised to find a ‘thaali’ around her neck as he did not tie it. The mother explains that it was to save her daughter’s honour that she tied the ‘thaali’ — hence the intriguing title! The film also had K. A. Thangavelu, O. A. K. Thevar, D. Balasubramaniam, R. Balasubramaniam, E. R. Sahadevan, V. Gopalakrishnan, Kaka Radhakrishnan and Alwar Kuppusami. M. G. Chakrapani as the villain was excellent. Unfortunately, though he acted in many movies, he didn’t hit the top spot like his charismatic younger brother MGR.

Despite his theatrical background, his performances were cinematic — he underplayed the roles, creating the required impact with subtle facial expression and deft dialogue delivery. One of his masterly performances was in Mahamaya, a Jupiter Pictures’ production featuring P. U. Chinnappa and P. Kannamba in the lead. Chakrapani played Kutilan, a manipulating villain who ruins lives — an excellent play on the name Kautilya, a master manipulator in history.

The music was by T. R. Papa and the lyrics by Udumalai Narayana Kavi, Kannadasan, K. T. Santhanam and Marudakasi. A few songs became fairly popular.

However, in spite of Anna’s reformist story and the cast (MGR, Kannamba and others), the film did not do well and people remember it mainly for its puzzling title.

Remembered for: its reformist theme and some melodious songs.