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Updated: October 27, 2012 16:31 IST
BLAST FROM THE PAST

Vanangamudi 1957

Randor Guy
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Performance-driven Vanangamudi.
Performance-driven Vanangamudi.

Sivaji Ganesan, K. Savithri, Pasupuleti Kannamba, M. K. Radha, Rajasulochana, M. N. Nambiar, Chittoor V. Nagaiah, K. A. Thangavelu, M. Saroja, M. R. Santhanam, Nott Annaji Rao, ‘Gemini' Balu and Helen (dance)

Savithri was a talented star in South Indian Cinema. She excelled in playing a variety of roles, each with its unique characteristics and sentiment. Hailing from Andhra Pradesh, she began her career in a modest manner as an extra — one in a group of girls in a car sequence in the successful Telugu film Samsaram directed by the iconic L. V. Prasad. Later, she did a short dance sequence in Pathala Bhairavi. From such modest beginnings, she reached the zenith of success, playing lead roles in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi movies, many of which were big hits. She also did a few Malayalam movies. She married the top Tamil film star ‘Gemini' Ganesan, with whom she acted in ‘Manampol Mangalyam' (1953), the first movie where ‘Gemini' played the hero. Savithri was compared to the top star of Indian Cinema, Hindi film actor Meenakumari. One of her successful movies in Tamil was Vanangamudi. Written by the Tamil scholar-turned-filmmaker, producer and studio-owner, A. K.Velan, it was directed by veteran multilingual filmmaker P. Pullaiah. Hailing from Nellore, he entered filmdom after graduation and worked in Kolhapur, enjoying the rare privilege of being associated with the founding father of Indian Cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke. Pullaiah, a tough no-nonsense guy, directed films in Telugu and Tamil with many hits such as Manam Pol Mangalyam, and Vanangamudi was one such box office success of his.

The film revolves around a king (Radha) and a talented sculptor (Sivaji Ganesan). Chitrashilpi, the sculptor, could make stones sing and dance with his artistic touch. Son of the king's bodyguard (Nagaiah), whose kind-hearted wife is played by Kannamba, he meets the princess (Savithri) in a forest and falls in love with her. However, each is not aware of the other's identity.

Enters the villain (Nambiar) who has an eye on the throne and the princess. He has a mistress — a court dancer with a heart of gold (Rajasulochana). He employees all the tricks in his bag to get his desire fulfilled. He throws the sculptor in prison and introduces a princess-look-alike, a tribal girl (Savithri, again) and pulls the wool over the eyes of the king and marries the fake princess!

After many events, somewhat predictable, the hero exposes the villain and happiness is restored inthe royal family.

The film had melodious music composed by G. Ramanthan, with lyrics by Thanjai Ramaiah Das. One of the songs in the Carnatic raga ‘Thodi', ‘Ennai Pol Penn', rendered by P. Susheela with much feeling attracted attention. Even Carnatic musicians considered it the best film song composition in Thodi. The popular comedy pair, Thangavelu-Saroja, provided the laughs and there was a sizzling dance number by Helen (choreographer K. N. Dhandayuthapani Pillai).

The film was produced by Saravanabhava–Unity Pictures, which had some links to the famous Jupiter Pictures. One of the producers, A.K. Balasubramaniam, was a son-in-law of the famed ‘Jupiter Somu', while the other was C. Sundaram who rose from the lowest rungs to achieve success, before sliding down the grease pole.

Well-known singers M. L. Vasanthakumari. P. Susheela, Jikki, T. M. Soundararajan, Sirgazhi Govindarajan, A. M. Raja, T. V. Ratnam and S. C. Krishnan lent their voices to the songs. The film had pleasing photography by P. Ramasami who had done good work in Coimbatore Central Studios. This film was shot at Neptune Studios which was taken on lease by Jupiter Pictures after they shifted to Madras. This studio no longer exists and the historic site now owned by the MGR family houses the MGR College for Women.

Remembered for the excellent performances by Sivaji Ganesan, Savithri and Nambiar and the melodious music.

Keywords: Vanangamudi

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