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Updated: December 10, 2009 15:57 IST

Vannakili (1959)

Randor Guy
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R. S. Manohar, Prem Nazir, B. S. Saroja, T. R. Ramachandran, D. Balasubramaniam, Mynavathi , T. P. Muthulakshmi, S. Rama Rao, M. Saroja, C. T. Rajakantham, C. K. Saraswathi, K. K. Soundar and Baby Uma

A successful movie with a rural storyline (Ra. Ve.) from the Modern Theatres stable, Vannakili, directed by noted filmmaker of yesteryear T. R. Raghunath, had an excellent star cast. Manohar, a stock villain in many Tamil films, played a tough guy who unleashes his belt at the slightest provocation, even against women.

The village rich man (Balasubramaniam), a widower with a college-educated daughter (Mynavathi) in love with her father's farmhand (Prem Nazir), has an eye on the farmhand's sister, Vannakili (Saroja). The brother, however, turns down the proposal of the rich man who suggests they could work out an exchange of alliances. Meanwhile, the village toughie falls for Vannakili, kidnaps her and marries her against her wishes. A woman of strong character and old world values, she becomes the obedient wife to her husband who whips her to sing for him!

She has a stepdaughter who refuses to acknowledge the new mother. With her good nature, the kind-hearted Vannakili transforms her husband and child, and solves all the problems, leading to her brother marrying the rich man's daughter.

Manohar excels as ‘Poochie', virtually carrying the film on his strong shoulders. Saroja as the submissive wife gives him good support, while handsome Prem Nazir underplays his role in his inimitable style. Balasubramaniam as the rich man is as good as ever. Mynavathi, the pretty younger sister of Pandari Bai, does well as the Malayalam superstar's sweetheart. T. P. Muthulakshmi and T. R. Ramachandran provide comic relief. Noted comedian S. Rama Rao (of ‘ayya theriyadhaiyya' fame!) is impressive as the rich man's henchman and ‘gofer' (a Hollywood expression which means one who goes for this and that!)

One of the plus points of the film is its melodious music (composer K. V. Mahadevan; lyrics Marudhakasi). Many songs became hits and continue to be popular even today. Those include ‘Kaattumalli poothirukka' (voice: Seergazhi Govindarajan) and ‘Adikkira kai thaan anaikkum' (voices: Tiruchi Loganathan and P. Susheela), a major hit excellently picturised by Raghunath.

Manohar, an import from the Madras city theatre circuit, had a successful debut as hero in R. M. Krishnasami's hit Rajambal (1950). After a few films as hero, he switched to character and villain roles. A Tamil theatre maestro, his excellent physique and fine delivery of dialogue impressed the Modern Theatres boss, T. R. Sundaram, who cast him in as many as 18 of his films, which no other actor had done for the company. Indeed, Sundaram cast him as hero in his swansong, Konjum Kumari (1963), during the making of which he passed away, his hundredth film. Manohar was one of his pallbearers.

Vannakili proved a success and added one more feather to the caps of the producer and the director. It is often revived on television with its CDs among the best selling. A memorable Tamil movie, indeed!

Remembered for: Manohar's excellent performance and pleasing music with a couple of hit songs.

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