N.T. Rama Rao, Lalitha, Padmini, T.R. Ramachandaran, S.V. Sahasranamam, B.R. Panthulu, M. Saroja, M. Lakshmiprabha, D. Balasubramaniam, S.D. Subbulakshmi, V.K. Ramasami, ‘Kalla Part’ Natarajan, C.T. Rajakantham, K.S. Angamuthu, ‘Master’ Sudhakar, ‘Surabhi’ Balasaraswathi, Indra Acharya, K.S. Audhilakshmi, V. Suryakantham, ‘Baby’ Saraswathi, Ragini-Padmini-Kushalakumari (dance)

One of the most colourful personalities of South Indian Cinema, S. M. Letchumanan Chettiar, better known as Lena Chettiar or Lena, hailed from Managiri in Chettinad, now part of Sivaganga District. At first, Lena ran a successful business, buying and selling used cars. He circulated handbills about his vehicles in Tamil, then a novelty. Most rich Naattukottai Chettiars had no knowledge of English and were delighted to see ads about foreign cars in a language they understood well.

Besides, Lena had an interest in theatre, especially its business side He staged plays on contract, then known as ‘special dramas’ with noted stage stars such as M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar. Lena brought Bhagavathar to cinema with Pavalakodi (1934). Soon, he promoted Krishna Pictures in the early 1940s under which he produced several hits in Tamil and Telugu for nearly 15 years. During his heyday, he wielded enormous clout in the official and business circles of Madras Presidency. One of the successful films he produced was Marumagal (Daughter-in-law) in Tamil and Ammalakkalu in Telugu with N. T. Rama Rao playing the lead in both versions paired with Padmini.

Marugmagal is a complicated tale of two families with many characters sailing into it, creating complications for the lead pair, especially the heroine-daughter-in-law Shantha (Padmini). Rupa (Surabhi Saraswathi), sister of another major character (Sahasranamam) and a young woman, gets involved with a film director (Ramachandran) and becomes pregnant. The hero, Kumar (NTR), goes to Madras for studies and later abroad. With the help of his pals, he marries Shantha at the Registrar’s office despite strong opposition from their respective families. The in-laws begin to ill-treat Shantha on the advice of the mischief-mongers (Suryakantham and Angamuthu) whose main occupation is to spread rumours and split families. (Hence Ammalakkalu in Telugu!)

Rupa is helped by Shantha to have her child and the rumour-mongers spread stories that the child is Shantha’s through a lover while her husband is abroad. More complications arise and when the husband returns he gets to know about the story. When he goes to meet his wife, he is involved in an accident. In the climax, the child is dropped on the floor over a quarrel and when it cries, Rupa, the real mother, rushes to pick him up. She tells the truth and clears Shantha’s name.

Rama Rao and Padmini made an attractive pair and the song sequences featuring them riding bicycles became popular in both versions. Panthulu and Balasubramaniam play the parents of the lead pair. Baby Saraswathi (later Kumari Sacchu) and ‘Master’ Sudhakar play the lead characters in their childhood. There was also a dance sequence featuring Ragini, Padmini and Kushalakumari, choreographed by Hiralal who was popular then. The lyrics were by Udumalai Narayana Kavi, and the music was composed by C.R. Subburaman, G. Ramanathan and ‘Viswanathan-Ramamurthi and Party’.

Well-known cinematographer Bomman Irani wielded the camera. M.L. Vasanthakumari, P.A. Periyanayaki, Jikki, A.P. Komala, A. Ratnamala and A.M. Raja have sung the songs. One song sung twice by different voices, ‘Chinna chinna veedu katti,’ became popular.

The Tamil script was written by A.S.A. Sami, while the original story in Telugu was written by the celebrated Telugu screenwriter Sadasiva Brahmam. He was so famous for his stories that he was called Kathasiva Brahmam!

The film was shot at Revathi Studio and directed by the multilingual filmmaker Yoganand under the supervision of L.V. Prasad. (Revathi Studio, which was fairly active during that period, was owned and run by V. S. Raghavan, a well-known technician. The studio was later taken over by Nagi Reddy-Chakrapani and became part of the Vijaya-Vauhini Studio complex. Today a short, narrow street leading towards the old studio complex from the hundred feet road named ‘Revathi Street’ is all that remains.) Marumagal did fairly well at the box office, but the Telugu version did better thanks to the talented comedian of Telugu Cinema, Relangi, who played the role of Ramachandran. His song, a duet, became extremely popular in the Telugu-speaking districts of the day. The corresponding song in Tamil with T.R. Ramachandran did not make as much impact.

Remembered for the performances by Rama Rao, Padmini, Suryakantham and Angamuthu, and the pleasing music.