R. Muthuraman, Kalyankumar, Devika, Nagesh, Manorama, ‘Kutty’ Padmini and V.S. Raghavan

Nenjil Ore Alayam is one of the classics of Tamil cinema which was remade successfully in Hindi (Dil Ek Mandir), Telugu (Manase Mandiram) and Kannada (Kunkuma Rakshe). C. V. Sridhar made this film in the early part of his brilliantly successful multilingual career and created history at many levels.

Nenjil Ore Alayam revolves around a young woman (Devika), her husband (Muthuraman) and a doctor (Kalyankumar) who was earlier her lover but whom she could not marry for many reasons.

When the husband falls almost incurably sick, she brings him to Madras to meet a specialist who to her shock and surprise turns out to be her former boyfriend! Realising that something is worrying her, the husband gives her the freedom to marry her boyfriend after his death which everyone believes is almost certain. The doctor, however, takes a lot of pains doing research and succeeds in saving the husband’s life and, in a dramatic twist, lays down his life.

Woven into the story is another episode of a cute girl (Kutty Padmini), who is in the hospital undergoing treatment and becomes the darling of everybody. Sadly, her fate is otherwise…

This was the film that gave Nagesh a big break. He soon blossomed forth as a top comedy star who dominated the comedy scene in Tamil cinema for years and continues to do so even after his demise……

This dramatic story was scripted by Sridhar who was an excellent screenwriter too. The film was shot in a record time of four weeks. Sridhar thus proved that movies could be made fast with new faces, limited sets and low budgets if one had an interesting, emotionally rich story. The cast had Muthuraman, Devika (not yet a star) and Kalyankumar (original name Venkatarangan from Basavanagudi, Bangalore), an excellent actor.

(Not many are aware that a few years ago, the California-based Indian filmmaker Jag Mundhra was keen on remaking Dil Ek Mandir in English and Hindi, effecting some marginal changes in the film treatment. This writer took Mundhra to Sridhar only to learn that Sridhar had assigned it to a film financier for a paltry sum, for eternity. The assignee demanded an exorbitant fee for giving up the rights, which amounted to 75 per cent of Mundhra’s budget!)

Besides the triangular love story, Nenjil Ore Alayam had excellent music by Viswanathan-Ramamurthi and innovative cinematography by Aloysius Vincent who had a penchant for unusual angles, then a novelty in south Indian cinema. Many songs such as ‘Ninaipathellam Nadanthuvittal’ (voice P.B. Srinivas; it had excellent background orchestration), ‘Mutthana Mutthallavo,’ ‘Enna Ninaithu Yennai,’ ‘Sonnathu Neethanaa’ (all rendered by P. Susheela) and ‘Engirunthalum Vaazhgaa’ (A.L. Raghavan) became popular. The lyrics were by Kavignar Kannadasan. This film was remade in Kannada as Kunkuma Rakshe, with Rajinikanth in one of his early roles, directed by S.K.A. Chari.

Sridhar studied in Chinglepet where he wrote, staged and acted in high school plays and later worked in Madurantakam as a government servant. He wrote Ratthapaasam, a play which was staged by the famous TKS Brothers who also made it into a film. Thus he moved to Madras and made a name as a dialogue writer and worked on the scripts for movies such as Maheswari (1955, T.R. Sundaram-T.R. Raghunath), Amara Deepam (1956, T. Prakasha Rao), Maadhar Kula Maanikkam (1956, T. Prakasha Rao), Enga Veetu Mahalakshmi (1957, Adurthi Subba Rao) and Uthama Puthiran (1958, T. Prakasha Rao). The last mentioned was a Venus Picture production in which Sridhar was a partner.

Somewhat shy and retiring by nature, Sridhar had no airs and led a disciplined life with his regular evening Marina Beach drives in his open maroon Standard Herald with his alter ego ‘Chitralaya’ Gopu seated beside him. He ran his office in a systematic way, something unheard of in film companies of that era. Files were meticulously maintained and no letter addressed to him or his company went without a reply.

A star maker, he gave the much-needed break to many aspiring actors including Muthuraman, Jayalalitha, Srikanth, Major Sundararajan, ‘Vennira Aadai’ Murthi and ‘Vennira Aadai’ Nirmala.

Remembered For: its excellent music and impressive performances by Muthuraman, Devika, Kalyankumar, Nagesh, Manorama and child artiste Padmini.