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Updated: October 26, 2012 18:19 IST
BLAST FROM THE PAST

Doctor Savithri: 1955

Randor Guy
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A still from Dr. Savithri
The Hindu
A still from Dr. Savithri

Anjali Devi, M. N. Rajam, S. Balachandar, Serukalathur Sama, D. Balasubramaniam, M. N. Nambiar, S. A. Asokan, B. R. Panthulu, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Mathuram and Sayee-Subbulakshmi (dance)

Savithri, according to Hindu epics, is considered the epitome of chastity, grace and all that is good in a woman to whom her husband is all. Savithri’s husband Satyavan dies young and when the Lord of Death Yama comes to take away his body, Savithri argues with him successfully and Yama is forced to bring him back to life. This familiar epic tale was made into a memorable Tamil movie during 1941 by the celebrated multilingual filmmaker and star Y. V. Rao playing the husband, popular Hindi and Marati star Shantha Apte playing Savithri and the iconic legend M. S. Subbulakshmi donning the role of Sage Narada.

Years later, this tale was given a modern twist and rehashed by the lawyer-turned-filmmaker T. G. Raghavachari, who wrote the story, screenplay and also the dialogue (along with Elangovan and Velan) of the movie under discussion. Besides being a successful lawyer, he was a scholar, amateur stage actor and playwright, with an interest in films.

He saw films from Hollywood and elsewhere and, unlike others, studied them, even taking notes. Later he turned filmmaker with superhits such as Mangamma Sapatham (1943) and Apoorva Sahotharargal (1949) to his credit. In tune with the times, which treated movies as dirty, vulgar business, he hid his name — T. G. Raghavachari — from the public and signed his films as “Acharya”! The most knowledgeable man of his day about movie making, Raghavachari is today sadly forgotten. (Not many are aware that the Gemini Studios’ magnum opus, Chandralekha (1948), was indeed the brainchild of Raghavachari. He wrote the screen story and directed many parts of it, including the most popular drum dance sequence. Over a minor misunderstanding with Vasan, he walked out of the film, and Vasan completed it to create history.)

In this film, Savithri is a doctor who provides free treatment to poor people and is married to a good man (Panthulu). The couple help a rich young woman (Rajam) who is under the clutches of an unscrupulous lawyer (Balasubramaniam). A doctor (Balachandar) who is also under his thumb is forced to live in disguise as a Sikh.

One day, when the lawyer is found murdered, the doctor’s husband is arrested for the crime. To save her man from the gallows, the modern-day Savithri becomes a detective and using several methods proves him innocent.

Anjali Devi, the multilingual star, played Dr. Savithri with great impact. Besides being attractive, she is also highly talented which comes to the fore in this role as the doctor-turned-detective. A suspense thriller with interesting developments, this film was produced by Aruna Films, a partnership company in which the main force was the talented cinematographer-turned-filmmaker, producer and studio owner R. M. Krishnaswamy. Familiarly known as RMK, he was a disciplinarian and made several successful films such as Rajambal and Thookku Thookki, his biggest hit.

It turns out that the fake Sikh is the real killer who had been blackmailed by the unscrupulous lawyer and he confesses to the doctor who proves her man is innocent.

Directed by RMK, it had music by G. Ramanathan with lyrics by Udumalai Narayana Kavi and Marudhakasi. A couple of songs were sung by N. S. Krishnan with T. A. Mathuram and one of them, ‘Kaasikku ponaalum,’ became popular.

Dr. Savithri was a successful film and helped establish Aruna Films as a successful production unit of the 1950s and RMK began to climb the ladder of success fast.

Remembered for: the interesting storyline, brilliant performance of Anjali Devi and excellent photography of RMK.

"Randor Guy" is an amazing film historian and the Tamil movie buffs are truly indebted to him for his meticulous recall and critical comments about vintage films. Incidentally, I was browsing the google about Kalidasa, the great ancient Sanskrit dramtist. In Wikipedia, there is a detailed write-up about Kalidasa and in the course of comments someone has mentioned about the film "Sakuntala" in Hindi produced by Baburao Patel. But there is no mention of "Sakuntala" directed by the American Ellis R. Dungan and starring the great M. S. Subbulakshmi and G. N. Balasubramaniam. Immediately I thought of "Randor Guy". If he can contribute to Wikipedia and fill the lacuna, the record will be set right. Will he read this and will he be interested in doing it? As everyone knows, anyone can contribute to Wikipedia without Waiting for an invitation to contribute.

from:  Ram Venkat
Posted on: Aug 6, 2012 at 08:48 IST
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