T. R. Ramachandran, Kalpana, Nagesh, O. A. K. Thevar, S. V. Sahasranamam, Suryakala, Manorama, S. Rama Rao, S. R. Janaki, A. Veerappan, ‘Kutty' Padmini, ‘Master' Prabhakar, ‘Aazhvaar' Kuppusami, T. S. Balaiah, Chittoor V. Nagaiah and A. Karunanidhi

In late 1958, Madras (now Chennai) woke up to the shocking news of a bank official named Suryanarayana having been murdered in a moving car on the South Beach Road by two men who claimed to be his friends, while the third, another friend, drove the car. The two, hailing from northern India, made a living acting as ‘extras' (now called ‘junior artists') in the south Indian film world based in Kodambakkam. It was a conspiracy hatched by the three, particularly the car owner-driver, who knew the manager was carrying a large sum of money from the head office in Georgetown to his branch in T. Nagar. Known as ‘the Suryanarayana Murder Case,' it was a sensation reported in detail during the Sessions Court trial in English and local language dailies of the day. One killer managed to escape and has not been caught till today, while another was caught somewhere in northern India and was hanged to death later. The main conspirator also received a stiff sentence.

A. Bhim Singh, who made several hits and classics in Tamil and Hindi, had on lease the famous Newtone Studio in Kilpauk. Inspired by the murder case, he worked out a screenplay, giving it an interesting twist which made it a top-class crime thriller. He produced it, with his able assistants Thirumalai-Mahalingam directing it.

The bank manager (Ramachandran) with a happy family of wife and two kids meets an old friend (Thevar), a criminal, who plans to rob the bank locker and manages to get a duplicate key. The two travel in a car and the villain tries to rob his old pal of the cash in his possession. He resists and in the scuffle, the villain dies! Shocked, he abandons the body in the car and escapes not knowing what to do. The murder becomes a sensation with the police on the lookout for the poor bank manager who they think is the killer. Unable to contact his family, he lands in a circus show by accident where he is forced to become a performer!

However, truth triumphs in the end and the bank manager, cleared of the charge, unites with his family. Ramachandran, the comedy star and excellent character actor, excelled as the fall guy. Nagesh, then making his way up the ladder of success, played a family friend, while Kalpana played the heroine. Popularly known as ‘Minugu Tharey' (twinkling star), Kalpana dominated Kannada Cinema, appearing in many box office hits and classics with some of them being directed by noted filmmaker Puttanna Kanagal. Sadly, she died under mysterious circumstances in a lonely traveller's bungalow. Thevar, an excellent character actor with a good physique, played the criminal. Somehow, the recognition he deserved never came his way till the end. The banker's kids were played by ‘Kutty' Padmini and ‘Master' Prabhakar. A song with them, Nagesh and the others, ‘A for Apple… B for Biscuit… C for Chocolate…' (lyrics: Thanjai Vaanan; voices: A. L. Raghavan, L.R. Eswari and chorus), became popular.

The band of comedians, besides Nagesh and Manorama, like Rama Rao (of ‘Ayyaaa theriyathaiyya' fame), Veerappan and Kuppusami lent solid support to the film. Thirumalai-Mahalingam invested the film with suspense, while not forgetting the family sentiment. They made some successful movies, but for some reason they did not make it to the top. The music composer was T. K. Ramamurthi of the Viswanathan-Ramamurthi duo, and his work contributed to the popularity of the film which won critical acclaim.

Remembered for its interesting storyline with its surprising twist, pleasing music and excellent performances by Ramachandran, the kids, Nagesh and Kalpana.

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At WorkSeptember 24, 2010