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Pavalakodi 1934

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Box office hit: Pavalakodi
Box office hit: Pavalakodi

M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar (debut), S. D. Subbulakshmi (debut), S. S. Mani and K. K. Parvathi Bai

Pavalakodi created history formany reasons - it marked thedebut of the first superstar ofsouth Indian cinema, ThyagarajaBhagavathar, and that of stageand movie star of the early decadesS. D. Subbulakshmi (laterMrs. K. Subramanyam). It alsosaw the introduction of the sadlyneglected pioneer of Indiancinema, lawyer-turned-filmmakerK. Subramanyam asdirector.

Though, according to scholars,the story of Pavalakodi andArjuna finds no mention in theMahabharata, it was a successfulplay in Tamil in which Bhagavatharmade a mark as a stageactor. Bhagavathar who reignedsupreme on stage after the earlydemise of the iconic S. G. Kittappahad ideas of turning producerwith this play, but SM.Letchumanan Chettiar (betterknown as 'Lena'), a drama contractorof Chettinad, persuadedhim to give up such plans andact in the film. It was producedby Meenakshi Cinetone and awealthy distributor Al. Rm. AlagappaChettiar was the movingforce behind it.

Al. Rm. and his partners had astudio in Adyar which later becameNeptune, Satya, (nowMGR Janaki College). It had nocompound walls then. One ofthe disgruntled partners tookadvantage of this situation andwould begin to sound his carhorn whenever Subramanyamsaid, "Start Camera"! Left withno option, the producersbought him out, but then a newcrisis arose. from the crows ofAdyar!

Adyar was more wooded thanit is now. Numerous crows hoveredover the food packsmeant for the cast and crew ofthe film. In those days, all involvedin a movie irrespective oftheir status ate the same food.

With shooting taking place inbright sunshine, the cast andcrew would break for food onlyif a cloud cast its shadow on thesun. The artistes would rush assoon as the cloud cleared, abandoningthe food packets, andthe crows would swoop down topeck at the food. Their incessantcawing interfered with therecording of dialogue and song(as artistes had to sing songs onlocation just as they delivereddialogue). The exasperated directorbrought on board an AngloIndian to shoot an air rifleinto the sky to scare the crowsaway before he started shooting.

That was not all. There wasa credit card in the titles, 'CrowShooter - Joe'. Perhaps the onlyone of its kind in movie history!The studio had no laboratoryand Subramanyam and his teamhad no way of knowing whethera shot had been properlycanned; they just hoped for thebest. Not an ideal way of makingmovies perhaps, but that washow our pioneers worked ..The post production was donein Bombay.

Bhagavathar and Subbulakshmiexcelled in their actingand singing (music composerPapanasam Sivan). The film wasa box office hit and establishedBhagavathar, Subbulakshmiand Subramanyam as stars ofTamil cinema.

A solitary print of this historicfilm is preserved at the NationalFilm Archive of India atPune.

Remembered for the debutof Bhagavathar, Subbulakshmiand Subramanyam, and for thefine music.

RANDOR GUY


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