Sivaji Ganesan, Sowcar Janaki, Manimala, Jayalalitha, Ravichandran, Major Sundararajan, T. S. Muthaiah, Pandari Bai, Nagesh and Sundari Bai
Many years ago in the United States of America, a truck driver plying between two cities had a wife in both cities, legally married, with the first wife having no knowledge of the second. He died in an automobile accident and the insurance company was more than surprised when it received claims from both wives, each proving their legal claim. Not surprisingly, this unusual event in Christendom made headlines not only in America but in many other parts of the world and human interest stories appeared in leading magazines. As it received enormous publicity, the insurance company paid both widows!
Playwright and screenwriter Liam O’Brien wrote a hit play, ‘The Remarkable Mr. Penny Packer’, based on the incident, and it was expectedly made into a movie with noted Hollywood star Clifton Webb in the lead. The movie proved a success and fared well even in Madras. Noted short story writer on the staff of Gemini Studios and a close associate of S. S. Vasan, Veppatthur Kittu wrote a screenplay adapting the Hollywood movie to Indian conditions and approached Sivaji Ganesan to play the man with two families.
The Tamil film superstar refused to play the elderly role for reasons which had better remain untold!
Left with no option, Vasan made it in Hindi Grihasti (1963) with the evergreen star Ashok Kumar playing the lead. The film proved a box office bonanza and by sheer chance Sivaji Ganesan saw the movie in Bombay. He offered to act if Kittu and Vasan did a Tamil version. At once Vasan announced the movie and that’s how Motor Sundaram Pillai came to be produced.
Changes were made to the local version, with the second wife being the first wife’s sister who dies leaving the children whom the father takes care of without the first wife’s knowledge. Sensing that something is wrong, the first wife (Janaki) visits the second wife’s (Manimala) house and is stunned to see her sister’s photograph on a wall! Naturally reconciliation takes place and the first wife takes care of the entire family, and all is well that ends well.
Jayalalitha plays Sivaji Ganesan’s daughter in love with Ravichandran and both look attractive. The family story with the required dose of sentiment was excellently narrated on screen by Balu (Balu, Vasan’s son, and not Balu Mahendra as mentioned in many data bases!) who made the movie with all the ingredients and moving touches of a Gemini Studios movie.
Motor Sundaram Pillai was a major success running to 100 days in many places.
If one watches the Tamil movie carefully, one would see the small car used by Sivaji Ganesan bearing a Bombay registration showing that the car used in the Hindi version was used in Tamil too!
The film also had tuneful songs (M. S. Viswanathan). A Carnatic music-based song “Maname Muruganin mayil vaahanam…” (voice R. Jayalakshmi, lyrics: Kothamangalam Subbu) and a lilting melody, “Kaathirundha Kangaley…” (P. B. Sreenivos and P. Susheela, lyrics: Vaali) picturised on Jayalalitha and Ravichandran became big hits.
Remembered for the gripping storyline, first class performance by Sivaji Ganesan who was well supported by Sowcar Janaki and tuneful music of M. S. Viswanathan.