Pushpavalli, Kothamangalam Subbu, Sundari Bai, N. Seetharaman and ‘R.G.’
Miss Malini (1947) is one of the finest social satires to have been made in South Indian cinema. However, it came ahead of its time and therefore did not receive the appreciation it so richly deserved. R. K. Narayan wrote the story.
Miss Malini created at least one immortal character ‘Sampath’. Life is a constant struggle for Malini, a poor young woman with an ailing father.She reluctantly accepts stage actor-friend Sundari’s suggestion to go on stage, and joins her theatre group, Kala Mandhiram. Success smiles on her and she soon becomes an idol of the masses. Sampath, a suave swindler, befriends Malini and takes control of her life. He persuades her to start her own theatre company. A puppet in his hands, Malini severs ties with those who have helped her in the past such as Sundari. Soon she is in debt and back at the bottom of the ladder. Sampath abandons her. Sundari and others come to her rescue and Malini goes back to Kala Mandhiram and begins her life anew, sadder but certainly wiser!
Miss Malini created an excellent impact on the minds of intellectuals in South India but as it lacked the ingredients that would make it a box-office success — love, sex and action — it did not attract the common man and woman, especially those in rural areas. The cast had Pushpavalli in the title role, Sundari Bai as her friend and Kothamangalam Subbu as Sampath. Kothamangalam Subbu wrote and directed the film and his performance as the cheat is considered as one of the finest portrayals of suave villainy ever seen in South Indian cinema.
Others in the cast included N. Sitaraman as the director of Kala Mandhiram. Later he became famous as ‘Javert’ Sitaraman.
In a walk-on role as the assistant director of the drama company, appeared a tall, slim, handsome young man credited in the titles as ‘R. G.’ He was Ramaswamy Ganesan, a Science graduate, then working in the Gemini Studios — Casting Department. This was his debut and soon he would blossom as one of the top stars of South Indian cinema — Gemini Ganesan!
Miss Malini made gentle fun of the many aspects of life in Madras during the Second World War years (1939-1945) — shortage of commodities, high prices, social mores, high fashion living and preferences. Kothamangalam Subbu’s dialogue was witty and incisive.
Music was a plus-point for this film and many songs became popular such as “Kaalaiyiley ezhunthiruntha kattayodey azhuganam...” (sung by Sundari Bai and penned by ‘Surabhi’). Celebrated South Indian film music composer Saluru Rajeswara Rao and Carnatic musician Parur S. Anantharaman composed the music. Miss Malini didn’t fare so well at the box-office. Later Vasan commented that making films for intellectuals would not bring money. It was a lesson he learnt by making Miss Malini. Sadly no print of this film exists today.
Remembered for: its music, Gemini Ganesan’s debut and as a film that appealed to the intellectuals in South India.