Padmini, Lalitha, S. V. Sahasranamam, T. S. Balaiah, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Mathuram and T. S. Durairaj
After his 30-month sojourn in prison following the sensational Lakshmikantham Murder Case, N. S. Krishnan quickly regained his popularity in Tamil cinema. In fact, his star shone brighter and he soon came to be hailed as a cult figure, what with his political links and reformist attitude. His film Manamagal was socially relevant and explored the status of women in Hindu society and the problems they faced for no fault of theirs.
Based on a popular Malayalam play ‘Suprabha’ by noted playwright Munshi Paramu Pillai, Manamagal had dialogue by Mu. Karunanidhi. NSK directed the film, besides playing the role of a social reformer. The title refers to the heroine (Padmini) who chooses to remain a bride and never a wife because of the lecherous nature of her husband (T. S. Balaiah). Circumstances force her to marry him while her ‘to be husband’ (S. V. Sahasranamam) is away in England for studies. The villain is a musician who teaches Padmini and her married friend, Lalitha, (who is also his mistress) when the lover returns, leading to a climax — the heroine discards her namesake husband and in a reformative gesture marries her boyfriend.
The original Malayalam play has some common ground at least thematically with the classic V. Shantaram’s Shantha Apte-starrer Duniya Na Maane in which the heroine married to a man old enough to be her father chooses to remain a bride and never a wife.
The highlight of the film was its melodious music by C. R. Subbaraman, who came up with many hits, one of them becoming an immortal melody in Tamil cinema, ‘Ellam inba mayam…’ (M. L. Vasanthakumari and P. Leela; lyrics: Udumalai Narayana Kavi). Other popular songs were ‘Chinnanchiru kiliye Kannamma…’ (MLV and V. N. Sundaram; lyrics: Subramania Bharati) and ‘Nalla Penmani…’ (T. A. Mathuram; lyrics: Udumalai)
NSK also has a futuristic utopian play in the movie, ‘Eympathum Arupathum’ which proved popular.
In the film, NSK introduced a technical innovation by showing the behind-the-screen-technicians on screen (one of them was a slim Mu. Karunanidhi!), a novelty in those days. A huge success, the film was dubbed into Telugu as Pelli Kuthuru.
This was Padmini’s first film as heroine. T. A. Mathuram played a poor widow seduced and abandoned by the villain whom N. S. Krishnan protects. NSK runs a school teaching boys lessons in life. The film was edited by ‘Punjabi,’ (Panju of the famous directorial duo Krishnan-Panju who was intimately associated with NSK in his film ventures and also directed Paithiakkaran, the first film NSK acted in after his release from prison.
Remembered for: its scintillating music based on Carnatic ragas, with the MLV- P. Leela duet, ‘Ellam inba mayam…’ attaining iconic status.