M. G. Ramachandran, M. N. Nambiar, Chittoor V. Nagaiah, Anjali Devi, V. K. Ramasami, M. Saroja, T. P. Muthulakshmi and S. R. Janaki
During the Golden Age of Hollywood, Larry Parks was a sadly underrated hero who played swashbuckling roles in many period and action-packed movies. He became a victim of the notorious Senator McCarthy’s Hollywood communist “witch hunt” and was blacklisted as a ‘Pinko’.
One of his most successful movies was Gallant Blade (1948), about a dashing, young 17th Century lieutenant of France who rescues his General from a plot to destroy him. This movie had a successful run in Madras, and T. R. Sundaram, the underrated Indian movie mogul of Modern Theatres, adapted it in Tamil as Sarvadhikari. While Sundaram produced and directed it, the screen story was written by noted writer-journalist Ko-dha-sa (Ko. Dha. Shanmugasundaram) who later became the first editor of Dhina Thanthi. The dialogue was penned by writer A. V. P. Asai Thambi, who later dabbled in politics without much success.
An ambitious minister (Nambiar) with designs to topple the puppet king (Pulimoottai Ramaswami) finds the popularity of the commander-in-chief (Nagaiah) and his favourite soldier (MGR) a stumbling block. He sends a young woman (Anjali Devi) to seduce the soldier, but she falls in love with him. After several twists and turns, the evil minister is exposed and felled in an exciting duel with the hero. The commander is chosen as the first president of the kingdom, now a republic!
That was the period when MGR was beginning to make it big in the industry, and had worked with Modern Theatres in Manthirikumari, a major hit and now a cult film.
M. N. Nambiar, who became a star thanks to Sundaram with movies such as Digambara Samiyar and Manthirikumari, played the villain’s role with panache. Anjali Devi was glamorous, and acquitted herself creditably. She had appeared in lead roles in many Modern Theatres movies during that period. Nagaiah played the role of the commander in a dignified way. Modern Theatres had a unique method of making duplicate negatives (known as ‘dupe’ in Indian movie lingo) of interesting Hollywood sequences which were kept in the studio archive for use in their production. Sundaram also had a brilliant way — not followed by anybody else in India at that time — of storing portions of readymade sets such as pillars, staircases, facades and chandeliers which could be bolted with the main sets in a matter of minutes. Thus a lot of time, energy and money could be saved. That was how Sundaram was able to make a hundred movies in languages, including English, within a short period (a little over a quarter century).
(It is a matter of deep regret that the birth centenary of this movie mogul went virtually unnoticed by both the south Indian movie world and the media. Only The Hindu carried a homage article by this writer, who made a TV film on him in 2000 for the National Film Development Corporation, Madras.)
Remembered for the excellent onscreen narration by Sundaram and the impressive performances of Nambiar, MGR, Anjali Devi and Nagaiah.