Sivaji Ganesan, Pandari Bai, ‘Javert’ Seetharaman, P. D. Sambandham, Suryakala and T. K. Balachandran
Andha Naal created history in Tamil cinema as the first movie sans song, dance or stunt sequence and is still being talked about. It is impossible for any producer to even dream of making such a movie today! The emerging Indian movie mogul AV. Meyyappan created history when he produced Andha Naal, which was less than 12,500 feet long, while most Tamil films of that day were 15,000 feet and above. The film was written and directed by the multi-faceted S. Balachandar who later attained fame as a veena player. The dialogue was written by ‘Javert’ Seetharaman and the film was photographed by talented lensman Maruthi Rao.
Many people to this day are under the impression that the film was an adaptation of the Akira Kurosawa classic Rashomon. Interestingly, the Japanese film was released in theatres in India soon after it created history in the international movie circuit and in the first international film festival held in India in 1952, thanks to the efforts of Pandit Nehru. The Japanese film was a brilliant narration of a single event seen through the eyes of the protagonists, each at variance with the other about what was the truth. However, Andha Naal, though bearing thematic resemblance to the Kurosawa classic, was actually an intelligent adaptation of a British movie Woman in Question made by Anthony Asquith (son of the British Prime Minister Lord Asquith), one of the three British movie maestros, the other two being Carol Reed and David Lean. Asquith’s film was a flashback on the murder of a woman with several people claiming to be the killer. Andha Naal was about the killing of Sivaji Ganesan by his wife (Pandari Bai, revealed to the audience) and many people claiming to be the killer. This film won a Central Government Award, and critical and public acclaim.
However, it did not fill the coffers of Meyyappan who understandably never thought of making a similar film later. Balachandar had an assistant in the directorial department, young and talented who later emerged as a successful filmmaker, Muktha V. Srinivasan.
The cast consisted of Sivaji Ganesan as a traitor, leaking secrets to the Japanese during the Second World War, Pandari Bai as his patriotic wife, ‘Javert’ Seetharaman, T. K. Balachandran, Suryakala, Menaka and P. V. Sambandam. Even today after five decades and more, this film sustains interest.
Balachandar, a brilliant technician had acquired vast knowledge of the art of cinema by watching movies from abroad, mostly from Hollywood. He put to good use his acquired skills and talents in this film, especially in the lighting to create mood and character. Sample this: in a sequence the anti-hero (Sivaji Ganesan) is totally in the dark while his abandoned sweetheart is brightly lit to bring about the contrast in the mood and the characters. In Hollywood lingo, it is known as ‘painting with light.’
Remembered for being the first Tamil film which had no dance, song or stunt sequence and for Balachandar’s impressive direction and fine performances by Sivaji Ganesan and Pandari Bai.