Chittoor V. Nagaiah, Serukalathur Sama, V. Gopalakrishnan, T. S. Balaiah, T. S. Durairaj, Padmini, Lalitha and Kumari N. Rajam
One of the classics of Tamil cinema is the forgotten movie maestro K. Ramnoth’s Ezhai Padum Paadu which he made for S. M. Sreeramulu Naidu for his Pakshiraja Films. It was a fine adaptation of the French literary masterpiece Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Chittoor V. Nagaiah played Jean Val Jean superbly but another actor stole the thunder. He was the lawyer-turned-actor-screenwriter N. Seetharaman. He acted as the tough guy Police Inspector ‘Javert’ and his performance impressed the Tamil film-goers and critics alike that he came to be known for the rest of his life as ‘Javert’ Seetharaman!
Others in the cast were Serukalathur Sama, T. S. Balaiah, V. Gopalakrishnan, T. S. Durairaj, Lalitha and Padmini, (the noted ‘Travancore Sisters’ who began their film career by doing dance numbers were now blossoming into full fledged actors) , and ‘Lux Soap Beauty’ Kumari N. Rajam. (Now in her 70s, and known as Thanjavur N. Rajalakshmi, she is a successful Bharatanatyam guru.)
Nagaiah, the multi-lingual star of many talents, rose to great heights with his performance in the lead role as the reformed thief. Initially, the singing actor, Nagercoil K. Mahadevan (the screen Naradar!), was cast as the bishop who reforms the thief. After a few scenes were shot, Sreeramulu Naidu replaced him with Serukalathur Sama which was a change for the better.
Written by the first star Tamil screenwriter Elangovan, the film had melodious music composed by S. M. Subbaiah Naidu. (Not many are aware that the film music maestro M. S. Viswanathan worked under Naidu as his ‘harmonium assistant’ at Jupiter Pictures – Central Studios, Coimbatore.) One song ‘Vidhiyin vilaivaal….’ (voice [Radha]-Jayalakshmi) picturised on Rajam was shot in a single ‘Take’ without a cut by Ramnoth. It was a technical marvel during that period. Even today, it leaves a stunning impact among film technicians.
An incident concerning Gopalakishnan and producer S. M. Sreeramulu Naidu known for his autocratic attitude is worth recounting. There was a dream sequence – a song in which Lalitha in love with Gopi (who is in love with Padmini!) dreams out a fantasy. On the scheduled day, Ramnoth could not report for work due to his wife’s illness. Gopi, a true blue disciple of the director, a mere lad of 18-19 doing his B. A. Hons., went back to his hotel room. Naidu was annoyed and sent for Gopi. He pulled him up for his absence and asked him to report for shooting that night which he would direct himself in the absence of Ramnoth. Gopi refused and, after some arguments, was sent back to Madras the same night! And Naidu shot the dream scene that night with Ragini, the youngest of the Travancore Sisters, ‘doubling’ for Gopi! She was dressed up as a male and Naidu shot her using long shots and mid-shots mostly from the back!
Ezhai Padum Paadu was a hit which created film history as the first Tamil film to be released on Deepavali Day, 1950, at ‘Casino’ cinema, Madras. It was then screening only English movies since it was built some years earlier. (Les Miserables was ‘rehashed’ in 1972 as ‘Gnana Oli’ with Sivaji Ganesan, ‘Major’ Sundararajan and Sarada in lead roles and directed by P. Madhavan.)
Remembered for: A Tamil film classic with melodious music and brilliant acting by Nagaiah and ‘Javert’ Seetharaman.