S. Balachandar, Sarojini, Kumari N. Rajam, V. Seetharaman and A. S. Nagarajan
Famous Hollywood comedian Danny Kaye played a double role in Wonder Man (1945) which had a successful run in Madras too. A tale of twins, where one gets murdered and turns into a ghost, it was produced and directed in Tamil by well-known cinematographer Krishna Gopal, who later designed the now non-existent Gemini Studios Colour Laboratory on Mount Road.
One of the finest but sadly forgotten Tamil films of the earlier era, Idhu Nijama was scripted by talented writer, director, music composer, actor and later veena wizard S. Balachandar (credited as ‘Balachandran’ in the film) who played a double role in the film. Balachandar was proficient in playing many instruments besides the veena; as the hero (the surviving twin), who runs a shop repairing musical instruments, he got an opportunity to sing and play various instruments in the movie. An innovative composer, he experimented with a kriti by the saint composer Tyagaraja, “Maaru balka…” (raga Sriranjani). In this song sequence, the surviving twin sings it in Telugu when suddenly the ghost twin murdered in London, (now in Madras seeking revenge for his killing!) takes over and sings in western style the words… ‘Romeooooooo… Bassaniooooo... Thayir vadaiyooooo...!’ Suddenly, the hero takes over to sing the kriti again. However, the experiment being far ahead of its time did not amuse the traditional Carnatic music aficionados.
Balachandar was brilliant playing the twins and contributed in good measure to the film’s direction too. Sarojini, the heroine, acted in a couple of films before bidding goodbye to the industry.
Nagarajan besides doing a supporting role edited the film. Later he became a fairly successful director and his hit film was a Modern Theatre Production, Paasavalai. Krishna Gopal (KG) moved to Bombay where he was involved in Hindi cinema in more than one capacity besides handling the camera. ‘Lux Soap’ beauty Kumari N. Rajam in a supportive role made a good impression.
V. Seetharaman wrote the dialogue. (He was on the staff of Gemini Studios and appeared in a small role in Chandralekha in 1948 delivering his lines in Hindi). Sets of London City such as the famous Westminster Bridge were so realistically designed and impressively photographed (KG) that many moviegoers thought such sequences were shot on location in England!
The film was shot at the famous Ranjit Studio in Bombay and was bankrolled by the neglected South Indian film pioneer, S. Soundararajan (Tamil Nadu Talkies). While critics praised this film, it was not a big success at the box-office. Wonder Man was adapted years later in Brazil as Dona Flora And Her Two Husbands (1976). This movie with its heavy soft porn ‘touch’ created a sensation in Madras when it was screened at an International Film Festival. Expectedly it was quickly adapted in Tamil, taking a new avatar as Kalyanaraman with Kamal Haasan playing the twins!
Remembered for its thrilling on-screen narration, cinematography, impressive sets and music composed by Balachandar.