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Town Bus 1953

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Anjali Devi, N. N. Kannappa, M. N. Rajam, V. K. Ramasami, A. Karunanidhi, T. P. Muthulakshmi, T. K. Ramachandran, V. M. Ezhumalai, P. D. Sambandam, K. S. Angamuthu, Tambaram Lalitha, P. S. Venkatachalam, ‘Kalla Part’ Natarajan and K. Sayeeram

A different kind of Tamil movie for its period — the 1950s — Town Bus attracted attention because of its unique characters and pleasing music by one of the brilliant composers of Indian Cinema, K. V. Mahadevan. Built around a bus transport company based in Coimbatore, what is novel about the storyline is the conductors happen to be women (the multilingual top star Anjali Devi and well-known Tamil film comedienne Muthulakshmi).

An unemployed youth (Kannappa) meets the woman conductor (Anjali Devi) under interesting circumstances, joins the transport company as driver and gradually gets close to her. The owner’s daughter (Tambaram Lalitha) falls in love with him, but her father wants her to marry a relative, who is the manager of the company (Ramachandran). He is only after money and also a skirt-chaser.

The hero-driver and his friend (Karunanidhi) fall in love with the conductors. The manager dismisses the two drivers after which the hero becomes an autorickshaw driver. Soon he sets up his own company and tastes success in a short span of time. He marries the conductor and has a child through her.

Success goes to his head, his lifestyle changes and he falls for another woman, a dancer (Rajam). The wife comes to know about her husband’s affair with the dancer. More complications follow. In the climax, the heroine finds that her husband's sweetheart is her long-lost sister! The manager locks up the hero in a room trying to get rid of him and the two women and the bus owner’s daughter, who remains single, join hands to save the hero. In the process, the manager shoots the dancer and is arrested by the police. The husband, wife and child are united and live happily thereafter.

The story develops on predictable lines in the second half and the saving factor is the melodious music of Mahadevan (lyrics: Ka. Mu. Sheriff). Some of the songs such as ‘Chittu kuruvi chittu kuruvi seithi theriyuma’ (sung by the baby-voiced off screen singer M. S. Rajeswari and picturised on Anjali Devi) became major hits. Another song and dance number, ‘Leda Lady aruginil vaada aadi paadalam.....,’ was written by the later day top Tamil film personality A. P. Nagarajan. The film was produced at Central Studios by M. A. Venu for his MAV Pictures and directed by K. Somu, a prominent filmmaker of the early decades of Tamil Cinema. Somu had the privilege of being trained by the iconic American Tamil filmmaker Ellis R. Dungan.

Kannappa, an import from Tamil theatre, was active for a short while and played the hero in a few movies such as Town Bus and Devaki. However, his career did not last long.

Anjali Devi as the suffering wife gave an impressive performance, while Rajam was good as the dancer-mistress. The others who performed well in minor roles were Muthulakshmi, Karunanidhi, Ramasami and Sambandam. Town Bus did fairly well at the box office and the main reason was its music. Another interesting aspect was the excellent cinematography (V. K. Gopal), especially the road sequences capturing the bus going on the beautiful roads of Coimbatore with hardly any traffic in those days, half a century and more ago!

Remembered for the pleasing music, good performances by Anjali Devi and Kannappa, and excellent photography, especially the outdoor sequences of Kovai.

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