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Vazhkai 1949

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Vyjayanthimala,T. R. Ramachandran,K. Sarangapani,S. V. Sahasranamam,M. S. Draupathi, Kulathu Mani, Subbaiah,P. D. Sambandam,V. M. Ezhumalai,K. N. Kamalam,S. R. Janaki, Lalitha-Padmini (dances)

a fabulous success Vazhkai
a fabulous success Vazhkai

The AVM Studios at Madras was ready for a take-off and Meiyappan was all set to launch his first production in his new studio. He had a story ready, written by Pa. Neelakantan. Named Vazhkai , Meiyappan had shot a few scenes with lyricist and actor K. D. Santhanam at the Karaikudi studio, but halted it for many reasons and took up Vethala Ulagam next for production. Now at Madras, Vazhkai got a fresh lease of life! The story, essentially a family drama, was partially inspired by the successful Hollywood movie, Bachelor Mother (1939), and a Hindi film Kunwara Baap (1942). In Vazhkai, the hero finds the baby in his car left by a girl duped by her lover. The rich heroine and her family come to the wrong conclusion. Meiyappan cast his contract-actor, the saucer-eyed comedian, T. R. Ramachandran as the ‘bachelor father.' His choice proved excellent, contributing to the success of the film. K. Sarangapani was cast as the hero's rich, eccentric father. But the casting of the ‘bachelor mother' and the rich heroine did cause some problems for Meiyappan. For the poor unwed mother, he had in view a pretty, petite young actor, Pandari Bai. She took her bow in Tamil Cinema with the historic hit, Haridas (1944). Meiyappan engaged her on a five-year contract. She appeared in a small role as Goddess Kali in Vethala Ulagam. Meiyappan made P. D. Sambandam and S. V. Sahasranamam to coach Pandari Bai to speak Tamil well, but she showed no improvement. Disappointed, he cast a stage actor, M. S. Draupathi, who was on the rolls of the legendary Tamil theatre troupe, T. K. S. Brothers. Sahasranamam played the role of the seducer. Even though Meiyappan had problems with him during the making of Nam Iruvar, he did not hesitate to cast him, for he felt he was the right actor to play that roleHowever, the heroine could not yet be found. The role called for a rich, college-bred, sophisticated young woman. Meiyappan wished to cast a new face. His associate director and editor, M. V. Raman, mentioned to him about an attractive, teenaged Bharatanatyam dancer making waves in Madras after her sensational dance debut. Her name was Vyjayanthimala. Impressed with Vyjayanthimala's talent, beauty and charm, Meiyappan fixed her up on a three-year contract. Thus Vyjayanthimala entered movies and in due course emerged as a major star of Indian Cinema with many hits in Hindi such as Bahar ( Vazhkai in Hindi produced by Meiyappan, the first Hindi film for the producer and the actor), Ladki, Nagin, Devdas, Ganga Jumna, Madhumati, Naya Daur and Paigham. As she was an accomplished dancer, Meiyappan had the screenplay suitably amended to include dance sequences. That was not all. Around this time, the dancing sisters Lalitha-Padmini were very popular and their dance drama in Vethala Ulagam had been a highlight. So a dance drama by the sisters built around a rural couple with patriotic feelings was made part of the film.

Besides Vyjayanthimala, T. R. Ramachandran, M. S. Draupathi, K. Sarangapani and S. V. Sahasranamam, the others in the cast included old-timers S. R. Janaki and Subbaiah Pillai as the suffering parents of the unwed mother and P. D. Sambandam. Meiyappan produced and directed the film with M. V. Raman and writer Pa. Neelakantan as associate directors.

Shooting went on as scheduled and the film was completed in three months — an achievement indeed which spoke highly of Meiyappan's meticulous planning. Quick on the uptake, Vyjayanthimala was a director's delight. She performed different dance styles such as the ‘Marwari dance' besides the Bharatanatyam. In Vazhkai , Vyjayanthimala had three dance sequences which included a patriotic song, ‘Bharatha samudayam,' written by Subramania Bharati and sung off screen by D. K. Pattammal. The other songs were rendered by another famed Carnatic singer, M. L. Vasanthakumari.

During the making of the film, Meiyappan and his team watched a Hindi movie, Khidki (1948), in which the music was a highlight. The composer was Chitalkar Ramchandra. As Meiyappan and others walked out of the theatre, he heard M. R. Rajeswari, the baby-voiced playback singer on his rolls, humming a tune from the film! It was catchy with an onomatopoeic refrain — ‘Dadadadada....dadadadadada...!' Ever on the lookout for the new and novel, he decided to have a similarly tuned song in Vazhkai .

His lyricist, K. P. Kamatchisundram, wrote the song with the opening line, ‘Un kann unnai emaatrinaal en mel kopam undavathen? Dadadadadada....Dadadadada...' The AVM-house music director, Sudarsanam, tuned it and the song was sung by T. R. Ramachandran and Rajeswari (lending voice to Vyjayanthimala). The duet became a hit and contributed greatly to the film's success.

Vazhkai was released in December 1949 and public response to it was overwhelming. A new star rose on the movie horizon, Vyjayanthimala!

Remembered for its music, dances, and, above all, Vyjayanthimala.

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