R. S. Manohar, P. K. Saraswathi, Madhuri Devi, K. Sarangapani, S. Balachandar, ‘Friend’ Ramasami, C. R. Rajakumari and T. P. Muthulakshmi
Talented cameraman R. M. Krishnaswamy, who walked out of Modern Theatres over differenceswith boss T. R. Sundaram, emerged producer-director with the crime thriller, Rajambal. His production company was Aruna Films, which he promoted along with his colleagues V. C. Subbaraman and M. Radhakrishnan.
The thriller by noted yesteryear Tamil novelist J. R. Rangaraju had been a success on the stage and was filmed earlier in 1935 with equal success. RMK made this second version on a modest budget and engaged writer-director A. T. Krishnaswami (Arivali, Manam Oru Kurangu) to write the screenplay and dialogue. He introduced a new face as hero. A graduate employed in the Postal Department, R. S. Lakshminarasimhan, who had been active on the Tamil stage as an amateur actor, got a break in films with Rajambal. As his name sounded ‘non-filmi’, he acquired a screen name, R. S. Manohar!
Over the years, Manohar proved to be a successful villain. However, he will be ever remembered not for his long list of films but for his contribution to Tamil theatre. He had his own troupe producing mythological plays which involved huge investment in period costumes, sets and props. Indeed, he continued to keep the flag flying, almost single-handedly staging such plays, experimenting with new techniques in stagecraft, against heavy odds and the crushing onslaught of other media such as television and video until his sad demise. Regrettably, Manohar’s services to the fine arts have not been fully rewarded.
Besides Manohar, the film had P. K. Saraswathi as heroine. Pretty and provocative, Saraswathi hailing from Kerala began her career as a dancer and danced in Uday Shankar’s famed but rarely seen classic Kalpana (1948). She also did supporting roles of the vampish kind in films such as Velaikari and Inbavalli, and, in this film, she achieved heroine status. S. Balachandar played the villain Natesan with finesse and also composed the background music. K. Sarangapani was the detective who solved the crime. Madhuri played the vamp, while ‘Friend’ Ramasami and Muthulakshmi provided comedy support.
Rajambal was a moderate success enough to establish RMK firmly as a filmmaker. Manohar attracted attention, laying the foundation for a fine career in films. This film has an interesting postscript. When RMK sought to renew the Censor Certificate, the then Regional Censor Officer G. T. Sastri, perhaps the toughest Film Censor the movie industry has ever seen, incorruptible to the core, rejected the renewal. Moreover he asked RMK to surrender the negative and all available prints for destruction! Indeed, Sastri commented that J. R. Rangaraju should never have written such a novel! The story is all about a judicial officer who misuses his office to serve his personal ends. This theme, according to Sastri, was illegal, immoral and anti-social! Looking at it today, one is likely to be amused by Sastri’s decision. How times have changed!
Remembered for R. S. Manohar’s film debut, ‘Veena’ Balachandar’s performance and background score and for being the first production of RMK.