M. N. Nambiar, B. S. Saroja, M. G. Chakrapani, G. Sakunthala, D. Balasubramaniam, K. V. Srinivasan, M. Saroja, A. Karunanidhi, T. P. Muthulakshmi and P. S. Gnanam
Snake Pit (1948), a famous Hollywood film, boldly tackled the story of a mentally deranged girl. The girl undergoes horrifying experiences in an institution for the mentally disturbed. Expectedly, it hit the headlines and was directed by well known filmmaker Anatole Litvak. Award winning actress Olivia de Havilland played the lead. It was so realistically made that the British Censor Board insisted on a foreword being added to the film explaining that everyone in it was only actors playing their roles and the conditions in the British Mental Institution were not like those depicted in films. The film was nominated for five Oscars, including one for Olivia.
One of the films in Tamil where the hero was mentally retarded was made by Indian movie mogul T. R. Sundaram of Modern Theatres, Salem. Obviously inspired by Snake Pit, Sundaram engaged noted lawyer-turned-filmmaker of his day, T. G. Raghavacharya (Acharya), who directed Mangamma Sapatham, Apoorva Sahodarargal and a good part of Chandralekha, including the celebrated drum dance.
Written by Ko Tha. Shanmugasundaram (the first editor of the Daily Thanthi), the film features M. N. Nambiar (who passed away recently) as the hero with mental problems, married to a young woman B. S. Saroja. How she surmounts the odds and succeeds in curing her husband forms the plot.
The music was scored by S. Dakshinamurthy and G. Ramanathan. Kannadasan, who was not famous then, penned the lyrics.
Sadly, during the making of the movie, Acharya took ill with tuberculosis which was then considered a serious illness. Talented cinematographer and filmmaker Mohamed Mastan who was behind the camera took over the film production and completed it to the satisfaction of Sundaram and Acharya.
Nambiar who began playing supporting roles was cast as one of the heroes in the Jupiter Studio production Kanjan (Miser — 1947). However, this film sank without a trace.
He was cast as hero again five years later in Kalyani by Sundaram.
In spite of the impressive performances by Nambiar in a difficult role and B. S. Saroja as the suffering wife, Kalyani did not fare well at the box office. There was also a Telugu version Atthainti Kaapuram (Life in Mother-in-Law’s House), few remember today.
Remembered for being the first film where Nambiar played the hero, for being an early Tamil film revolving around a mentally deranged man and for fine acting by Nambiar and B. S. Saroja.RANDOR GUY