The folk tale of Muruga's romance and marriage with the earthly tribal girl Valli has been popular for many years.First done as a stage play, it was made into a silent film, Valli Thirumanam, in 1921 at Madras by Whittaker, about whom little is known. The Hindustan Cinema Film Company made the next silent version, Sri Subramanyam, in 1930, at Nashik. The same year, another version was made by N. D. Sarpotdhar for the Aryan Film Company, Subramaniam . During the same year, yet another version, Valli Kalyanam, was produced by the United Pictures Syndicate in which Sundar Rao Nadkarni played a role. In his early years, he acted in silent films for Surya Films in Bangalore before he moved to Bombay where he graduated as a successful editor and later became a filmmaker of repute.
Movies began to talk in India in 1931 with Kalidas . In 1933, the Coimbatore-based movie pioneer Samikannu Vincent produced Valli Thirumanam in Calcutta directed by the forgotten filmmaker P. V. Rao. The first star of Tamil Cinema T. P. Rajalakshmi played Valli. This movie was the first box office hit in Tamil Cinema and also led affluent people to believe that the medium was a profitable avenue for investment.
In 1933, there was another version of the story of Valli made in Bombay with noted star K. T. Rukmini playing the lead. However, this version did not do well and paled into insignificance as against the one that featured Rajalakshmi.
For nearly a decade later, there were no movies based on this popular story and then came AV. Meiyappan's thumping box office hit, Sri Valli, in 1945 featuring T. R. Mahalingam as Muruga and Kumari Rukmini as Valli. This film firmly placed AVM on the ladder to success. The next version — now in colour — came out in 1961 produced by Narasu Studios and featured Sivaji Ganesan (playing Muruga) and Padmini (Valli), supported by T. R. Mahalingam, E. R. Sahadevan, C. K. Saraswathi and J. P. Chandra Babu. Somewhat ironically, Mahalingam who became a star playing Muruga in the AVM version, was now ‘relegated' to play Sage Narada. Well, that's movies, as they say…
Thanjai Ramaiah Das wrote the script and the lyrics were set to music by G. Ramanathan. Ramanna directed the film. There were many songs rendered by Mahalingam, T. M. Soundararajan, Sirkazhi Govindarajan, P. Susheela, Jikki, Ratnamala and A. P. Komala, and a comedy song by Chandra Babu.
Despite the popular lead pair, tuneful music and dances by Helen (choreography- K. N. Dhandayuthapani Pillai, P. S. Gopalakrishnan, R. C. Thangaraj and V. Madhavan), this colour version was a disappointment. Indeed people still remember the 1940s AVM version.
Remembered for: being the first colour version of the popular folk tale, and dances by Helen.