Unjalur Ramayamma Jeevaratnam was one of the popular singing stars of Tamil cinema. In 1937, when Indian movie mogul T.R. Sundaram floated Modern Theatres in Salem, Jeevaratnam joined the staff as an artist. Impressed with her singing and acting talents, Sundaram cast her in his first film Sathi Ahalya (1937) and subsequently she played a girl singing for alms in Santhana Thevan (1937), and the leading lady in Bhaktha Gowri (1941), a hit. Many of her songs in the latter film, including ‘Theruvil Varaandi Velan Thedi Varaandi….,’ became popular. Poompaavai is the popular folk tale of a young girl named Jeevaratnam, the daughter of a jeweller called Sivanesan (Sarangapani) of old Mylai (now Mylapore) then ruled by a chieftain. Her stepmother (Chellam) hates her and plots against her.
The girl devotes herself to the worship of Lord Shiva (Sahasranamam). One day, Shiva appears before her father, dressed as a sadhu, and gifts him a rare ruby, which he decides to embed in a crown that the chieftain orders him to make.
To his dismay, Sivanesan finds that his daughter has given the ruby away to a sadhu seeking alms. Refusing to believe this, the chieftain banishes the jeweller and his family. They wander all over until they meet a holy man, Thirugnana Sambandhar (Ramasami), to whom Poompaavai is drawn. However, he tells her not to indulge in worldly desires but instead seek divine knowledge.
Coming to know of the saint’s powers, the Mylai chieftain decides to forgive the banished jeweller’s family and reinstates them. However, Poompaavai is bitten by a snake and dies. The shocked father rushes to Gnana Sambandhar, who prays over her and brings her back to life.
She again requests him to marry her, but the saint says that having given her life he is now like her father. He instead gives her divine knowledge and she becomes his devotee. K.R. Ramaswami, who played Sambandhar, was also a singer, who acted in the famous film Velaikkari (1949).
Poompaavai , produced by Leo Films, credits Balaji Singh as the director but it was actually directed by Krishnan-Panju, a leading directorial duo of the day. Panju also edited the film and handled the audiography along with well-known audiographer Abel Jeeva. Purushothaman was in charge of the camera and the film was produced at Newtone Studios, Kilpauk. Kambadasan wrote the story and Ayyalu Somayajulu the dialogue. Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai and Nataraj (A.R. Sakunthala’s husband) choreographed the dances. The lyrics were by Mariappa Swamigal and Kambadasan. Songs such as ‘Kalame poguthey…’ (Jeevaratnam) and ‘Om Namasivayam….’ (Ramasami) became popular.
Poompaavai fared well at the box office.
Remembered For: the popular storyline, good performances by the lead players, the comedy track, and pleasing music.