Kappalottiya Thamizhan (1961)

Updated - December 20, 2014 06:45 pm IST

Published - December 20, 2014 06:37 pm IST

A scene from Kappalottiya Thamizhan

A scene from Kappalottiya Thamizhan

Kappalottiya Thamizhan was launched by the multilingual filmmaker B.R. Panthulu. Coming into Tamil cinema in the late 1930s, he made memorable movies based on the lives of Sundara Pandian as well as V.O. Chidambaram Pillai, popularly known as Kappalottiya Thamizhan, a sadly underrated leader of the Indian freedom movement.

The film is based on the Chidambaram Pillai biography written by Ma. Po. Si. Popularly known as VOC (or Vaa. Oo. Si), Pillai founded the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company to break the British monopoly on maritime trade. The film won Best Feature Film (Tamil) at the National Film Awards, but it flopped at the box-office.

Sivaji Ganesan played the role of the patriot in his flamboyant style and some critics commented that people saw only the actor and not the patriot. Gemini Ganesan played Madasany, and Savithri his wife. S.V. Subbaiah played Subramania Bharati; Ashokan played the white sub-collector Ashe, who is assassinated by Vanchinathan (Balajee) on a train at the Maniyachi junction; T.K. Shanmugam played Subramania Siva, a close associate of Chidambaram Pillai; and V. Nagaiah played the lawyer and father of Pillai.

The film had some fine music, with nine songs by Bharati taken from his poetic output — ‘Endru Thaniyum’ (Tiruchi Loganathan), ‘Chinna Kuzhandaigal’ (P. Susheela), ‘Kaatru Veliyidai Kannamma’ (P.B. Sreenivos and P. Susheela), ‘Nenjil’ (Sirgazhi Govindarajan), ‘Odi Vilaiyadu Paapa’ (Sirgazhi Govindarajan, Jamuna Rani and Rohini), ‘Parukulley Nalla Naadu’ (Sirgazhi Govindarajan), ‘Thanneer vittom’ (Tiruchi Loganathan), ‘Vande Matharam enbom’ (Sirgazhi Govindarajan), and ‘Velli Pani Malai’ (Sirgazhi Govindarajan, Tiruchi Loganathan, L.R. Eswari and Rohini). G. Ramanathan composed the melodious tunes that soon became popular.

In real life, when VOC retired from his legal practice, he settled down in Perambur in Madras, and went virtually unnoticed as he wandered the streets of that crowded area. To eke out a living, he was forced to sell his law books and start a grocery shop. His grandson, reduced to poverty, later worked as an office boy in some company. Even today, VOC’s birthday is celebrated by some people putting ads in the press but nobody bothers in any real manner. His son, who used to work for the American Consulate, had caustic comments to make about politicians and others — about how they exploited his father and his reputation, but never bothered to help him when he was down and out in his later life.

Remembered for: the music composed by G. Ramanathan, based on the songs of Bharati.

Cast: Sivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan, K. Savithri, S.V. Subbaiah, K. Balajee, S.V. Ranga Rao, S.A. Asokan, T.K. Shanmugham, ‘Kumari’ Rukmini, O.A.K. Thevar, Chittoor V. Nagaiah and T.S. Durairaj

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