V. Srinivasan, more popularly known as ‘Muktha’ Srinivasan, has an enviable track record as director, producer, and screenwriter, having been involved in the making of several successful films. Panchaali was one such effort by this director, whose career began all too humbly when he joined Modern Theatres, Salem, as an assistant. Going on to assist filmmaker S. Balachandar in films like Kaithi , Srinivasan got his big break in Mudalali , which fetched a National Award for the Best Regional Film. Following this success, Srinivasan formed Muktha Films with his brother Ramaswami, and the rest is history.
Written by Naga Shanmugam, Panchaali, with lyrics by Marudhakasi and Ku. Sa. Krishnamurthi and music by K.V. Mahadevan, was produced by M.A. Thiagarajan of Ratna Studios, Salem. Edited by V. Rajagopal, the film, quite in contrast with its title, is actually a rural social melodrama. The story goes thus. In the panchayat elections held in a village called Ponnaruvi, ayurveda specialist Dr. Natarajan defeats Anandan, the son of Kalyani Ammal who had won it twice earlier. Consequently, Anandan and his mother hate the kind-hearted doctor. Apart from Anandan, Kalyani has another child — Gomathi — and a nephew Raghavan, who she raises as her own. The latter, after his return from Madras where he studied medicine, wins over the villagers with his medical expertise and helping hand. Raghavan, oblivious to Kalyani’s plans to get him married to Gomathi, falls in love with Dr. Natarajan’s daughter Panchaali.
The rest of the film is about how Raghavan discovers Anandan’s misdemeanours, as a servant in disguise. How complications arise when Anandan decides to murder his enemies, and how they are resolved takes up the bulk of the film’s second half. It ends on a happily-ever-after note.
Devika, a leading star then, gives a fine performance and so does Manohar, who plays the hero in this film. Of course, later in his career, he transformed into a top villain. Well-known singers like P. Susheela, Tiruchi Loganathan, Jamuna Rani, Sirgazhi Govindarajan, S.C. Krishnan, M.R. Rajeswari, and A.L. Raghavan were all used. Directed ably by Srinivasan, Panchaali fared well at the box office, even if its storyline was predictable.
Cast: Devika, R.S. Manohar, V.K. Ramasami, L. Vijayalakshmi, Lakshmiprabha, T.P. Muthulakshmi, S. Ramarao, T.K. Ramachandran, K.K. Soundar, S.S. Sivasuriyan, ‘Karadi’ Muthu, R. Pakkirisami, Chandra, E.R. Shanthakumari, M.S. Thamizharasi, M. Natarajan, ‘Stunt’ P. Krishnan
Remembered for: the deft direction of V. Srinivasan and good performances by the lead actors.