S. Soundararaja Ayyangar of Tamil Nadu Talkies, whose name in the credits read as ‘S. Soundararajan’, was one of the pioneers of south Indian cinema. A successful utensils businessman, he entered movies as a financier because of his interest in the arts. A serious student of Hollywood cinema, he visited Hollywood as part of an Indian delegation and met many celebrities there, including Cecil B. DeMille.
Soundararajan made movies in Tamil and Telugu, and introduced many new faces, both on and off screen — actors Vasundhara Devi, Ranjan, Krishnakumari and Rama Sarma, and filmmakers B.S. Ranga and Joseph Thaliath Jr.
He promoted Southern Studios in Kilpauk where Joseph Thaliath Jr. worked as his assistant. Sadly, the Southern Studios project did not flourish and part of the land was sold to Joseph Thaliath Jr. where he built his Citadel Studios. Part of the remaining land was sold to the government and the main entrance of the old studio is now the Reserve Bank Quarters on Poonamallee High Road.
Later, he promoted Tamil Nadu Talkies with a studio and film lab in Kilpauk; it worked for some years and later closed down. It is now Sundarlal Nahatha Avenue. Thanjai Ramaiah Das wrote the script, dialogue and lyrics of Penn Manam. The music was composed by Carnatic musician Kunnakudi Venkatarama Iyer, who worked in Tamil cinema for some years, and he was assisted by T.A. Kalyanam. The singers were M.L. Vasanthakumari, A.E. Saraswathi, A.P. Komala, T.A. Mothi, and Kunnakudi Venkatarama Iyer.
The film was shot in Shyamala Studios, which does not exist today.
The movie is a tearjerker with accent on female sentiment. A farmer (T.K. Shanmugham) lives with his wife Meenakshi (M.V. Rajamma) and three children in a village in Thanjavur District. The family suffers mounting debts and lack of rain only makes things worse. Unable to face his creditors, he goes away to Colombo without even informing his wife and joins a drama company. Meanwhile, one of the kids dies, and the harassed wife jumps into a river with her other kids only to be saved by a sadhu. In Colombo, while pulling a rickshaw, her husband manages to save a kid from a car accident. As a token of gratitude, the car owner gives him money. The husband returns to India in search of his family. How the problems are solved forms the rest of the film.
T.K. Shanmugam, one of the finest actors of the famed TKS Brothers, plays the farmer with great impact and so does M.V. Rajamma, one of the talented artistes of south Indian cinema, who plays the long-suffering wife.
The film has many songs and a dance drama (therukkoothu) based on the Draupathi Vastrapaharanam sequence was a hit. Another song in ‘Madras bhashai’ with words like ‘China Bazaaru nainaa usharu’ also proved popular.
Despite the good performances by seasoned artistes like T. K. Shanmugham and M.V. Rajamma, catchy music and direction by veteran filmmaker, Penn Manam did not do as well as expected.
Remembered for: the performances of senior artistes, catchy music and impressive direction of S. Soundararajan.