Blast from the past - Sivagangai Seemai (1957)

Sivagangai Seemai  

In the late 18th Century, when the East India Company was struggling to establish supremacy over South India, some chieftains such as Veerapandia Kattabomman and Marudu Brothers rose in rebellion. The East India Company subdued Kattabomman, and his brother Oomathurai escaped from the EIC prison and sought refuge in Sivaganga. The company forces were after him. As it often happened in the history of India, there were selfish persons who created problems that destroyed unity, which was taken advantage of by the English.

A battle was fought in Kalayarkovil near Sivaganga, which is today a crowded small town steeped in history. Using their wiles and divide and rule policy, the East India Company ultimately destroyed the brothers and their wives took up the cause but did not succeed….

(This writer visited Kalayarkovil some years ago for his research. He was told by the local people that from one of the temple towers one could see the tower of Madurai Meenakshi temple which is far away. Some scholars of Sivaganga told him it was only part of the local legend, of which there are many, about the two valiant brothers and Kalayarkovil.)

This colourful episode was written as a movie by the iconic poet, scholar and cult figure Kannadasan who also produced this film.

Directed by the noted editor and filmmaker K. Shankar, this film had the noted star S. S. Rajendran, famous for his voice and distinct dialogue delivery, playing the hero. S. Varalakshmi and Kumari Kamala, credited as Kamala Lakshman, also played leading roles.

Expectedly, Kannadasan wrote the screenplay, dialogue and the lyrics. The music was composed by the up and coming duo, who later became icons of Tamil film music, Viswanathan-Ramamurthi.

The film was excellently photographed, capturing the spirit of the period by Thambu (C. V. Ramakrishnan), one of the finest cinematographers of Indian cinema. (He was filmmaker K. Subramanyam's cousin)

Well-known film editor and later filmmaker K. Shankar edited and directed this film. Well-known dancers Sai-Subbulakshmi performed a special dance, choreographed by the noted natuvanaar K. N. Dhandayuthapani Pillai, and it attracted a lot of attention.

There were many songs highlighting the spirit of patriotism and love for the native Tamil soil. Kannadasan, who was involved in the Dravidian Movement, invested its spirit in many of the songs which had a great impact.

Almost all the male characters had thick moustaches as a sign of valour, that the well-known Tamil weekly Kumudham in its review described the film as “Sivagangai Meesai”! (‘Meesai' meaning ‘moustache' in Tamil). Despite expectations, the film did not fare well. However, because of its theme and historic content, it did acquire a sort of cult status over the years.

Remembered for its interesting storyline, powerful portrayal of the patriotic spirit, and excellent performances by Rajendran and Varalakshmi.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 3:09:51 AM |

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