The talented, young filmmaker called on the brilliant statesman of the 20th century, who was well into his 90s then, to seek permission to make a movie based on his novel. The filmmaker was sceptical because of the statesman’s dislike for movies. But when he began the conversation, the statesman shot back, ‘Who said I hate movies? I only hate bad movies!’
Well, he signed the consent letter, which was the last signature he affixed on any document because soon after he passed away. The great statesman was Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari, affectionately known as Rajaji, and the filmmaker was Singeetham Srinivasa Rao. The film based on Rajaji’s novel was Dikkatra Parvathi (1974).
The Film Finance Corporation of India, later known as National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), financed the film. When the producers and the director, popularly known as ‘Singeetham,’ could not repay the loan, M.G. Ramachandran, then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, repaid the dues and purchased the film for the Tamil Nadu state. This was the first film acquired by the state.
The film has a socially relevant theme, highlighting the evils of drinking and its impact on family life, especially on women. Parvathi (Lakshmi) is happily married to loving husband Karuppan (Srikanth) and the couple are blessed with a baby. To increase his income, Karuppan buys a cart on a loan. Soon he becomes addicted to drinking and life for Parvathi becomes hell on earth and then comes the death of her beloved child due to Karuppan’s negligence. The moneylender’s son takes advantage of Parvathi's helplessness and she, helpless, yields. The husband comes to know about it and throws a knife at the evil-minded man, which results in his arrest. Parvathi seeks a lawyer's advice and during the trial, she claims to be guilty and not her husband. He is released and in a rage, he rejects his wife. The disillusioned Parvathi commits suicide by jumping off a hill. The film was shot in Thorapalli, Rajaji’s birthplace, in a single 28-day schedule. Noted Malayalam cinematographer Ravi Varma was in charge of photography, while veena genius Chitty Babu scored the music. The movie had two songs, one written by Rajaji himself, and the other by Kannadasan, and Vani Jayaram sang both.
Lakshmi, the multilingual star, played Parvathi and won the Filmfare Award for her role. Indeed, she missed the National Award for Best Actress by a whisker. Srikanth, a discovery of K. Balachander, played her husband. Y.G. Mahendra and Poornam Viswanathan played other roles.
The court sequences were shot in an actual court in Hosur and many local lawyers participated in the scenes, such was their enthusiasm.
Singeetham Srinivasa Rao (83) is one of the prominent filmmakers of India who has made movies in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi and English. The list of his movies is too long but mention must be made of Pushpak (Silent film), Michael Madana Kama Rajan, Raja Parvai, Apoorva Sahotharargal, Kathalaa Kathalaa , Magalir Mattum (Tamil, all Kamal Haasan-starrers), Sraavana Bhanthu , Chelisuva Modagalu (Kannada — both Rajkumar-starrers), Somokkadithi Sokokadithi, Bhairava Deepam, Mayuri, Sri Krishna Vijayam, (all Telugu), Trilok Sundari (Hindi) and Little John (English, Tamil and Hindi, it had Jyothika, Anupam Kher and Bentley Mitchum (Hollywood superstar Robert Mitchum's grandson).
Dikkatra Parvathi won the National Award for the Best Regional Language Film in Tamil.
To commemorate the 40th year of the classic movie, a special screening has been arranged on June 21 at the L.V. Prasad Auditorium inside Prasad Studio and there will be a discussion on the movie before the screening. It is open to all.