Produced by costume-maker-turned-film producer G.N. Velumani under his banner Saravana Films, Paatha Kaanikkai was written by M.S. Solamalai and directed by K. Shankar who had many hits to his credit.
The film is about two families, one headed by M.R. Radha, who has an army background and always moves around with a loaded rifle, and another headed by S.V. Subbaiah, who has made his way up with the sweat of his brow. Subbaiah has two sons — Gemini Ganesh and S. A. Asokan, a widower with a smart kid played by Kamalahasan. Radha has a daughter, Vijayakumari, and a son, Chandrababu. Subbaiah marries Rajamma, after the death of his first wife. Ganesh marries Vijayakumari, but is in love with Savithri.
The two families fight over the riches and Radha forces Asokan to take his father to court, which shatters the old man. He ends his life by jumping in front of a fast-moving truck. Watching it, the son repents and in his attempt to save his father, loses one of his legs. A remark by his kid shocks him to the core and he limps to a waterfall to end his life. However, his brother rushes just in time to save him.
The kid who does not understand the behaviour of the elders, tries to bring them to their senses by jumping into the same waterfall, saying he wants to meet his grandfather. The entire family is shocked and all dive into the waterfall to save the boy, and in the process, Vijayakumari, whom Gemini had married earlier, is injured. She dies after bringing about the union of Savithri and Gemini and the rest of the family lives happily thereafter…
The film has eight songs (music: Viswanathan-Ramamurthi) with lyrics by Kannadasan, assisted by Panju Arunachalam. Many songs became popular like ‘Athai magane poi varava’, ‘Ettadukku maligaiyil,’ ‘Poojaikku vantha malare vaa,’ and ‘Kadhal enbathu’. One song highlighting the ephemerality of life ‘Veedu varai uravu’ (T.M. Soundararajan) became a superhit and is still fondly remembered.
The film has the feel of a stage production, except for pleasing outdoor shots of the Hogenakkal falls and its surroundings by cinematographer Thambu (C.V. Ramakrishnan). Gemini Ganesh, Savithri and Vijayakumari perform well, while wily M.R. Radha is his ebullient self. Chandrababu sporting a tuft is in love with his cousin (Padmini Priyadarshini) who refuses to marry him unless he removes the tuft. Her father (Rama Rao) in female disguise brings about the change in Chandrababu to marry his sweetheart. Chandrababu also sings a song in his usual style.
Kamalahasan virtually steals the show with his brilliant performance, consolidating the reputation he had established in his debut Kalathoor Kannamma .
However, the film did not perform well at the box office, mainly because of its predictable storyline and theatrical look. The music compensated for the drawbacks.
Remembered for: the melodious music of Viswanathan-Ramamurthi, and impressive performances.