Blast from the past Columns

Mayavathi (1949)

Modern Theaters’ T. R. Sundaram created film history when he made 100 movies in less than 30 years. In fact, he passed away during the making of his hundredth film, Konjum Kumari, in 1963. The film included his funeral procession in a separate reel, with the film’s hero R.S. Manohar as pall-bearer. TRS wanted to make at least three movies a year, which were planned in advance and made on a low budget with no expensive stars. His studio had readymade sets, which were used for various movies with minor alterations. He ran his studio on the lines of the prolific Golden Age of Hollywood. He had a regular band of distributors to whom he gave his films, keeping a small profit for himself. If the movie didn’t make money, he made adjustments with the distributors in the next film, a unique system for this part of the world. He directed most films himself; and no film left the studio without his final say, and in this he was very much like the Gemini Studios’ boss, S.S. Vasan.

Mayavathi was produced under the Ganapathi Pictures banner, which he often used for income tax purposes.

Jalakantapuram Pa. Kannan, a TRS regular and one of Periyar EVR Naicker’s early disciples, wrote it. The lyrics were written by A. Maruthakasi and Ka. Mu. Sheriff, while G. Ramanathan scored the music. Ramanathan, who worked on a number of Modern Theaters’ movies, was a favourite.

The dances with the famed Travancore Sisters Lalitha and Padmini were choreographed by K. K. Sinha. The movie was produced at the Modern Theaters studio on the outskirts of Salem.

Mayavathi was based on a folk tale about a princess called Mayavathi (Anjali Devi) whose father (K. K. Perumal) makes a beautiful lake with silver fish and pretty flowers where she spends most of her time.

Surangathan (Mahalingam) is a prince who hates women because his father had a bitter experience with them. There is also an ugly barber (Subbaiah) who happens to see the princess near the lake. He makes overtures to her only to be insulted.

The prince Mahalingam goes on a hunt to the woods and sees Mayavathi there. Both fall in love, but the prince leaves her soon, saying he hates women. She vows to win him over.

Meanwhile, the barber puts on many disguises to get the princess, including entering the body of a parrot, but is always exposed. How the princess wins over the reluctant prince forms the rest of the film. The love scenes between Mahalingam and Anjali Devi were considered erotic then, with the Censors making quite a few cuts. However, the film still didn’t do well at the box office.

Cast: T.R. Mahalingam, Anjali Devi, S.V. Subbaiah, Kali N. Ratnam, C.T. Rajakantham, K.K. Perumal, M.G. Chakrapani, M.E. Madhavan, A. Karunanidhi and Narayana Pillai

Remembered for: Lalitha-Padmini’s dances, and the daring romantic scenes between the lead pair.


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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 1:49:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-columns/blast-from-the-past-mayavathi-1949/article6757070.ece

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