Blast from the past: Paavai Vilakku 1960

Sivaji Ganesan, ‘Sowcar’ Janaki, M.N. Rajam, Pandari Bai, Sandhya, Asokan, K. Sarangapani, ‘Kumari’ Kamala, Lakshmi Prabha, C.K. Saraswathi, A. Karunanidhi, T.P. Ponnusami Pillai, V.K. Ramasami, C.T. Rajakantham, Mohan, K.R. Chellam, P.S. Sivabhagyam, Sayeeram, Sethupathi, Radhabai and ‘Baby’ Vijaya.

Updated - May 23, 2016 05:31 pm IST

Published - October 25, 2014 05:48 pm IST

Poster of Paavai Vilakku

Poster of Paavai Vilakku

Akilan (P.V. Akilandam, 1922-1988) was hailed as one of the greatest Tamil writers, whose fame spread across the globe. His works have been translated into many languages, including Czechoslovakian, Russian, French and Japanese. He has published 45 books on a variety of subjects, most of them rated as classics. He has won several awards for his novels, short stories and other writings. He gave up studies to join the Freedom Struggle and later the Railway Mail Service. Then he joined the All India Radio (AIR) where his creative talents began to blossom. Soon he became a top writer, producing an enormous body of work in varying genres, which won him international recognition.

Kayalvizhi was a historical novel of his, which was made into a movie titled Maduraiyai Meetta Sundarapandian , directed by MGR who also played the lead in it. Paavai Vilakku is another immortal classic of Akilan, which was produced as a movie by editor T. Vijay and Coimbatore-based cinematographer V.K. Gopanna. The novel appeared at first as a successful serial in the Tamil magazine Kalki and attracted wide attention. It was scripted by noted writer, director, and Tamil cinema icon A.P. Nagarajan. The film was directed by K. Somu, who had worked with the American Tamil filmmaker Ellis. R. Dungan.

Paavai Vilakku was produced at Film Centre and Vauhini Studios, both of which sadly do not exist today. The film has many songs, and dance numbers executed by the legendary Bharatanatyam dancer ‘Kumari’ Kamala who also plays a major role in the movie. The lyrics were by A. Marudhakasi, except one song by Subramania Bharathi. K.V. Mahadevan composed the music.

Well-known singers C.S. Jayaraman, P. Susheela, Sulamangalam Rajalakshmi, and L. R. Easwari lent their voices. Interestingly, there was also a nagaswaram interlude by Karukurichi Arunachalam and his party.

The highlight of the song ‘Vanna Thamizh penn oruthi en ethiril vandhaal....’ is that the opening line is uttered by Sivaji Ganesan, before playback singer C.S. Jayaraman takes over. This was a novel attempt in Tamil cinema then and the way Sivaji says the lines made the song a hit.

The film has a novel beginning. Sivaji sits in a park with his friends, credited in the titles as guest artistes K. Balajee, Prem Nazir, Sriram and M.R. Santhanam. Holding a copy of the novel Paavai Vilakku in his hands, Sivaji talks about its greatness to his friends, and then begins to read it.

Now the film cuts to the beginning of the story in which he plays the hero. The heroine is Sowcar Janaki, the woman he marries, and they have a child Kalyani. Kumari Kamala is a dancer to whom the hero is attracted, but for many reasons they do not marry because he already has a wife. Pandari Bai, a young widow, is also drawn to him, but she begins to treat him as her brother. M.N. Rajam is another young woman who stays with the married couple and brings up the child as her own. She too falls in love with the hero, but cannot marry him. An accident on the steps of the hero’s house ends in the death of the child. Rajam for obvious reasons is not informed of the child’s death. Later she too meets with a similar accident and when she comes to know the shocking secret about the child, she dies in the arms of her friend Janaki and the hero surrounded by all the relations…

As the story was serialised in a weekly magazine, it had many twists and turns, and the movie is also not easy to narrate in detail.

As usual, Sivaji came up with an excellent portrayal, well supported by Sowcar Janaki, Rajam, and Kumari Kamala.

Despite the popularity of the novel, brilliant writing for the screen by A.P. Nagarajan and fine performances, the film did not do well at the box office.

Remembered for: the pleasing music, songs, dance numbers by Kumari Kamala and excellent performances by veteran artistes.

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