‘Sandow’ Chinnappa Thevar, as he styled himself, was one of the most successful producers of Indian cinema whose hits include the Rajesh Khanna-starrer Haathi Mere Saathi in Hindi which he remade in Tamil as Nalla Neram starring M.G.R. A lover of animals, his movies always had thematic references to them. Indeed, he maintained a mini zoo.
Sengottai Singam was one such jungle-based film. It featured Kannada star Udayakumar, one of the Kannada Cinema Trio — Rajkumar, Kalyana Kumar and Udayakumar — who dominated the Kannada film industry for a certain period. The story was written by Rajagopal, about whom not much is known, and the screenplay and dialogue were by Puratchidasan. The lyrics were by A. Marudhakasi, Velsamy Kavi and Puratchidasan, and the music was composed by K.V. Mahadevan.
The Bombay-based V.N. Reddy, who directed MGR in Ananda Jothi, helmed this film and also handled the camera, assisted by noted south Indian cinematographer N.S. Varma. The film was shot at the famous Vijaya Vauhini Studios.
In the film, the wealthy owner of the Sengottai estate orders a factory worker Lakshmi (Pandari Bai) and her baby to be killed because they come in the way of his car. What he doesn’t know is that Lakshmi is his son’s sweetheart and the baby’s father. Thankfully, his henchman has secretly allowed the mother and child to escape. The two get separated and the boy is brought up by tribal leader Malayandi (Sahadevan). The estate owner’s son Dharmalingam (Sahasranamam) is heartbroken that he has lost his sweetheart and baby and refuses to marry the girl of his father’s choice. Meanwhile, the boy is named Singam (Udayakumar) and grows up a fierce warrior who fights with animals and enemies. He falls in love with a young woman (Saroja Devi). How the family reunites forms the rest of the story.
The film has a song filmed on the hero riding an elephant (voice T.M. Soundararajan, lyrics Marudhakasi), ‘Nadadaaaa Rajaa... nadadaa…,’ that became popular. The two horses proved an added box-office attraction, especially with the front-benchers. The film was not a big success, but the music and the animals attracted attention.
Remembered for: the pleasing music and interesting performances by the talented cast, particularly the horses and the elephant.