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Inbavalli (1949)


T.R. Mahalingam was one of the successful singer-actors of the early decades of Tamil cinema. Blessed with an excellent voice resembling that of the legendary stage actor and icon S.G. Kittappa, he made a mark as a stage artiste when he was just a kid, and took his bow in movies with AV Meiyappan’s Nandakumar as a little boy. For a few years, he was active in Tamil cinema playing the lead role in many movies, and turned producer, which did not prove successful. Much later, he lost heavily in production and even filed for insolvency. He then began to act in supporting roles, thanks to his singing. He also went back to theatre and staged his popular plays in small towns and rural parts of Tamil Nadu. In Inbavalli, he played the lead role as the son of a minister in an ancient kingdom falling in love with a princess. It was a folklore-genre tale with incredible twists, with human beings turning into bears and monkeys, magical mirrors which show one’s past and future, and such. These kinds of stories were common in India and were obviously inspired by the popular classic The Arabian Nights.

The story was written by P.A. Kumar who was active in those days, now barely remembered, and the dialogue was by the first screenwriter star of Tamil cinema Elangovan and M. Lakshmanan. Papanasam Rajagopala Iyer and K.P. Meenakshi Sundaram wrote the lyrics while noted music composer G. Ramanathan composed the songs. A number of dancers performed folk and other styles of dances excellently. Noted choreographer and nattuvanar Vaideeswarankoil Muthuswami Pillai trained the dancers.

The film was directed and edited by S. Notani who was active in Tamil cinema and later moved to Bombay where he faded away. The film was produced by Shyamala Pictures and shot at Ratna Studios, Salem, which vanished over time.

The story is about a princess (Saroja) and the minister’s son (Mahalingam) who grow up together and fall in love, promising to get married to each other. The queen (Krishna Bai) however has different ideas to marry off her daughter to a prince. The lovers secretly elope at night and a hunt for them begins. A wily magician (M.R. Swaminathan) who’s interested in the princess captures the king with his tricks. The hero is saved by an elderly woman who transforms him into a parrot! The bird flies away and is saved by the palace dancer (Saraswathi). After many twists and turns, the lovers unite.

B.S. Saroja began her life as a group dancer on the rolls of Gemini Studios and made her way to the top in films through her talent. She acted in a few Tamil and Malayalam hits. P.K. Saraswathi as the devadasi dancer performed quite a few dances. Hailing from Kerala, she was part of the Uday Shankar troupe. She had a fairly successful career, but never rose to the top. One of the attractions of the film was a folk art dance ‘Poikaal Kudhirai Aattam’ brilliantly executed by N.S. Krishnan.

The film had as many as 20 songs rendered mostly by Mahalingam, P.A. Periyanayaki (for Saroja), T.V. Ratnam, and P. Leela. Only one song ‘Yaar Unnai Poley’, a dance number rendered by Saroja, was a hit. Composed in the raga Asaveri, it was rendered by Periyanayaki. Despite an impressive star cast, and the likes of Sahadevan, Angamuthu and NSK-T.A. Mathuram, Inbavalli did not perform well at the box-office.

Remembered For The dance sequences, Mahalingam’s singing, and the ‘Poikaal Kudhirai’ dance by N.S. Krishnan.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 9:18:07 PM |

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