100 years of Gemini Ganesan

Pangaaligal (1961)

Pangaaligal   | Photo Credit: Scanned in Chennai R.K.Sridharan

There was a time when M.R. Radha dominated Tamil cinema, playing mostly villainous roles with his body language, voice and peculiar style of dialogue delivery, bringing him enormous popularity not only in Tamil Nadu but also in countries such as Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia. He became a cult figure, and the release of his films was marked as events. He was so popular that in a review of his film Panam Panthiyiley, one magazine wrote, “Radha illayel padam kuppayiley!” (without Radha, the film will be in trashcans!). In Pangaaligal, he dominated the movie even though Gemini Ganesan was the hero. That was not all. In this film, a pathos lullaby was picturised on Radha grieving over his baby. (Tiruchi Loganathan, sang it to suit Radha.) M.S. Solamalai wrote the film.

The film’s a story of three poor friends (Ranga Rao, Sarangapani and Muthaiah) who promote a metal vessel factory and decide to share the profit equally. The business prospers, but Rao is now a changed man and treats the other two as mere employees. They walk out to eke out a living as daily wage earners.

Rao’s son (Radha) goes abroad, and returns home with ideas of Western style of living, and ill treats everyone. One of the wage earners has two daughters — Kamala (Devika) and Valli (Saroja). As a kid, Kamala gets lost in a fair. She is picked up by a railway porter (Durairaj) who, with his wife (Gnanam), brings her up as a dancer and the couple looks around for a rich man to exploit. Radha walks into his web. The other wage earner has a son (Gemini Ganesan) and a daughter (Anjali Devi). The son goes to Malaya to be brought up by his uncle (Raju) and trained in his business. The daughter, a lovely young woman, as agreed in their early days of poverty, is forced to marry Radha even though he has no interest in her. He ill-treats her, and has a mistress (Devika) who thinks of him as her husband.

The son returns from Malaya and falls in love with is old playmate, Valli. He discovers that his sister is married to the rich man’s son who ill treats her, and that their child is sought to be eliminated by the wily porter so he could get the rich man’s property. After many complicated events, not very logical, the young man, without revealing his identity to his sister, takes it upon himself to solve the problems and succeeds. Losing his wealth to the manipulative porter, Radha is forced to do manual labour and live in a hut. He reforms and realises that wife and child are more important than wealth. Back then, the theme of ‘lost-and-found children’ was a staple for screen stories and was exploited very successfully in Hindi cinema. This was one such story in Tamil, but due to its predictable content, it did not do as well as expected. Anjali Devi, Radha and Ganesan performed impressively.

The lullaby ‘Chinna Arumbu Malarum’, is picturised on Anjali Devi (sung by P. Susheela) and later picturised on Radha. The music was composed by S. Dakshinamurthy popularly known as ‘Dakshinamurthy Master’. His major work was done in Malayalam cinema.

Lyrics were by Kannadasan, Marudhakasi, and K.M. Krishnamurthy. The film was directed by G. Ramakrishnan, a nephew of K. Ramnoth. Much was expected of him, but his career did not take off as expected.

Remembered For The excellent performances of Radha, Anjali Devi and Ganesan, and the song, ‘Chinna Arumbu Malarum’.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2021 7:41:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-columns/pangaaligal-1961/article4840608.ece

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