The film, Rattha Thilakam , is based on the Indo-Chinese Border conflict of 1962. Kumar (Sivaji Ganesan), an orphan, and Kamala (Savithri) study in the same college, with the latter often clashing with the former. The college annual day becomes a success because of their cooperation. Kumar and Kamala eventually become compatible and fall in love. Kamala’s father, who lives in Peking, China, dies, and she leaves for China, promising to marry Kumar upon her return.
Meanwhile, the border conflict between India and China takes a serious turn. Kumar joins the Indian Army and goes to the NEFA front. Kamala decides to spend her life in Peking, while her mother returns to India. She is forced to marry a Chinese doctor (Kannappa), but it remains a marriage only in name and Kamala remains a virgin, until she dies much later in the battlefield in her lover’s arms.
During the battle, Kumar comes to know about Kamala’s marriage with the Chinese doctor, and is heartbroken. While Kumar works for the Indian Army, Kamala works as a spy against the Chinese forces, sending secret messages to Kumar, who has no knowledge of the source.
The two meet during the battle and she reveals the truth that she has never forgotten Kumar. Even while she is speaking to Kumar, her husband, in disguise, confronts his wife and shoots her, and she dies in Kumar’s arms. Kumar, who is badly hurt, fights for the country, and dies after hoisting the Indian flag, proud of having done his duty for his Motherland.
The film was directed by the lawyer-turned filmmaker from Maharashtra, Dada Mirasee. It was produced by National Movies, Panju Arunachalam and others, and presented by Kavignar Kannadasan. The screenplay, dialogue and lyrics were by Kannadasan, with music being composed by K. V. Mahadevan.
Some of the songs from the film were quite popular in the day. One song ‘Oru koppayiley en kudi iruppu…’ became a hit. Another song, ‘Pogaathey pogaathey en kanavaa…..”, a satire on the famed Kattabomman saga, was rendered with telling effect by Manorama to her lover Nagesh, who wishes to go to battle, and the song is all about preventing him from going, and making fun of him.
The comedy track by Nagesh and Manorama was also a huge hit. Pushpalatha, who later became a star, appears in a minor role.
There was also a popular dance number with music by Mala of Sasi-Kala-Mala (Madras Sisters). Choreography was by Desmond-Rajkumar. The battle scenes were impressively canned by the cameraman Jhagirdhar and the film was edited by R. Devarajan. This film was dubbed in Telugu and Hindi, but did not create much of an impact. Even the Tamil version unfortunately was not a big success.
Remembered for : Outstanding performances by Sivaji Ganesan and Savithri, the comedy track of Manorama and Nagesh, the pleasing music and impressive cinematography of the battle scenes.