‘Thengai’ Srinivasan was one of the top comedians and character artistes of Tamil cinema. He began life working for the Integral Coach Factory in Perambur, Madras, and had a keen interest in acting, thanks to his father, a stage artiste who ran his own troupe.
In one of the plays of well-known actor ‘Kavarchi Villain’ Kannan, titled Kal Manam, Srinivasan played the role of a coconut vendor, which attracted enormous attention. Thus, he came to be known as ‘Thengai’ Srinivasan. Soon he made his way into a number of movies during the 1960s and 1970s. He had a characteristic way of delivering dialogue and used his expressive face and eyes to great effect in his comedy roles.
One such movie was AVM’s in-house production Kaasethan Kadavulada (1972). A rip-roaring situation comedy, Kaasethan Kadavulada was written and directed by Chitralaya Gopu (original name K. Satagopan) who was associated with the icon of Indian cinema C.V. Sridhar, right from the time he staged plays before switching to movies. Gopu was strong in comedy and also directed movies. This film tells the story of an extremely rich and dominating woman Parvathi (Manorama), who is the second wife of Sivaswamy (Vennira Aadai Moorthi), a henpecked husband. She controls all his money, treating him with scorn. When Ramu (Muthuraman), son of Sivaswamy’s first wife, requires a sum of Rs. 3,000, she refuses flatly. Ramu and his cousin Sekhar (Srikanth) hatch a plot with Apparswami (‘Thengai’ Srinivasan), a tea vendor with light fingers. Apparswami is introduced into the rich woman’s house as a fake godman in order to get to her safe and steal a sum of Rs. 50,000.
Meanwhile, Rama (Lakshmi) is an orphan whose only friend is the doctor of a mental institution. When Rama wants a conduct certificate, the doctor bungles and hands over the certificate of a mad girl. Rama arrives at Parvathi’s house to work as a secretary and Parvathi sees the certificate and decides to keep Rama at her house to humour her, fearing her condition. Rama falls in love with the stepson. The mentally challenged girl (Ramaprabha) and her father (Vasu) also come there to work coincidentally. Now more complications arise, leading to funny incidents. Parvathi has cash stashed in secret hideouts with code words and the godman tries to rob it with the stepson’s help. They almost succeed but are exposed. However, all problems are solved and the lovers are united. The film was excellently narrated onscreen by Chitralaya Gopu and his dialogue delivered by Srinivasan and others makes the film a fine example of situation comedy. Srinivasan virtually carries the film on his shoulders, well supported by Muthuraman, Srikanth, Murthi, Manorama, Lakshmi, Vasu and Ramaprabha.
The film had fine music (M.S. Viswanathan and lyrics by Vali) and one song Jambulingamey Jadathara , sung by K. Veeramani, Kovai S. Rajan and Dharapuram Sundararajan, became a hit. The manner in which it was filmed is one of the highlights.
Remembered for: the excellent comedy sequences, humorous dialogue, fine direction of Chitralaya Gopu and excellent performances.