Blast from the past Cinema

Kalathoor Kannamma (1959)

Kalathoor Kannamma  

Movieland, the well-known Madras-based film magazine, carried in bold headlines in its review of this movie, ‘A new star rises on the movie horizon’. The well-written article by the noted editor and film journalist, K. Vasudevan (popularly known as ‘Movieland Vasu’), praised the five-year-old who carried the film on his slender shoulders. The new face went on to fulfil all the promises held out in the article and achieved much more. He also became an icon of Indian Cinema and a cult figure in his own right. The cherubic child artiste was Kamalahasan (as it was then spelt)!

Interestingly, the film song book carries a line (loosely translated as), “AVM offers the south Indian screen a new child artiste!” A. V. Meiyappan had the rare talent for spotting the oak in the acorn, and was aware of the potential of this new actor. Produced by M. Kumaran (AVM’s son) and Arun Veerappan (son-in-law) and shot at AVM Studios, Kalathoor Kannamma was written by ‘Javert’ N. Seetharaman. The lyrics were by Kannadasan, Kothamangalam Subbu, M.K. Atmanathan, Ku. Ma. Balasubramaniam and T. K. Sundara Vathiyar, and music by the AVM in-house composer R. Sudarsanam. The film was directed at first by multilingual filmmaker T. Prakash Rao, who for some reason opted out and another equally talented filmmaker, A. Bhim Singh, stepped in. The story was about a young woman Kannamma (Savithri) who on her way back to Kalathoor meets Raja (Gemini Ganesan) and falls in love with him, unaware that he is a rich zamindar’s son. They marry in secret at a local temple. Soon, Raja leaves for England for higher studies. Kannamma promises not to reveal their marriage so that her husband’s family prestige is preserved. She gives birth to Raja’s child. Her father, an impoverished man (Subbaiah), tells her that the child was born dead and admits him (Kamalahasan) in an orphanage run by the zamindar. Unaware of it all, Raja comes back after his education and believing some rumours about Kannamma, begins to hate her.

Upon his father’s request, Raja agrees to marry a wealthy lady (Devika), and at this juncture, the kid enters his life. He is impressed with the kid when he presides over a variety entertainment at the orphanage. How the problems between the lovers and the family are solved and how the little boy unites his parents forms the rest of the film.

The film had established stars like Gemini Ganesan and Savithri, but their performances were no match for the brilliance of the kid.

One song ‘Ammavum neeye appavum neeye…’ filmed on Kamalahasan, (sung by M.S. Rajeswari and chorus) became a major hit.

Remembered for: The little boy’s remarkable performance and the song filmed on him.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 5:18:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/kalathoor-kannamma/article7141014.ece

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