In the early decades of South Indian cinema, Joseph Thaliath Jr. was a successful producer-director and the owner of Citadel Studios in Kilpauk. The son of a high-ranking judicial officer of erstwhile Travancore state, he came to Madras to make movies against his father’s wishes. He worked as an assistant with the multilingual S. Soundararajan of Tamil Nadu Talkies. Later, he joined art director, filmmaker and part-owner of Newtone Studios, F. Nagoor, and with his help started his own company. He wanted to produce a Tamil film based on A.J. Cronin’s famous novel, The Citadel, but Nagoor advised him against it, saying the topic was too highbrow. He dropped the project and instead named his studio Citadel.
Joseph’s first production was Mallika, andhe also directed it. The film featured Gemini Ganesh, credited in the titles as ‘R. Ganesh’. The story was written by M.A. Durai and the dialogues by Nanjilnadu T.N. Rajappa, who was also the assistant director. The lyrics were by A. Marudhakasi and K. Atmanathan. Noted composer T.R. Papa scored the music, while P. Susheela, A.M. Raja, Jikki, Mythili, S.C. Krishnan, and R. Nageswara Rao were the playback singers.
The song-and-dance sequences filmed on Padmini were superb, with ‘Neelavanna Kannaney Unathu Ennamellam Naan Ariven En Kaiyyai Thodathey’ becoming a big hit that is still remembered by music lovers.
Mallika was about a businessman based in Burma who loses money and is forced to return to India with his wife and two daughters Kamala (Padmini) and Padma (‘Baby’ Rajakumari). However, the plane crashes and the parents die. Kamala and Padma survive the crash but the latter loses her sight. Kamala sells their property in India to meet her sister’s medical expenses. She pretends to take up a teaching job but joins a theatre troupe under the name ‘Mallika’ and becomes a famous dancer. She meets the affluent Mohan (Ganesh) and falls in love with him. When his family finds out that she is a dancer, they reject her as someone of low moral character. However, when Mohan’s father is murdered and the son arrested, Mallika takes the blame on herself to save him. When the truth comes out in the end, the couple is reunited, the sister regains her sight and they all live happily thereafter.
Padmini’s dances were choreographed by Hiralal, assisted by Chinni and Sampath. M.G. Naidu, who later founded the famous Naidu Hall, was the costume designer.
Despite the fine music, scintillating dances by Padmini, and impressive performances by Gemini Ganesh and others, Mallika was only an average success. It was remade in Hindi as Payal with Sunil Dutt, Padmini, Baby Naaz, and Agha.
Remembered for: Its dances, performances and melodious music.