Paasavalai 1956


“Alibhadusha” was a popular story in the early decades of the 20th Century about a nawab, his family and the problems he faces because of his profligate brother. The story was made into a film during the 1930s, but few remember it today.

In 1956, the Salem-based movie mogul T. R. Sundaram of Modern Theatres took up the story for filming once again, making quite a few changes to it. Titled Paasavalai, he gave the project to editor-turned-filmmaker A. S. Nagarajan for direction. A king (Radha) is accused by his people that he is shielding his younger brother (Gopalakrishnan) who is after women. Touched to the quick, the king abandons his throne and walks out with his queen (Varalakshmi) and children. He wanders in the woods, looking for peace. The family gets separated. The king becomes mentally deranged, while his wife loses the children and works as a maid in a house. The children are rescued by some people, including a leader of a gang of thieves.

The brother meets the king in the woods, apologises for what had happened and promises to cure him of his mental illness. He meets a young woman (Rajamani) who has a magic cave with herbs that can cure his brother. He goes in search of it, but the woman, unable to seduce the repentant brother, converts him into a dog (Tiger). However, he succeeds in curing the king and dies in his arms. The blind king is saved by a princess (Rajam) who falls in love with him. She soon realises that he is still thinking of his first queen. After interesting twists, the king and the queen are united with the children and the princess dies accidentally…..

This story was made into an engaging film by Nagarajan and produced by Sundaram with interesting photography by master lensman W. R. Subba Rao.

The music by Viswanathan-Ramamurthi was the major plus point of the film. The lyrics were by Marudhakasi and Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram. Many songs became popular, with ‘Anbinaal… Paasavalai’ rendered by C. S. Jayaraman becoming a major hit.

Another song that became popular, ‘….. Machaan …,’ has an interesting back story. Kalyanasundaram with a strong leftist leaning was a talented lyricist whose brilliant career was cut short by his demise when he was hardly 30. An event involving him regarding a song composition in Paasavalai needs to be narrated. The young woman who owns the magic cave (Rajamani) dances to a song; Pattukottai, as he was popularly known, wrote the lyrics of the song in his characteristic poetic style. T. R. Sundaram thought it was high brow and told him that he made films for the low brow with an eye on entertainment and a dance number like this one should not contain poetic images, metaphors or similes! Upset, Pattukottai walked away from the composing room, but Sundaram brought him back with the help of his henchmen to complete the song the way he wanted. To clear the hot air, Viswanathan said the song should contain down-to-earth words such as “Lol lol lol… (like a dog barking) machaan wunnai paarthu…” The producer forced Pattukottai to write the song on the lines suggested by Viswanathan, and, much against his wish, Pattukottai wrote it.…

The song was recorded and picturised. Much to the surprise of Pattukottai, this song became a superhit. He told the composer that no wonder TRS was so successful, because he knew the pulse of the people. That was not all. Rajamani during her brief career came to be known as ‘Lol Lol Rajamani’!

Radha, one of the top stars of Tamil Cinema, gave an impressive performance as the king. He was well supported by the bilingual actor Varalakshmi playing the queen. Multitalented actor Gopalakrishnan, familiarly known as ‘Gopi,’ impressed as the younger brother. Rajam as the princess was her usual charming self. Comic relief was provided by Karunanidhi and Muthulakshmi. Paasavalai did well at the box office, thanks to the melodious music of the fast-rising musical duo Viswanathan-Ramamurthi and the soul-stirring voice of Jayaraman. And the dog Tiger also made a mark!

Remembered for the melodious songs, impressive performances by Radha, Varalakshmi and Rajam, and good production values.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 11:55:21 PM |

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