Petraalthan Pillaiya was produced by K.K. Vasu under the banner of Sri Muthukumaran Pictures. It was one of the hit films of MGR, and had a theatrical run of over 100 days. It was an adaptation of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid . The film was directed by the duo Krishnan-Panju. The film was also edited by Panju under his pseudonym S. Panjabi. The Kid was suitably altered, with changes made to suit the Tamil film audiences.
The story deals with Jeeva (Sowkar Janaki), a poor woman with a son who is abandoned by her rich husband (Asokan), as he has plans to marry another rich woman, who is under the control of Mani (Nambiar).
Jeeva, unable to afford raising her kid, abandons him at a temple. A tramp, Anandhan (M. G. Ramachandran), who is in the temple, finds the kid. Anandhan tries to get rid of the young boy, but he soon bonds with him and names him the boy Kannan (Baby Shakila). He also educates him with his meagre income. Anandhan’s lover is a street-fortune teller (Saroja Devi) and her brother is Thangavelu. After five years, Kannan’s biological mother, Jeeva, meets him and also her husband, and after many twists and turns, the truth emerges.
But Kannan loves the tramp and chooses to stay with him, and not with his parents. Anandhan marries his sweetheart and Kannan lives with them; his parents educate him.
The fight sequences between MGR and Nambiar were one of the highlights of the film. The film had notable cinematography by P.N. Sundaram, especially in capturing the Madras city of the 1960s. M.S. Viswanathan composed the music and there are only five songs in the movie.
One song featuring MGR, ‘Nalla Nalla Pillaigalai’ (Voice: T.M. Soundararajan; Lyrics: Vaali) became a hit and has a message for kids. Interestingly, it ran into censorship problems. One line says ‘Arignar Annapol….’ referring to C.N. Annadurai. The line was changed to ‘Thiru Vi Ka pol…’.
Remembered for: The melodious music of M.S. Viswanathan, fine acting of MGR, Sowcar Janaki and Baby Shakila; good camerawork by P.N. Sundaram and deft direction by Krishnan-Panju.