Blast from the past Friday Review

Khaidi Kannaiah (1962)

Kantha Rao, Gummadi; Rajanala and Daisy Irani, Kantha Rao and Girija; Rajasulochana; Relangi in 'Khaidi Kannaiah'.  

Though he had started his career in Telugu films with a family drama, Kanyadaanam(1955), B. Vithalacharya was popular as ‘Janapada Brahma for his out-of-the-box ideas in folklore movies that thrilled and fascinated a entire generation of audience. One of his more successful movies among the social films genre was the crime thriller Khaidi Kannaiah a remake of the 1959 Hindi box office hit, Qaidi No.911 produced and directed by Aspi Irani with Sheikh Mukhtar and Nanda in the lead. The Telugu version was produced by Doondy (Pothina Doondeswara Rao) and presented by Sundarlal Nahata under the Rajalakshmi Productions banner.

Vithalacharya chose his Kanyadaanam hero Kantharao and his Anna-Chellelu star Rajanala for the pivotal characters. While directing the movie he had largely followed Qaidi No.911’s Tamil version, Khaithi Kannayiram (1960), produced by T.R. Sundaram of Modern Theatres Ltd. The film’s director A.S.A Sami had tweaked some of the characters and situations making it more engrossing. Interestingly, while the Tamil movie followed the original version’s climax, Vithalacharya made his own apogee.

The Story: Kannaiah (Kantharao) was robbed of the bank cash he was carrying by a gangster Paparao (K.V.S. Sarma) who also kidnaps his motherless son Ravi (Baby Suma) with the help of Ramu (comedian Balakrishna). Kannaiah is held responsible for the robbery and imprisoned. In prison he learns about his son’s demise and blames his sister-in-law Madhavi (Girija) and her brother Ramu for his son’s death. Kannaiah finds solace in the company of the jailor’s (Gummadi) son Raju (Baby Savithri). Padma (Rajasulochana) is the tutor for Raju. A hardcore criminal Durgarayudu (Rajanala) kidnaps Raju and absconds from prison. Kannaiah too escapes to save Raju and takes shelter at Padma’s house. Singaram (Relangi) a small time thief and lover of Padma join him in his pursuit. The area inspector (K.S. Reddy) nabs Paparao. Kannaiah finds the hideout of Durgarayudu with the help of Padma who wanders the streets singing the song she has taught Raju. The guilty is caught and Raju is saved. Kannaiah gets justice.

Cast & Crew: With his dexterous handling, Vithalacharya sustained the audience interest from frame one. He modified the climax to make it more thrilling. In the Hindi and Tamil versions, the climax fight ends in a secluded building. Vithalacharya extended it from Golden Studios, Madras to his favourite outdoor location, Hogenkkal in Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu which was also then the most sought after location by many South Indian filmmakers. In Qaidi No.911 and in its Tamil version, the protagonists Sheikh Mukhtar and R.S. Manohar return to jail but in Telugu Kannaiah was absolved of the crime and marries his sister-in-law Madhavi who survives the villain’s knife attack unlike her counter parts (played by Minoo Mumtaz and E.V. Saroja respectively) who succumb.

G. Krishnamurthy wrote the dialogues and lyrics. Cinematographer Chandru and editor Govindaswamy made a laudable contribution.

With his menacing demeanour and convincing portrayal as the antagonist Durgarayudu, Rajanala garnered most of the attention. Within the available parameters, Kantharao played the title role at his best. Rajasulochana reprised her role from Kaithi Kannayiram and made a neat contribution. Relangi had even a fight sequence (fights: Stunt Sivaiah & party) with the villain in the climax and in the end marries the music teacher Padma (Rajasulochana). In his usual dignified self Gummadi played the duty bound jailor. Sandhya acted as his wife. With her effortless and ebullient acting it was Daisy Irani who stole the show as Raju. For reasons best known to him T.R. Sundaram changed her name in Khaithi Kannayiram as Baby Savithri. By that time she was popular with Tamil audience with her original name, Daisy Irani for her heart warming performance in the Gemini Ganesan, Savitri starrer, Yaar Paiyyan (1957). Perhaps T.R. Sundaram renamed her as Baby Savithri after watching Yaar Paiyyan in which she had matched Savitri’s prowess. In Khaidi Kannaiah too Daisy Irani was credited as Baby Savithri in the title cards.

Rajan-Nagendra scored the music. The duo replayed Dattaram’s haunting melody ‘meethi meethi baton se…’ rendered by Lata Mangeshkar twice, once with Daisy Irani and later towards the end portions, as a solo. P. Susheela was equally mellifluous in her renditions of teeya teeyani tenela maatalato… which she sang with R. Rajasri and as a solo. The other hit song was also from a borrowed tune, the P.B. Srinivos, S. Janaki rendition, ee nijam telusuko… ( ek sawal my karun… from Sasural). The other popular songs were – andaala kalla choodu (P. Susheela) and premaku kaanuka kaavalena…(Madhavapeddi Sathyam, Susheela).

Trivia: C.J. Pavri wrote the story for Qaidi No.911 and his repertoire include such box office hits as Kanoon, Dhund, Raaz, Majdoor, Hamraj, Joshila and The Great Gambler.

Daisy Irani’s mother Padmarani was a well known Gujarati film actress. She passed away on January 25, 2016. Her father Namdar Irani was a theatre director and uncle of yester year actress Aruna Irani. Daisy Irani married screen writer K.K. Shukla. Her younger sister Menaka married action filmmaker Kamran Khan and their children Farah Khan and Sajid Khan are popular filmmakers. Her youngest sister Honey Irani was also a well known child star of the time. She has married (now divorced) noted screen writer and lyricist Javed Akhtar. Their children Farhan Akhtar and Zoya Akhtar are also in show biz.

With its offbeat storyline and taut on screen narration, Khadi Kannaiah was a box office success and celebrated the hundred days function at Sri Saraswati Picture Palace, Vijayawada.

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