Friday Review

M.K. Radha, the style icon

One of the films which established M.K. Radha as an icon of sartorial elegance was the 1938 movie, ‘Chandramohana’ or ‘Samooga Thondu’. This film was based on the novel ‘Anadhai Penn’ by the famed Tamil writer and journalist Vai. Mu. Kothainayaki Ammal known as ‘Vai .Mu.Ko’

The film was directed by the sadly-forgotten South Indian pioneer Raghupathi Prakash, whose father Raghupathi Venkaiah brought movies to Madras.

The hero was a fashionable young man, and M. K. Radha was chosen for the role with the concurrence of the writer, who insisted on knowing from time to time, how her novel was being dealt with on celluloid.

The film narrates the story of a poor orphan girl (T.A. Sundarambal) who falls in love with a rich, handsome man (Radha) and dreams of marrying him. Much to her shock, he goes to England. Back home, she undergoes many trials and tribulations, and when her dream man returns her problems are solved and everything ends happily when both marry…

In this film, Radha wore well-cut suits, top hat, gloves and stick, making an elegant Saville Row sartorial statement. After the film’s release, many young men, all over south India, even in small towns began emulating him and wore such clothes.

Not surprisingly, ‘Anadhai Penn’ was one of Radha’s favourite films. An enlarged life-size photo of Radha, in a well-tailored suit, adorned the drawing room of his spacious Mylapore home, and he showed it to his friends with joy and pride.

Another factor that contributed to the success of ‘Anadhai Penn’ was its comedy line built around a rich, but tight-fisted Chettiar, who is taken for a ride by a bunch of crooks. They lure him into film production. This role was performed well by Kothamangalam Subbu. Writer, poet, actor and filmmaker, Subbu was blessed with a fine sense of humour and rose from humble beginnings to occupy a prominent position in the industry.

The film had in its cast besides Radha, Sundarambal and Subbu, P. U. Chinnappa, L. Narayan Rao, T. S. Krishnaveni, P. R. Mangalam, M. R. Swaminathan, P. G. (Azhvar) Kuppusami and E. Krishnamurthi…..

(To be continued)

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 3:55:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/mk-radha-the-style-icon/article8504416.ece

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