BLAST FROM THE PAST Columns

Leelavathi Sulochana 1936

Pammal Sambandam Mudaliar, one of the two founding fathers of the Renaissance of Tamil theatre (the other being Sankaradas Swamigal), created new trends towards the late19th Century. A lawyer and judge by profession, he promoted the famous Suguna Vilas Sabha while he was still a student of the Presidency College, Madras. Along with his friends such as V. V. Srinivasa Iyengar, the legendary lawyer, Mudaliar created theatre history with his varied plays. Some of them were inspired by William Shakespeare and Moliere.

One of the early plays he wrote in 1895 was ‘Leelavathi Sulochana,' also known as ‘The Two Sisters.' Interestingly, a copy of this play published as a book with an introduction and chapter-by-chapter synopsis by Srinivasa Iyengar in English is preserved in the Tamil Section of the British Museum in London, a fact not known to many. It was staged hundreds of times all over the erstwhile Madras Presidency and in some parts of Burma. It was made into a movie in 1935 and released in 1936 by the sadly forgotten Salem-based film production unit, Angel Films, in which the latter day Indian movie mogul, T. R. Sundaram of Modern Theatres, Salem, was one of the prime movers. Angel Films made quite a few movies, in Calcutta, mostly at the famous New Theaters Studios in the absence of production facilities in this part of the country.

Regrettably, a disastrous fire wrecked the fortunes of Angel Films, and Sundaram went to England to study Textile Engineering, leaving the sunken company. In 1936, soon after his return to India, he promoted the historic Modern Theaters on the outskirts of Salem.

The song book proudly announces that the film has 45 songs. Interestingly, the opening number, sung in chorus behind the curtain, like in theatre, as was the fashion of the day, mentions the name of the Indian film company, wishing it good luck and also praying for Bharatha Matha.

The film was directed by noted but controversial filmmaker P. V. Rao. The famous TKS Brothers who suffered great losses by his antics, wished to take revenge on him, and created a comical filmmaker in their famous film, originally a play, Gumasthavin Penn, and the role was played by the latter day singing star K. R. Ramasami.

The noted stage artiste who made a mark as a young boy and who was part of the Boys' Company C. S. Jayaraman, later known for his off screen songs such as ‘Kutram purindhavan' ( Rattha Kanneer) and ‘Indru poy naalai vaaraaye' ( Sampoorna Ramayanam), played the hero, while another singing star P. S. Govindan who was active in Tamil Cinema for a few years played a major role. The singing actor, known as ‘Naradar', Nagercoil K. Mahadevan also played an important role.

P.S. Sivabhagyam, hailing from Paramakudi, was famous for the gramophone records sold by the hundred — he played a major role. Another noted actor of her day, Saradambal played an important role. C. D. Janaki played ‘Lady Bhagavathar' and sang a few songs.

The movie was all about two sisters, princesses, falling for the same man, also a prince. The jealous elder sister plays many tricks, including kidnapping and murder, to get rid of the younger one. But she does not succeed; in the end, she commits suicide, leaving the younger sister free to marry her lover.

Remembered forbeing a film based on a play by Sambandam Mudaliar, who gave a new direction to Tamil theatre, and for its melodious music.



Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 4:48:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chen-columns/leelavathi-sulochana-1936/article2642167.ece

Next Story