Kannamma En Kaathali 1945

entertainment in times of war From Kannamma En Kaadhali

entertainment in times of war From Kannamma En Kaadhali  

L. Narayana Rao, M. K. Radha, M. S. Sundari Bai, ‘Appa’ Subbaiah Pillai, Angamuthu, Kulathu Mani

During the Second World War (1939-1945), the British Indian government imposed severe restrictions on the film industry due to shortage of raw film stock and other materials. A producer was allotted only 44,000 feet of picture negative, and no feature film could exceed 11,000 feet in length. To produce a film, a permit from Delhi had to be obtained.

To support the War propaganda efforts, the government asked four noted Tamil producers to make films highlighting the War effort and condemning the enemies. Gemini Studios was one of them, and Kannamma En Kaathali (10,914 feet) was such a propaganda movie.

This film was inspired by the well-known French play, “School for Wives” by the celebrated 17th Century French playwright Moliere, who had much impact on Tamil cinema in those days. The story was suggested by movie wizard K. Ramnoth who was then Controller of Productions at Gemini Studios, and he produced the film too. S. S. Vasan being a staunch nationalist did not wish to associate himself openly with the project and his name never appeared in the credits.

Kothamangalam Subbu wrote the story, screenplay, dialogue and lyrics, and M. D. Parthasarathy composed the music.

The movie narrated the tale of a rich, lecherous old man, (Narayana Rao at his best), who finds a young girl lost in a temple festival crowd and brings her up with the intention of marrying her later. Without his knowledge, the young woman (Sundari Bai) falls in love with a young man (Radha) and the two play smart games fooling the stuffy old man! Kannamma En Kaathali was a melodrama with familiar twists but writer-director Kothamangalam Subbu invested the film with a light touch almost ‘Wodehouseian’. Times were harsh and people needed entertainment. Gemini Studios stood for wholesome entertainment and this film was in such mould.

Sundari Bai (Mrs. Subbu in private life) was elevated to the status of a heroine. Indeed this was her only movie as heroine. She fitted the role well and proved to be a good match for Radha. Narayana Rao, veteran comedian-character actor, was superb as the woman-hating, but lecherous old man. He made a splash as the lustful Telugu-speaking Chetti in the box-office bonanza Chintamani (1937) and later joined Gemini Studios and played character roles in its films. This was his career best, still remembered by old timers.

There was a song by the old man’s servant (‘Pottai’ Krishnamurthy of Chandralekha-film song ‘Naatiya Kudhirai...’ fame) describing to the old man what was happening between ‘the Chinese doctor’ (Radha in disguise!) and Kannamma. It was considered rather vulgar by the conservative society of those times! A song rendered by Sundari Bai, ‘Naan oru bungalaa kattiriken paaru..!’ became very popular.

Kannamma En Kaadhali turned out to be a ‘product’ made to order by ‘War Economy’ standards. And it was successful too!

Remembered for: As a War propaganda film and Subbu’s deft direction.


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