Kanniyin Kaadhali 1949

taut narration Kanniyin Kaadhali  

Anjali Devi, Madhuri Devi, Pulimoottai Ramaswami, S. A. Natarajan, Sayeeram

In 1947, two sadly underrated maestros of Indian cinema, K. Ramnoth and A. K. Sekhar, resigned from Gemini Studios announcing their departure with a press ad. They were invited by Jupiter Pictures boss M. Somasundaram to join his unit. Writer-director A. S. A. Sami, who was the kingmaker at Jupiter, welcomed the duo with open arms. Their first project was a brilliant adaptation of the Shakespearean play, ‘Twelfth Night’.

Scripted by Ramnoth, the breezy dialogue was written by noted Tamil playwright S. D. Sundaram. Anjali Devi played the female lead and Madhuri Devi played a double role, female and male! S. A. Natarajan, an import from theatre, played a fine supporting role — his stylised dialogue delivery made people sit up and take notice. He was to soon steal the show in Ellis R. Dungan’s Manthrikumari (1950).

Kanniyin Kaadhali had imposing sets (art director A. K. Sekhar who had also designed the sets for the Gemini Studios’ blockbuster Chandralekha, 1948). Not many are aware that lyricist Kannadasan got his break in this film with his first song “Kalangaadhiru manamey…” for which Ramnoth paid him Rs. 100 as remuneration. Ramnoth used an innovation for the voice of the ‘male’ Madhuri Devi. He made the noted stage, screen and TV star V. Gopalakrishnan (Gopi), then a college student and working with Ramnoth as his disciple, lend his voice to the actress. To economise on dubbing, he did not project the sequences on a screen in a recording theatre as is normally done but asked Gopi to utter the lines listening to the original dialogue spoken by Madhuri through an earphone from the projector. Many were sceptical about this experiment, but it turned out to be a success, revealing what a genius Ramnoth was. Indeed, a book is to be written about the contribution of Ramnoth-Sekhar to South Indian cinema.

Kanniyin Kaadhali, an interesting tale of switching identities, was tautly narrated on screen by Ramnoth and had pleasing music by S. M. Subbaiah Naidu (lyrics by Kannadasan).

Ramnoth-Sekhar used a novel gadget which attracted much attention in that day. A palace watchman wears a belt into which a key is tucked. Like most watchmen, he snoozes a lot. When an intruder tries to pull out the key, a hidden mechanism in the belt bursts into loud instrumental music waking up the watchman!

(Ramnoth later told this writer that many people asked him whether this gadget could be made on a commercial scale, patented and sold! Ramnoth, like most creative souls, shrugged it off).

Anjali Devi, as attractive as ever, gave an impressive performance, while Madhuri Devi, playing both male and female, was excellent with her flamboyant acting style. She considered it one of her best performances ever.

Lean and lanky, Sayeeram, a talented but sadly underrated comedian, proved a perfect foil to S. A. Natarajan, who played the king.

Sundaram’s alliterative dialogue laced with humour was one of the assets of the movie.

Despite the masterly contribution of Ramnoth-Sekhar, lilting music, excellent photography, gorgeous sets and fine performances, Kanniyin Kaadhali did not fare as well as expected. The changing trends in Tamil cinema were believed to be the reason for stories of kings and queens not finding favour with moviegoers.

Remembered for Excellent onscreen narration, captivating camerawork, picturesque sets, pleasing music and good performances by one and all.