Sparkling presence

Made an impact: S. Rama Rao and T. P. Muthulakshmi in Thayillappillai.

Made an impact: S. Rama Rao and T. P. Muthulakshmi in Thayillappillai.  


To T.P. Muthulakshmi, who passed away recently.

With her looks and talent, T.P.Muthulakshmi could have become a heroine — a thought shared by Ellis Dungan in whose ‘Ponmudi’ she made her debut.

Dungan described her as “a saucy, seductive woman, cute, curvaceous and enormously talented.” A Modern Theatres production based on Bharathidasan’s ‘Ethirpaaratha Muttham,’ the film was excellently crafted by Dungan but did not meet with success. Muthulakshmi, however, made an impact with her good looks.

She came into prominence with Dungan’s next offer ‘Manthiri Kumari’ (1950), also a Modern Theatres production with MGR, Madhuri Devi, and G. Shakunthala in lead roles. However a virtually unknown stage actor S.A.Natarajan stole the show and Muthulakshmi too drew attention even though her role was only supportive.

Besides her looks, her strong point was her sense of timing and excellent delivery of the punch lines of comedy, which won her name and fame. She held her own in the presence of Manorama and C.T.Rajakantham.

She had acted in more than 300 movies, being paired with noted comedians like ‘Friend’ Ramasami, A. Karunanidhi, and during his day the most successful and finest of them all, K.A.Thangavelu.

Rich repertoire

The list of her films is too long, but mention must be made of films such as ‘Rajambal’ (1951), ‘Thaai Ullam’ (1952), ‘Parasakthi’ (1952), ‘Valayapathi’ (1952), ‘Thirumbi Paar’ (1953), ‘Sugam Engey’ (1954), ‘Thuli Visham’ (1954), ‘Pon Vayal’ (1954), ‘Manohara’ (1954), ‘Rajee En Kanmani’ (1954), ‘Kanavaney Kan Kanda Deivam’ (1955), ‘Naan Petra Selvam’ (1956), ‘Paasavalai’ (1956), ‘Chakravarthi Thirumagal’ (1957), ‘Makkalai Petra Maharasi’ (1957), ‘Mudalali’(1957, directorial debut of Muktha V. Srinivasan), ‘Vanjikottai Valiban’ (1958), ‘Thangapathumai’ (1959), ‘Vannakkili’ (1959), ‘Aduttha Veettu Penn’ (1960) and ‘Padikkaadha Medhai’ (1960).

She had acted in the films of the top trio of Tamil Cinema, M.G.Ramachandran, Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan. Her finest film for which she shall be remembered is the sadly underrated writer-director-producer A.T.Krishnaswamy’s (ATK) ‘Arivali’ (1963), with Sivaji Ganesan and P. Bhanumati in lead roles.

Due to several reasons this film was long in production. However the comedy pair of Thangavelu and Muthulakshmi stole the show and the most memorable sequence, which has been brought out as a best selling audio cassette, has Thangavelu teaching his wife the art of making puri.

Muthulakshmi plays an illiterate, rustic woman delivering her lines with great timing to match that of her partner. The scene has simply immortalised her.

Muthulakshmi leaves behind her adopted son T. P.Gajendran, writer-filmmaker.

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