On a roll

From ‘Vedhala Ulagam’

From ‘Vedhala Ulagam’  

The film which elevated K. Sarangapani as a unique comedian is the AV Meiyappan’s production, ‘Vedhala Ulagam’ (Demon Land). It was based on a play by Pammal Sambandham Mudaliar, which dealt with demons, their ruler and his family. Initially, it was shot at Newtone Studios, in Kilpauk, Madras, with T.R. Mahalingam and T.A. Jayalakshmi in lead roles. For some reason, after a few reels, AVM stopped work and shifted his operations to his studio in Karaikudi and brought in Mangalam (of Yogam Mangalam Sisters) as the heroine. R. Balasubramaniam, was the demon king and C.T. Rajakantham was his queen. Sarangapani played the smart and comical companion of the prince (T.R. Mahalingam), who accompanies him on his mission to rescue his (prince’s) father and those held captive by the demon king.

Sarangapani, in his characteristic style wins over the demons. He sings a comical song, ‘Ayye Ayye Parka Kanney Koosuthey Avalakshanamai Thonuthey...,’ to the tune of a popular English song- ‘I...I…I…like you very much...,’ that was danced to and rendered by Carmen Miranda, Hollywood singer-dancer of that era.

Sarangapani used this song with telling effect, singing and dancing in his inimitable style, which was a highlight of the film and contributed to its success.

The next film, an AVM classic box office bonanza, ‘Vazhkai’ (1949 ‘Life’), added to Sarangapani’s fame. It was also Vyjayanthimala’s screen debut. Sarangapani was cast as her father, whose catchline ‘Antha kaalithiley naan collegile padikkira pozhuthu…..’ peppered his dialogue. The line became so popular that people used it frequently, especially men, who had never been to college.

A major success, ‘Vazhkai’ was remade in Telugu and Hindi.

In 1951, the sleeper film was ‘Rajambal’. A detective story by noted Tamil fiction writer J.R. Rangaraju, in which stage actor R.S .Manohar made his debut. Sarangapani was Govindan, the detective, who solves the mystery. The film also had S. Balachandar, P.K. Saraswathi (heroine) and Madhuri Devi. It was written by the noted screenwriter, director and producer A.T. Krishnaswamy. Cinematographer R.M. Krishnaswamy turned producer with ‘Rajambal,’promoting his own company with some friends such as V.C. Subburaman and Radhakrishnan.

‘Mosam poneney Gopala, Sudalaimaadan Theruviley…’ , was another catchline that became famous in this film, which was a major hit and Manohar leapt ahead as star villan of Tamil Cinema.

Randor Guy


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