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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Kalai Arasi -1963 - Part 2

Cast :

M.G.Ramachandran (charcter name :Mohan & a Jester) (Dual Roles)
N.S Narayan Pillai
S.M Thirupati Sami
Story :T.E.Gnanamoorthi
Dialogues :Ravinder

Lyrics :Pattukottai Kalyan Sundram

Kavigner Kannadasan

Alangudi Somu

Music : K.V.Mahadevan

Cameraman :J.G.Vijayam
Editing & Assistant Direction : S.Natarajan

Produced by :Sarodi Brothers

Directed by : A.Kasilingam

Story View :

Thinna does not notice this and takes off from the earth. When he nearing his planet, he ejects what he assumes to be Malla’s corpse from his spacecraft, but it is actually Mohan who falls into the alien planet. By happenstance Mohan comes across a kind-hearted jester from another planet who is on the way to the palace. This jester takes Mohan to his house and feeds him. As they step outside, the jester is struck dead by a passing meteor. As luck would have it, the jester had resembled Mohan in facial features, and so Mohan takes his place and goes to the palace. There he meets Vani and manages to make her realize his true identity. They outwit the cunning Thinna and return to the earth. Meanwhile Kannan is caught strangling Valli and is arrested by the police. Mohan and Vani reach home. All is well that ends well.MGR played the double roles of Mohan and the jester, while Bhanumati essayed the roles of Vani and Valli. Rajashri acted as Princess Rajini who falls in love with the jester. P.S. Veerappa as Kannan and M.N. Nambiar as Thinna were well cast in their roles. Sachu, C.T. Rajakantham, S.R. Janaki, S.M. Thirupathisami and G. Sakuntala enacted the supporting roles. Ravinder wrote the dialogues for Gnanmoorthi’s story. Editing was by S. Natarajan, who also worked as assistant director. Art direction was by A.K. Ponnuswami. The special effects and cinematography were handled by J.G. Vijayam. The movie was directed by veteran A. Kasilingam.

Ponnuswami and Vijayam deserve special mention for the stunning visuals. The scenes depicting the spacecraft traveling through the Milky Way and the exteriors of the alien planet are truly spectacular. The interiors of the spacecraft are crafted with care, and show gadgets and blinking lights that seem exactly similar to the ones that we see in the Star Wars series, the first of which was released 14 years after ‘kalai arasi’! When we consider the limited technology available at the time, we can perceive how much research, imagination and painstaking work would have gone into crafting these sequences. Again, the extraterrestrials are shown with a peculiar gait, as they are not used to gravity. At the same time, the earthling MGR is shown floating on the alien planet in the absence of gravity. And in the end, when Bhanumati’s father expresses naïve incredulity on hearing MGR’s account of their space travel, MGR remarks, ‘ippO naanga pOyittu vandhadhu kaRpanaiyaa irukkalaam. oru kaalathil nadakkathaan pOgiRathu!

If the visuals are spectacular, K.V. Mahadevan’s background score is no less noteworthy. The eerie soundtrack bolstered further by a harmony of chorus voices when the spaceship is shown hurling across the skies, adds sheen to the amazing visuals. KVM has given the movie a great set of songs as well. Working with Pattukkottai Kalyanasundaram, Kannadasan, Alangudi Somu and Muthukoothan, KVM comes out with a stellar album. The movie opens with the haunting TMS solo ‘neelavaana pandhalin keezhE nilamadandhai madiyin mElE’. The pathos version of the song appears later on in the movie. A.J. Ratnamala sings the breezy ‘kettaalum kettudhu ippadi kettudakkoodaadhu’ for Sachu who acted as MGR’s sister. ‘endRum illamal oNrum sollamal inbam uNdaavadhEno’ is a memorable P.Leela song filmed on Rajashri. Seergazhi Govindarajan sings ‘adhisayam paarthEn maNNilE’. The song is in praise of the earth and in intelligent lines the prodigious Pattukkottai ponders on life in the alien planet thus, ‘ingE thangida nizhalumillai, pongida kadalumillai, satRu nEram kooda veyyil maRaivadhillai, nammai thazhuvida thendRal yEdhum varuvadhumillai!’ The album boasts of a catchy Seergazhi Govindararajan- P. Suseela duet as well- ‘nee iruppadhu ingE, un ninaiviruppadhu engE’ for MGR and Rajashri.
‘kalai arasi’ was unfortunately many years in the making. This is evident by the fact that Pattukkottai Kalyanasundaram was among the lyricists, and he had passed away way back in 1959. The surmise that the movie was commenced much earlier gains further credence when we observe that singers such as P.Leela, Jikki and Ratnamala, who had slipped into oblivion by the advent of the 60s, find place in the album. Hence the making of the movie must have commenced in the late 50s. The reasons for the inordinate delay in proceeding with making the movie are not known. Legend has it that towards the end, MGR had become so busy with his schedules that the producers of ‘kalaiarasi’ had to resort to a hunger strike at the gate of MGR’s office to persuade him to spare some dates to complete ‘kalaiarasi’.Playing the title role, Bhanumati doles out a remarkable performance as usual. Be it the romantic sequences with MGR, where she has to hide herself in a heap of hay to escape from her prying friends, or when pretending to fall into a faint to make Veerappa believe that she is sick, the hilarious sequences wherein she appears as the deranged Valli, her bold and insolent repartees to the king and commander of the alien planet, her hushed and dignified portrayal of the pangs of separation from MGR, the gripping climax where she operates the spacecraft with cool nonchalance even as MGR and Nambiar are engaged in a deadly skirmish (other heroines would have been shown wringing their hands in despair in similar sequences!)… Bhanumati strides the frames like a colossus... and through this movie released in April 1963, she portrayed space travel even before the first woman astronaut Valentina Tereshkova actually did so a few months later in June 1963!True, ‘kalaiarasi’ was not a commercial success; it was perhaps doomed to fail, considering that the crux of the story, i.e. space travel was something that an average Tamil viewer could accept at the time. The movie and its songs are all but forgotten today. Nonetheless, it is really amazing that a story concerning human spaceflight was conceived and adapted for the screen in the late 50s, when only an unmanned Sputnik had been launched in 1957. Yuri Gargarin, the first human to travel into space, did so only in 1961! How eerily prescient of the little known Gnanamoorthi sitting in some corner of Madras to write a taut thriller involving space travel, and how intelligent of him to coat the concept with entertaining elements of romance, treachery, valour and sacrifice!The UNESCO and International Astronomical Union have declared 2009 as ‘The International Year of Astronomy’.
And it is time Tamil cinema takes pride in the fact that it has in its annals a little known flash of clairvoyant brilliance called ‘kalai arasi’.

Released on :19.4.1963

Ran For : 100 days
Source From :Dhool

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