Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SAAYA -A Unreleased Movie of Makkal Thilagam

One of the founding fathers of the Renaissance of Tamil theatre Sankaradas Swamigal wrote a play 'Cymbeline' based on one of the lesser-known plays of William Shakespeare. Even though it had an interesting story line it did not prove popular, perhaps because of the foreign-sounding title, and remains a neglected work of Swamigal.
In 1941 K. S. Narayana Iyengar, a noted Tamil film producer of his day and partner in Narayanan & Co, a popular production unit, showed interest in filming this play, thanks to his manager and right hand man, K. P. Varadachari. Hailing from Salem, Varadachari was deeply interested like most educated men of that era, in Western Literature and of course, Shakespeare. Accordingly, Iyengar launched the film under the title "Chaya", which was written by Varadachari.
T. V. Kumudhini, singing actress of her day who made a mark in H. M. Reddi's "Maathru Bhoomi", was chosen to play the female lead. M. G. Ramachandran was fixed to play the hero.
After his debut in Ellis R. Dungan's "Sathi Leelavathi" (1936), his career was rather dull with only supporting roles in mostly unsuccessful films. Inspite of his handsome looks and impressive physique and experience in Tamil theatre he could not make much progress and the first major break to play the hero came his way with "Chaya".
To direct the film the well known Hindi filmmaker Nandlal Jaswantlal was fixed. A successful Hindi filmmaker of his day, he was brought to Madras by pioneer filmmaker K. Subramanyam to direct his brother K. Viswanathan's film "Kamadhenu" (1941) in which his niece 'Baby' Saroja, her mother Vatsala and father Vatsal (Viswanathan) played the major roles.
Nandlal Jaswantlal had made a name even during the 1930s for his innovative style of filmmaking. During the period when lengthy takes were the order of the day he made waves with short 'takes' with some shots of less than five feet in length (running time 3 seconds!) which was then a novelty especially in South Indian Cinema. His early hits included "Prem Jogan" (1931), "Jeevan Saathi" (1939). In later years he made box office bonanzas like "Anarkali" (1953) and "Nagin"(1954).
Shooting of "Chaya" began and Nandlal in his virulent visual style shot some sequences of MGR and Kumudhini riding horses in and around the famous Monroe Statue in Mount Road area, Madras. He insisted that they should be trained in horse riding on location and inspected the training sessions with a hawk's eye!
For some reasons the director was not impressed with MGR's performance and wanted the hero to be replaced. Narayana Iyengar, Varadachari and S. Soundararajan (Tamil Nadu Talkies) who was also involved in this production, refused to oblige the director because Soundararajan felt the handsome hero had a bright future and had no intention of destroying it.
However Jaswantlal was adamant threatening to walk out of the film, and reluctantly P. U. Chinnappa was brought in. Advertisements about the release of "Chaya" with Chinnappa were released, but somehow the producers felt the Bombay- based director had lost interest in the project and was eager to get back home. Consequently "Chaya" was closed down, never seeing the light of day again. It was a severe body blow for MGR and he had to wait another seven years before he played the hero again in "Rajakumari".
However Varadachari did not give up his desire and ambition. After a lapse of some years he persuaded Soundararaja Iyengar to launch the movie. The Tamil Nadu Talkies boss had plans to make low budget films with new faces based on stories from Western lite

Enga Veetu Pillai -1965


M.G.Ramachandran (Ramu/Ilango)(Dual Roles)
S.V.Ranga Rao
Thanga Velu
B.Saroja Devi
Music :M.S.Viswanathan-Ramamurthy

Dialogues : Sakthi.T.K.Krishnaswami

Produced by : Vijaya Vahini

Director : Chanakya

Story View

Ramu(MGR) is the cowardly one - the heir to all riches of Poonjolai jamin. He has been raised that way by his uncle Narendran(Nambiar). Ramu shivers at the very mention of his uncle's name and a whiplash is Narendran's favorite form of punishment. Narendran wants to get Ramu married to Leela(Saroja Devi) but she is turned off by his cowardice. Ilango(MGR) is a jobless young man, prone to pick a fight and for this reason, the cause of trouble for his mother. Circumstances lead to Ramu and Ilango taking each others' place. Ilango teaches a lesson to Narendran while Ramu learns the ways of the world. Nowadays, the theme of mixed identities invariably leads to comedies with the laughs being raised through the ways the look-alikes don't fit into their new environments. The 'fish out of water' scenario is the one most often used. But here the two MGRs fit into their new roles quite well. The fun is in the way the others around them react to the changes in them. Ilango taking the place of Ramu is easily the hands-down winner in this. The first instance where MGR slaps Nambiar is memorable and exhilarating with the reactions of Nambiar and Thangavelu perfectly conveying their surprise. Ofcourse the Naan Aanaiyittaal... song sequence is the pinnacle with MGR giving Nambiar a taste of his own medicine. The position of Ramu(in Ilango's place) is only marginally interesting as the listless romance with Rathna is the only major thing happening. Thankfully, the actions of Ilango are concentrated upon as he is wooed by Saroja Devi and hated by Nambiar and co. The revelation of the switch is handled neatly and the emotions of the heroines are not carried on for too long. But the subsequent story that digs into the pasts of the two look-alikes is confusing and extends the movie unnecessarily. One interesting thing to see in older movies in how well they stand up when watched today. Though Enga Veettu Pillai is undeniably entertaining even today, there do exist a few instances which stand out awkwardly. Special effects which make the dual roles possible don't compare favorably even to the effects in Uthama Puthiran. The subservient role of women is quite obvious in the way Saroja Devi, who is introduced as a 'modern' woman, gleefully accepts the demand of a dowry. The lament of Pandaribai about wanting to die at Nambiar's feet after he has slapped her and walked out is quite irritating. On the other hand, the fact that the entire meal that MGR has in the hotel costs only six Rupees is bound to make people who lived then sigh in nostalgia! Nagesh was a permanent feature in movies released during those times and is at hand here too. His mispronounciation of words is quite funny at several places and leads to many quick laughs. But the extended sequences, like the one where Thangavelu discovers his romance with his daughter, are a lot less funnier. MGR distinguishes well between the two roles though it is quite obvious he is more at ease as the brave Ilango. His strict adherence to his enduring 'good samaritan' image is obvious in the way he apologises before uttering a single lie to his mother and speaks out against dowry. Saroja Devi is more irritating than endearing with her attempts to be cute. Nambiar plays the role he has played to perfection in countless other MGR movies. Needless to say, the movie has some great songs. Kumari Pennin Ullathile... and Maandhoppu Kaavalkaara... are the melodious duets. Naan Aanaiyittaal... has enough political overtones that show how effectively MGR used the medium of cinema.
the film ran for 236 days
Released : 14-01-1965
Article by geocities (story view only)
Casting and other informatiom by B.s.Raj (Urimai Kural)
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