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blast from the past

Velaikari 1949

K. R. Ramasami T. S. Balaiah, M. N. Nambiar, V .N. Janaki, M. V. Rajamma and D. Balasubramaniam



defining cinematic moment Scene from Velaikari

Velaikari, a Jupiter Pictures production, written by C. N. Annadurai and directed by A. S. A. Sami raised quite a storm!

C. N. Annadurai, excellent writer and brilliant orator had written a play “Velaikari” for his friends K. R. Ramasami and S. V. Sahasranamam, then working together in N. S. K. Nataka Sabha. With N. S. Krishnan serving a jail term, differences arose between the two due to many a reason, communal and otherwise, which led to their split. Ramasami formed his own troupe and was in need of a new play. Annadurai chose to give his play “Velaikari” to his political disciple Ramasami ignoring Sahasranamam’s requests. The play was a success and ‘Jupiter’ Somasundaram acquired the film rights and engaged the charismatic leader and future Tamil Nadu Chief Minister to write the screenplay. Who should direct the movie? The choice was left to the writer and he chose A. S. A. Sami after a couple of meetings. Sami impressed Annadurai with his knowledge of cinema and literature, subjects in which the famed writer was deeply interested in. Sami suggested some changes and additions based on Alexandre Dumas’ novel “The Count of Monte Cristo”. Annadurai’s original play of class conflicts had been inspired partly by the famous Bhowal Sanyasi case for its major plot twist, and the prolific writer was never averse to ideas and suggestions from others. Ramasami was fixed to do the lead role in accordance with the condition laid by Annadurai. V. N. Janaki and M. V. Rajamma were offered the two main female roles in the film. The plum role of the film was that of Mani, a resourceful vagabond and the hero’s friend, and guide. The well-known character actor and star T. S. Balaiah was given this role and his excellent performance ranks as one of the best in South Indian cinema.

The story line had the hero in one scene in a Kali temple, bitter and frustrated that his ardent prayers and poojas have not been answered. He rebels throwing sacred objects and showering abuse at the presiding deity. This scene with its undertones of atheism created sensation and raised dust and din. Some devout and religious groups even clamoured for banning the movie!

However, Velaikari zoomed to success and turned out to be a film of historic significance. The brilliant, alliterative Tamil dialogue written by the fast-rising political leader, the atheistic undertones, the fine performance of T. S. Balaiah, and some melodious songs (music was by S. M. Subbaiah and C. R. Subbaraman), all these factors contributed amply to the success. The credit card “Story – Dialogue – C. N. Annadurai, M. A.” flashed on the screen was greeted with wild clapping and shouts of glee in every cinema house, a new happening in Indian cinema.

Annadurai and his followers began to realise the power of the medium and its potential as a tool for image building and political advancement. The link between Tamil cinema and politics, which soon would have far reaching consequences, began with Velaikari. The concept something rare and unique in Tamil cinema, the writer as the ’Name Above the Title’ also surfaced with this film. For such reasons Velaikari is considered as a milestone in the history of Indian cinema.

With this film A. S. A. Sami’s stock rose high resulting in his emergence as the kingmaker at Jupiter Pictures!

Remembered for A watershed movie, which led to changes in Tamil cinema and the State political history.

RANDOR GUY

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