Blast from the past
Rambayin Kaathal 1939
K. L. V. Vasantha, K. Sarangapani, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Mathuram, K. A. Chokkalinga Bhagavathar, R. Balasubramaniam, T. S. Durairaj and Kali N. Ratnam
frames of fantasy From Rambaiyin Kaathal
It is a folk fantasy built around the heavenly dancer Ramba, who is cursed by Lord Indra to become a stone sculpture (which comes to life after sunset!) on earth. How the stone woman is married by some mischievous friends to a rural halfwit (the film had an alternative title, “Yathbhavishyan”) and how she gets relief from the curse form the crux of the Central Studios, Coimbatore Production’s Rambayin Kaathal, directed by B. N. Rao. The film was a major box-office hit in 1939, running for 25 weeks in many parts of the Tamil-speaking districts of the erstwhile Madras Presidency. In her debut as Ramba, Vasantha (credited as ‘K. L. V. Vasantha Devi’), a glamorous teenager, played her role with charm, and the rural halfwit was played excellently by comedian and character actor K. Sarangapani and both became stars with this film. Indeed the name of the character ‘Yathbhavishyan’ became a by-word for a naïve person! Chokkalinga Bhagavathar, who played Narada, sang well — one of the songs, ‘Vasudeva Suthaaa Venugana Vilolaa...’, became a hit.
Somewhat surprisingly, the credit titles do not mention the names of the music composer or lyricist. Only the names of the orchestra players are mentioned wherein the later day noted music composer, S. M. Subbaiah, appears as the harmonium player.
N. S. Krishnan-T. A. Mathuram provided comical relief but it did not click in any appreciable manner. Mathuram played a princess with whom a commoner (NSK) falls in love. As a consequence of Indra’s curse, Ramba becomes a fearful demoness and enters the soul, mind and body of Mathuram! However, the sequences did not provoke laughter as expected. The noted comedian and later day producer and director T. S. Durairaj played their sidekick and another role as the exorcist’s (Kali N. Ratnam) assistant. R. Balasubramaniam, the well-known character actor, played Lord Indra.
Written by the forgotten Tamil scholar, screenwriter and also director T. C. Vadivelu Naicker, who worked along with Rao in the directorial department, the film had excellent outdoor sequences shot on the banks of River Kallaar by the German technician Bodo Gutschwager (during that period there were quite a few foreign technicians working in Tamil cinema such as J. Moylan, Michael Omalov, T. Marconi and the most famous and successful of them all, the American Tamil filmmaker Ellis R. Dungan. Not many are aware that Marconi, an Italian cinematographer was imprisoned as an ‘undesirable alien’ by the British Indian rulers during the Second World War! He was popularly known as ‘Morekuzhambu’ Marconi because of his fondness for that South Indian spicy dish! )
Rambaiyin Kaathal was the inspiration for the recent Vadivelu-starrer, Indralogathil Na. Azhagappan.
Remembered for: The impressive performances of K. Sarangapani and K. L. V. Vasantha, melodious music and outstanding outdoor photography.
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