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Blast from the past

Sabapathy 1941

T. R. Ramachandran, Kali N. Ratnam, K. Sarangapani, R. Padma, C. T. Rajakantham, P. R., Mangalam, Hiranaiah

hilarious Sabapathy

Handy Andy is one of the popular comical characters of English literature created by Samuel Lover . He had the knack of doing everything wrong! Tamil theatreperson, Pammal Sambandam Mudaliar, wrote several `farces', built around a `Handy Andy-ish' servant Sabapathy, the `Man Friday' of a notso- bright young man by the same name. Such farces were enacted by Sambandam Mudliar with his troupe, Suguna Vilas Sabha, and proved popular. A. T. Krishnaswamy, the neglected but talented writerdirector- producer (Arivali, Vidyapathi, Manam Oru Kurangu) suggested to AV. Meiyappan, with whom he was working in Pragathi Pictures, to make a comedy built around Sabapathy.

Those were days of the Second World War. Life was grim and so, people loved a good laugh. AVM agreed, and A. T. Krishnaswamy wrote the film, based on Mudaliar's farces. T.R. Ramachandran, who was with Pragathi on a princely salary of Rs. 35 per month, was cast as hero, while comedian and character artiste Kali N. Ratnam played Handy Andy. `Lux Soap' beauty R. Padma played the hero's educated wife, who teaches her husband English. The slim and saucy Rajakantham played the Man Friday's heartthrob. Another noted comedian of the day, K. Sarangapani, played a Tamil ragged by his students. During that period, Tamil teachers were the butt of jokes because they were considered inferior to those who taught English! For the first time, AVM's name appeared as director in the credits, along with A. T. Krishnaswamy, though the film was written and directed by the latter. Padma was active in Tamil cinema during the 1940's, but never made it to the top; she is barely remembered today.

But Rajakantham made it as comedienne with Kali N. Ratnam and the pair was only next in fame to the legendary N. S. Krishnan and T. A. Mathuram. Contrived humour, jokes built around wrong usage of English, and those making fun of Tamil teachers - this was Sabapathy. However, moviegoers lapped it up, making it a big success. T. R. Ramachandran achieved star status with this film and was mentioned in the same breath as N. S. Krishnan. For a while, even MGR called himself `M. G. Ramachandar' to be different!

Sabapathy placed AVM firmly on the ladder of success, and he was well on his way to becoming a movie mogul. It also brought A. T. Krishnaswamy into prominence as a talented director and comedy writer.

Produced at around Rs. 40,000, Sabapathy was a boxoffice success. It is often screened on Tamil TV channels and quite familiar to folks even today, 60-plus years after it was made.

Remembered for : The comedy sequences of T. R. Ramachandran, Kali N. Ratnam and Sarangapani.


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