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Blast from the past

Vichitra Vanitha 1947

B. S. Saroja, ‘Chitra’ S. Krishnaswami, ‘Pulimoottai’ Ramaswami, P. A. Periyanayaki and K. S. Angamuthu

fun, frame by frame From Vichitra Vanitha

During the early decades of Tamil cinema, screen-writers and filmmakers were mostly lawyers, college professors, graduates and such, who had extensively read classic literature of the East and the West. Such eminent men included T. G. Raghavachari (Acharya), Pammal Sambandam Mudaliar, A. S. A. Sami, K. Ramnoth, S. D. S. Yogi, A. T. Krishnaswami and K. Subramanyam.

Subramanyam, who began his film career in Silent Cinema as a screenwriter, successfully adapted the play of the famous English writer Oliver Goldsmith, “She Stoops to Conquer”, into Vichitra Vanitha. The popular English play was based on the personal experience of Goldsmith who first wrote it as an essay, “The Mistakes of a Night”, which attracted much attention.

Mistaken identities leading to fun and misunderstanding between people — the filmmaker narrated the story interestingly on the screen. B. S. Saroja, the heroine, is a zamindar’s daughter, who falls in love with a young rich man. She takes the place of a servant who carries food to his room, (thus ‘she stoops to conquer her man’!). The rich man thinks it is a hotel! ‘The ‘mistakes’ were all caused by the foolish nephew of the family who deliberately misguides the gentleman coming to meet the zamindar and his daughter. (‘View matrimony’ as the newspaper ads say it!)

P. A. Periyanayaki plays a supportive role, while Pulimoottai Ramaswami plays the zamindar. S. Krishnaswami, a handsome newcomer from Delhi, plays the hero. Later he published a movie magazine, Chitra, which earned him the prefix to his name. Much later he became a close associate of M. G. Ramachandran and took care of many of his business ventures.

The film came out soon after the country became free in August 1947, and Subramanyam, a staunch Gandhian, included many songs carrying the message of Freedom, in the film. Periyanayaki sang most of the songs tuned by ‘Brother’ Lakshmanan, who is scarcely remembered today.

Part of the film was shot at the Chitrakala Movietone, a studio situated on the outskirts of Madurai at Thirupparankundram. Sri Lankan movie mogul Nayagam who wished to have a studio close to Colombo promoted the studio. That was the period when most Sinhala movies were shot in Madras. After a few films, the studio (which had no processing lab) sadly closed down, and today only the archway at the entrance stands as a mute witness to its past glory. The studio lots were converted into a housing colony named after Pon Muthuramalinga Thevar whose name is seen etched on the arch. Subramanyam was the first non-Sinhalese filmmaker to shoot at the studio. Other parts of the movie were shot at Neptune Studio which later became the MGR-Janaki College!

A comedy of manners and social mores of the day, this film did reasonably well and was critically acclaimed.

Remembered for: Being an interesting comedy made by Subramanyam and also for the fine performances by Pulimoottai and Saroja.


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