Blast from the past
T. Suryakumari, K. R. Chellam, V. V. Satagopan and M. N. Srinivasan
well-received From Adrishtam
Adrishtam (aka “Luck”) was an unusual film, ahead of its time, perhaps one of the earliest in Tamil to run into serious difficulties with the Censors, and almost totally forgotten today. This film was created by the brilliant Tamil writer S. D. S. Yogi who directed some films. Yogi had an abiding interest in cinema and studied the subject with the diligence of a student, especially the creative side of filmmaking such as screenplay-writing. As a Tamil scholar he loved his mother- tongue so much that as a consequence he found and formulated Tamil words for technical terms such as “Cut” (vettu), “Fade In” (Valar pirai), “Fade Out” (Thei pirai), “Dissolve” (Thei valar pirai), “Superimpose” (Adukku kaatchi) and “Close-up” (Anmai kaatchi). He wrote a model screenplay using expressions such as the above, published in the 1940s in the monthly Gundoosi.
Adrishtam’s heroine was a lady lawyer, played by the noted actor and comedienne K. R. Chellam. Her hero was the famed Carnatic musician V.V. Satagopan. M. N. Srinivasan (star Vasundhara’s father and Vyjayanthimala’s grandfather) played a minor role.
Court scenes in Indian films have never been true to life and, most often, they are sheer farces, making a mockery of law and justice. This situation remains unchanged even today.
But S. D. S. Yogi was a man of different mettle. He worked out a court scene involving the examination of a woman in a rape case. He made it true to life; the lawyer asks the woman questions that are highly embarrassing and intimate! Such kind of dialogue was unheard of in Tamil in 1939 and the Censors mauled such scenes, damaging the film.
Yogi cast a promising teenager from an excellent background. Her name was Tanguturi Suryakumari, niece of the former Chief Minister of the old Madras province and later of Andhra Pradesh, T. Prakasam Panthulu.
Suryakumari, a good singer, was cast as an heiress kidnapped over property disputes and forced to beg for alms on the streets of Madras, and one of the songs she sang, “Ayya siru penn…” (composed by Sarma Brothers and penned by Yogi), became a super hit. Parts of the song were shot in the now non-existent Moore Market. For many years after the film vanished from the horizon, this song remained popular.
Suryakumari grew into a charming woman and in the 1950s was crowned the first “Miss Madras”. She acted in lead roles in Telugu, Tamil and even Hindi films, but somehow failed to make it big and migrated to the United States and later to England where she passed away.
Adrishtam was well received by the public and Yogi was hailed as a brave, new, creative talent. He wrote and directed a few films but unfortunately the potential of this creative personality did not blossom fully.
Remembered for its music and hit tune “Ayya... siru penn....”
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