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Blast from the past

Vaayaadi 1940

T. R. Ramachandran, Kali. N. Ratnam, M. S. Chandra (Madhuri Devi), ‘Lux Beauty’ R. Padma, T. V. Sethuraman and T. V. Annapoorani



saucy comedy From Vaayaadi

AV. Meiyappan who had remained low key after Nandakumar surfaced on the film horizon in 1940 with a packaged comedy, a three-in-one, Vaayaadi… Poli Panchaali… Yes Yes! The success of the five-in-one comedy Sirikkadhey was very much on his mind and he felt he should follow suit. His creative man A. T. Krishnaswamy narrated a ribald tale about a saucy woman who had five lovers and played one against the other. AVM liked it and made Poli Panchaali (Panchaali was Draupadi, wife of Pandavas). Yes, Yes was all about a fraud who went round cheating folks, with the help of a person posing as a rich man who said ‘yes yes’ to anything he was asked!

The first in the three-in-one comedy was Vaayaadi which was all about a shrew (Chandra) and her henpecked husband (Ramachandran). It was directed by the famed Nandlal Jaswantlal, who had come down from Bombay to Madras to direct Kamadhenu for K. Viswanathan, Baby Saroja’s father.

AVM had taken the sprawling Club House, off Mount Road (it was the premises of Madras Club, then exclusively for ‘Whites Only’) on lease and part of this package was shot on actual locations in houses without going to any studio or erecting sets, anticipating the trend of such shooting by almost 30-odd years. Soon AVM shifted his unit to Adyar to another sprawling edifice called ‘Admiralty House’. A lovely building with an impressive flight of steps, tall pillars, high ceilings, it was a palace of the Vizianagaram Raja. AVM got it at a low rent and his Pragathi Pictures functioned here until the threat of the Japanese invasion in 1942 forced him to shift to his hometown, Karaikudi.

AVM’s Pragathi Pictures had artistes on its roll such as T. V. Sethuraman, Annapoorani, Kali N. Ratnam, and T. R. Ramachandran. Ramachandran scaled great peaks in later years playing hero and proving quite a draw in his time. He was then drawing a princely salary of Rs. 35 per month! In Vaayaadi, the shrew’s role was played by a local girl from Royapuram, named Clara. Rechristened ‘Chandra’ for the movie, the teenager showed promise. In later years as ‘Madhuri Devi’, she blossomed into a successful heroine. She also turned producer, which brought her misery. Unfortunately, she developed a reputation for being a tough artiste and slowly faded into oblivion. She lived for some years in anonymity and passed away a few years ago.

Interestingly, Nandalal Jaswantlal did not want his name credited as director for this short and a name “Kannan” (a synonym of Nandalal – Lord Krishna?) appeared in the credits. He was an able technician and his style of taking short takes — his close-ups were hardly more than 8 feet — came as a revelation to people.

Remembered for: Saucy and ribald comedy with ‘double entendre’ dialogue. randor guy

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