Blast from the past
M. G. Ramachandran, M. N. Nambiar, M. R. Swaminathan, T. S. Balaiah, ‘Pulimoottai’ Ramaswami, K. Malathi, Thavamani Devi, M. M. A. Chinnappa Thevar.
Around 1946, Jupiter Somu asked A. S. A. Sami to come up with a screenplay that he could direct himself. Sami worked on a screenplay, weaving many elements of popular appeal into it — The Arabian Nights, The Invisible Man and folk tales of our own land. Somu had made it clear to Sami that as he was a novice in direction, he would have to work only with artistes on Jupiter’s rolls and not with big names with high price tags. But, much to Sami’s surprise, the Jupiter boss came up with other ideas after reading the screenplay. He felt it was too good to be made with staff artistes. He suggested that P. U. Chinnappa and T. R. Rajakumari, big names of the day, play the hero and the heroine. In fact, Somu gave the name of that actress for the title of the proposed film Rajakumari!
However, Sami persuaded his boss to let him make the film as decided earlier with small artistes. Malathi, an import from Telugu cinema, was chosen to play the title role. A Vauhini product, she had made her name in B. N. Reddi’s classic Sumangali. A protégée of K. V. Reddi, she had acted in Jupiter’s Sri Murugan as Parvathi with MGR as Shiva.
Who would play the hero? One man on the studio rolls appeared to be a possible choice. He was handsome and athletic. His classical dance number in Sri Murugan had impressed many, especially Sami. After much hesitation, he was asked to play the lead. The actor was M. G. Ramachandran — it proved to be a great moment not only in his life but also in the Indian film history.
The producer had planned Rajakumari as an 11,000-feet picture, and after shooting 7,000 feet, nobody was impressed. To Sami’s shock, S. K. Mohideen suggested seriously to his partner Somu, that the picture be abandoned! Somu was caught in a dilemma. If the picture were to be abandoned, the future of Sami and MGR would be ruined. Only another 4,000 feet were to be made and if the final product was still bad it could be burnt once and for all.
Jupiter Somu, an enterprising man, asked Sami to go ahead with the film. Sami had a couple of interesting and amusing experiences about the making of the film. One was with Thavamani Devi who had a dress (designed by her!) with a plunging neckline; it caused ripples on the set! The Sri Lankan charmer Thavamani Devi was cast as the vamp. To play a villain, another man was brought in, a gymnast and milk-vendor who would in later years create history as one of the most successful producers — M. M. A. Chinnappa Thevar, a legend in Indian cinema.
Nambiar, Balaiah, and Swaminathan, and ‘Pulimoottai’ Ramaswami gave good support.
Rajakumari was released in 1947 and, much to the surprise of Mohideen, turned out to be a big success! The profits were huge. Sami made a mark. MGR arrived as a hero and it was the beginning of an astonishingly successful careerthat would be discussed for years to come.
Remembered for: the debut of MGR as hero and Sami as director.
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