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blast from the past

En Thangai 1952

M. G. Ramachandran, P. V. Narasimha Bharathi, Madhuri Devi, P. S. Govindan, M. G. Chakrapani, E. V. Saroja and M. N. Rajam

touching tale En Thangai

This is a film with a fascinating story behind it, but few are aware of it. En Thangai was a popular stage play by T. S. Natarajan (who came to be known as ‘En Thangai’ Natarajan). In a quirk of fate, Sivaji Ganesan, virtually unknown at that time, played the hero on stage, whereas it was MGR who played it in the movie!

Around the same period, another play titled ‘Parasakthi’ was also making waves and noted writer-director of his day A. S. A. Sami was approached by some producers to make it into a film. Having watched both the plays which had a similar storyline — that of a brother’s undying love for his sister — Sami suggested that the plays could be merged and made into a film, but Natarajan who had by then become famous refused to even hear of it. Parasakthi had to wait for some more time to create history with Sivaji Ganesan as hero on screen.

Initially, the then popular playback singer Tiruchi Loganathan was made to play the loving brother in En Thangai, directed by Telugu-Tamil filmmaker C. H. Narayanamurthi and M. K. R. Nambiar. After a few reels were shot, the director and the producers realised their hero was a better singer than actor, and halted production. Exit Loganathan!

The search for a hero began. MGR met Nambiar, his good friend, and others connected with the production. Impressed with his enthusiasm to play the role, with which he had a personal equation, MGR was cast as the hero. The movie tells the story of a loving brother who sacrifices his all to look after his young, blind sister (E. V. Saroja) who puts up with the taunts and torture of her proud sister-in-law (Madhuri Devi).

(MGR had a sister and soon after the family migrated from Sri Lanka to Kumbakonam following his father’s demise, the sister too passed away mainly because of lack of medical facilities. The loss of his baby sister left an indelible mark on MGR’s psyche. MGR lived the role of a caring brother on screen, which paved the way for the success of the film.)

Narasimha Bharathi as a hen-pecked husband and the elder brother of the blind girl and M. G. Chakrapani as the father-in-law lent able support.

Expectedly, the success of the film led to its being remade by the same team and Narayanamurthi in Telugu as Naa Chellelu.

L. V. Prasad created history in Hindi cinema by remaking it as Choti Behn (1959), where the blind girl’s role was played by a young Nanda who soon rose to be a star. The loving brother’s role was played with great conviction by Balraj Sahni.

Remembered for its emotion drenched storyline and MGR’s role as a loving brother, considered by critics as one of his best performances ever.


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