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blast from the past

Thirumbi Paar 1953

Sivaji Ganesan, Pandari Bai, Krishnakumari, P.V. Narasimha Bharathi, T. S. Durairaj, K. A. Thangavelu and T. P. Muthulakshmi

power-packed performance Thirumbi Paar

After his phenomenally successful debut in Parasakthi (1952), Sivaji Ganesan who had struggled long for recognition, surprisingly did not have producers and filmmakers making a beeline for his door with scripts. There was a lull after Parasakthi and he donned anti-hero roles in movies such as Rangoon Radha and Andha Naal. One such film where he excelled in his role was Thirumbi Paar.

(Years later, he told this writer that his performance in this film was one of his career best.) A Modern Theatres production, Thirumbi Paar, directed by T. R. Sundaram, was an interesting film in which Sivaji Ganesan played a role with negative shades. The character dabbles in avenues such as journalism and politics.

Written by Mu. Karunanidhi, it drew inspiration from the folk myth of Saint Arunagirinathar and his sister, and the Ahalya episode. Karunanidhi’s dialogue was brilliant, filled with innuendoes and political satire.

During that period as the DMK was beginning to make its presence felt, the Movement was condemned by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister, as “Nonsense!” In a brilliant satirical stroke, Karunanidhi had Sivaji Ganesan utter these words several times, wearing dark glasses (a la Pandit Nehru!).

A sequence, inspired by the Ahalya episode, was shot for the film. According to the Hindu epic, Lord Indra is attracted to Ahalya, a sage’s wife. He transforms himself into a rooster and crows well before dawn to lure the sage away from his hermitage to the riverside to begin his early morning prayers. He then visits Ahalya in the guise of the sage and seduces her.

The sage at the riverside through gnana drishti (mind’s eye) realises what had happened and curses Indra inflicting his body with one thousand orifices and turns Ahalya into a stone…

In the film, T. P. Muthulakshmi plays the dumb wife of an elderly husband (K. A. Thangavelu) who goes to work early. Sivaji Ganesan, a seducer, who sneaks into the dumb woman’s house, alters the clock to send the husband away well before the usual time. This sequence was mercilessly scissored by the censors and what was left lost its touch of satire and innuendo!

Sivaji Ganesan was brilliant playing the fraud to the hilt. Pandari Bai was his sister who in the climax offers herself to him.

Others included Krishnakumari (Sowcar Janaki’s sister), seduced and abandoned by the anti-hero, P. V. Narasimha Bharathi, Girija, Thangavelu, and T. S. Dorairaj as Sivaji Ganesan’s sidekick. Thirumbi Paar was racily narrated on screen in characteristic Modern Theatres style by T. R. Sundaram. There were also melodious songs and one particular song, a satire on society, “Kalappadam… kalapadam…engum edhilum kalapadam…” (music by G. Ramanathan and sung by S. C. Krishnan) was a hit.

Thirumbi Paar fared well at the box office and acquired the status of a mini cult film because it had political innuendoes.

Remembered for Sivaji Ganesan’s brilliant performance, Karunanidhi’s whiplash political satire and pleasing music.


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