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blast from the past

Paarthibhan Kanavu 1960

Gemini Ganesh, Vyjayanthimala, S. V. Ranga Rao, S. V. Subbaiah, Ragini, S. A. Asokan, ‘Javert’ Seetharaman, K. Malathi, P. S. Veerappa, B. Saroja Devi and Kumari Kamala

winsome pair Gemini Ganesh and Vyjayanthimala in Paarthibhan Kanavu

‘Kalki’ (R. Krishnamurthi) was indeed the founding father of the genre of historical fiction in Tamil literature. He created many immortal classics such as “Sivakamiyin Sabatham”, “Ponniyin Selvan” and “Alai Osai”. Another was “Paarthibhan Kanavu”, a historical novel built around the Pallava-Chola dynasties. He wrote it even as he was working for Ananda Vikatan, but began serialising it only when he established his own weekly Kalki in 1941 in association with his friend T. Sadasivam.

As for the story… when the Chola king Paarthibhan (Asokan), vanquished by the Pallavas in battle, was dying he was visited by a bearded Siva yogi, who promised to fulfil his dream of restoring the Chola kingdom to its former glory. When the king asked who he was, the yogi whispered something in his ear, which shocked Paarthibhan so much that he breathed his last.

The identity of the yogi was kept a secret in the book which served as an excellent suspense-hook for the novel while it was being serialised. However, in the visual medium this suspense did not work because the identity of the yogi (Narasimha Pallava-Ranga Rao in disguise) was obvious almost from the beginning. Therefore this point of interest, though the characters kept talking about the yogi’s identity, was lost in the movie. It proved a drawback and the film, despite its excellent star cast and good direction by the noted filmmaker Yoganand, did not fare well at the box-office.

Gemini Ganesh as the Chola prince Vikraman and Vyjayanthimala as the Pallava princess and his sweetheart made an attractive pair and their scenes sustained interest. One of the duets filmed on them, ‘Pazhagum Thamizhey Paarthibhan maganey…’ (music: Vedha, and lyrics: Kannadasan), became popular.

Ranga Rao came up with an impressive performance as one would expect from him. Subbaiah as the boatmen and his wife Ragini were convincing.

Balaiah as the power-hungry army man was his usual self with his characteristic style of dialogue delivery. Seetharaman played a sadhu who revealed the mystery of the yogi in the climax.

Saroja Devi who appeared as the heroine’s companion in some scenes in the beginning disappeared later. Obviously, the film was long in the making for many reasons; meanwhile, Saroja Devi had become a star and was no longer available for bit roles. Her name appeared in the credits as ‘guest artiste’!

Kumari Kamala as Sivakami performed an excellent classical dance number.

The film, however, was somewhat long and rather dialogue-oriented in keeping with the Tamil cinema style of the 1950s (dialogue writer Vindhan).

Remembered for the glamour of Vyjayanthimala, the winsome lead pair, exquisite sets and pleasing music.


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