Blast from the past
Sivaji Ganesan, P. Bhanumathi, K. A. Thangavelu and T. P. Muthulakshmi
Fine performances Arivaali
William Shakespeare has been a great source of inspiration for Indian cinema. Many of his plays have been successfully adapted to the screen, without, of course, giving credit to the immortal dramatist. His `The Taming of the Shrew' was filmed in Tamil more than once.
Arivaali was a successful attempt by the totally forgotten playwright, screenwriter, producer and director, A. T. Krishnaswami, popularly known during those days as ATK. He was associated even while at college with Suguna Vilas Sabha promoted by one of the two founding fathers of Tamil Theatre, Pammal Sambandam Mudaliar. ATK had also acted in the sabha plays and later joined AV. Meiyappan as an assistant director during the mid 1930s and worked on an early production Ratnavali.
"The Taming of the Shrew" was later made by P. Madhavan in Tamil as Pattikaadaa Pattanama with Sivaji Ganesan and Jayalalitha in the lead. Sivaji rose to brilliant heights as the `tamer' of the shrew, Jayalalitha. The film was a major success. It was also made in Kannada as Nanjundi Kalyaana with Raghavendra Rajkumar (Rajkumar's son) and proved to be a box office bonanza.
ATK's play adapting the Shakespearean work was titled "Oh! What a Girl!" Popular in Tamil, it featured Vidya and Sandhya (Jayalalitha's mother) in major roles.
ATK promoted his own concern ATK Productions and launched Arivaali in 1953. Not many are aware that M. G. Ramachandran was cast as hero at first with P. Bhanumathi as the `shrew'. After some reels were shot, MGR opted out, and entered, Sivaji Ganesan, whom ATK had known intimately during the actor's struggling days in theatre.
(This writer had the pleasure of knowing ATK intimately, having worked with him in some of his plays during his early days. ATK, a person blessed with a delightful sense of humour, had then narrated not only his filmmaking experiences but also showed him a copy of the agreement with MGR in Tamil, which was almost hundred per cent foolproof, advantage MGR. It had words like `vaarthaigalaiyo. kaatchigalaiyo maatravo, kezhattavo, neekkavo, kokkavo MGRukku sagala urimaigalum undu...' No other Indian cinema personality had such a cast iron strong agreement in his favour.)
Again for many reasons, mostly financial, the production dragged on for nine long years and was released only in 1963. In spite of the delay, the movie was a success and the comedy track involving Thangavelu and Muthulakshmi proved a major highlight. Thangavelu as a social activist-journalist was remarkable with his wisecracks and characteristic style of delivering ATK's witty dialogue and his exchanges with his nave, ruralbred wife Muthulakshmi were a sheer delight.
A comedy sequence featuring Thangavelu and Muthulakshmi was released later as an audiocassette, and then as a video. Both are popular even today, after forty-plus years.
Bhanumathi's performance was superb - she virtually lived the role. She was ably supported by Sivaji Ganesan.
The music (S. V. Venkataraman) was pleasing and one song `Kannukku virundhaagum Thirukuraley.' (T. M. Soundararajan) was popular.
Arivaali was a success at the box office but sadly the benefits did not reach poor ATK. Later, he directed Arutperunjyothi and Manam Oru Kurangu (Cho's play).
Remembered for: The comedy of K. A. Thangavelu-T. P. Muthulakshmi and the fine performances of Bhanumathi and Sivaji Ganesan.
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