blast from the past
Ranjan, T. R. Rajakumari, K.L.V. Vasantha, M. G. Ramachandran, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Mathuram, M. R. Santhanalakshmi, T. S. Balaiah and Nagercoil K. Mahadevan
Based on a folk myth, this film, produced by Bhaskar Pictures and directed by noted filmmaker B.N. Rao, is hardly remembered today. But it has earned a footnote in the history of Tamil Cinema and Central Studios where it was made in 1944 and released early in 1945. B. S. Ramaiah scripted the story and Kambadasan penned the dialogue.
Ranjan and T. R. Rajakumari played the lead, while M.G. Ramachandran, who had still not attained popularity played the villain. K.L.V. Vasantha played the supporting role of the hero's sister. The others in the cast included N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Mathuram, M. R. Santhanalakshmi, T. S. Balaiah and Nagercoil K. Mahadevan. In keeping with the footage restrictions in force during the Second World War (1939-1945), this film was less than 11,000 feet.
While the film was being shot, a visitor from Madras came to meet Ranjan and B. N. Rao on an important mission. He was the noted Tamil writer, screen playwright and close associate of S. S. Vasan and filmmaker Acharya, Vepathur Kittu. The magnum opus of Vasan, Chandralekha (1948), was then under production and Acharya was in charge of direction. There were some problems about the casting of Sasankan, the younger prince and villain in Chandralekha. Vasan suggested that studio staff star M. K. Radha should play that role which was the most important in the film. However, Radha had the impression that it would hurt his do-gooder hero image!
Consequently, Acharya suggested Ranjan's name. Somewhat surprisingly, Vasan was more than reluctant! Though his Mangamma Sapatham (1943) was a box office bonanza where Ranjan played a double role as father and son, Vasan felt he was somewhat effeminate and so he would not be the right choice for that steel-hard villain! However, Acharya was confident of shaping Ranjan, and Vasan agreed.
When Kittu conveyed this to Ranjan, he was surprised that Vasan had agreed to consider him for the role of the villain! However, Kittu persuaded him to come down to Madras to take a screen test and B. N. Rao permitted him to take a few days off to visit Madras for the ‘camera test'.
Acharya shot the camera test (that by itself is an interesting story) and Vasan was visibly surprised when he saw the ‘test' and Ranjan sailed merrily into Chandralekha. The rest, as they say, is history!
Interestingly, the heroine's name in Saalivaahanan was Chandralekha, and the story was believed to be adapted from the Tales of King Vikramaditya. Saalivaahanan (Ranjan), divinely blessed and born in a potter's family, falls in love with a princess (Rajakumari), while Vikramaditya (MGR) falls for his sister (Vasantha). The hero and villain clash in a furious clang-whang sword duel.
During the shooting of this scene, MGR told the director that Ranjan was putting in too much of ‘realism' in the fencing which was likely to hurt him! A romantic scene between Ranjan and Rajakumari was shown in colour, with the process of ‘Hand Tinting.' In this process, each frame of the positive print is coloured by hand by a specialist, a laborious process. An advocate of Madras had a company undertaking ‘Hand Tinting,' and a technician Murugesan was expert at doing such sequences. It was done before colour entered Tamil Cinema, with the T. R. Sundaram-Modern Theatres' hit Ali Babavum 40 Thirudargalum (1956).
(Such hand tinting was done earlier in films such as Bhaktha Chetha, Vethala Ulagam and Haridas.)
NSK and Mathuram as usual, provided comedy and sang a duet, ‘Kayirai edutthukko…', which became a hit.
Saalivaahanan did not do well at the box office and the producers lost heavily in the process.
Remembered for: the coloured sequence and the comedy of Krishnan-Mathuram.
Send this article to Friends by