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unusual storyline Panakkari
Leo Tolstoy’s classic ‘Anna Karenina’ was made into a Hollywood movie in 1935 by Clarence Brown with the iconic star Greta Garbo playing Anna. It was filmed earlier as a silent movie in 1928 named Love, again with Greta Garbo as Anna and the ‘great lover’ John Gilbert in the male lead. The novel and the 1935 Hollywood version were popular in India and the story was filmed in Tamil in 1953 as Panakkari by K. S. Gopalakrishnan (the maker of Chakradhari) under the technical supervision of the renowned Newtone Studio founder-cinematographer-filmmaker, Jiten Bannerjee.
T. R. Rajakumari, the then dream girl, played the Tamil Anna and Chittoor V. Nagaiah as the suspecting husband who ill-treats her for being friends with an army officer (M. G. Ramachandran). The original story of misunderstanding between the couple due to the wife’s friendship with another man was more or less followed in the Tamil version. MGR’s role was somewhat villainous. While old timers ‘Javert’ Seetharaman and C. V. V. Panthulu played their supporting roles effectively, Mangalam, the woman the army man discards was also impressive. In a sequence, Panthulu (playing an elderly husband) carrying on with his young daughter’s attractive dance teacher, signals her to come up to his bedroom, leaving the daughter to dance to a gramophone record! While the dancer is busy upstairs, the gramophone record which has a crack, goes on playing the same word, hearing which the wife rushes out of the kitchen and catches the husband and the dance teacher red-handed. Though this sequence is hilarious, the moviegoers in those days thought it was in bad taste. There is also another scene the Tamil audience didn’t relish much — the husband (Nagaiah) introduces his lovely wife (Rajakumari) to his army friend and the man and the woman shake hands. It was also why the public rejected the movie, despite its impressive cast and production values.
The film had pleasing music (S. V. Venkataraman) with lyrics by Papanasam Sivan, Thanjai Ramaiah Das, Lakshmana Das and Kuyilan. Gopalakrishnan, a graduate, took part in the Freedom Movement and also worked in movies.
He was associated with S. S. Vasan and directed the Gemini Studios’ box office hit of 1948, Chakradhari. Though he made a few films, he didn’t meet with much success. He is scarcely remembered today and many mistake him for the other K. S. Gopalakrishnan, a successful Tamil filmmaker.
However, Panakkari failed at the box office, mainly because of its ‘anti sentimental’ storyline. During the same period, another film, Pitchaikkari, a remake of a Malayalam film, proved a major hit and gave rise to a joke in the Madras movie circles —‘Those who bought Panakkari became pitchaikkaarans (beggars), while buyers of Pitchaikkari became panakkarans (rich men)!
Remembered for its different storyline, high production values and impressive performances by Nagaiah, Rajakumari and MGR.
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