Taking off from the play by the future chief minister of Tamil Nadu, the film’s release coincided with the founding of the party he led, the DMK, and set out its programme in dramatic form. Inspired partially by the actual Bhowal Sanyasi case, the plot tells of Anandan (Ramaswamy) who returns from a tea plantation in Sri Lanka to find his father hanging from a tree, hounded to suicide by a rapacious landlord (Balasubramanyam). He takes revenge with a DMK character called Mani (Baliah). A subplot has the landlord’s son (Nambiar) fall in love with the maid Amrita (Rajamma), providing the title as well as opportunities to castigate elitism. The film expounds the DMK’s anti-caste and anti-clerical populist ideology with long monologues, flowery language and by showing e.g. a criminal, Harihara Das (Nambiar again) masquerading as a pious leader of an ashram. Sivathamby (1981) commented: ‘The rhetoric of Anandan at the temple (of Mariamman) and in the court of law exposed the manner in which the landowners manipulated the entire system to keep themselves in power and authority. The arguments were so radical and heretical that they posed a threat to the very foundations of Tamil rural society.’ However, the producers, religious people who only made the film because the play had been a hit, attenuated the atheist thrust and ended the film with a title card affirming ‘only one god and only one community’. For his first feature, playwright/ scenarist Sami relies heavily on theatrical conventions such as speech to camera, mid- shots and studio settings. The Travancore sisters, Lalitha and Padmini, perform the famous dance number Oridam thanile. Janaki, MGR’s wife, who plays the landlord’s daughter Sarasa, briefly became chief minister of Tamil Nadu in 1987 and led one of the two AIADMK factions after her husband died.
The film is based on a play of the same name written by C. N. Annadurai, who later became the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
01 Jan 1949 ● Tamil ● Running Time: TBA
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