There was a retrospective recently of the Sivaji Ganesan film – Pudhiya Paravai.
Pudhiya Paravai was re-released last July 23rd at the Shanthi Theatre. It was first released on September 12, 1964 in many theatres.The film was loosely based on an Uttam Kumar starrer Shesh Ankha (January 1963), which had been inspired by the 1958 film, To Chase a Crooked Shadow – which had a man landing up in a woman’s house and claiming to be her ‘dead’ husband. This original English version was directed by Michael Anderson and was later made into the hero-based movie in Bengali by director Haridas Bhattacharya.
Many say the Tamil adaptation did not do well in its first run, but the numbers tell another story. This was its run in Chennai: Paragon – 132 days, Krishna –76 days, Sayani, – 76 days, and it crossed eight weeks in all major centres. But for Deepavali intervening, it would have fared even better.
The film was the maiden Tamil venture for Sivaji Films. Its director, Dada Mirasi, an advocate by profession but with a passion for cinema, joined B.R. Panthulu and assisted him in many a film. He directed Raktha Thilakam starring Sivaji and made this film the next year. Sivaji featured in seven films released in the calendar year 1964, of which five ran for 100 days and more in 15 theatres. This record of five films with same hero in one calendar year enjoying 100-days’ runs in 15 theatres in Madras city remains unsurpassed in the nearly 80-year-old history of Tamil cinema. The other two ran 7-10 weeks.
The story goes that when Dada Mirasi narrated the outline of Pudhiya Paravai to V.C. Shanmugam, Sivaji’s younger brother, the latter was so taken up with the narration that he called director Sridhar to come over and listen to it. Sridhar and his associate Gopu were so inspired by what they heard that they had Nagesh narrate his story to Balaiah in the same style in their comedy classic Kaadhalikka Neramillai which, incidentally, was released earlier the same year.
Shanthi Theatre, originally built by Umapathy, was bought by Sivaji Ganesan and Pudhiya Paravai was slated to be released in it. But Raj Kapoor’s Sangam, already running in it, was such a great success playing to full houses, that the producer-cum-theatre-owner-cum-hero was faced with a huge dilemma. It was decided not to disturb Sangam and to release Pudhiya Paravai elsewhere. And the only available theatre close to Mount Road was Paragon (which, incidentally, used to be opposite Kalaivanar Arangam, both of which are no more).
Paragon was no match for Shanthi when it came to seats, screen and sound quality. So Sivaji Films decided to refurbish the theatre and make it comfortable for viewing. Paragon was shut down for more than two weeks for this purpose. While this enhanced the run of Pudhiya Paravai, another movie of Sivaji, Aandavan Kattalai, which had been running there, and which, if it had been left undisturbed, would have completed a 100-day run, had to be removed after 70 days.
This re-release of Pudhiya Paravai at Shanthi after 46 years was a nostalgic moment for many Sivaji fans. This film had a slew of hits by the famous duo, Viswanathan-Ramamurthy, starting from ‘Unnai Ondru Ketpen’ to the heavily orchestrated ‘Engey Nimmadhi’ (which, at the time, had the highest number of Instruments used for a recording). Apparently, Kannadasan could not get the right words nor was there a tune ready and Sivaji came to the composing and did a pantomime of what he would like to do and thus was born the line and the song . Teamwork at its best!
* ‘Remember seeing it.’
The fans' day
If Friday and Saturday saw the general public thronging the theatre, Sunday was taken over by the fans. The writer, though a fan, played safe and went on Saturday to watch the film. The Sunday matinee show recorded 90% occupancy and for the evening show the crowd had started gathering by 3.30 pm, swelling as the hours passed. Fans had come from all over the South just to be a part of the celebrations. Bangalore fans brought special garlands in a lorry. With these big garlands on their shoulders the fans took out a big procession on Mount Road, throwing the entire traffic out of gear. Police had to rush in to control them.
There were two banners of the film, one at the entrance and the other inside. It required a lot of effort to garland the banner and people started climbing up and in no time the entire banner was covered with garlands. Once the portrait was garlanded, other rituals like lighting of camphor followed, then the crackers took over. For many old-timers it was a throwback to the 1960s and 70s when the release of every Sivaji film at Shanthi was a festival. Yes, on that second Sunday, time stood still. It was heartwarming for all, as it was happening in the golden jubilee year of Shanthi. Shanthi opened on January 11, 1961 and come January 2011, the theatre will be completing 50 years of glorious existence.