Madras to Pondicherry ( 1966)
Somehow if I take some cult classics of 50s and 60s, I always hit upon with the names of Krishnan-Panju… In fact two more movies in my list are directed by them. So I had made a small juggle in the list to avoid repetition.
When do you think the first road movie came in Tamil? Truly, there are only a handful of road movies of which only a few are hits.I could not even think of one now except for the latest Kadhalna Summa Illa.
A road movie is defined as a story which happens during a journey from one place to another. The best example would be Motorcycle Diaries, which tells the transformation of Che Guevara. But the first Tamil road movie is an absolute light hearted comedy entwined with a small mystery, Madras to Pondicherry and that too in 1966 !
The story moves along with the bus journey of a host of interesting characters from Madras to Pondicherry. An ever fighting couple with a son, who has an insatiable appetite for pakoras, a old lady with her grand daughter, a respectable family, a road side vendor, a snake charmer and above all the conductor – driver duo. But the main story revolves around a girl (Kalpana), who escapes from the clutches of two cheats and her love story with a young man in the bus (Ravichandran).She first escapes from her family, who wanted her to be married to their choice of groom and gets in to the hands of two cheats. They promise her to get a role for her in movies. Due to greed one (SV Ramadoss) of them kills the other. Kalpana becomes the witness to the murder and runs for her life, eventually ending up in the bus with others. The journey continues and all’s well that ends well…
What so special about the movie?
The excellent screenplay of the movie with every scene filled with comic moments and the interesting characters along with apt casting. Nagesh as the conductor and A.Karunanidhi (not our CM) as the driver are memorable. Karunanidhi was one of the underrated comedians, his expressions are simply superb in the movie.
Khader as the Pakora eating son, earned him the name “Pakora Khader” and Veerapan as his irritating father are excellent portrayals. Angamuthu as the road side vendor and her chicken becomes the reason one of the best slapstick comedy sequence. You should watch it to enjoy the fun.
The movie was directed by another director duo of Thirumalai-Mahalingam, produced by MS Adhi Narayanan of Sun Beam Productions and Music by TK Ramamoorthy. I think the dialogues should have been penned by Veerappan, a friend of Nagesh who wrote numerous comedy sequences for him.
Why it’s in the list?
Just because it was one of the pioneers in the genre.I have not seen a better road movie idea in Tamil for years. Even in Hindi, they have failed to impress (Daud, Honeymoon Travels, Road).
The critics of Tamil movies always maintained that there are no good representations of genres in Tamil. Madras to Pondicherry is one of those movies, which can be quoted as an instance of difference in Tamil movies. Although half of the movie was made inside the studio due to the technical limitations of those times, the movie has to be hailed for the thought process.
You will be startled to see most of the comic scenes being copied in different formats. Like the snake sequence, the chicken chase sequence and it’s pathetic to see how people are so shameless to copy.
Madras to Pondicherry, a must watch road movie and light hearted comedy.
1. Madras to Pondicherry was remade in Hindi with Amitabh and Aruna Irani with Mehmood doing the Nagesh role. It was called Bombay to Goa and it was a super hit. It was said that Mehmood wanted Rajiv Gandhi to do the role of Amitabh.
2. Mehmood, a fan of Nagesh has done some memorable (some not so memorable) remakes of Nagesh movies in Hindi.(Lakhon Mein Ek – Ethir Neechal, Do Phool – Anubavi Raja Anubavi, Mein Sunder Hoon – Server Sundaram and the list goes on)
3. Veerappan continued to write comedy portions for the movies. In fact most of the comedy sequences of Goundamani-Senthil duo were written by him. Yes, you are right, the master piece Vazhappazha (Banana) comedy of Karagattakaran was written by him only.
4. Thirumalai-Mahalingam later went on to direct some successful comedies like Saadhu Mirandal and Soapu Seepu Kannadi with Nagesh.
5. TK Ramamoorthy later joined hands with MS Viswanathan and the as they say ‘the rest is history’. I could not plot the first movie which they were together. They were called as the “Mellisai Mannargal” (Melody Kings).