I didn’t like Aadhavan, and I gave a critical review of the movie. The critical examination started immediately after the film, and my friends were criticising me that I am expecting too much from a masala movie. Chinmaya, my friend, asked over a Chicken at KFC, “So tell me which is a perfect masala”. I immediately sprung up and said “Enga Veettu Pillai“. He snubbed and said “the MGR movie? That’s an old one man”. I just smiled and said “Absolutely not. Take any double-action movie in any language barring a few exceptions like Vaali; you will have the same storyline as this film. Even the re-runs of “Enga Veetu Pillai” made more money than the so-called masalas of recent times.”
I don’t hate masala movies; in fact, I love them because it depicts the real Indian movie style. A perfect masala should be enjoyable and should not be boring at any point in time. Glorifying Heroes – perfectly fine as long as the hero is Rajini. So here comes the mother of all masala Tamil movie of all times – “Enga Veettu Pillai.”
Enga Veettu Pillai (1965)
Enga Veetu Pillai is a remake of Ramadu Bheemadu, a Telegu Movie starring NT Ramarao (Doh, why a remake in the list? but there is a difference). Nagi Reddi, the famous Telugu film producer and the owner of Vijaya Productions produced this movie in Telugu, and as it became a big hit, he remade this movie with minor changes to suit MG Ramachandran’s image in Tamil. It became a blockbuster in Tamil and still remembered.
Incidentally, the original is not an original too as it borrowed the storyline from Alexander Dumas’ Corsican Brothers. Enga Veetu Pillai is about twin brothers Ramu and Ilango (MGR) separated at birth due to a family problem. Ramu, grown as innocent and spineless by his uncle, Narendran (MN Nambiar), who is also Ramu’s Sister’s (Pandari Bai) husband. Narendran is waiting for Ramu’s 25th birthday to deceive the family property as written in the will of Ramu’s father. Ilango, on the other hand, is a spendthrift and happy-go-lucky guy lives with his step-mom (later revealed).
Leela (Saroja Devi) initially chosen as the bride for Ramu dislikes him as she finds him cowardly but then meets Ilango, mistakes him to be Ramu and unknowingly helps him to swap places with Ramu in Narendran’s house. Ilango, realising the plight of people in the house, stays there and teaches a lesson to Narendran. Ramu, on the other hand, lives peacefully at Ilango’s home and falls in love with a village girl. The confusions and mix-ups unroll, and at the end, everyone finds the past, and all ends well.
Enga Veetu Pillai was directed by Tapi Chanakya with Music from MS Viswanathan – Ramamurthy and produced by Nagi Reddi under Vijaya Productions Banner. The cast includes MGR, Saroja Devi, Pandari Bai, MN Nambiar, SV Rangarao, Nagesh and Thangavelu.
Why is Enga Veettu Pillai special?
1. A perfect masala movie made in the Indian style with all the ingredients in right measures. Glorious music, hilarious comic scenes, well-made action sequences with the right dose of sentimental sequences
2. The music of the movie is still revered. Kumari Pennin Ullathile, Naan Maan Thoppil are classics, and of course, the best hero worship song ever made “Naan Aanai Ittal”. The song is perfectly choreographed for the lyrics of Vaali. The picture of MGR with the whip and hands spread is a long-lasting image of Tamil Cinema and politics.
3. The comic scenes of Thangavelu, Nagesh, SV Rangarao and MGR. Nagesh, as a stammering assistant of MGR and Thangavelu as the assistant of Nambiar, was equally hilarious. The facial expression of Thangavelu when Ilango hits Narendran for the first time shows it all.
4. If the supporting cast especially Saroja Devi and Pandari Bai were impressive, Nambiar as the evil uncle was fantabulous. I always believe that the Villain has to be strong because the people will love it only when the Hero prevails over the most potent evil. I think Nambiar would have been the most hated villain of all times. In this movie, he even hits MGR with the whip during the opening scenes, and it’s unimaginable how audiences would have reacted in theatres.
5. MGR, the man. In fact, this movie also gave him space to act, as the cowardly Ramu he scores full marks and Ilango is his usual characterisation which you see in most of his films. I can only reiterate one fact – he is the best brand manager I have ever known. He was aware of the ways to engineer success and follow it up with a more significant accomplishment in political life.
Why is Enga Veetu Pillai on the list?
1. One of the biggest trendsetters in Tamil Movies. I can’t count the number of movies taken with the same storyline. From the trash copy called Vani Rani (which even has a similar whipping scene like the one in Enga Veetu Pillai) to one of the recent hits of Surya – Vel, all the double-action movies have been made with Enga Veetu Pillai in mind.
2. One of the biggest blockbusters in Tamil cinema and continues to be a hit even on reruns.
3. As I said, the perfect masala movie of all times which has all the ingredients rightly mixed in apt proportions
1. Ramadu Bheemadu was released in 1964, and there was a Hindi remake of the same movie called Ram Aur Shyam with Dilip Kumar (I don’t know how he would have suited such a storyline). It didn’t do well at the box office. All the movies were directed and produced by the same team of Tapi and Nagi Reddi.
2. “Naan Aanaiyittal” was originally written as “Naan Arasan Yendral, Naan Aandu Vittal” but MGR made Vaali change the lyrics to the current version as he felt it would hurt the sentiments of DMK leaders. Eventually, he left DMK to start ADMK and as they say the rest is history. Even now, ADMK uses the song for every election campaign.
3. The song became so famous that there was a movie released as Naan Aanaiyital in 1966 with MGR in the lead.
4. One of the songs in Puthiya Bhoomi starts as “Naan ungal veetu pillai”, such is the iconic status of Enga Veetu Pillai.
5. Vijaya Productions is one of the legendary producers of movies in South India. Nagi Reddi setup the Asia’s most prominent studios at that time Vijaya Vahuni studios (now Vijaya Hospital, Forum Vijaya Mall and Green Park Hotel). Known for movies like Patala Bhairavi, Maya Bazaar, Enga Veetu Pillai (Ramudu Bheemadu) and Julie. He also started the Andhra Jyothi newspaper and Chandamama (now owned by Geodesic Information Systems), children’s magazine. Vijaya Productions stopped producing movies since 1982 and have come back into production with Ajith’s Veeram (2014).
6. Saroja Devi made her debut in a Kannada movie, Mahakavi Kalidasa (1955) when she was 15. She performed a dance sequence in Thangamalai Ragasiyam but MGR’s Nadodi Mannan (1958) catapulted her to stardom. She acted in more than 170 movies and her last Tamil film was incidentally, Aadhavan. Saroja Devi got married to Sri Harsha (an Engineer) and he helped her to manage her finances. Her son was named after MGR – Gautam Ramachandran.
7. Rathna (the other lead in the movie), acted in few Tamil movies. She started with Thozhilali but she became popular after Enga Veettu Pillai. She didn’t act in many movies in Tamil. She acted in a couple of other movies like Sabash Thambi and Naam Moovar with Jai Shankar.
8. Enga Veettu Pillai was a huge box office hit and it achieved Silver Jubilee (25 weeks) in 7 theatres across Tamil Nadu. MGR Pictures distributed the movie in Chennai area and made a huge profit. They wanted to give an extra1 Lakh to Vijaya Combines but the producers politely refused.
- Many shades like a rainbow – Reminiscences of B Nagi Reddi
- Tamil Cinema Varalaru – Part 1 – Dhinathanthi Publications
- In her time: Interview with Saroja Devi by Silver Screen
- Rathna: Andru Kanda Mugam
YouTube link of Enga Veetu Pillai