All Indian movies are musicals. We are one of the few movie makers in the world who love to express the situations of the films through songs, dance and music. This is one of the main reasons why Indian movies are loved abroad, and sometimes a few films are extravagant with music and dance. The next movie on my list is one such.
Thillana Mohanambal (1968)
Thillana Mohanambal is a story of two egoistic geniuses falling in love head over heels but never had the mettle to express each other. Too simplistic? A simple one-liner can become a classic with a superb screenplay and incredible acting. This movie is an epitome of what I just described. Thillana Mohanambal is a novel by Kothamangalam Subbu and adapted by AP Nagarajan. Sikkal Shanmugasundaram (Sivaji Ganesan) is a renowned Nagaswaram maestro, and egoistic about his talent meet the Bharathanatyam genius Mohanambal (Padmini), and they fall in love instantly because of mutual admiration towards their talents. Her mother (CK Saraswathi) wants her to get married to a wealthy man to get a luxurious life. She tries to patch Mohana with different people through the help of Vaithi (Nagesh – at his Villainy best) but fails at every instant due to the determination of Mohana. Shanmugasundaram misunderstands Mohana and gets into a depressed state, but through the help of friends, their love travels to a happy ending.
Why is it so special?
1. The ensemble cast and brilliant acting. Sivaji and Padmini are fabulous. If you take the ten best pairs in Tamil Cinema, they will rank right at the top, just because of the chemistry and the way they try to overpower each other whenever they act together. Thillana Mohanambal provides the right premise for both the actors to shine.
2. The supporting cast of AVM Rajan, Balayya, SV Sahasranamam, TR Ramachandran, Thangavelu, CK Saraswathi and apt cameos from Balaji, Nambiyar make the movie perfect. You would be amazed at the screenplay and how each actor is provided with scenes where they can shine in their own way. For instance, the train scene where Balayya steals the show entirely from the lead characters.
3. There are two actors without who Thillana Mohanambal would be half-baked. Vaithi played by Nagesh and Jil Jill Ramamani by Manorama. Vaithi is the real villain of the story and Nagesh cakewalks the role. His Saguni like villainy will make you laugh and hate him at the same time. Nobody other than Nagesh could have pulled it off. Jill Jill Ramamani, on the other hand, is the darling of the movie. Manorama’s portrayal is splendid with the unique gait and voice modulation. Even sometimes you feel that Sivaji let her overshadow him. Don’t miss the folk dance performance from Manorama.
4. The music and dance. This is one of the movies whose soundtrack should be preserved in any Tamil music buff’s collection. Maraindhirunthu Parkum, Nalamthana and Pandiyan Naanirukka are instant classics. The musical pieces at various points of time performed by the Nagaswaram Troupe especially the western score done through traditional instruments are out of the world. KV Mahadevan composed the music. If music was perfect, the dance sequences are overwhelming. Padmini was at her best through the choreography of PS Gopalakrishnan. The Thillana contest between Nagaswaram and Bharathanatyam is a sequence not to be missed.
5. It’s one of the perfect screenplays as it was adapted from a 3 volume novel and wonderfully directed too.
Why is it on the list?
1. One of the best novel adaptations and I could not find a better musical than this.
2. Perfectly casted, perfectly acted, perfectly composed (song and dance), perfectly written and perfectly directed
3. One of the few movies in Tamil which will not bore you even if you see it innumerable times and enjoy the movie from any point
2. Harikesnallur Muthaiah Bagavathar composed the western notes that are played by Sivaji’s troupe during the western band standoff scene for Madurai Mani Iyer. KV Mahadevan used it for the movie
3.The 3 volume novel written by Kothamangalam Subbu was published as a series in Ananda Vikatan 25 years before the movie was made. Interestingly, Vaithi’s caricature made by Gopu (artist) was very similar to Nagesh.
4.It was widely rumoured that Padmini wanted to marry Sivaji. It was because of the screen chemistry shared by both the actors. She got married to an US-based Physician Dr Ramachandran and instituted her own dance school in New Jersey.
5. Padmini was the second sister in the famous trio of Lalitha, Padmini and Ragini. They were called the Travancore Sisters. They were born in the Travancore Royal family and Padmini was the first one to get formal dance training. Lalitha and Padmini started their film career with Kalpana, a Hindi film directed by Uday Shankar (Pandit Ravi Shankar’s brother). Their foray into Tamil movies came with Vedala Ulagam, produced by AVM. They just accepted to dance but not act in the movie. After that, it became customary to have a Lalitha – Padmini dance sequence in movies. Padmini’s big break came with Panam, in which she paired with Sivaji for the first time. Sivaji and Padmini acted together in 59 movies (I don’t think any pair can match that record). She acted only in few movies after her wedding. Thillana Mohanambal is one such movie. After her husband’s demise in 1981, she came back to India and stayed in Chennai. Fazil convinced her to act in Poove Poochudava in 1985 as the Grand Mother of Nadhiya and that’s the last movie she acted. She passed away in 2006. Her niece Shobana took her aunts’ path, learnt Bharathanatyam, acted in movies and now running a successful dance school. Vineeth, the Malayalam actor, is a relative of Padmini’s husband. He also trained in dancing.
5.The story is based out of the Kaveri delta area of Tanjore and adjacent places. Sikkal is a small village in Nagapattinam district and known for Singaravelan Temple. But the whole movie was shot in sets except for few scenes in Railway stations
Tanjore Railway station makes a small cameo. (Giving credit to my native town :P)
- Tamil Cinema Varalaru – Part 1 – Dinathanthi Publications