Ratha Kanneer (1954)
There is always an argument which goes on in the Tamil movie world on Who is the best actor … And always they end up with one name called Sivaji Ganesan. But according to me, there is one more person who can be spoken of at the same calibre as Sivaji. His name is M.R.Radha and versatility is his middle name.
Although there are wonderful movies behind his name, the one classic masterpiece which will feature in any Tamil Movie list would be Ratha Kanneer.
Most of the yesteryear actors came from theatre and with strong influences of political ideologies. MR Radha was no exception and he had a strong background of Dravidian political ideology. He was already a super star in theatre before he came on to movies.
Ratha Kanneer was a play written by Thiruvarur Thangarasu and already a famous play among the masses before it made in to the tinsel world. The most surprising aspect of the play and the movie was the radical thoughts purported by the writer at a more conservative time period.
It’s about the story of the rich man who makes merry with women defies his family, good friends and ends up as a leprosy patient. Leprosy was considered to be a deadly disease at that time and the movie also depicts the social stigma associated with such patients.
What so special?
The first half has all the strong Dravidian political ideologies of MR Radha and the writer criticising religion, casteism, false beliefs, rituals etc. The dialogues and the way MR Radha enacts the role with élan is a treat to watch.
The contrasting second half shows the plight of the leprosy patient and the social apprehensions surrounding it. Who can forget “Kuttram Purinthavan”. The movie had a apt cast with M.N.Rajam as Gantha, a memorable wily mistress character and she never recovered from that image after that movie. She had innumerable stereotypical roles after that movie. SS Rajendran as the friend and Sri Ranjani as the wife.
The music for the songs was composed by Chidambaram Jayaraman and the back ground score by Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy (lesser known that point of time). And the movie was directed by the most sucessful director duo of Krishnan- Panju.
Why it makes to the list ?
Simply because of the path breaking theme of the movie for it’s times and the wonderful versatile acting of MR Radha – an actor under rated because of his personal life and one big mistake of shooting MGR. It has become a inspiration for many movie makers and you could find many movies reusing the subject even today. A brilliant movie to watch…
1. The legacy of Rattha Kaneer is continued till now with MR Radha’s off springs continuing it with occasional theatre performances along with small modifications. Currently the role is portrayed by Radha Ravi.
2. Upendra, the maverick Kannada Director-Actor tried to recreate the magic with Ramya Krishnan as Gantha but could not live up to the expectations although it made good financial success.
3. Incidentally, MR Radha went back to theatre after this movie because of his love towards it but came back to do some memorable roles later.
4. The full name of MR Radha is Mohan Rajagopala Naidu Radhakrishnan and he is nicknamed as Nadigavel
Wonderful Trivia update from Raji Muthukrishnan
After a hiatus from the screen after Ratha Kaneer (I read somewhere he was disgusted with the film world for some reason), M. R. Radha came back with a bang in Baga Pirivinai, which had Sivaji in it. After that he was on a roll with his original unique dialogue delivery
Trivia: it was M. R. Radha who gave Karunanidhi the title of Kalaignar when he acted in one of his plays.
P.S 1: I decided that the 3rd movie should be Ratha Kanneer and I could not get good information from the internet ( like the music director). I went on to a pursuit of DVDs and I found it in Landmark last weekend. A nice add on to my DVD collection ( Thanks to this article). The DVD is released by Raj Video Vision.
P.S 2: Update in 2015 – Finally, we have a YouTube version of the movie