Madras to Pondicherry ( 1966)
Somehow, if I take some cult classics of the 50s and 60s, I always hit upon with the names of Krishnan-Panju. In fact, two more movies on my list are directed by them. So I had made a small juggle on the list to avoid repetition. When do you think the first road movie came in Tamil? Honestly, there are only a handful of road movies of which only a few are hits.
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 was 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 exciting characters from Madras to Pondicherry. An ever fighting couple with a son, who has an insatiable appetite for pakoras, an old lady with her granddaughter, a respectable family, a roadside 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 crooks and her love story with a young man inside the bus (Ravichandran). She first escapes from her family, who wanted her to be married to their choice of a groom and gets into the hands of two criminals. 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 on the bus with others. The journey continues, and all’s well that ends well.
What is Madras to Pondicherry special?
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 is memorable. Karunanidhi was one of the underrated comedians, and his expressions are just magnificent in the movie.
Khader as the Pakora eating boy earned him the name “Pakora Khader” and Veerappan as his irritating father are excellent portrayals. Angamuthu as the roadside 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, scripted by Usilai Somanathan produced by MS Adhi Narayanan of Sun Beam Productions along with three others and A Bhimsingh and Music by TK Ramamoorthy.
Why is Madras to Pondicherry on the list?
1. 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).
2. 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 film was made inside the studio due to the technical limitations of those times, the movie has to be hailed for the thought process.
3. 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 part of Amitabh.
2. Mehmood, a fan of Nagesh has done some memorable (some not so notable) 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 masterpiece 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 was initially with MS Viswanathan, and they were called as the “Mellisai Mannargal” (Melody Kings). The first movie they composed music together was Panam (1952), and the last movie they composed music together was Aayirathil Oruvan (1965). They came back one more time for Engiruntho Vandhan (1991).
6. The movie could have been the brainchild of legendary director A Bhimsingh (he has been credited as direction supervisor), and the movie was shot in Venkateswara Cinetone (originally Newtone Studios). Now, the building has given way to Rajaji School (run by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan). But the movie starts with “Vividh Bharati” presents – Whether All India Radio also called Vividh Bharati released the movie could not be established.