I am travelling ten years back to talk about a legend. I am reading some books on Tamil Movies to give some good trivia. One of them which I read recently was AVM – 60 years by M.Saravanan. Avichi Meyyappa Chettiar is a pioneer when it comes to movies in India. In fact, his family is the oldest moviemaking family in India. He started making films in 1935 and established AVM studios in 1945. Comedy has always been successful when it comes to Tamil Movies, but if you make it wrong, you will become a comedy in front of the audience. Sabapathy, one of the earliest full-length comedy movies is the 6th movie on our list, and one of the must-watch Tamil films of all time.
Sabapathy is a comedy character developed by Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar based on Handy Andy comic character created by Samuel Lover in English literature. Sabapathy is an innocent stupid servant of a not so intelligent boss of the same name. AT Krishnaswamy was a writer-producer who worked in the drama troupe and he gave an idea to AV Meyyappa Chettiar to create a movie around this character. AVM had already given two consecutive flops and was brooding about whether to make a movie. He wanted to give a try at comedy, and they both started working on the script.
The story is simple and ran around the boss-servant characters.The Boss is a young man who has failed in the pre-university exams, and his father is worried about his future. So he decides to get his son married, and after the wedding, the husband and wife are kept separated. The movie continues with comic extravagances of the boss servant ending up in a happy climax.
AVM roped in TR Ramachandran, who was in a high salary bracket of Rs.35 with Pragati Pictures that time. Kali N.Ratnam did the role of servant Sabapathy. Padma and Rajakantham made the lady love respectively. Sarangapani, one of the most sought-after comedians of those times, did an important part of a Tamil Teacher, ragged continuously by his students.
Why is Sabapathy so special?
1. Most probably the first full-length comedy of Tamil Cinema and the first comedy to become a hit.
2. The hilarious pair of Kali N.Ratnam and TR Ramachandran was excellent. Some comic scenes are unforgettable – especially the scenes where he asks to bring soda, coffee etc.
3. The pithiest part is that these movie scenes have been repeated enormously in many other movies in different forms and ways. The ragging of the Tamil teacher and the boss-servant swap sequences while seeing the bride have often been repeated in many movies. It shows the versatility of the comedy scenes.
Why is Sabapathy on the list?
1. It proved that comedy could be a genre and eventually paved the way for lot other comic movies in Tamil Cinema.
2. TR Ramachandran and Kali N.Ratnam. I think they gave the red carpet to duo comedies of later years.
1. The whole movie was made with a budget of Rs.40,000. It was a resounding success and made AVM get into regular movie making and eventually movie mogul.
2. AV Meiyappa Chettiar was born on July 28, 1907, in Karaikudi. Meiyappa Chettiar’s father Avichi Chettiar ran a store called AV and Sons in Karaikudi. In 1928, AV and Sons got the rights to sell Kittapa and KB Sundarambal’s LP records in Southern districts of Tamil Nadu. Later they started making LP records through a partnership with Odeon. AVM’s first movie was Alli Arjuna, made in Kolkata (then Calcutta), it failed. The next two films, Rathnavali (1936) and Nandhakumar (1937, TR Mahalingam’s debut) failed too. AVM didn’t give up and started his studio, Pragathi Pictures and produced Bookailash, a Telugu movie, that became a hit. But Sabapathy was the first significant hit that changed the fortune of AV Meiyappa Chettiar.
3. TR Ramachandran became a superstar and MGR (then in initial times) was calling himself MG Ramachandar to avoid confusion.
3. AVM’s name made it to the title card as a director along with AT Krishnaswamy for the first time.
PS: Although the movie is old, it is still played in Tamil Channels sometimes. Maybe the current moviegoers will find it a little bit hard to comprehend the slow pace and editing. But the movie is utterly enjoyable.
- The Hindu – Blast from the Past by Randor Guy
- Pic Source: Wikipedia
- Tamil Cinema Varalaru – Part 1 – Dinathanthi Publications