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A Bhimsingh – True master of family films in Tamil

Even after his death on 16 January 1978, some of Bhimsingh's films are loved dearly. We take a look at a few on his 40th death anniversary.

Manigandan KR

On 16 January 1978, one of Tamil cinema’s most respected and accomplished directors, A Bhimsingh, passed away. The man, who was a scriptwriter, producer, director and editor all rolled into one, made several films that are considered classics in Tamil cinema.

Some of his films are so dearly loved that they continue to be included in all-time favourites even to this day, 40 years after his death.

Bhimsingh was a master of films that had families as the core subject. His films dealt with domestic problems and stressed the need for love, kindness, patience, understanding and the willingness to be accommodative — all qualities essential for a harmonious family and society. Two other aspects that Bhimsingh’s films were known for were meaningful, superhit songs and the absence of the so-called 'item' numbers.

Bhimsingh delivered several blockbusters. In particular, he made a series of films with the legendary Sivaji Ganesan, the titles of which all began with the phonetic sound Pa/Ba. Some of these films are considered the greatest in the genre of family drama. Interestingly, while the legendary director repeatedly worked with Sivaji Ganesan, he never worked with the other big star of Tamil cinema at the time, MG Ramachandran.

We bring to you five gems from the master filmmaker.

1. Bhagapirivinai (1959)

This was a classic in its truest sense. The film,which featured Sivaji Ganesan, B Saroja Devi, MR Radha, TS Balaiah, SV Subbaiah, MN Nambiar, and MV Rajamma won the President’s Silver Medal in the year 1959 for its heart-touching tale of two brothers who live in a joint family.

While the elder brother (played by Balaiah) and his wife Akhilandeswari (played by CK Saraswathi) have no children, the younger brother (played by Subbaiah) and his wife Meenakshi (Rajamma) have two sons — Kannayan (Sivaji) and Mani (Nambiar). Kannayan is physically challenged but Mani is a handsome youngster who gets his education in the city.

Akhilandeswari is jealous that her brother-in-law and his wife have kids while they don’t.

Things go from bad to worse when her brother Singaram (played by Radharavi) returns from Singapore to join the family. Singaram, a wicked manipulator, begins to pit Mani against his brother Kannayan and the other members of the family with help from his sister. In the end, the sister-brother duo succeed in breaking the family. The struggles that Kannayan faces and overcomes to reunite the family is what the film is about.

The film was a blockbuster, with families going in to watch it repeatedly. The film also has Sivaji at his finest. All the songs were hits. One number in particular soared in popularity. 'Thangathile Oru Kurai Irundhaalum' became a household number for its meaningful lyrics and haunting tune. This is a masterpiece that has stood the test of time.
2. Padikkatha Methai (1960)

This film, which starred Sivaji Ganesan and Sowcar Janaki in the lead roles, is about a businessman called Chandrasekharan, who has a big loving family of three sons and two daughters. Along with his children, the rich industrialist raises an orphan called Rangan (Sivaji).

All is well as long as Chandrasekharan’s business does well. One day, he suddenly suffers huge losses and, as a result, the marriage of his last daughter is called off. The net result is that his sons and their wives begin to ill treat the parents and Rangan and his wife. Eventually, the sons force Chandrasekharan to evict Rangan and his wife from the house.

Unable to digest the developments, Chandrasekharan dies, leaving his wife and last daughter at the mercy of his ruthless daughter-in-laws. It is at this point that Rangan comes to their aid and makes the brothers realize that what matters in the world is not wealth but love and affection.

The film had music by KV Mahadevan and lyrics by three of the best known lyricists of all time — Mahakavi Bharathiyar, Kannadasan and Marudhakasi.

This was another film that was dearly loved by the masses.

3. Pasamalar (1961)

This film, which stands as one of the best to have showcased the affectionate bond between brother and sister, had Sivaji, Gemini Ganesan, Savitri, MN Rajam and KA Thangavelu in the lead.

It is considered a gem in Tamil cinema and gained so much acceptance among the masses that even today, people looking to praise brothers and sisters bound by affection liken them to the lead characters of this film that were played by Sivaji and Savitri.

The film was a roaring hit, running for over 100 days in several theatres across the state.

The story of the film is about Rajashekhar (Sivaji) whose life revolves around his kid sister Radha (Savitri). They lose their parents at an early age and Rajashekhar turns into his sister's guardian. Things go bad for Rajashekhar after the factory in which he works shuts down. The man is without a job and desperate, when his sister gives him some money that she has saved by making toys.

Using this as investment, Rajashekhar begins his own firm and soon becomes rich. It is at this point that Anand (Gemini) comes seeking his help. Unable to say no to his former colleague, Rajashekhar grants him a job in his concern. Soon, Anand and Radha fall in love and get married. And with it, trouble begins.

The film, which stands as testimony to the deep bond of affection between brother and sister, won a Certificate of Merit for Second Best Feature Film at the 9th National film awards.

4. Parthal Pasitheerum (1962)

This classic film showcased the strength of friendship. Directed by Bhimsingh, this film’s story was by Tirulokachander and had Sivaji, Gemini, Savirtri, Sowcar Janaki, Saroja Devi and Kamal Haasan playing important roles in it.

The film is about Balu (Sivaji) and Velu (Gemini) who, while fighting for the Royal Indian Air Force, crash in a remote part of Assam. Balu saves Velu, who is injured, and moves him to the safety of a village in Assam where Indroma (Savitri) and her father nurse him back to health.

However, the Japanese army raids the village and Balu, in a bid to save Velu, gets captured. Velu, meanwhile, marries Indroma. However, he is found by the British Indian army and has to return to base, leaving behind his wife, who is now pregnant. Subsequently, another air raid takes place and Indroma loses her eyesight in it. She gives birth to a child but has to move out of the village for fear of air raids.

Eventually, Velu returns to the village but finds it in ruins. He assumes that his wife and her father are dead and goes back to Chennai, where he marries his uncle’s daughter (Sowcar Janaki), who has a heart problem. He has a son through her and settles down comfortably managing the big firm that he inherits.

In these circumstances, Balu, who is released from prison, spots the blind Indroma in a refugee camp in Delhi. He promises to reunite her with her husband and takes her to Chennai. But once he gets to know that Velu is married and his wife is a heart patient who cannot take shocking news, he is at a loss.

One of the most admired films on friendship, Parthal Pasitheerum went on to become a superhit.

5. Padithal Mattum Pothuma (1962)

This masterpiece, one of the most successful films in Tamil cinema, was about driving home the point that education is not about knowing how to read and write or acquiring fancy degrees, but behaving in a cultured, mature and understanding manner.

The film is about two cousins Gopal (Sivaji), a tough, rich, brave hunter who is uneducated, and Raju (Balaji), a well-mannered, educated, soft-spoken coward.

Gopal’s parents, played by SV Sahasranamam and P Kannamba, bring up Raju as their elder son after the death of his parents. Gopal’s father, a rich zamindar, decides to get his sons married and approaches a broker played by MR Radha, asking him to find suitable alliances for both his sons.

MR Radha comes up with two alliances — one each for the cousins. He suggests that the educated Raju be married to a wealthy, well-educated girl called Meena (Rajasulochana) and the uneducated hunter Gopal be married to Seetha (Savithri), the uneducated daughter of a simple farmer played by Muthuraman.

Sivaji Ganesan

The cousins, who are close to each other, have an understanding that they will not marry if the other does not give his approval for the wedding. So while Gopal is asked to go and meet his future sister-in-law and decide whether he would like his cousin to marry her, Raju goes to meet Gopal’s future wife Seetha and approve of her as his sister-in-law.

However, when Raju meets Seetha, he is impressed by her and wants to marry her. He embarks on a wicked plan to this end. The coward that he is, he chooses to write an anonymous letter to the parents of Meena, the girl whom he is to originally marry, saying he is of bad character.

Meanwhile, Meena mistakes Gopal to be an educated man. Both her dad and she are impressed with him. Therefore, they suggest that Meena be married to Gopal and Raju be married to Seetha. That is what happens. However, once the wedding is over, Meena learns that Gopal is uneducated. And all hell breaks loose.