One of the most popular Tamil films of the decade, continuing the post-Velaikkari (1949) engagement of top DMK personnel with cinema, scenarist Karunanidhi and star MGR. Shot near Salem in the hill resort of Yercaud, the film is based on an 8th-C. Tamil literary epic, a Buddhist text that, according to Mu. Varadarajan (1988), was a Buddhist propaganda work reflecting the rivalry between Buddhists and Jains in the 1st millenium AD. The original story, of which only 28 verses still exist, tells of a woman from the vaisya caste, a Jain by birth, who kills her husband when he tries to murder her, and is eventually converted to Buddhism. While using its historical and literary references mainly as an authenticating force, the film replaces the Jain context with the Brahmin caste in line with DMK policy. Parthiban (Natarajan), the son of an imbecilic king’s royal priest (Nambiar), is committed to the art of banditry while wearing a Batman-type mask to discredit Veeramohan (MGR), a loyal general and lover of Princess Jeeva (Shakuntala). The minister’s daughter is Amudavalli (Madhuri) who tries to reform the treacherous son, marries but ends up killing him in self-defence. The nasty priest then kills her at the durbar. The songs proved enduring, esp. Vaarai...vaarai sung by Trichy Loganathan for Parthiban as he leads Amudavalli to a hilltop to kill her. It is also a landmark in playback singer T.M. Soundararajan’s long career. Master Subbaiah, the teenage prodigy who died young, sings a song and appears briefly as a cowherd. The film also launched the enduring image of the famous screen villain Nambiar. Madhuri Devi provides the best performance as a sword-wielding, independently minded heroine who kills her own husband.
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