Friday, May 3, 2019

Adimai Penn: The film that made icons

As the MGR classic turns 50, MetroPlus looks back on the film that became a launchpad for singer SP Balasubrahmanyam

MG Ramachandran made three films under his banner — Nadodi Mannan, Ulagam Sutrum Valiban and Adimai Penn, which turns 50 today. From the initial promotional material, Adimai Penn too was projected as yet another MGR directorial, just like the other two films. However, it was veteran director K Shankar who wielded the baton. Originally, actors Saroja Devi and KR Vijaya were cast to play the leading ladies. In fact, they also shot a couple of scenes with cinematographer PN Sundaram. The project, for various reasons, was shelved and the story was changed.

MGR and Jayalalithaa were a hit pair back then, and in order to cash in on the box-office success of the combination, it was decided that the duo play double roles, with Ramamurthy cranking the camera. Jayalalithaa also made her singing début with ‘Amma endral anbu’, a song which she later used in her political career.

Adimai Penn was not just an iconic film, but a film that made many icons. One such was the arrival of the supremely talented playback singer SP Balasubrahmanyam in to mainstream Tamil cinema. Recalling the experience working on the film, SPB says, “I was recording a Telugu song for the dubbed version of an MGR film in AVM studios. He (MGR) was sitting under a tree during a break. Since there were no air conditioners then, the doors of the studio were kept open. MGR was said to have remarked that he liked the Telugu version of his song, and asked his assistants to check out on the singer. He was keen on using a new voice and suggested my name to music director KV Mahadevan, fondly known as ‘mama’.”

A few days after that incident, a huge car landed outside SPB’s residence and an assistant walked in and said, “Chinnavar (MGR was referred to as Chinnavar) wants you to sing for this film. So, please come for rehearsals.” During the rehearsals at MGR’s Ramapuram residence, all the industry legends were waiting for SPB, and the tune — the iconic ‘Aayiram nilave vaa’ — was explained by ‘mama’. SPB says he overcame hesitation and anxiety and “somehow managed to sing the part alongside the legendary P Susheela”.

Since the song was to be filmed in Jaipur, the entire unit was supposed to leave in a week’s time. But SPB was diagnosed with typhoid during the recording sessions. “The crew sympathised with me and I was told to attend recording only after I fully recovered. When I went back to the studio again, I assumed it would be for some other song since ‘Aayiram nilave vaa’ was supposed to be shot in Jaipur, and the unit left already,” he says, adding, “I was pleasantly surprised when mama said, ‘You remember ‘Aayiram nilave vaa’? Then, let’s record it after a couple of rehearsals’. I was in a daze, but managed to sing it. MGR listened to the song and appreciated me.”

Soon after the recording, SPB says he mustered up courage to ask MGR the reason he was retained for the same song, despite his medical condition. “He asked me if I had told my friends about the song and even sung it for them,” remembers SPB, elaborating, “He said, ‘What if they watch the film and find out that you hadn’t sung? People might think that you didn’t do a good job and that we decided not to use your voice. Since this will affect your career, I postponed the shoot in Jaipur till your recovery’.”

Choked with emotions, SPB sought MGR’s blessings. “I cannot imagine anybody else so concerned about a newcomer’s career. In fact, I recorded two more songs, which did not find a place in the final version of the film. The first was a slow number with beautiful lyrics by Pulamaipiththan — ‘Veerathile kavi ezhudhi’, which was also Chandrababu’s favourite.” The second song, ‘Thaai illamal naan illai’, according to SPB, needed more zeal, and TM Soundararajan was chosen to croon the number.

SPB says he is grateful for both Adimai Penn and Shanthi Nilayam, which released the same year. “Both the films were quoted in the first State award I received in my début year in Tamil,” he adds. Following the release of Adimai Penn, the song ‘Ayiram nilave vaa’ became so popular that Sivaji Ganesan, in a special radio programme, stated that it was his favourite MGR song.

Courtesy: The Hindu

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