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aka The Goddess 1952 188’ b&w Tamil d Krishnan-Panju pc AVM Prod, National Pics p M.S. Perumal st M.S. Balasundaram sc/dial/co-lyr M. Karunanidhi co-lyr Subramanyam Bharati, Bharatidasan, K.N. Anualthango, K.P. Kamakshisundaram, Udumalai Narayana Kavi c Maruthi Rao m R. Sudarshanam lp Sivaji Ganesan, S.S. Rajendran, S.V. Sahasranamam, Sriranjani Jr, Pandharibai, Kannamma, V.K. Ramaswamy, Kumari Kamala

Ganesan’s debut in a classic DMK Film scripted in line with party policies by the future chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Three brothers, based in Rangoon, go home to Madurai when their youngest sister is to be married. WW2 is declared and the brothers are separated, the eldest, Chandrasekharan (Sahasranamam) becoming a judge, the second, Gnanasekharan (Rajendran), a representative of the beggars’ community. Gunasekharan (Ganesan) arrives home to find their father dead and his newly married sister Kalyani (Sriranjani) widowed and homeless. Concealing his identity, he looks after her like a guardian. In the film’s dramatic as well as political highlight, he wounds a villainous priest who tries to rape Kalyani in the deity Parasakthi’s temple. Significantly, for the DMK’s anti-religious stance, the hero first pretends to be the temple deity and then reveals it to be just a piece of stone. Gunasekharan’s girlfriend Vimala (Pandharibai) represents, with her politically activist brother, the voice of the DMK, esp. that of its chief, Annadurai. When she isn’t lecturing Gunasekharan on Annadurai’s works, she goes boating in the river, thus finding herself well placed to rescue Kalyani’s child thrown into the river by its mother (recalling the legend of Nallathangal who threw her seven children into a well). Kalyani, accused of infanticide, comes to trial, in a classic DMK formula, before her eldest brother, the judge. When she tells her story, the brother recognises her and has a heart attack. Gunasekharan, accused of the priest’s murder, gets his turn in court to make a speech. This is probably one of the most elaborately plotted melodramas in the Indian cinema and glorifies the Dravidian heritage, contrasted with the ‘pitiable’ state of contemporary Tamil Nadu. The film advocates (e.g. when Gunasekharan is robbed by a vamp with elitist views on the cinema played by Kannamma) traditional kinship relations while castigating caste discrimination, the Brahmin class, superstition and WW2 black marketeering. The soundtrack, released on record and cassette, was, like the book, extremely popular, as was the music. Almost banned, heavily censored for the temple scene, it was a spectacular commercial hit. Ganesan became the dominant icon of the DMK, replacing K.R. Ramaswamy who had achieved that status through Annadurai’s film Velaikkari (1949). The film, its numerous political references, the controversies surrounding its release and the circumstances of its making and showing, have been researched by M.S.S. Pandian: ‘Parasakthi: Life and Times of a DMK Film’ (1991).