The film follows JB (M. G. Ramachandran), a wealthy industrialist who goes on vacation to his bungalow in Shimla, only to discover that his caretaker (Sambandam) and his wife have left for Varanasi after renting the bungalow to a family of three. The rest of the film revolves around JB's response to this situation.
JB (M.G. Ramachandran) is a wealthy industrialist who decides to take a vacation at his residence in Shimla. Upon his arrival, he discovers that his caretaker (P. D. Sambandam) has rented his house to a Bangalore-based couple, Punyakodi (T. R. Ramachandran) and Pappamma (T. P. Muthulakshmi), and their daughter, Geetha (B. Saroja Devi). The caretaker and his wife leave for Varanasi after taking the money for the rent, leaving the caretaker's daughter, Kannamma (Manorama), and brother-in-law, Ramaiah (Nagesh), in charge of the house and the guests. JB decides not to reveal his true identity, pretending instead to be JB's personal secretary Balu, and pays the rent for a place in his own house. Ramaiah, who has never met JB, takes the money and gives JB's room to Balu.
Balu plays continual pranks on Geetha, during the course of which he also falls in love with her. She falls in love with him but circumstances, and their egos, prevent them both from expressing their feelings. One day, Balu pretends to suffer from chest pain, which scares Geetha, causing her to finally admit that she loves him. Later, when Geetha and Ramaiah go to Balu to enquire about his health, Balu, exiting from the bathroom, fails to see that Geetha is there. He tells Ramaiah about the prank he played on her, and that he was only pretending to have chest pain. Angry that she has been deceived by Balu, she begins to question whether or not his professed love for her is real. Hurt, she brings her friends, who are on a holiday trip to Shimla, to the residence and tries to drive Balu out of the house. When her plan backfires and her friends start supporting Balu, she becomes spiteful and tells her parents to move forward with a planned marriage to Sekar (S. A. Ashokan), a relative and an air force pilot.
Geetha reconciles with Balu after he saves her from a wrestler named Sitting Bull. But by the time Balu confesses his love for her, Geetha's engagement is already fixed. Luckily, Sekar turns out to be a school friend of JB, and when he discovers that Balu and Geetha are truly in love, he steps aside, wishing the couple a happy life. When Balu is finally revealed as JB, Geetha, again not knowing what to believe, thinks the wedding plans are yet another of Balu's practical jokes and tries to run away. He finds her and clears up all of the misunderstandings between them. The two then get married.
Lead actorsM. G. Ramachandran as JB/Balu
B. Saroja Devi as Geetha
Male supporting actorsS. A. Ashokan as Sekar
Nagesh as Ramaiah
T. R. Ramachandran as Punyakodi
P. D. Sambandam as the bungalow caretaker
Female supporting actorsManorama as Kannamma
T. P. Muthulakshmi as Pappamma, Geetha's mother
Madhavi as Mary, the nurse who takes care of Geetha's parents
M. S. S. Bhagyam as Kannamma's mother
The 1961 American romantic comedy film Come September, featuring Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida, directed by Robert Mulligan, was a worldwide box office success, especially in Chennai. The film tells the story of Robert (Hudson), an American millionaire, who arrives at his villa for his vacation. His girlfriend, Lisa (Lollobrigida), has given up waiting for him and has decided to marry another man. Robert's villa manager, Maurice (Walter Slezak), converts the villa into a hotel while Robert is away. The villa is now occupied by a group of young American girls trying to fend off a gang of boys, led by Tony (Bobby Darin). A. C. Tirulokchandar, who was then a screenwriter for AVM Productions, adapted the screenplay of Come September for his film Anbe Vaa. According to The New Indian Express, it was AVM Productions' 50th film. Tirulokchandar's salary was ₹70,000.
Tirulokchandar was introduced to AVM Productions by S. A. Ashokan, who he had worked with previously as an assistant director on Vijayapuri Veeran (1960). It was Ashokan who helped Tirulokchandar cast M. G. Ramachandran in the film. Aaroor Das wrote the film's dialogues. Director S. P. Muthuraman worked as an assistant director on the film. S. Maruti Rao, R. G. Gope and A. K. Shekar were in charge of the cinematography, editing, and art direction, respectively. A. K. Chopra was in charge of the film's choreography, and Raghuram, who later went on to become a successful choreographer in Indian cinema, worked as an assistant choreographer to him.
Anbe Vaa marked the first time AVM Productions had written a script to suit an actor's image and acting style; prior to this they had chosen actors to fit an already completed script. AVM Productions' founder A. V. Meiyappan's son M. Saravanan, one of the film's producers, recalled in 2013 that it as a fan of M. G. Ramachandran, it was his wish to see him act under the AVM banner. For several days he hesitated to tell his father about this choice, but when he did, he showed support. While Tirulokchandar was writing the script, Meiyappan suggested approaching Ramachandran for the lead role. Tirulokchandar found this intriguing, as the script's genre was dissimilar to what Ramachandran was noted for: action-adventure or social and family dramas which portrayed him as a champion for the downtrodden.
When approached by Saravanan, Ramachandran showed enthusiasm about working with AVM Productions. He told Saravanan that the film should be "a different picture – a typical director's picture", and that he would act in it. Ramachandran gave a call sheet of seventy two days for participating in the film. Saravanan states in his 2005 book AVM 60 Cinema that ₹ 300,000 was Ramachandran's salary, but the latter demanded an additional ₹ 25,000; his final pay was ₹ 325,000. The Economic Times stated in 2010 that Ramachandran was paid 10% of the film's ₹ 3 million budget. Anbe Vaa remained his only collaboration with both Tirulokchandar and AVM Productions. Ramachandran, who later became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, also became the fourth Chief Minister of an Indian state to work with AVM Productions.
Ramachandran initially recommended K. A. Thangavelu for the role of Punyakodi, but Saravanan said that his father wanted T. R. Ramachandran in the role. M. G. Ramachandran accepted the decision and told Saravanan not to tell T. R. Ramachandran about his initial choice. M. G. Ramachandran also recommended Jayalalithaa for the role of Geetha, but it eventually went to B. Saroja Devi. She was paid ₹ 90,000 for acting in the film. Her costume design was done by the Anna Salai-based Indian Silk House. Ashokan was cast as Geetha's relative Sekar, P. D. Sambandam as the caretaker, Nagesh as the caretaker's brother-in-law Ramaiah, and Manorama as Kannamma, the caretaker's daughter.
Anbe Vaa was AVM Production's first colour film and was made in Eastmancolor. The film's principal photography began with a puja ceremony held on 12 August 1965. Although the story is set in Shimla, most of the film was shot in Ooty. Shooting in Shimla took place for only five days. For the sequences filmed in Shimla, P. N. Sundaram was hired as the cinematographer as Maruti Rao was taken ill at the time. The song "Pudhiya Vaanam" was shot in the small hill station of Kufri, located 13 kilometres from Shimla, as well as at Mall Road, Shimla. Portions of the film were also shot at a 200-year old bungalow covering 15 acres in Valparai. In a scene where T. R. Ramachandran's character eats chicken, Tirulokchandar requested his caterer to make a cake shaped like a chicken for T. R. Ramachandran to eat as the actor was a vegetarian.
Savi, an editor who worked for the Tamil magazine, Ananda Vikatan, accompanied the production unit and published an article on the making of the film. "Naan Paarthathilae" was one of the film's few songs that was shot outdoors, as M. G. Ramachandran did not want to attract attention from his large fan following. During shooting in Ooty, Ramachandran personally bought sweaters for the entire cast and crew. The Government Botanical Gardens in Ooty were also used as a shooting location.
The production unit, composed of 20 crew members, along with Tirulokchandar, M. G. Ramachandran, Saroja Devi and Savi, initially flew to Delhi. From Delhi, they travelled to Kalka by train, then continued on to Shimla, using three first-generation Chevrolet Impalas. The film's skating scenes, involving Ramachandran and Saroja Devi, were completed in two days. Both Ramachandran and Saroja Devi were initially hesitant to perform the scene, but went through with it after they received encouragement from the local population. For some scenes in the film, Saroja Devi was made to walk with mincing steps and flutter her eyelashes. She and Ramachandran also performed the twist in the film. For the climactic action sequence in which JB fights a wrestler, Tirulokchander asked Ramachandran to lift the wrestler overhead and hold him in the air for some time before trampling him, and Ramachandran obliged. The final length of the film was 4,854.70 metres (15,927.5 ft).
Although Anbe Vaa is based on Come September, The Times of India stated that it was "structured as a Roman Holiday with a man as the protagonist". Folklorist and writer M. D. Muthukumaraswamy, writing for The Times of India, compared M. G. Ramachandran's character in the film to the sage Vishvamitra, describing the former as "the archetypal male figure who resists the advances of the beautiful damsels", similar to Vishvamitra resisting the temptations of the Apsara Menaka.
According to Sri Lankan historian and author Sachi Sri Kantha, the song "Pudhiya Vaanam" had "delicately introduced" the symbol for the political party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) through the lyrics, "Udaya sooriyanin paarvaiyile – ulagam vizhithukonda velaiyile, imayathil irukkum kulir kaatru Ithayathai thodukirathu" ("While rising sun shines, the world will become aware, the cool wind from Himalaya will touch the heart") in that pre-election year. Film historian Randor Guy of The Hindu concurred that the black and red shirt M. G. Ramachandran sports in that song "had a political touch." This referred to the colours of the DMK flag.
Released under the Saregama label, the film's soundtrack and score were composed by M. S. Viswanathan, while the lyrics were written by Vaali. Kalyan Subrahmanyam, an anaesthetist and alumnus of Madras Medical College and Stanley Medical College, made his musical debut with this film, singing as part of the chorus. K. Sampath, a sound engineer who joined AVM Productions in the mid-1950s, created the chick mungu (also spelt chik mang) sound effect for the title track. "Pudhiya Vaanam" originally had the lyrics "Udaya sooriyanin paarvaiyile" (In the gaze of the rising sun), but after Meiyappan stated that the Censor Board would not accept it, Vaali ammended the first word in the line to "Puthiya" (new). Regarding this change, Vaali said that if Ramachandran enunciated the words, they would sound like "Udaya sooriyanin", and he was proven right. The sound effect of the horses' footfall in "Rajavin Paarvai" was created by Meesai Murugesan.
The soundtrack received positive critical reception, and all the songs were successful, especially "Rajavin Parvai", and "Pudhiya Vaanam". Randor Guy called the songs "melodious", describing the soundtrack as one of the film's major positives. He said "Pudhiya Vaanam" had "a political touch", and was "brilliantly photographed by master lens man S. Maruthi Rao." Karan Bali, writing for the website Scroll.in, said: "MS Viswanathan’s musical score deserves a special mention. The music is easily one of the highlights of Anbe Vaa."
Music director Ramesh Vinayakam, writing for The Hindu, commented on Viswanathan: "Setting prose and poetry to tune in ‘Andha Naal Gnyyabagam,’ ‘musicalising’ laughter (Sirrippil Undaagum), and ‘painting’ the sky and the earth along with falling rain in ‘Pudhiya Vaanam’ are true works of a genius." Roshne B, writing for The New Indian Express, praised Susheela's vocal performance in "Rajavin Paarvai", saying that listening to the song "evokes a sense of nostalgia among music lovers, even today". Gopal Ethiraj, writing for the Asian Tribune, noted that "Pudhiya Vaanam" was one of several songs written by Vaali for Ramachadran that "helped the latter galvanize masses". This view was also shared by B. Kolappan of The Hindu. Uma S. Maheshwari of The Hindu included "Pudhiya Vaanam" in her list of the "Immortal songs of TMS", and also among lyricist Vaali's best songs in their collection, Best of Vaali: From 1964 - 2013.
"Rajavin Parvai" was performed live by French actor and singer Pascal Heni (popularly known as Pascal of Bollywood) during his visit to India in 2003. It was also included on MGR Special, a compilation album of songs from films starring Ramachandran, that was released in January 2016. "Naan Paarthathilae" was performed live by the Chennai-based music group Square Band at the concert "Isai Kaveri" hosted by the Bharathidasan Institute of Management in August 2012. Susheela performed "Rajavin Paarvai" live in 2006 with S. Janaki, in a concert organised by the T. V. K. Cultural Academy, and performed a solo version of the song in "Magalir 2007", an event organised at the Indian Medical Association Hall.
Anbe Vaa was released on 14 January 1966, during the festive occasion of Thai Pongal. When AVM first discussed making the film a Pongal release with Ramachandran, he objected as another of his films, Naan Aanaiyittal, produced by his then manager R. M. Veerappan, was already set to release at that time. However, Ramachandran negotiated a deal with AVM to postpone the release of Naan Aanaiyittal, and Anbe Vaa was released in the January 1966 slot, while Naan Aanaiyittal was released the following month. Anbe Vaa had a theatrical run of 23 weeks and was a box office success, grossing ₹ 6 million against a budget of ₹ 3 million according to a 2015 estimate by Dinamalar. It was also dubbed into Telugu as Prema Manasulu.
In November 2008, Anbe Vaa was screened at the 39th International Film Festival of India under the segment "Lifetime Classics". On 18 April 2010, it was screened at the South Indian Film Chamber Theatre for the Dignity Film Festival held in Chennai along with: Madhumati (1958), Kadhalikka Neramillai (1964), Server Sundaram (1964) and, Thillana Mohanambal (1968).
On 6 August 1966, the review in Ananda Vikatan described Anbe Vaa as an English film in Tamil, and felt that though it did not have any story, viewers could spend three hours in an entertaining manner with the film. Randor Guy, in his review, wrote: "The screenplay was brilliantly written by ACT. MGR's performance as the rich man posing as a tenant was impressive. Nagesh was inimitable. Saroja Devi looked glamorous in her glossy make-up and costume." He went on to conclude that the film would be "remembered for the impressive performances by MGR, Nagesh and Saroja Devi, melodious music, interesting storyline and screenplay, picturesque cinematography which captured the beautiful landscape of the Himalayan region, and the fabulous sets in true AVM style."
Pavithra Srinivasan of Rediff called Saroja Devi, "a style icon", and rated this as "her best" performance, comparing it with her role in Enga Veettu Pillai (1965). The news website Sify found Nagesh's on-screen chemistry with M. G. Ramachandran in the film to be "fantastic", further elaborating that: "In this film the MGR-Nagesh scenes according to a veteran distributor brought repeat audiences to the theatres. He played the hero's sidekick and was simply terrific." They also praised Anbe Vaa for being "one of the rare films of MGR with minimum action scenes and punch dialogues". In July 2008, The Times of India said, "If ever one comes out with a list of highly entertaining Tamil movies, this one will top the list", and gave the film a rating of three stars out of five. Following Tirulokchander's death in June 2016, they said, "The director's gifts of storytelling, intelligent lines, good song positioning, and extracting creditable performances were at play" with this film.
Karan Bali, writing for Scroll.in, found the film to be "enjoyably light-hearted fluff." Bali noted how Ramachandran's character was different from the actor's usual roles wherein he "fights for the oppressed and tames the rich heroine while all along propagating the DMK’s ideology and concerns" and that Ramachandran "ably [carried] the film through in the role of the Westernised, wealthy urbane romantic hero." Bali felt both Saroja Devi and Ramachandran looked "too old" for their characters, and that the former looked "more at home" in the film's serious portions than the comic ones, but praised her onscreen rapport with Ramachandran. Writing for The Hindu, Malathi Rangarajan described it as a "breezy romantic comedy" that had "none of the formulaic ingredients of an MGR film". Following Manorama's death in October 2015, Jayalalithaa – then the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu – described her performance in the film as "superb". During the occasion of Nagesh's 83rd birthday, India Today included his character Ramaiah in its list, "5 roles the ace comedian will be remembered for". On Ramachandran's centenary in January 2017, Nivedita Mishra of Hindustan Times included his performance in Anbe Vaa in her list compiling "some of his most memorable performances".
Moser Baer released the DVD of Anbe Vaa on 30 August 2010. The film was later made available for viewing on Amazon Prime Video when it was launched in India in December 2016.
According to The Times of India, Anbe Vaa emerged an "uncommon triumph" for M. G. Ramachandran, who had previously acted mainly in "scrappily made cop and robber flicks". It was one of several films featuring Ramachandran which he used to propagate his ideologies during his election campaigns. Actor and film historian Mohan V. Raman noted that Ramachandran's acceptance of the role "that went against the then accepted formula for an MGR film" was a demonstration of the actor's faith in Tirulokchandar. Likewise, The Times of India noted: "A C Thirulokchander [...] had imbibed the deportment by observing his role model L V Prasad - that film stars looked up to him. So much so that even the usually interfering MGR allowed himself to be moulded under the filmmaker's baton in the film Anbe Vaa (1966)." The hat worn by Ramachandran onscreen attained popularity, and later became the symbol of the political party All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
Anbe Vaa attained cult status in Tamil cinema, and was one of the first South Indian films to be shot in Shimla, inspiring many other films to choose Shimla as a shooting location, notably the Telugu film, Desamuduru (2007). Director Mani Ratnam, film producer M. S. Guhan's daughter Aruna Guhan, choreographer Prabhu Deva, and director Sundar C. all ranked Anbe Vaa among their favourite films. The costumes that Ramachandran used in the film, as well as the carriage used for "Rajavin Paarvai", are preserved at AVM Studios. As of September 2015, the MGTB car driven by Ramachandran in the film is preserved at the Madras Heritage Club’s Vintage cars display. In August 2016, the Studebaker President car driven by Saroja Devi in the film was on display at the 14th annual exhibitions held at Don Bosco Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Chennai.
References to Anbe Vaa are made in various films. The 1988 film Puthiya Vaanam, starring Sivaji Ganesan, was named after the song of the same name. Films like Rajavin Parvaiyile (1995), Love Birds (1996), and the upcoming Rajavin Parvai Raniyin Pakkam were also named after songs from Anbe Vaa. In Unakkaga Ellam Unakkaga (1999), Kundalakesi (Goundamani) imagines himself as M. G. Ramachandran in "Pudhiya Vaanam" by dancing with children, which results in him being mistaken for a kidnapper by the police. In Kathai Thiraikathai Vasanam Iyakkam (2014), Thamizh (Santhosh Prathap) is an aspiring filmmaker who reads stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ponniyin Selvan, but is forced to listen to anecdotes about films such as Anbe Vaa.
In Dhool (2003), Aarumugam (Vikram) echoes a single line, "Pudhiya Vaanam", to signal his arrival to his friends. In 2005, another film called Anbe Vaa, named after the 1966 film, starring actors Thendral, Sridevika, and Vivek in the lead roles. A song with the same title as the film is used in Thotta (2008). A clip from the song "Love Birds" is featured in Venkat Prabhu's Saroja (2008). Scenes from the film were interposed in Villu (2009); in some scenes, Pugazh (Vijay) tries to woo Janavi (Nayanthara) in the same manner that JB woos Geetha in Anbe Vaa. A portion of "Rajavin Paarvai" is used in the song "Vaa Machi" from Onbadhule Guru (2013).
In 2002, the quiz programme Pudhiya Vaanam Pudhiya Bhoomi aired on DD National and DD Podhigai to help develop tourism in Tamil Nadu. In 2009, a television series titled Anbe Vaa aired on STAR Vijay every Monday–Thursday at 8:00 pm IST until February 2010.