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Nenjil Or Aalayam

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Director  C. V. Sridhar
Country  India
7.8/10 IMDb

Duration  
Language  Tamil
Nenjil Or Aalayam movie poster
Release date  26 January 1962 (1962-01-26)
Music director  M. S. Viswanathan, Viswanathan–Ramamoorthy, T. K. Ramamoorthy
Awards  National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil
Cast  R Muthuraman, Devika (Seetha), Kalyan Kumar (Doctor), Nagesh (Peter), Manorama
Similar movies  Related C V Sridhar movies

Nenjil Or Aalayam (English: A Temple in the Heart) is a 1962 Indian Tamil-language romantic drama film, written and directed by C. V. Sridhar, who produced it under the banner of Chitralaya Pictures. The film features Kalyan Kumar, Devika and R. Muthuraman in the lead roles. Nagesh, Manorama and Kutty Padmini also play supporting roles. The original soundtrack album and background score were composed by Viswanathan–Ramamoorthy, while the lyrics for the songs were written by Kannadasan.

Contents

The film revolves around a young woman named Seetha, her husband Venu and Dr. Murali, who was Seetha's lover. Due to his tenure overseas, Seetha's parents force her to marry another person. A few years later, Venu contracts cancer and Seetha brings him to Chennai to meet a cancer specialist who, to her dismay, is revealed to be Murali. Realizing that something is worrying Seetha, Venu gives her the freedom to marry Murali after his death. The remainder of the film shows how Murali sacrifices his love for the sake of the couple's happiness and cures Venu.

Nenjil Or Aalayam was released on 26 January 1962, coinciding with Republic Day in India. The film received positive critical feedback and went on to become a commercial success. The songs "Sonnathu Neethaana" and "Engirundhaalum Vaazhga" remain popular today among the Tamil diaspora. The film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil and the President's Award for Sridhar at the 10th National Film Awards.

The film became a trendsetter for both fast-paced filmmaking and triangular love stories with sacrifice as the theme. Sridhar remade the film in Hindi as Dil Ek Mandir (1963) and in Telugu as Manase Mandiram (1966). It was also remade in Malayalam as Hridayam Oru Kshethram (1976), and in Kannada as Kumkuma Rakshe (1977). The former was directed by P. Subramaniam while the latter was by S. K. A. Chari.

Plot

Murali (Kalyan Kumar) goes abroad to pursue higher studies in medicine. During his tenure overseas, his girlfriend Seetha (Devika) is forced by her parents to marry another person. Devastated upon hearing the news, Murali swears a vow of lifelong celibacy and devotes himself to save people suffering from cancer. A few years later, Venu (R. Muthuraman) happens to be critically ill with cancer and has to be operated upon. The treatment for Venu progresses well until Murali meets Venu's wife, who is revealed to be Seetha. When Seetha learns that the doctor treating Venu is Murali, whom she had left, she becomes upset.

Though Murali does his best to cure Venu, Seetha is worried that Murali might take revenge on her by not providing proper treatment to Venu, who in the meantime, learms of Murali and Seetha's love. Venu requests Murali to marry Seetha in case the operation is unsuccessful as he does not wish for his wife to become a widow. Seetha becomes infuriated when she discovers Venu's request and tells Murali that if Venu dies, she would die as well. Murali promises Seetha that he will save Venu even if he has to risk his own life on the line.

Murali works hard to save Venu so as not to create a misconception that he killed Venu to be with Seetha. With great difficulty, Murali manages to successfully cure Venu's cancer. However, when Murali reads the results of the operation, he becomes so overjoyed at its success that he unexpectedly dies of high blood pressure due to his over-excitement. Venu and Seetha realize that Murali had sacrificed his life for their happiness and remains in their hearts.

Woven into the story is a subplot following a girl (Kutty Padmini), who is in the same hospital Murali works in and undergoes treatment for the same disease that Venu contracted. However, her fate is contrary.

Cast

Lead actors
  • Kalyan Kumar as Dr. Murali
  • Devika as Seetha
  • R. Muthuraman as Venu
  • Male supporting actors
  • Nagesh as Peter
  • V. S. Raghavan as Seetha's father
  • Female supporting actors
  • Manorama as Navaneedham
  • Kutty Padmini as the dying child
  • Santha Kumari (guest appearance)
  • Production

    Nenjil Or Aalayam was produced and directed by C. V. Sridhar under the banner of Chitralaya Pictures. In addition to writing the screenplay and dialogues, he originally planned to cast Gemini Ganesan and Savitri in the lead roles; due to their unavailability, he instead cast R. Muthuraman and Devika. Sridhar was impressed with Muthuraman's performance in the stage play Vadivel Vathiyar in which he played an antagonistic role, and subsequently selected him for the role of Venu. Nenjil Or Aalayam was Muthuraman's first film as a lead actor as he had performed mainly supporting roles prior to Nenjil Or Aalayam. The film marked the debut of Kannada actor Kalyan Kumar and Kutty Padmini, who played the roles of Murali and the dying child respectively. Manorama, V. S. Raghavan, and Santha Kumari were cast in supporting roles.

    Nagesh stayed with actor K. Balaji during his early days as an upcoming comedian for three years. Balaji introduced Nagesh to Sridhar, who offered him a role on Balaji's recommendation. In a 2006 interview, Nagesh revealed that he was initially to play the role of a country bumpkin, but was chosen by Sridhar to play Peter, the hospital attendant. He was paid an advance of 501 (equivalent to 30,000 or US$470 in 2016). S. Rama Rao was originally supposed to play that role, but lost it due to arriving late on the first day of shoot. The screenplay and dialogues for Nagesh's portions were written by Chitralaya Gopu.

    Principal photography was conducted on the ninth floor of Chennai's Vijaya Vauhini Studios, where the hospital set was erected by the film's art director, Ganga. For the song "Sonnathu Neethaana", the shot where the camera pans beneath Muthuraman's bed and rising out was captured using a camera dolly. The song was filmed with 60 different angles being used by the film's cinematographer A. Vincent. Nenjil Or Aalayam was the first Tamil film to be shot entirely on a single set. Filming was completed in less than 30 days, although accounts vary on how many days were exactly taken to complete the shoot. While film historian Randor Guy and K. S. Sivakumaran of Daily News Sri Lanka state that the film was completed in four weeks, Ramya Kannan of The Hindu, and Tamil Canadian journalist D. B. S. Jeyaraj state the completion time to be 22 and 28 days respectively. According to Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema by Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen, the film was shot in 15 days, while Bhama Devi Ravi of The Times of India states it was shot in two weeks. Malathi Rangarajan of The Hindu said the film was completed in 25 days. The final length of the film's prints were 14,810 metres (48,590 ft) long.

    Music

    The original soundtrack album and background score for Nenjil Or Aalayam were composed by Viswanathan–Ramamoorthy (a duo consisting of M. S. Viswanathan and T. K. Ramamoorthy), while the lyrics were written by Kannadasan. The soundtrack album was released under the label of Saregama.

    The inspiration for the opening line of the song "Engirundhalum Vaazhga" came to Kannadasan when he happened to hear the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, C. N. Annadurai's speech on actor Sivaji Ganesan at a film function. When Annadurai heard of Ganesan joining the Indian National Congress, he wished the latter success by saying, "Sivaji ... nee engirundhalum vaazhga ..." The idea for the tune of the song "Muthana Muthallavo" came to Viswanathan during a car journey with Kannadasan, who wrote the lyrics for the song within three minutes. The song was recorded in 20 minutes. "Sonnathu Neethaana" is based on the Jaunpuri raga. Portions of the song "Ninaipadhellam" are based on the Keeravani raga.

    The album received positive reviews from critics and contributed to the film's success. Film historian and columnist Randor Guy approved of the music, considering "Ninaipadhellam" to have "excellent background orchestration". Film critic Baradwaj Rangan, writing for The New Indian Express, opined that "Engirundhaalum Vaazhga" had set "the precedent for several generations of jilted lovers". On "Sonnathu Neethaana", singer Charulatha Mani wrote, "The subtle pathos that P. Susheela imparts when she sings 'sol sol..en uyire' is notable." P. K. Ajith Kumar of The Hindu stated, "Just as [Susheela] does not need to know the language to sing a song perfectly, we need not know Tamil to enjoy her songs like ... Sonnathu neethanaa... ( Nenjil Oru Aalayam )". Rajadhyaksha and Willemen called "Engirundhaalum Vaazhga" "a classic number about unrequited love." Following Viswanathan's death in July 2015, the news agency, Press Trust of India wrote that "Ninaipadhellam" was "memorable for the deep sense of solace it offered to wounded hearts." Anand Venkateswaran of The Wire noted, "MSV’s style is less about making words sit in a meter than about a musical empathy with the meaning. Could anyone else have set to tune the first line of ‘Sonnadhu nee daana‘, of Nenjil Or Alayam (Muthuraman, 1962)?" A critic from Dina Thanthi noted Kannadasan had an uncanny ability to deliver perfect situational songs and cited "Sonnathu Neethaana" as an example.

    Track list

    Release

    Nenjil Or Aalayam was released on 26 January 1962, coinciding with the Republic Day of India. The film received critical acclaim and was also commercially successful upon release; it ran for 175 days in theatres. The film is hailed as a landmark for portraying a triangular love story in an innovative manner. To celebrate the film's successful outing at the box office, the film's crew members created an advertisement thanking the people who came to watch the film and appreciated it; the advertisement was issued in Nadigar Sangam's official magazine, Nadigan Kural, on 9 February 1962.

    Sridhar remade the film in Hindi as Dil Ek Mandir (1963) and in Telugu as Manase Mandiram (1966). It was also remade in Malayalam as Hridayam Oru Kshethram and in Kannada as Kumkuma Rakshe (1977). California-based Indian filmmaker Jag Mundhra was keen on remaking Dil Ek Mandir in English and Hindi, effecting some marginal changes in the film treatment. Mundhra met Sridhar to ask for the rights to the film's script only to learn that Sridhar had assigned it to a film financier for a paltry sum, for eternity. The financier demanded an exorbitant fee for giving up the rights. The fee amounted to 75% of Mundhra's budget.

    Critical reception

    Nenjil Or Aalayam received positive feedback from critics for its innovative storytelling. On 18 February 1962, the Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan appreciated the film, mentioning it was an innovative film made like American films and a sincere attempt to improve the taste of filmgoers for quality films. Link commented, "The film is, however, refreshingly different. What makes it better is, what it does not have. It has, for instance, no "star value." " Randor Guy wrote, "Sridhar proved that movies could be made with new faces, limited sets and low budgets if one had an interesting, emotionally rich story, tautly narrated on screen with pleasing music". Guy concluded his review by stating that the film would be "remembered for its excellent music and impressive performances by Muthuraman, Devika, Kalyankumar [sic], Nagesh, Manorama and child artiste Padmini." Dinamalar praised the film for showing love as a divine thing. Film critic Baradwaj Rangan wrote "A Then Nilavu or a Nenjil Or Aalayam or a Kaadhalikka Neramillai, Sridhar films all, in those days was considered the work of a genius with form."

    Following Devika's demise in 2002, S. R. Ashok Kumar of The Hindu wrote, "If the song "Sonnathu needhana" [sic] attained immortality, thanks to the lyrical richness Kannadasan bestowed on it, the credit for making it visually poignant goes to Devika, who rendered it in the film." Another journalist from The Hindu, T. Ramakrishnan noted, "Caught between her former lover and her husband who was battling for life, Devika strongly displayed the plight that any woman in such situations could face." Malathi Rangarajan of The Hindu said, "Decades may pass but the comedy element even in a serious story remains unforgettable. Nagesh's fun fare in the film with Manorama, juxtaposed with the staid and sedate performances of Devika, Muthuraman and Kalyan Kumar, weren't just a comic relief but an evergreen treat".

    K. S. Sivakumaran of Daily News Sri Lanka described the film's plot as a "hackneyed theme" and compared it to a soap opera, but appreciated Muthuraman's performance, Kannadasan's lyrics and Vincent's cinematography. Writing for The Times of India, Deepauk Murugesan said, "There is no clear choice between options and while the audience is entirely aware of the right moral decision even our minds are clouded by our affections for both Dr Murali and Venu." K. Hariharan, director of the L. V. Prasad Film and Television Academy in Chennai, noted, "The only film that could stake claim [in the 1960s] to an individual 'love story' was probably Sridhar's powerful Nenjil [Or] Aalayam! And even here 'sacrifice' takes the upper hand!"

    Accolades

    Nenjil Or Aalayam won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil and the President's Award for Sridhar at the 10th National Film Awards.

    Legacy

    Nenjil Or Aalayam attained cult status in Tamil cinema, and became a trendsetter for fast-paced filmmaking as well as triangular love stories. The film became a major breakthrough in Nagesh's career, and the film critic S. Theodore Baskaran believed that his role as a ward boy "established his position".

    In July 2007, S. R. Ashok Kumar of The Hindu asked eight acclaimed directors were asked to list ten films they liked most. Directors J. Mahendran, Balu Mahendra and K. S. Ravikumar listed the film among their favourite films. Ravikumar was quoted saying, "Sridhar's Nenjil Or Aalayam depicts the supremacy of love." Encouraged by the film's success, Sridhar wished to screen the film at the Cannes Film Festival, thus the screenplay was translated into French in time for the festival. Sridhar sent Sarma, one of his administrative managers, to France to attend the screening of the film on his behalf. It was one of the films featured in artist V. Jeevananthan's book Thiraiseelai, a compilation of articles on cinema which won a Special Mention certificate award at the 58th National Film Awards.

    References

    Nenjil Or Aalayam Wikipedia
    Nenjil Or Aalayam IMDb