Alappuzha cherishes its date with MGR

M. G. Ramachandran

MGR, the biggest star of all times, romanced to the tune of Thottal Poo Malarum... (Flowers bloom on your touch) with his popular heroine B. Saroja Devi on the golden sands of Alappuzha 53 years ago, a memory that the coastal town will never ever erase. As the star-chief minister's 100th birthday arrives on December 24, Alappuzha has much to cherish. MGR's Padagotti, released on November 3, 1964, was based on a theme developing on the sea coast.

It was the legendary Nagi Reddy, owner of the Vahini Studio in Chennai, who told Padagotti director Prakash Rao that Alappuzha would be an ideal location for the movie. The eternally celebrated coastal film Chemmeen was released only in August 1965. Alappuzha celebrated for weeks the filming of Padagotti in Pathiramanal and on the shores of MS Canal as also at Udaya Studios where sets of huts were erected for it.

SL Puram Anand, who later became the production controller of Udaya Studios, was only a film fan those days. His memory is still live with the excitement that Alappuzha experienced as MGR, Saroja Devi, Nagesh and MN Nambiar descended on the town. Anand had an access to shoot locations, being a friend of photographer Chidambaram. MGR, himself a Malayali, shared a friendship with him, communicating in Malayalam itself.

MGR, Kunchakko and SL Puram Anand

Anand recalls MGR, unconcerned of his stardom, crossing the road from Udaya Studios one day to a small shop owned by Kalathi and asking for a soda. 'No soda here,' pat came the reply.

MGR then told his manager: 'Give him Rs5,000.' Turning to Kalathi, he said: 'You should keep sodas when I come next time, okay?'


Once, on the way from Kanjikuzhi junction to Pathiramanal, Nagesh had a tea at Raghavan's shop. MN Nambiar was also in the car. The car left without returning the tea glass. Raghavan was upset. The money wasn't paid, and the glass was lost. However, as the car returned in the evening after shoot pack-up, the glass was handed back to Raghavan with a Rs100 note.

It was Udaya Studio owner and filmmaker Kunchacko and his brother Appachan who made most of the arrangements for the Padagotti shoot on the coast. MGR never forgot that friendship. Anand used to fly to Chennai every month with sweets send by Kunchacko to MGR. When the producer-director died in his house in Chennai in 1976, MGR was the first to rush there and arrange a special flight to send the body to Alappuzha. Such was their bond.


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