|Please download and install TAB Chandra font to view the Tamil contents of this page and this web site. Click here to download TAB Chandra font.|
|Click for Filmography|
|õ¦ó ð£í¢®ò èì¢ìªð£ñ¢ñù¢|
|055. Veerapaandiya Kattabomman|
Posted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 7:05 am Post subject:
- Saravanan writes:
“The tendency is to refer to the 1857 battle as the First War of Independence. But long before the North woke up to British imperialism and fought the foreign rulers, here in this land, you had Veer Pandya Kattabomman.” (L.K.Advani, then Home Minister, May 27, 1997)
I guess these statements by these leaders have had little effect, for yesterday as I went to watch ‘The Rising’ here in Sharjah (it is being screened in not less than 5 halls in Sharjah alone!), the promos, the ads and write-ups in the local papers, the hoardings and the fliers all glorified the image of Mangal Pandey as the ‘India’s First Freedom Fighter’; the same tag-line has crept into reviews on the film in various websites.
None of my North Indian friends have heard of
Veerapandiya Kattabomman who waged his war more than 50 year before 1857,
while we have all read Mangal Pandey’s act as part of our history
lessons. I confess I have never studied about Kattabomman while at school;
though I notice with joy that he is part of the current day school curriculum,
at least in TN:
True, I never had Kattabomman’s exploits as part of my school syllabus, yet I knew all about him. For Sivaji’s majestic portrayal of the hero made an indelible impact on me, as it would have surely made on anyone who has watched it. Even Advani, while speaking on Kattabomman had this to say: “I have not seen many Tamil films. But a long time back, I saw a Tamil film by the name Kattabomman. Sivaji Ganesan's portrayal of the local folk hero was superb!”
* * * *
It was the story of this brave chieftain that Sakthi Krishnaswami adapted for the stage for Sivaji Ganesan’s drama troupe in the late 50s, and Sivaji won accolades acting in the title role. B. R.Panthulu then expressed his desire to make a film on Kattabomman.
In 1957, the Central Government had celebrated with great fanfare, the centenary of the ‘First War of Independence’, and M.P.Sivagananam, the leader of thamizharasu kazhagam, lamented aloud history forgetting the bravery of Kattabomman.
When Panthulu and Sivaji set about making Kattbomman the movie, Sivagnanam was appointed the head of the committee set up for discussion and research on Kattabomman and his times. ‘varalaaRu, thirai amaippu aaraaichi kuzhu’ , as this committee was called had Sakthi Krishnaswami, Sivaji Ganesan, B.R.Panthulu, K.Singamuthu and P.A.Kumar as its members.
They came up with an engrossing story and worked on it to create a superb screenplay. Sakthi Krishnaswami penned the immortal dialogues. Panthulu picked the best artistes that Tamil cinema had to offer at that time, and spared no expense in making the movie.
As you listen to the title track, take a look at the credits:
Padmini Pictures’ veerapaaNdiya kattabomman
* * * *
One day, as Kattabomman is completing his daily prayers to Lord Muruga, there is a commotion outside his palace. He comes out, accompanied by his brother Oomaithurai, his fearless commander Vellayathevan and the trusted minister Thaanavathi Sivasubramaniam Pillai. There he finds his subjects outraged at being victimized by a gang of daring dacoits. Kattabomman assures them that he would put an end to these atrocities soon, and the relieved crowd disperses.
Kattabomman and his trusted men set out in disguise to round up the dacoits. Kattabomman is dressed as a prosperous trader, and Sundaralingam is masquerading as a newly wed woman, bedecked with jewels. As the group travels along a lonely path, Kattabomman and Sundaralingam singing this song, the gang of the dacoits perched atop the tall trees, watch them……
As the song comes to a close, the dacoits, happy at this easy prey, surround the travelers. But they are in for a rude shock, for in the place of the terrified weaklings that they expected, they are facing some of the best soldiers of the territory. The dacoits are soon overpowered in the pitched battle. When they recognize Kattabomman, they fall at his feet and beg for forgiveness. They reveal that they have been employed by the British to create discontent and unrest in Paanchalankurichi. Kattabomman magnanimously forgives them, and in gratitude, they further reveal that Ettappa Naicker, the chieftain of Ettayapuram has become hand in glove with the Collector.
The scene shifts to the Collector’s residence, where Ettappan is being loaded with drink. And in his drunken stupor, he is persuaded to turn against Kattabomman.
* * * *
Kattabomman’s assembly gathers for its customary sitting. Kattabomman enters the hall with characteristic majesty.
seermEvum paanchi nagar (V.T.Rajagopal & V.N.Sundaram)
An envoy of the Company is announced. He is ushered in. Then…..
Dialogue 1 (ettapan’s visit)
Thoroughly humiliated, Ettappan beats a hasty retreat. He orders his sidekick Kariappan to stay on in Paanchalankurichi and act as his spy and ferret information.
* * * *
In Saayalkudi there lives a girl called Vellayamma, who has a fierce bull. The bull has a terrible name in those parts for his temper and strength. Here is Vellayamma singing…
anjaatha singam en kaaLai (P.Suseela)
She has taken a vow that if at all she marries, it would only be that brave youth who would tame her bull. The man of her dreams comes soon enough. In a local festivity watched by Kattabomman and his deputies, her bull is paraded, but remains unvanquished by the young men who make an attempt. Goaded by Vellayamma’s beauty and her arrogant pose, Vellayathevan accepts the challenge. After a long, thrilling bout, he overpowers Vellayamma’s bull.
Vellayamma falls in love with the daring commander. Her friend Kamakshi brings her the tidings that Vellayathevan is suffering from the pain of his bruises. Vellayamma wants to go to him immediately, but is suddenly bashful. Kamakshi and Sundaralingam, who are already a pair, arrange things in such a way that Vellayamma and Kamakshi go dressed as doctors to treat Vellayathevan. The sly Sundaralingam has already hinted to Vellayathevan who the doctor actually is. After a few minutes of pretences on either side, the lovers unite…..
* * * *
The Collector meets Kattabomman and demands that he pay up his tax arrears. Kattabomman shakes in anger, his reply: “if you want money, request for a loan, or beg for alms, but don’t you dare make any demands!” The Collector cites the Arcot Nawab’s granting them this right, but Kattabomman says he had never accepted the Nawab’s sovereignty in the first place. He drives the Collector away with the roar, “ ithu singangaL viLayaadum bhoomi! garjanaigaL olikkum kaadu! ingu narigaL nadamaada mudiyaathu!”
Wild at Kattabomman’s effrontery, the Collector fumes and frets in frustration. Ettappan consoles him, and assures him of the support of other cowardly chieftains like Oothumalaiyaan, Sivagiri Ilaiyavan and Thalaivan Kottaiyan. They plan to besmirch the fair name of Kattabomman throughout the south, by spreading canards that he was a murderer and thief.
Meanwhile, two pairs of lovers, Sundaralingam and Kamakshi, and the spy Kariappan and his beloved Valli separately steal a moment for fun and frolic, along the riverbank…
aathukuLLE oothu vetti (Trichy Loganathan, A.G.Ratnamala, K.Jamunarani)
* * * *
Nightfall. In his chamber, Kattabomman is donning his usual disguise for setting out on his nightly rounds to ensure law and order in his town. As he is taking leave of his wife Jakkamma, little Meena, the daughter of Oomaithurai comes running to him. Her mother Sundaravadivu comes chasing her. She explains to them that Meena wouldn’t sleep and was insistent that she should have a chat with her beloved periyappa.
Meena looks wonderingly at Kattabomman’s disguise. He explains that he is going out catch enemies and spies, and takes leave of them.
Meanwhile, Vellayamma and Vellayathevan delight in a romantic rendezvous in the moonlit night. The dazzling rays of the moon seem to fuel their passion, and they sing of the delicious ache of love……
inbam pongum vennila (PBS & PS)
They are lost in a trance and they become oblivious to their surroundings. A snake reaching out to them from an overhead branch is about to strike, when Kattabomman who is passing by perceives the danger, and hits out at the snake. The lovers look at him chastened, and he puts them at ease by promising to get them married at the earliest.
And he keeps his promise too.
* * * *
Kariappan, the cunning sidekick of Ettappan, has not been idle all this while. He has been busy trying to meet someone in Kattabomman’s inner circle who would be willing to part with precious information for a price. One of Oomaithurai’s men, Muthukaruppan, meets up with him, and pretends to be willing to be bribed, just to find out more about Kariappan and his master. But Kattabomman, in one of his usual nocturnal rounds, catches them in conversation, and accosts them angrily. In the melee, Kariappan makes good his escape and Kattabomman whips Muthukaruppan in fury. Muthukaruppan, not recognizing Kattabomman, retorts that he would complain to his master Oomaithurai. Kattbomman is shocked and puzzled at the mention of his brother’s name.
The mystery is unravelled soon enough. The next morning, as the assembly commences, Oomaithurai speaks of how one of his men was lashed mistakenly by a spy who was under their employment. Muthukaruppan reveals all that transpired. Oomaithurai says that they should find the spy and punish him. Kattabomman is filled with shame at his hasty action, and assures Oomaithurai that he knows the spy and will bring him to the assembly.
He retires to his chamber, dons his disguise again, and pledging Sundaralingam to silence, issues orders to drag him to the assembly. There Muthukaruppan recognizes the disguised Kattabomman as the stranger who flogged him, and as a punishment, starts whipping him savagely. Vellayathevan, who is just entering the hall, recognizes Kattabomman at once. Horrified at what is happening, he rushes to Kattabomman and pushes Muthukaruppan aside. The hall is in a shocked silence as Kattabomman removes his disguise. He smiles at the remorseful Oomaithurai, and tells him that everyone, without exception, is equal before the law.
Later, Jakkamma sobs as she nurses her husband’s whip torn body. Little Meena comes running and is distressed at this piteous sight. She asks her periamma to sing, so that she could dance, and her periappa would forget his pain and fall asleep. Jakkamma brushes aside her tears, and sings…
singara kaNNE (S.Varalakshmi)
The soothing song and the child’s dance fill Kattbomman’s troubled heart with tranquility, and even his physical pain seems to recede, as he falls into a gentle slumber.
However, minister Pillai comes with the information just then that Captain Davison of Tuticorin has come calling. Davison was one Englishman whom Kattabomman held in high regard, and so he gets up immediately to meet the visitor.
Even as the two old friends exchange pleasantries, an emissary of the Collector is announced in. He brings a missive dated July 18th 1798, from W.C.Jackson, the new Collector. Jackson writes that all the poligars except Kattabomman have come and met him, and asks Kattabomman to meet him at Palayamkottai. Kattabomman and his aides are in no mood to oblige. But the gentle Davison suggests that no harm could come out of the meeting, and advises Kattabomman not to antagonize Jackson unnecessarily. Kattbomman accepts these wise words of counsel, and agrees to go to Palayamkottai and meet Jackson.
* * * *
Jackson gets the information of Kattabomman preparing to travel to meet him, and shares this news with Ettappan. Nervous at the thought of meeting Kattabomman, Ettappan flees to Ettayapuram, and Jackson moves himself hurriedly to Kutralam and then to Ramanathapuram.
Kattabomman sets out on the journey, marching with his brave men. As the proud parade passes by singing this song of valour, admiring men and women throng the roadside..
kaRantha paalayum (TMS & chorus)
(‘musalum naaiyai kadithidumaam vegu muNaiyuLLa paanchaala naatinilE’ goes a line in the song, referring to a famous incident of the past. Legend has it while hunting in the forests of Salikulam, Gettibommu spied a rabbit chasing seven hounds. The incredible sight instilled in him the belief that the land possessed powers of great courage and he built his magnificent fort at that very spot and called it Paanchalankurichi)
* * * *
After 23 days of chasing Jackson from place to place, they reach Ramanathapuram. Learning that Jackson was camping at ‘Ramalinga Vialsam’, Kattbomman goes to meet him. Jackson keeps his men alert, and orders all other chairs to be taken away. He sits arrogantly on the only chair in the room and greets Kattabomman insolently. Kattabomman matches him word for word in insolence, and when in a heated moment Jackson gets up to emphasize a point, Kattabomman, with a triumphant smile, sits on the chair quickly! The infuriated Jackson then signals for another chair, and the verbal exchanges continue…
Dialogue 2 ( 23 naatkaLukku piRagu)
At one stage Jackson catches Kattabomman and orders his men to arrest him.
Kattabomman wards them off and fights with them. As he overpowers one man after another, fighting adroitly, he reaches the palace entrance. His men then notice their leader in peril and come rushing with war cries. In the scuffle that follows, Vellayathevan saves Kattabomman and also manages to kill Captain Clarke, who was heading the attack. Kattabomman and his men make good their escape, but minister Pillai is caught by the British.
However, Captain Davison writes to the top officials of the Company, speaking strongly for Kattabomman, and an independent commission of enquiry into the incident reveals that it was Jackson who was at fault. Pillai is released, while Jackson is sent back to England in disgrace.
* * * *
Katatbomman lauds Vellayathevan’s courage, and confers on him the title ‘bahadur’. The women too are present, and Sundaravadivu informs the gathering the happy news that Vellayamma is soon to become a mother.
The women then drive the men out as they want to spend time in peace and quiet. The men move out grumbling at this unfair treatment.
The three women tease each other, and then start a game of riddles…each of them taking turns in quizzing the other two…
takku takku (S.Varalakshmi, A.P.Komala, PS)
The three men, meanwhile, have all returned surreptitiously to the chamber and watch the proceedings amusedly. They show themselves in the end, and laughter and cheerful banter fill the room…
* * * *
This lull comes to an end soon, and Thaanavathi Pillai is the inadvertent cause for the renewed tension. Learning that precious grains were being hoarded in a granary at Srivaikuntam, Pillai had broke open the granary and had looted the store with the help of his armed men. Taking strong offence to his act, the new Collector dashes off an angry letter of protest. Kattabomman rebukes his errant minister, but refuses to give him up to the British. The shamefaced Pillai offers himself to the British emissary, but Kattabomman sends the emissary away, offering money and grains in compensation.
* * * *
Ettappan welcomes the new official, Major John Bannerman, and two plot together to put an end to Kattabomman. Hearing of this development, Kattabomman sends Sundaraligam to spy on the two. Sundaralingam enters the Collector’s residence, and overpowering an orderly, dons his clothes in disguise. Bannerman and Ettappan watch the Company officers and their women dancing….
Sundaralingam serves drinks to Bannerman and Ettappan, and overhears them planning to attack Paanchalankurichi that very night, as most of the Paanchalankurichi residents would have gone to Thiruchendhur to attend the temple festivity.
* * * *
In Paanchalankurichi, Kattabomman and Jakkamma offer prayers to Lord Muruga, and sing to Him, pleading for the peace and prosperity of their subjects..
vetRi vadivelanE (V.N.Sundaram & S.Varalakshmi)
As the song ends, Sundaralingam comes rushing in with the dreadful news. Kattabomman is unperturbed, and orders that the war be declared, and orders the return of their men from Thiruchendhur.
Dialogue 3 (pOR mursu olikattum)
The brave men respond to the urgent summons of their beloved king, and hasten back to Paanchalankurichi. Sons take leave of their mothers, husbands take leave of their wives, fathers take leave of their little ones…
Vellayathevan comes to take leave of his wife. Vellayamma who has just then woken up with a start from a nightmare, pleads with him not to go to war just then. Shocked at his brave Vellayamma’s now cowardly behaviour, Vellayathevan shakes off her clutches. She then sings of the ominous scenes that she witnessed in her dream…
pOgaathE pOgaathE en kaNavaa ( A.G.Ratnamala)
Vellayathevan doesn’t pay heed to her remonstrance, and rushes out to the warfront.
Oomaithurai takes leave of Sundaravadivu. The courageous Jakkamma rubs her finger on Kattabomman’s sword, and smears the blood on his forehead…
Dialogue 4 (veera vaanilE)
Meanwhile, Major Bannerman and his army have reached the fort gates. Bannerman laughs and declares that the fort is “chicken feed for his cannons!”. Dubash Ramalinga Mudaliar goes in and tries to make Kattabomman see reason, telling him that he would be no match for the British gunpowder. Kattabomman waves his sword in the air and laughs at the might of the cannons.
The battle begins in earnest. Kattabomman’s men fight with valour. Bannerman’s cannons succeed in pulling down the southern wall of the fort. Vellayathevan puts up a stiff resistance and succeeds in repulsing the British advance. His men also manage to kill Lieutenant Collins who was heading the attack. But as Vellayathevan stands atop the garrison watching, with pride, the British retreat, a stray bullet from a British soldiers finds its mark. The brave commander falls, and Kattabomman’s camp is filled with gloom.
Vellayamma overhears the soldiers talking, and seeing the man whose bullet killed her husband, she stabs him and runs out. Wailing at her loss, she searches for her husband’s mortal remains. She finds Kattabomman cradling Vellayathevan’s lifeless body in his arms and lamenting his mighty loss. Vellayamma screams with sorrow, and falls down dead by her husband’s side.
Paanchalankurichi prays for Kattabomman’s success. Will Jakkamma, the presiding deity listen?
jakamma ( Seergazhi Govindarajan & Chorus)
The battle continues the next day. As they suffer continuous losses, it is becoming increasingly apparent that they cannot face the deadly might of the cannons. The injured Kattabomman and his remaining aides leave the fort and escape, even as Major Bannerman enters the fort in victory.
Dialogue 5 (pidippattathE)
Kattabomman and his men find refuge in Rajagopal Naicker’s Kolarpatti Palace. However, soon enough, they get the information that the British have discovered their hideout. Kattabomman regrets leaving his fort and his people. Minister Pillai persuades them to escape, and donning Kattabomman’s apparel, he leads the British on a false trail. When they get to find out that he is not Kattabomman, Pillai is executed ruthlessly and his head perched on a bamboo pole is displayed in Paachalankurichi.
Meanwhile, Kattabomman and Oomaithurai hide in the Thirukalambur forests in Pudukkottai. Hearing this, Collector Rushington orders the Pudukkottai ruler Vijaya Raghunatha Thondaimaan to search for Kattabomman and arrest him. Afraid of disobeying the British, Thondaiman orders the capture of Kattabomman. His general Vellaiyan Servai combs the forests and comes upon Kattabomman and Oomaithurai at last. He is handcuffed and taken to Major Bannerman. Even in his disheveled, chained self, Kattabomman is a awe-inspiring sight, and the chieftains, including Ettappan, who are seated, rise in fear and respect…
6 (yaarappa neengal?)
7 (vilagi pongaL)
chinnamE (Seergazhi Govindarajan)
* * * *
VeerapaaNdiya kattabomman, the movie, was a runaway hit and was screened to full houses even after 25 weeks. Every re-release of the film proved to be a crowd-puller too.
went to London to get the Techni-Colour prints made. The editing and camerawork
were outstanding. Grand sets and riveting war sequences made the film
a visual treat. G.Ramanathan’s songs, especially S.Varalakshmi’s
lilting ‘singara kaNNE’ became chart-busters. Sakthi Krishnaswami’s
dialogues were learned by-heart and recited in every household. Panthulu’s
choice of actors was brilliant- Gemini Ganesh, Padmini, Varalakshmi and
OAK Thevar sizzled on screen in their well-etched roles.
film won critical acclaim at the Afro-Asian Film Festival held at Cairo.
Sivaji Ganesan and G.Ramanathan won individual awards for their work in
However, the film was not without its share of controversies. Denouncing the glorification of Kattabomman, Thamizhvaanan wrote “kattabomman telungan! koLLaikkaran! avanukku munbE pulithEvan engiRa veera maRavan pOraadinaan!”
Kannadasan claimed that the Maruthu brothers were the true sons of the soil who raised their voice against the British. And to bolster his claim, he set about making the movie ‘sivagangai seemai’. veerapaNdiya kattabomman was released on May 6, 1959, and sivagangai seemai was released on May 19, 1959.
Though the stories surrounding Kattabomman are many, the movie, for most part, ran true to the life and times of Kattabomman as documented in well-researched books. ‘National Movement in Tamil Nadu- Agitational Politics and State Coercion’by N.Rajendran, ‘South Indian Rebellion’ & ‘History of Madurai (1736-1801), both by Professor K.Rajayaan, and ‘Book on Military Reminiscences’ by Colonel James Welsh all narrate the story of Kattabomman. In fact Rajayyan even quotes a letter written by Major Bannerman “it may not be amiss here to observe that the manner and behaviour of the Poligar during the whole time of his being before those who were assembled yesterday at the examination which took place were undaunted and supercilious. He frequently eyed the Etiapore Poligar (Poligar of Ettayapuram), who had been so active in attempting to secure his person, and the poligar of Shevighergy with an appearance of indignant contempt and when he went out to be executed, he walked with a firm and daring air and cast looks of sullen contempt on the poligars to his right and left as he passed” (Major John Bannerman, letter to the Madras Government dated October 17th 1799)
The rich folk music repertoire of the south has many songs that narrate the valour of Kattabomman.
* * * *
The TN Government has propagated the memory of Kattabomman by erecting (in 1974) a memorial fort in his honour in Paanchalankurichi. Sri Devi Jakkammal Temple, the hereditary Goddess of Kattabomman, is located near the fort.
Inside the fort, a statue of veerapaNdiya kattabomman has been installed.
To observe the bicentenary on 16th October 1999 of Kattabomman’s hanging, the Central Government brought out a postal stamp in his honour.