indian cinema heritage foundation

Minnalkodi (Streak of Lightning) (1937)

  • Release Date30/10/1937
  • GenreThriller, Action
  • FormatB-w
  • LanguageTamil
  • Run Time158 min

Influenced by English serial films like each Flash Gordon and Captain Marvel, which were screened widely in South India, a number of stunt films were released in the late Thirties. Minnalkodi is typical of this genre. (There were others like Danger Signal and Pucca Rowdy, both in 1937.) In these films, the heroine often dominated by indulging in daring acts on the screen.

Minnalkodi was a story about a young girl Mohini, whose father dies, leaving her and a man-servant homeless. A wily uncle misappropriates her property. In their wanderings, Mohini and the servant come across the dacoit Minnalkodi and protect him from the police. The injured Minnalkodi declares Mohini as the leader of his gang and dies. Mohini goes about in the guise of a man as Minnalkodi and kills her uncle and others who had harmed her earlier.

But, she plays a “good” thief who robs the rich only to help the poor. Meanwhile, Police Inspector Jayakumar tries to capture her but is unable to make much progress. Once while pursing her but is unable to make much progress. Once while pursuing her but in the jungle, he comes across Mohini, without her disguise, and falls in love with her. When he learns that she is, in fact, dacoit, he persuades her to change her ways and they finally get married.

Stunt films were mostly produced by Mumbai-based producers like Ramaniklal and Mohanlal; most of the artistes were also from Mumbai and therefore the Tamil the spoke in these films was very crude. Moreover, the plausibility of events was also totally discounted. For instance, as soon as she becomes a dacoit, Mohini, a country girl, rides a horse and a motorbike and handles weapons with ease. However, the accent in this film was only on action sequences, like fights and daredevil acts and the film had only three songs.  KT Rukmani, who played Mohini, modeled her screen mannerisms on Gohar of Hindi cinema. In fact, she even draped her sari in the Gujarati style.
Another draw of the film was S S Kokko ( aka Pasubuleti Ramulu Naidu ), a very popular stunt-comedian who entered films from the world of circus. He played the role of the servant in Mannalkodi.

[from the book The Eye of the Serpent  by S. Theodore Baskaran]