Pattinathar is about a saint who lived in Kaveripoompattinam, his closeness to Lord Shiva, and the miracles he performed. Pattinathar, like Nandhanar, was a subject made thrice in Tamil Cinema. The first version was made in 1935 by Lotus Pictures with C.S. Sundaramurthy Odhuvaar as the saint.
The film was about Pattinathar, the saint who lived in the 10th century in Kaveripoompattinam. Lord Shiva, on the report of Dharmavathi about the atrocities committed by men in the world, sends Kubera from Kailas to be born as Thiruvengadar at Kaveripoompattinam. At the age of 20, Thiruvengadar (M.M. Dhandapani Desikar), marries Sivakalai (D.R. Muthulakshmi) and leads a happy and pious life with her, except that they are childless. Siva Sarma, a poor Brahmin of Tiruvadamarudur, finds a child under a “bilva” tree and presents the child named Marudavana to Thiruvengadar, who offers gold equal to the child’s weight to the temple and brings him up as his son. When Marudavana is 16 years old, he goes on a pleasure trip on a boat and encounters a big fish. By his touch, Marudavana ends the curse of the Gandharva (cursed to be the monster fish). Marudavana goes on a voyage with merchandise and returns with only a box and two bags of sand. Opening the box, his father Thiruvengadar finds only three cow dung cakes, which he throws away in disgust. To his astonishment, precious stones gleam through the broken cakes and the sandbags hold gold dust. He rushes in to see his son Marudavana (who is Lord Shiva himself), who has disappeared mysteriously, leaving only a small box with his mother Sivakalai. Thiruvengadar finds an eye-less needle and a scroll in the box. On reading the scroll, the realization of the eternal truth and teachings of life dawn on him and he renounces all his worldly possessions. Poignant scenes take place on his exit from his house as an ascetic. Thereafter, Thiruvengadar becomes Pattinathar and leads the life of a mendicant living on alms. Meenakshi, his sister, feeling that the dignity of her family will suffer by his conduct, decides to kill him by giving him a poisoned cake. Discovering her plot through divine grace, he throws it on the roof of her house which catches fire immediately. But the miraculous fire is extinguished by him when she begs his pardon and Pattinathar goes on his way. He also performs the cremation of his dead mother by placing her on a pyre of plantain stems; by divine grace, it catches fire and she gets cremated.
Thereafter, Pattinathar leaves the city of his birth and wanders from place to place. One night, feeling hungry, he peeps into a hut. The villager mistakes him for a thief and beats him. Deciding not to beg for alms in the future, he goes to a lonely Ganesha Temple in the jungle and sits behind the idol for meditation. A band of robbers returning from a successful loot of King Badragiri’s palace, throw a necklace at the idol as their offering. It accidentally falls on Pattinathar’s neck as he is sitting behind the idol. He gets arrested by the King’s sentries for having the stolen necklace. He is taken to the King, who orders his execution on the spike, but the spike catches fire. King Badragiri thereupon abdicates his crown in favor of his son. At his ardent request, Saint Pattinathar accepts the king as a disciple and orders him to report at Tiruvadamarudur. At Tiruvadamarudur, Pattinathar and his disciple station themselves at the eastern and the western gates of the temple, till, years later, Badragiri attains salvation.
After visiting various Saivite shrines, Pattinathar comes to Tiruvottiyur at the behest of Lord Shiva. At Tiruvottiyur beach, he requests some Yadhava youths to cover him with a big mud pot. The boys accede to his wish. On opening the pot,
they are stunned to find a Sivalinga (Lord Shiva’s image), instead of the sage. Meantime, Sivakalai, Pattinathar’s wife, sees a vision of him at Tiruvottiyur, about to attain salvation. By divine grace, she becomes a bilva tree by the side of the Sivalinga and thereby attains salvation.
The film was a major success, ran for 25 weeks, and established Desikar as an excellent singer-actor on the ladder of success.
The film had 52 songs, most of them rendered by Dhandapani Desikar. The songs were great hits and popular among them were ‘Desam Nilaiyallave…’, ‘Oru Mada Maadhu…’, ‘Irukkum yedam thedi…’ and ‘Vattililum Thottililum…’