indian cinema heritage foundation

Pavalakodi (1934)

  • Release Date1934
  • GenreMythology
  • FormatB-W
  • LanguageTamil
  • Censor RatingU

Pavalakodi was a landmark film in many ways. It marked the debut of (a) the first  Superstar of South Indian Cinema, M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, (b) the stage and movie star of those times S.D. Subbulakshmi (later Mrs. K. Subramanyam)  and (c) one of the pioneers of Indian cinema, director K. Subramanyam. Both  Bhagavathar and Subbulakshmi excelled in their acting and singing; the film became a major box office hit and established Bhagavathar, Subbulakshmi, and  Subramaniam in Tamil Cinema. 

Arjuna (M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar), one of the five Pandavas from the epic  Mahabharat, is already married to Subhadra and Alli. He falls in love with  Pavalakodi (S.D. Subbulakshmi), princess of Pavalanaadu, and seeks Lord Krishna’s help to marry her. Krishna transforms Arjuna into a swan and sells him to the palace of Pavalakodi.  When Pavalakodi is fast asleep, Arjuna regains his human form and kisses her.  In anger, Pavalakodi tries to stab him with a knife. But it changes into a garland and she places it on his shoulders since she also wanted to marry Arjuna; thus they become man and wife. Arjuna’s wife Alli comes to know of this and attacks  Pavalanaadu with the intention to hurt Arjuna. When Krishna learns this, he plays a trick on Arjuna and his three wives and solves their problem. 

The film became a big hit mainly for its songs and ran for nine months. 

A vacant land in Adyar was  chosen for filming. Subramaniam established his studio at the spot and called it Meenakshi Cinetones.  As electrical arc lights were not available then, grand sets were erected in the exterior of the studio, and shooting was conducted in bright daylight. As the studio campus had several trees and the continuous cawing of the crows disturbed the work, an Anglo  Indian (named Joe) was hired to fire his rifle in the air to scare away the crows during the shooting and live to a record of the film. Hence, his name appeared in the film’s credits as “Crow Shooter”, another first occurrence!  The vacant land now hosts the campus of Dr. MGR Janaki College of Arts and Science for Women.