The first Tamil film I ever reviewed on this blog was a suspense thriller, the excellent songless film Andha Naal. Since then, I’ve come across recommendations for other Tamil suspense films, and when I found a subtitled copy of this one—a major hit of its time—I was eager to watch. ‘Taut’ and ‘tense’ was how I’d seen it described by reviewers, and it sounded right up my street.
Adhey Kangal begins in a tense, suspenseful manner. A man is murdered—someone hangs him in his room—and the man’s wife (G Sakunthala) discovers her husband’s dead body. She has just about started screaming when the murderer (whom we do not see, except as two disjointed hands reaching for her) tries to strangle her.
It’s an aborted attempt: the murderer flees, and his would-be victim, shaken and traumatized, but not dead, is discovered by her family.
Okay, perhaps I need to step back and explain that a bit. Back in 2013, to mark a hundred years of Indian cinema, I watched my first-ever Tamil film (actually, first-ever South Indian film, as far as I can remember), the excellent suspense thriller Andha Naal. Someone, commenting on the review, recommended another Tamil film for me to watch: Thillana Mohanambal.
One post often leads to another on this blog. When I posted my list of jewellery songs, blog reader Afsal posted a song from the 1965 Mahabharat—so I went and watched Mahabharat, and reviewed it. And, when I mentioned in that review that I found the reduced-to-almost-nothing character of Karna very disappointing (since I think of Karna as one of the most intriguing characters of the epic), another blog reader—kayyessee—recommended a film that might be of interest, since it focused on Karna. The 1964 Tamil film, Karnan, with Sivaji Ganesan in the lead role. Kayyessee reminded me, too, that it had been a long time since I’d reviewed a regional language film.
Last week, chatting with a group of friends (equally mad about old cinema) on Facebook, I was stumped by a quiz question posted by one of them. Which was the first Indian language feature film to be made without any songs? Most of us who attempted to answer that question could only think of Hindi films, and the earliest Hindi non-songs film we came up with was Kanoon (1960). That wasn’t the answer—the correct answer was the Tamil film Andha Naal (That Day), made six years before Kanoon, and (like Kanoon) blending suspense—in the form of a murder mystery—with weighty issues about society and politics.
[Edited to add: According to blog reader and blogger AK, of Songs of Yore, the correct answer to that question is actually the 1937 Wadia Movietone film Naujawan].