In 1974, Sillaiyoor Selvarajan, a well-known artiste of Radio Ceylon, in charge of producing a radio program sponsored by the People’s Bank, saw a 30-minute comedy play staged by S. Ramdas at D. S. Senanayake College in Colombo.
Enthralled by the play, Sillaiyoor Selvarajan requested Ramdas to lengthen the play for broadcasting as a serial over the radio. Young Ramadas readily agreed and wrote the script and dialogues for the radio comedy “Koamaaligalin Kummaalam” (Hilarious Antics of Clowns) with the message of national unity. Ramdas took hints from the Indian Tamil film “Bharatha Vilas” directed by A. C. Trilokchander starring Sivaji Ganesan and K.R. Vijaya, which emphasised national unity among families hailing from different Indian ethnic groups living in separate portions in a mansion named “Bharatha Vilas“.
Instead of bludgeoning directly into the ethnic amity, and unity in diversity among families belonging to different ethnicities and religions living in separate portions under one roof in a large house, he presented humorously the peaceful coexistence of those people .
Radio Ceylon broadcasted the play continuously for 90 weeks, sponsored by the People’s Bank.
Ramdas, a Brahmin in real life cast himself as “Marikkar”, a Colombo Muslim with the proper enunciation of a Colombo Muslim.
B. H. Abdul Hameed, a Muslim in real life, took on the role a Brahmin named “Iyer”.
K. A. Jawahir (alias Abu Naanaa), another Muslim acted as “Thanikasalam” the villain.
T. Rajagopal took the role of a gentleman of Jaffna origin named “Appukutty”, and S. Selvasekaran took on the role of a Sinhalese named “Upali”.
The play became immensely popular. I too became an enthusiastic fan and listened to the play every Sunday at 4 pm.
In early 1976, Malkar Mohamed, who listened to this weekly radio drama decided to produce it as a film. Ramdas readily agreed when Mohamed expressed his desire.
Ramdas enthusiastically penned the story and dialogues for the film titled “Komaligal” (“The Clowns”).
S. Ramanathan, an experienced personality in the Sinhala film industry consented to direct it under the banner of Amarjothy Movies.
The original actors of the radio play “Koamaaligalin Kummaalam” – S. Ramdas, B. H. Abdul Hameed, K. A. Jawahir (alias Abu Naanaa), T. Rajagopal and S. Selvasekaran – took on their respective roles in the film. Sillaiyoor Selvarajan and his wife Kamalini Selvarajan acted as lovers in the film.
The film “Komaligal” produced in 45 days and screened on November 22, 1976, at 6 theatres, became a box office hit and ran successfully, better than any other previous Sri Lankan Tamil movie.
Here is a video clip of the song Ennadi Sithi Beebee written and sung by Ramdas in the dialect of Colombo Muslims. This song became an instant hit even though he mimicked “Ennadi Raakkammaa“, a popular song of that period, sung by T. M. Soundararajan in the Indian Tamil film ‘Pattikkaada Pattanamaa’.
Sathyavaageeswara Iyer Ramdas alias “Marikkar” Ramdas born on May 5, 1947, in Sivagangai, in Tamil Nadu, India passed away on July 13, 2016, at the residence of his daughter Priya in Besant Nagar, Chennai. Though Ramdas is no more with us, the memories of “Marikkar” Ramdas will forever live in the hearts and minds of his numerous fans in Sri Lanka, India, and all over the world.
D. B. S. Jeyaraj, a former journalist of the Tamil daily newspaper “Virakesari” has written an excellent tribute titled ‘“Marikkar” Ramdas: The Brahmin who transformed Into a Muslim‘ wherein he writes about “Marikkar” Ramdas and describes in detail the history and making of the film “Komaligal“.
- “Marikkar” Ramdas: The Brahmin who transformed Into a Muslim’ (dbsjeyaraj.com)
- Komaligal (en.wikipedia.org)
- Malkar Mohamed (en.wikipedia.org)