Arangetram is a 1973 Tamil-language family drama film directed by K. Balachander, starring Prameela, Sivakumar, S. V. Subbaiah, Kamal Haasan and M. N. Rajam in prominent roles. The film marked Kamal Haasan’s first adult role, while, along with Prameela, Jayachitra, Jayasudha, Sashikumar and Achacho Chitra made their debuts in Tamil cinema. V. Kumar composed the music for the film, which was the last Balachander film he worked on.
The film told the story of a young woman who is forced to become a prostitute to support her conservative, but extremely poor Brahmin family. It carried hard hitting messages and very bold scenes and was controversial at the time of its release, but became a commercial hit. Arangetram was featured as part of the Tamil Nadu government’s information campaign promoting family planning.
Lalitha is the eldest daughter of a pious and conservative Brahmin family. She has eight siblings and poverty reigns. Her aunt comes with her unmarried daughter and starts living with them. They are spendthrifts and create lots of problems. One day Thangavelu presents Lalitha a saree when he sees her with a torn saree. Her father gets angry and gives the saree to the mentally unstable Thangam, who roams around the village. When Thangavelu’s father scolds Thangavelu for gifting a saree, he fights and leaves home to join the army. Later they come to know that Thangavelu is dead. Lalitha’s father goes out of town to search for a groom. That night all the children sit down to eat. Her mom ask her to tell the kids there is no food. She presents a tongue-twister to the kids and everyone understands no food was cooked. That’s when Lalitha realises in what poor state her home is. She decides to take up the family mantle and goes to work. She starts work as office help. She travels to Madras to meet a politician for requesting her brothers medicine seat. She was advised to go home. Another person promises to get a seat for her brother, but forces her into something else. She tries to commit suicide, but drops it when she talks with her brother. She leaves to Hyderabad with a promotion. Due to family needs and ill fate, she ends up as a prostitute, but manages to settle all her brothers and sisters. When she returns home for a visit, her mother realises something is different with Lalitha. when Kamal’s marriage with the local girl is fixed, her aunt makes trouble and spreads the truth with all. Her aunt wanted to marry her daughter to Kamal. Her family ditches her when they come to know about her dark side. Thangavelu, a man who was once rejected by her marries her. She keeps calling Thangam to inform her that she got married making the audience believe she has lost her sanity in the end.
Directed by K. Balachander
Produced by N. Selvaraj, J. Duraisamy & V. Govindarajan
Written by K. Balachander
Starring Prameela, Sivakumar, S. V. Subbaiah, M. N. Rajam, Shashikumar, Kamal Haasan, Jayachitra, Jayasudha
Music by V. Kumar
Cinematography B. S. Lokanath
Edited by N. R. Kittu
Production Kalakendra Films
Distributed by Kalakendra Films
Release date 9 February 1973
Running time 152 minutes