Gnana Oli (Eng: Light of Knowledge) is a 1972 Tamil language drama film directed by P. Madhavan, written by Vietnam Veedu Sundaram, starring Sivaji Ganesan in the lead role. It is a loose adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. This film was remade in Hindi as Devata (1978) and in Telugu as Chakravarthy (1987).
Anthony an austere orphan, moist hearted yet physically effervescent is a short-tempered but transparent by the mind and a wooden casket maker by profession. He is a regular church bell ringer raised by the guidance of the kind church father. He marries. The day his lady goes into labour, he agrees to fabricate a wooden coffin for an assumingly dying person for his plausible money needs. Whilst fabricating he is notified that, that person who seemed dying miraculously survived lending his half-done coffin to no use causing much to his irritation if not for which he would have been near his child-boring wife. However, the father arrives and informs Anthony that a new daughter was born but also clarifies his half-done coffin was not merely a waste since his wife did not survive the labour. Shadowed with sadness, he raises his daughter (Named Marie, after Mary the god) baptised by the father of the church he imbibes in. Life moves on.
Years later, his teen-aged daughter (Marie) sent abroad for pursuing her education, comes home on holiday. The eldest father blesses both Marie and Anthony and expresses his desire for Marie to reach pinnacles in her career (that she was doing well) and must be capable of building trust organisations, education systems and hospitals for the well being of the needy stating her father Anthony’s hardships and sacrifices over his growing up years to making her a graduate that she had become and in addition to the service to the almighty once she finishes her graduation. Anthony takes it as an ambition that his daughter fulfils father’s wishes that he even refuses to give her married off to someone in near future. Later, Lawrence, a police officer, and Anthony’s long-lost-forgotten childhood best friend are introduced to Anthony by the elder father. A mutual and solid friendship bonds between the two.
Curious about his friends’ daughters’ intelligence traits, Lawrence expresses his interest to meet Marie, which Anthony accedes to. Lawrence and Anthony arrive Anthony’s home and both get Shocked seeing Anthony’s daughter in a prurient position with an unknown male, infuriating Anthony as he always considered her his divine gift from God, and lunges to kill her and her lover. Lawrence confronts Anthony’s rage and stops him and gets his daughter to exchange rings as an informal marriage to her male lover in the very place they were caught and makes Anthony swear not to do make any more worse of the situation in the name of the holy-lord. Anthony, controlled by Lawrence’s deed, informs this quagmire to his kindest father at the church the next day. Father seeking to correct things, makes Anthony arrange formally the marriage between the two in front of the society in that very clergy, lawfully. Anthony leaps out to seek the male friend who his daughter was caught with.
Tracing the boy as a different religion, Anthony meets a Hindu doctor who the boy claimed to be his father, but is devastated to found out he was a profused lier. However, finding him in real, Anthony persuades him gently and pleads to marry his daughter. But knowing his real playboy attitude, and his atrocity in refusing to marry Marie anguishes Anthony who forcibly brings the boy to the church in order to do his wedding with his daughter. But things go horribly when he bought the boy to the church had succumbed already in a physical ordeal between the two earlier. He had accidentally killed the boy in the scuffle even though he didn’t wish to. Lawrence arrives and arraigns Anthony in front of the father, who had no chances of helping his beloved son. Lawrence had to value his police job overseeing his friend’s agony and loyalty to the eldest father and the church and yet having him arrested. Anthony is sentenced.
A few days later Anthony, inside bars learns that his daughter also disappeared much to more his pains. At the church, the aged father tells Lawrence his last wish to see Anthony and requests his temporary bail, since he had become too old to visit bars. Anthony was being brought by Lawrence through temporary permission where father makes Lawrence promise to takes care of Anthony after his trials get over. Abiding by father’s request, Lawrence agrees to take care of Anthony after his sentence but until which he will sincerely adhere to his police duty. Attributing his short temper and rogue nature whenever he gets anguished was that which lead him to guilty despite being innocent by heart, the father gives Anthony a holy candlestick and makes Anthony promise him such that he should become a person of grown wisdom and requests him to wise with purity as he passes away in front of both the friends. Having lost all the loved ones, except Lawrence, who too had to overgo with his moral responsibility of justice, makes Anthony grieve. Until Anthony serves his sentence completely befitting his unforeseen guilt, Lawrence would only treat him as a vigilante which despises Anthony. Remembering father’s desire of his want to build a good community of hospitals and educational institutions for the needy, and knowing it was not possible without his daughter, he decides to do so himself and takes plight while both condole the eldest father’s loss which Lawrence fails to abnegate.
After 2 decades, Anthony returns a mature – wisdom filled disciplined as Mr.Arun, a millionaire, changed his metamorphosis not in-order to escape Lawrence or law for the murder he had accidentally committed but for the solemn promise he lent to the late father that raised him for serving the needs of poor that he himself wanted Marie to do as Anthony. Once he finishes serving the good deeds per his father’s wish, he would eventually turn himself to the law for his once done crime. He had fulfilled almost all promises he lent his church father of serving mankind through his philanthropic works. He comes back to the church where he rung the bell during his initial days and meets other children in the orphanage he funded and incipience and is on the verge of turning himself in to the law for his crime. He gets shocked to see his own daughter Marie as a teacher in that same church who he had assumed expired. Before he could open himself and confess Marie that he was none other than her own father, he comes to notice Lawrence was still around. As a relative guardian of Marie and her family Lawrence was always around them fulfilling his once made promise of supporting his friend Anthony’s family should he be absent. Anthony’s escape as a vigilante led the police department to suspect of Lawrence since they were once best friends, and hence his promotion was denied. However, he stuck around Marie hoping to find Anthony and be true to his duty.
Eventually learning Marie has a daughter herself who was in marriageable age he yearned to see them out of love. Arun(Anthony) after his abscond and while his rise to fame was deprived of a family by the loss of loved ones in his life especially the kind eldest church father and his daughter Marie. Having known not all his loved ones are dead, he considers his granddaughter’s life’s well being his last servitude. In the meanwhile, unaware that millionaire Mr.Arun was none but her own dad, Anthony, she kept isolated herself away from him. Marie had lived with the same good deed Hindu doctor the one, late, she had a relationship with had claimed to be his father forfeit. They eventually meet, where Arun exposes his real identity to Marie as she relates that her father was back in an emotional confluence. Lawrence in the meanwhile comes to know of Arun as a new wealthy icon in town and greets Arun who out of compulsion meet each other. Lawrence familiar with Anthony’s face and body language falls suspiciously about Arun’s activity to be similar of Anthony’s but discreetly hesitates as Arun (Anthony) was a social figure and could not be approached easily let alone be apprehended.
Arun arrives to know Marie’s daughter (his own granddaughter) falls in love similar to what Marie did when she was in her age. Having known it was Lawrence’s son she was in love with, he does not object. However, in the name of philanthropy.
Directed by P. Madhavan
Produced by P. K. V. Sankaran & Aarumugam
Written by Vietnam Veedu Sundaram
Story by Vietnam Veedu Sundaram
Starring Sivaji Ganesan, Sharada, Vijayanirmala, Major Sundararajan, Sreekanth, V.K. Ramasamy, Manorama
Music by M. S. Viswanathan
Cinematography P. N. Sundaram
Edited by R. Devarajan
Production Jayaar Movies
Distributed by Jayaar Movies
Release date 11 March 1972
Running time 151 mins