Poova Thalaiya (Eng: Heads or Tails?) is a 1969 Tamil language comedy film directed by K. Balachander. The film features Gemini Ganesan, Jaishankar, Rajasree, Vennira Aadai Nirmala and S. Varalakshmi in lead roles. The film, produced by M. L. A. Rama. Arangakannal, had musical score by M. S. Viswanathan and was released on May 1969.
The film is about a domineering mother-in-law, Parvathamma (Varalakshmi performed brilliantly), her rich son-in-law (Gemini Ganesh, who plays a widower) and her unmarried younger daughter (Nirmala). Parvathamma wishes to marry off her younger daughter to her son-in-law, so she could have control over his wealth. But the stumbling block is the son-in-law’s younger brother (Jai Shankar) who falls in love with Nirmala, and also sees through the facade of the dominating lady and takes it on himself to put her in her place.
There are many interesting developments and events before Jai Shankar marries Nirmala. Meanwhile, the widowed Gemini Ganesh meets Rajasri and they fall in love. After many comic situations, both Gemini Ganesh and Jai Shankar marry their respective brides.
Nagesh is a jutka driver and his wife is Sacchu. It is revealed that Sacchu is Varalakshmi’s daughter, but she had told the world that she is dead. Nagesh meets the rich lady in her cloth shop and she is shocked. Nagesh takes up the game to expose her.
The various situations generate lots of laughter, well-supported by brilliant dialogue from Balachander, his deft screenplay and fantastic performances by all the actors.
Varalakshmi hailed from Andhra and was an excellent singer with a rich voice. She did many successful movies in Tamil, and in this film, she excelled as a middle-aged dominating mother-in-law. She and Jai Shankar make a challenge by the toss of a coin (hence the title) and both clash every time they meet. Most enjoyable is the exchange of barbs between Varalakshmi and Jai Shankar. There are many hilarious comic situations of the two couples, Gemini Ganesh and Rajasri, Jaishankar and Nirmala; and also the hero’s cloth shop manager (Rama Rao). He has an eccentric daughter played by Manorama, who falls in love with a young man (Srikanth) who has escaped from a mental hospital.
The film was a box-office success, running for 100 days in many centres of Tamil Nadu and also all over India, and it was one of the early films of Balachander.
Music was composed by M.S. Viswanathan, with lyrics written by Vaali.
The songs are rendered by T.M. Soundararajan, Sirkazhi Govindarajan, A.L. Raghavan, P. Susheela and L.R. Eswari. The film was shot at AVM Studios and was produced by Rama Arangannal, an active politician.
Poova Thalaiya, even after 40-plus years, continues to be entertaining, and can be watched and enjoyed even today;this is the hallmark of a classic.
Remembered for: The interesting storyline, situational comedy, humorous dialogues, tuneful music and superb acting by Varalakshmi, Jai Shankar, Gemini Ganesh, Nagesh, Rajasri, Manorama, Srikanth and Rama Rao.
Directed by K. Balachander
Produced by Rama. Arangakannal
Written by K. Balachander
Starring Gemini Ganesan, Jaishankar, Nagesh, S. Varalakshmi, Rajasree, Vennira Aadai Nirmala
Music by M. S. Viswanathan
Cinematography N. Balakrishnan
Edited by N. R. Kittu
Production Arul Films
Distributed by Arul Films
Release date 10 May 1969
Running time 150 mins