Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum (1956 film)

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Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum
Alibabavum 40 thirudargalum poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by T. R. Sundaram
Produced by T. R. Sundaram
Screenplay by T. R. Sundaram
Based on Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Starring M. G. Ramachandran
P. Bhanumathi
Music by Susarla Dakshinamurthy
Release dates
  • 14 January 1956 (1956-01-14)
Running time
149 minutes
Country India
Language Tamil

Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum (read as "Alibabavum Narpadhu Thirudargalum"; English: Alibaba and the 40 Thieves) is a 1956 Indian Tamil swashbuckling-adventure film written, directed and produced by T. R. Sundaram under his production banner Modern Theatres. The film features M. G. Ramachandran and P. Bhanumathi in the lead roles, with K. Sarangkapani, P. S. Veerappa, K. A. Thangavelu, M. N. Rajam, P. Susheela and M. G. Chakrapani in supporting roles. The film's original soundtrack and score were composed by Susarla Dakshinamurthy. The length of the film was 4,382 metres (14,377 ft).

It is notably the first colour film made in Tamil. The film tells the story of Ali Baba, a poor woodcutter, whose fortune changes when he learns about a secret cave which contains a huge collection of treasures and antiques, and he resolves to keep his source of wealth as a secret, in order to lead a peaceful life. Whether he keeps it a secret and protect the treasure from falling into the wrong hands forms the rest of the story.

Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum was released on 14 January 1956, during the festive occasion of Pongal. A remake of the 1954 Hindi film Alibaba aur 40 Chor, the film which was also based on the popular story Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves from One Thousand and One Nights, received positive reviews and became an instant success at the box office. It was later remade in Telugu as Ali Baba 40 Dongalu (1970) with N. T. Rama Rao and Jayalalithaa in the lead roles.


Marziana (P. Bhanumathi) is a dancer in Baghdad. The tyrant Sher Khan, commander of the notorious king Amir Kasim Khan (M. G. Chakrapani), tries to take her by force to his palace. She is rescued by Ali Baba (M. G. Ramachandran), who fights with Sher Khan and vanquishes him. Marziana and her sidekick Dowlat (K. Sarangkapani) find refuge in Ali Baba’s house. Alibaba is an impoverished woodcutter and lives with his sister Ayisha (P. Susheela) and servant Bulbul (M. N. Rajam). Marziana learns that they are the siblings of Kasim, who had driven them out at the instigation of his cruel wife Salima (Vidyavati). Marziana and Ali Baba later fall in love.

One day, when Ali Baba goes to cut wood, he chances upon the cavernous hideout of Abu Hussain (P. S. Veerappa), the notorious leader of forty dacoits, and overhears the secret code to enter and exit the cave. After the dacoits leave, Ali Baba uses the code word, enters the hideout and takes some of the cave's wealth which he uses to help the poor people around. Both Ali Baba and Marziana become wealthy overnight.

Kasim becomes jealous when he hears about his brother's fortune, and wants to know how Ali Baba became rich overnight. Under Salima’s guidance, he invites Ali Baba and his household for a feast. Cunningly obtaining the secret of the dacoit's cave from Ali Baba, he then orders Ali Baba’s arrest, accusing him falsely of attempted murder. Marziana pretends to hail Kasim’s order. She declares that Ali Baba had been unfaithful to her and he deserved this retribution. Taking a knife, Marziana acts as though she means to kill Ali Baba, but instead cuts the ropes that bind his hands. Ali Baba is freed and after defeating Kasim's thugs, escapes with Marziana.

Kasim enters the cave and greedily starts collecting many treasures. He soon forgets the code word, and is left trapped. The dacoits arrive, and kill him for entering their secret cave. Ali Baba visits the cave and is shocked to see his brother dead; he later takes away the corpse. After Kasim's death is publicly announced, Ali Baba is declared the new king of Baghdad and everyone rejoices. Meanwhile, the dacoits return to their cave and see that Kasim's body is missing. Realising that someone else has entered their cave, they start searching for the mystery person.

From the cobbler Gulam’s (K. A. Thangavelu) assertion that the woodcutter Ali Baba had become wealthy overnight, Abu Hussain realises that it is Ali Baba who discovered the secret of his cave. However, he kills the cobbler afterwards. Having his men hidden inside barrels, Abu Hussain comes to Ali Baba’s house disguised as an oil merchant seeking shelter for the night. However, Marziana overhears him whispering to his men hidden in the barrels, and realises his true identity. When she dances at a banquet that Ali Baba hosts in honour of the guest, Dowlat and Bulbul roll the barrels one by one into the swirling waters as per the plan. After Marziana unsuccessfully tries to stab the "oil merchant", she exposes him as Abu Hussain and Ali Baba is shocked. This leads to a fight between the two men, which results in Abu Hussain kidnapping Marziana and fleeing to the secret cave. Ali Baba chases him and reaches the cave, where he kills Abu Hussain after an intense battle. After Ali Baba rescues Marziana, they both get married and continue to serve the poor people.


Male actors
Female actors



T. R. Sundaram, the owner of the production studio, Modern Theatres, purchased the screenplay and rights to remake the Hindi film, Alibaba aur 40 Chor (1954), in Tamil as Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum. A. J. Dominic was signed as the film's art director, while W. R. Subba Rao, L. Balu and A. L. Narayanan were in charge of the cinematography, editing and dialogues respectively.[1] There was an earlier version of this film under the same title, which released in 1941, starring N. S. Krishnan.[2] A. J. Dominic had also designed the cave for the film.[3]


M. G. Ramachandran was cast in the role of Ali Baba, and P. S. Veerappa was cast as the leader of the forty thieves. Padmini was initially given the role of the female lead Marziana, but she was subsequently replaced by P. Bhanumathi.[4] Ramachandran's elder brother M. G. Chakrapani was cast in the role of Alibaba's elder brother Kassim.[1] Waheeda Rehman, who would later become a leading actress in Hindi cinema, made her debut in this film as a dancer,[5] appearing in the club music number "Salam Babu".[6]


Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum was shot entirely on indoor sets, with the exception of a few riding sequences. For changes of scenes, irises and wipes were used.[5] It was also the first Tamil film to be released in colour,[7] being colourised through Gevacolor.[1] The scenes involving horses were shot at Mysore for ten days; the horses that were used belonged to the Mysore Reserve Police. The cavernous hideout of the fictional thieves was created at two locations — the outside cave shots with the horses were taken at Mysore, while the inside scenes at the set were taken at Yercaud near Salem. Sundaram brought twenty horses from Mysore for the shoot at Yercaud.[6]

When only a song and a fight sequence were left to be finished, Ramachandran was unable to attend the shoot. Those portions were eventually shot with Karadimuthu, who acted for Ramachandran as a body double.[3] In one particular scene, Ramachandran objected to the dialogue where he had to "swear in the name of Allah", as he was then associated with the rationalist Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. He suggested that the dialogue be changed to swearing "in the name of my mother", but was finally requested by the director to use the original dialogue. Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum was Ramachandran's last collaboration with Modern Theatres.[6][3]


Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum is different from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in some ways:

  • The character Morgiana is known as Marziana in this film. She is also depicted as a once rich girl who turned slave, though she was always a slave in the original story.
  • She marries Alibaba at the end of the film, although Alibaba was already married in the original story, where Morgiana married his son.
  • In the original story when Morgiana overhears the conversation between the thieves and their leader, she kills the thieves by pouring hot oil in each of the barrels containing them. In this film, she however gives the job to her aides who toss the barrels into the river.
  • In the original story, it is Morgiana who suddenly kills the thief leader, later disclosing his true identity. In the film, Alibaba himself realises the truth after Morgiana fails to kill the thief, leading to a fight between Ali Baba and him.
  • Although the tale and costumes are middle eastern, Marziana, a muslim, often refers to Yama, the Hindu god of death.[8]

Themes and influences[edit]

Ramachandran was an avid fan of action heroes like Errol Flynn, John Barrymore and Douglas Fairbanks. Thorughout the 1950s, he acted in films that justified his status as an action hero.[9] Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum portrayed Ramachandran as a swash-buckling action hero who also has a Robin Hood agenda of serving the poor and the downtrodden with the treasure he finds in the cave. Rajadhyaksha and Willemen, in their book, Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema, compared the film to Ramachandran's other films like Malaikkallan (1954) and Madurai Veeran (1956).[10]


The film's original soundtrack and score were composed by Susarla Dakshinamurthy, while the lyrics were written by A. Maruthakasi.[11] A large number of the tracks were re-used from the original film Alibaba aur 40 Chor. The soundtrack played a key role in the success of the film.[6] The song "Azhagaana Ponnu Naan" is based on the Mayamalavagowla raga.[12] "Ullasa Ulagam" was later remixed by Pravin Mani and Vidyasagar in Jayam Kondaan (2008).[13] The same song was reused in Perusu (2006). Janagaraj sings a portion of "Ullasa Ulagam" in Rajadhi Raja (1989), before meeting with a fate similar to that of Thangavelu in the film.[14] Goundamani and Sathyaraj imitates the song "Maasila Unmai Kadhale" in Rickshaw Mama (1992).[15] The song "Chinnanchiru Chitte" was remixed in Muruga (2007).[16]

G. Dhananjayan said in his 2011 book The Best of Tamil Cinema that the film's "success was buoyed by the super hit songs 'Azhagaana Ponnu Naan, athuketha kannu than...', [....] and 'En nattamellam oru vettaiyile thane...', which remain evergreen today."[6] Charulatha Mani, writing for The Hindu, called Azhagaan Ponnu Naan a "peppy" song.[12] IndiaGlitz wrote, ""Masilla Unmai Kadhale" will take you to the world of the golden period of rich lyrics and soft instrumentation."[17]

No. Title Singer(s) Length
1. "Masila Unmai Kathale"   A. M. Rajah, P. Bhanumathi 3:04
2. "Chinnanjiru Chitte"   S. C. Krishnan, Jikki 2:53
3. "Azhagaana Ponnu Naan"   P. Bhanumathi 3:04
4. "Naama Aaduvathum"   Swarnalatha, K. Jamuna Rani 3:34
5. "Unnaivida Maattaen"   P. Bhanumathi 2:40
6. "Ullaasa Ulagam"   Ghantasala 2:47
7. "Salaam Baabu"   Jikki 4:19
8. "Anbinaale Aalavandha"   P. Bhanumathi 3:25
9. "En Aattamellaam"   P. Bhanumathi 3:56


During the filming of Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum, another producer announced a film with the same script and his plan to release it before Sundaram's version. However, Sundaram and his team "worked hard" to see that their film released earlier, and achieved the same.[6] The length of the film was 4,382 metres (14,377 ft).[1] Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum was released on 14 January 1956,[1] during the festive occasion of Pongal.[18] It was later remade in Telugu as Ali Baba 40 Dongalu with N. T. Rama Rao and Jayalalithaa in lead roles. Like the original, the remake was also a successful venture at the box office.[1]

Box office[edit]

In addition to being the first colour film in Tamil cinema, Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum became a huge success at the box office, and successfully ran for over 100 days in theatres. According Dhananjayan, the film's success was "largely contributed by a lively screenplay, massive sets never seen before, excellent fight scenes, interesting comedy scenes and evergreen songs ably supported by the lovely pair MGR and Bhanumathi".[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum was very successful during its theatrical run, and is considered a "landmark" in Ramachandran's acting career.[4][19] Tamil film historian S. Theodore Baskaran wrote in his book The Eye of the Serpent, "The film's cast of M.G. Ramachandran as the swash-buckling Alibaba, Bhanumathi as the singing-heroine — two of the most popular artistes of the fifties — and Thangavelu as the comedian was the main factor contributing to its huge success. The screen villain of the fifties, P.S. Veerappa's portrayal of the heartless Abu Hussain was memorable".[5]

In his book The Best of Tamil Cinema, Dhananjayan called the film "one of the finest action packed entertainers with fantastic songs and dances". He further mentioned, "Though MGR scored through his heroics, Bhanumathi also played an equally important role and exhibited her histrionics in several scenes. Her intelligence and presence of mind were exhibited in several scenes, including the last scene where kills all the thieves during her dance and teases Abu Hussain back in his own style", while concluding that "The film belongs to both MGR and Bhanumathi".[6]

In their book, Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema, Rajadhyaksha and Willemen said the film is remebered "mainly for MGR's swashbuckling stunts, the elaborate group dances and Bhanumathi's very popular song-and-dance routines".[8]

Home media[edit]

Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum was released on DVD by Raj Video Vision in April 2012.[20]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Dhananjayan 2011, p. 152.
  2. ^ Randor Guy (1 May 2011). "Ali Babavum Naarpathu Thirudargalum 1941". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 1 April 2013. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Nelba (21 March 2014). "எம்.ஜி.ஆர். இல்லாமல் நடந்த எம்.ஜி.ஆர் படப்பிடிப்பு! (An MGR film that was filmed without MGR!)". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 21 November 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Guy 2007, p. 61.
  5. ^ a b c Baskaran 1996, p. 119.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Dhananjayan 2011, p. 153.
  7. ^ S. R. Ashok Kumar (28 December 2005). "Remembering Bhanumathi". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 1 April 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2008. 
  8. ^ a b Rajadhyaksha & Willemen 2014, p. 339-340.
  9. ^ Swaminathan 2002, p. 10.
  10. ^ Rajadhyaksha & Willemen 2014, p. 60.
  11. ^ "Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum Songs". Archived from the original on 21 November 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Charulatha Mani (11 November 2011). "A Raga's Journey — The magic of Mayamalavagowla". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 21 November 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  13. ^ Pavithra Srinivasan (12 June 2008). "Jeyam Kondaan's music is unoriginal". Archived from the original on 21 November 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2013. 
  14. ^ Rajadhi Raja (1989 film) (DVD). Scene from 1:10:24 to 1:10:34.
  15. ^ Rickshaw Mama (DVD). Scene from 22:43 to 23:40.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Dreamy melodies for the Valentine's Day". IndiaGlitz. 13 February 2010. Archived from the original on 21 November 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  18. ^ "When is Pongal?". 14 January 2012. Archived from the original on 21 November 2014. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  19. ^ K. Jeshi (2 September 2011). "Following a star". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 21 November 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  20. ^ "ALIBABAVUM 40 THIRUDARGALUM". Raj Video Vision. 2 April 2012. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2013. 


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