Salangai Oli Review – Delightful Aberration

Recommended by SI reader chaitu1987

From the cesspool of Indian cinema arises every once in a while an aberration so splendid that it jolts even jaded moviegoers out of their stupor, pulls them up by the scruff of the neck and declares in a stentorian tone – see, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for.

For the early 1980s that movie was most certainly Salangai Oli.

Originally made in Telugu as Sagara Sangamam, the movie was dubbed into other regional Indian languages like Tamil.

Talented Director

Directed by K.Viswanath (of Shankarabharanam fame), Salangai Oli breaks free of the straitjacket of trashy Indian cinema characterized by asinine stories, poor screenplays and hideous acting.

Salangai Oli strikes a different path with an offbeat story of a passionate classical dancer Balu (Kamal Haasan) living in straitened circumstances.

Besides directing the movie, K.Viswanath is also credited with the story and screenplay. Clearly, the man knows his job. Not one of your later-day buffoons like Vishnuvardhan or Raju Sundaram or a shameless thief like Venkat Prabhu.

A fairly lengthy movie (2hrs and 40min), Salangai Oli tracks various facets of Balu’s life – the committment to dance, the friendship with Raghu (Sarat Babu), the mostly easy-going temparament, the abiding love for Madhavi (Jaya Pradha), the descent into hackdom and the retreat into alcohol.

None but Kamal

It’s hard to think of any other Indian actor for the principal role save Kamal Haasan.

Although his dancing in the movie didn’t send us into orgasmic raptures, still Kamal Haasan slipped into the role neatly and rendered justice to it.

Whether as the youngster with grand aspirations or as the seriously ill, disillusioned hack decades later, Kamal Haasan was a pleasure to watch in this movie.

Kamal’s adroit essaying of the role of Balu in Salangai Oli is perhaps one of the highpoints of his career. Maybe, even the ne plus ultra of a lengthy movie innings.

Tis’ a mighty pity that Kamal’s recent movies like Vettaiyadu Villayadu and Dasavatharam are unwatchable garbage.

By the way, we would rate Salangai Oli higher than even Anbe Sivam, another jewel in Kamal Haasan’s crown.

Angelic Jayapradha

She may have looked like Kamal Haasan’s aunt in many a scene.

But we’ll take this angelic looking ‘aunt’ any day over the current crop of emetic starlets.

In an age of ugly, graceless monstrosities like Trisha Krishnan, Nayantara, Shriya Saran et al, to behold a beauty like Jayapradha on the screen is to see the hand of God at work (really?).

Again, it’s hard to think of any other actress for the role of Madhavi except Jayapradha (now a politician and member of the Indian Parliament, by the way).

Although not an accomplished actress in the league of Kamal Haasan, Jayapradha was more than effective in Salangai Oli.

One thing we were perplexed about was why when crucial decisions involving Madhavi were being made no one thought to ask her opinion. Or would that have made the movie too complicated.


Nice music is the third leg (besides the strong story and acting) of this bewitching movie.

We will say little more here other than the five songs accompanied by classical dances were sheer music to our ears.

Nice Moments

In a movie that’s satisfying from the start to the end, why do you ask us to highlight a few scenes.

Yes, we were struck by this scene toward the end of the movie:

Unaware of the truth of her marital status, Balu places his places his palm over Madhavi’s forehead to prevent her kumkum (a key symbol of being married for Hindu women) from being washed away in the rain.

Odds are that you were also moved by the scene. Right?

If you are looking for some nice lines in the movie, there’s the rhetorical question that Balu asks of his friend Raghu as he lies ailing in the hospital:

Na uyiroda irundhu evanakku prayojanam, na saththu evanakku nashtam
(Who gains by my living, who loses by my dying)

If you live in the U.S., you can borrow Salangai Oli from Netflix. If you live in India, there’s always online theft or pirated DVDs. πŸ˜‰

25 Responses to "Salangai Oli Review – Delightful Aberration"

  1. supergirl   June 11, 2009 at 2:07 am

    wonderful review…was waiting for this! being a Telugu person myself, i loved all of K.vishwanath’s movies esp Sagara Sangamam. His other movies like swatimuthyam, swarnakamalam and shankarabharanam were brilliant too.

    I wish people made such beautiful movies today. These days its all about mindless hero worship and inane stories wherein the hero bashes 1000 people and dances like a buffoon with the bimbette heroine. Today’s movies are all about the “Stars” and not the “Actors”. There is no art and passion in movie making anymore, it’s just box office and business oriented. Very Sad indeed. Responds:

    True. Very true.

  2. Aswin_Kini   June 11, 2009 at 2:21 am

    We don’t pirated DVDs to watch Salangi Oli. As they say, no one knows the value of a gem til it is cut, similarly not many people realize that Salangi Oli is a classic film until they watch it and appreciate. You can get it for a cheap 25-30 bucks at the platform CD store anywhere in Chennai.

    By the way, the platform CDwallah told me that he still has the CDs of good films like Taare Zameen Par, Anbe Sivam, and other good old movies. He rues the fact that people pay him 100 bucks to get CDs of garbage new films like Aegan, ATM, Villu, and others. Responds:

    Isn’t a platform store in Chennai a pirated store like the platform book stores in Bombay?

    Found your reference to CDs curious. What’s the difference between a movie on a CD as opposed to a movie on DVD. Would presume you need multiple CDs for a movie. Right? Why would people want to do that instead of having a single DVD?

  3. chaitu1987   June 11, 2009 at 5:32 am


    Knew you would like it.just waited all these days for your opinion. Sagara Sangamam is one of the best works of K. Viswanath besides Shankarabharanam, Sirivennela, Swathikiranam etc Responds:

    Salangai Oli/Sagara Sangamam has a timeless appeal that will last long after people have forgotten all the junk that came before and after this movie.

  4. Aswin_Kini   June 12, 2009 at 3:03 am

    Oh ok, I just generally referred to the shops generally. By the way, they’re not pirated DVDs, shops do sell Licensed DVDS, albeit at a much higher price. You can get Original DVDs of Old Tamil Movies at just a cost of 45Rs.

    By the way, you should watch the Telugu Movie, Shankarabharanam. I have not seen the full movie, but I have heard 2 of the 6 classical songs in the movie. They seem so good. If you find time, try to watch Shankarabharanam. I would guarantee that you would like the music atleast. Responds:

    We vaguely remember a song from ShankarabharanamRagam, Thanam, Pallavi….

  5. ShikhariShambhu   June 12, 2009 at 11:24 am

    does it have a sad ending? Responds:


    Because the hero is very sick and confined to a wheel chair.

    Some 10 minutes or so before the ending, they show him puking blood (Tamil audiences won’t believe you are sick even if you are in the hospital until you puke blood).

  6. latha   June 12, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    decent movie. not a gr8 one

  7. naseer   June 13, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    SI:In an age of ugly, graceless monstrosities like Trisha Krishnan, Nayantara, Shriya Saran et al, to behold a beauty like Jayapradha on the screen is to see the hand of God at work.

    Well said, those days actresses were really good.
    Yesterday I watched the movie ‘Andha Naal’.
    Pandari bai looks smoking hot. Responds:

    Jayalalithaa looks hot in the old B&W movies.

  8. naseer   June 13, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    she looks hot even now

    why didn’t she marry ? Responds:

    Yes, Jaya mami does look good even now.

  9. Twig   June 13, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    Super review. Delightful Aberration . Very rightly said.

    Kamal , Ilayaraja, k.viswanath, Mohanlal are some of the very few artists , the reason why I watch Indian movies.

    Though Kamal has become confused churning out trash movies these days , he has great ( great is a wrong word :)) movies in his career.
    You should see some of other Kamal movies like
    1. Mahanadi (best performance by Kamal minus his histrionics which we usually associate with him )
    2. Virumandi.
    3. Swatimuthyam
    4. Thevar Magan
    5. Pushpak Responds:

    We thought Pasupathy got the better of Kamal in Virumandi.

  10. Twig   June 13, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    forgot to mention , the above are some of the movies which are completely original unlike some of his famous movies which have their basis from English movies. Responds:

    Best example of Kamal benefiting from theft is Thenali, a straight lift from What about Bob.

  11. HMS   June 14, 2009 at 7:37 am

    NO comedy track, makes this movie boring Responds:

    Maybe, Vadivelu was not born then.

  12. HMS   June 14, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Vadivelu was not born then ?

    May be you were there.
    LOL πŸ˜‰

  13. boopalanj   June 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Have not seen Thevar magan? One of my favorites.

    So, you are ready to see Panchathantram? Responds:

    Netflix doesn’t have Thevar Magan. πŸ™

    Panchathanthiram is No-10 in our Netflix queue.

    Purchased a 2-in-1 Tamil DVD in Iselin, NJ for $12.99 yesterday – Ananda Thandavam and Machchakaran. Will probably watch one of them tomorrow.

  14. boopalanj   June 15, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    I pity you for you get ready for those new films πŸ˜‰

    Are Ananda Thandavam and Machchakaran that bad?

    $12.99 down the drain?

  15. Ænima Of The State   June 18, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    12.99 for those shitty movies??? man, you guys must be rich.. You are kidding, right? Or do you fancy Tamanna so much? I am sure that even the DVD quality would be god awful. What’s the brand? Sruthilayam? Don’t Indian stores sell viewed DVDs for 3$ or so?? Is it 2 movies crammed into a single layer DVD or dual layer? Can you return it? ok, that’s enough questions for comment Responds:

    Yes, $12.99 is a ripoff price.

    The 2-in-1 DVD is from TSK Entertainment, Middlesex, UK.

    We are not aware of stores in a radius of 100 miles selling Tamil used DVDs for $3.

    No, we can’t return it since we’ve opened it.

    Why did we buy it? Netflix’ Tamil collection is not as good as we’d like it to be.

    Sometimes you’ve no choice…cost of doing business.

  16. Ænima Of The State   June 18, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    If you haven’t ripped the wrapper off, I’d recommend you return that DVD and get some other movies.. because I don’t think you’ll get a refund.

    from 2009, I liked Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu.. had too many songs and was sluggish, but had some refreshing jokes/gags.. welcome departure from the vile trash that Vijay, Vadivelu etc. dole out.

    From 2008
    Alibaba & Poo has got good reviews last year.. haven’t watched them yet. Subramaniapuram is the biggest hit of last year, but I was disappointed.. I thought Anjathey was better than Subramaniapuram.. Responds:

    Unfortunately, none of the DVDs mentioned above were in the store.

    We specifically asked for Subramaniapuram…no luck.

  17. vjcool   August 31, 2009 at 6:11 am

    for the question you asked Aswin_Kini,
    ” Would presume you need multiple CDs for a movie. Right? Why would people want to do that instead of having a single DVD?”

    In Chennai I hear people call a DVD a ‘CD cassette’.. and that movies now come in one CD (referring to the shape of the DVDs and not the technology that goes into them.)

    Salangai oli is one of the films I think I would not buy as of now but just rewind and feel how it was when I saw it during the times of DD. Recently got a DVD of Sholay.. that’s one film that feels so new, I didnt like the ending thats so done to death.. BTW have you risked reviewing Sholay…. (searching)Yeah .. found the review. Responds:

    We agree.

    Sholay does have a timeless appeal, matched by few movies Indian or foreign.

    The ‘stars’ were all perfectly aligned.

  18. trishna147   October 31, 2009 at 5:10 am

    oh dear, why Machakaaran? i thought was tediously long and had such a predictable climax…

    and ananda thandavam – im sorry, but thamanna’s character was the most irritating character ever, it was like genelia’s character in Santhosh Subramaniyam, but worse…
    if you’re a fan of Thamanna, just watch the movie Kalloori, it was critically acclaimed, and it was based on a real life incident.
    and also, do TRY and find a way of watching subramaniyapuram and paruthiveeran… Responds:

    Never got around to watching Ananda Thandavam and Machchakaran. Since we paid $13 πŸ™ for the DVD must watch it one of these days.

  19. sganeshkumar1989   November 21, 2009 at 3:03 am

    I found Sirivennela in the Netflix.Watch it.I bet you’ll like it,another gem from K.Viswanath. Responds:

    Sirivennela is still not available at Netflix.

    If you notice carefully, you can only save Sirivennela to the queue not add the movie to the queue because it’s not available.

    It’s likely coming to Netflix.

  20. sganeshkumar1989   November 21, 2009 at 3:41 am

    Ok,I’m new to Netflix πŸ˜› and I don’t rent from it anyway,as I prefer to buy an original VCD copy,when I really want to watch it(In case of Hollywood films.) and Gemini,Sun TV etc. are there anyway for regional films.
    Just browsed it out of curiosity. πŸ˜‰

  21. Hari Jr   February 12, 2012 at 5:52 am

    Just caught up with this movie and was bowled over by this movie especially by Kamal Haasan’s performance as the classical dancer.

    Even Sarathbabu and Jayapradha were wonderful in their roles and Shalaja too danced well.

    All the songs in the movie have such a profound impact that they linger in our minds long after the film has ended.

    In a film full of marvellous scenes, 2 scenesin addition to the ones you mentioned struck me –

    1. The scene where Jayapradha tells Kamal when she hands him an opportunity to participate at the All India level: “Neengalum oru periya dancer thaanga” (You too, are an accomplished dancer)


    2. The final speech by Kamal on the stage before death.

    Do you think a movie of this class can be made now in India ?? Responds:

    You write: Do you think a movie of this class can be made now in India ??

    Do you think accidents happen all the time? πŸ˜‰

    • Mnx542   February 12, 2012 at 9:28 am

      Have you heard of the movie Dhoni, starring Prakash Raj?

      It touches on the relationship between a father who wants his son to pursue MBA and a son who wishes to become a cricketer like Dhoni. Responds:

      No, we’re eagerly awaiting the release of Erapalli Anantharao Srinivas Prasanna. πŸ˜‰

      • Mnx542   February 12, 2012 at 11:35 am

        “No, we’re eagerly awaiting the release of Erapalli Anantharao Srinivas Prasanna”

        Erapalli what?

        Lol.. SI at his/her/their/its sarcastic best..!!

        Btw, watch this short film Kadhalil sodhappuvadhu eppadi. Nice. It’s also going to be made into a feature film with Siddharth and Amala Paul. Responds:

        Strong winds in the Northeast (65KPH) since morning has made our Internet connection very spotty today. Will update response later.

        • Mnx542   February 14, 2012 at 5:53 am

          Well, watched it yet?


          Not bad, we must say. But, we think all love is just lust or a longing for security.

          Anna, who’s the girl Paru/Parvati? πŸ˜‰

  22. Hari Jr   February 12, 2012 at 7:01 am

    He was a good director then and had already made wonderful movies then.

    What do you think, would have happened to Salangai Oli,.had there been an Abhishek, Vijay or Ajith instead of Kamal Haasan and a Trisha, Nayanthara, Priyanka or a Kareena instead of Jayaprada ?? Responds:

    You write: What do you think, would have happened to Salangai Oli,.had there been an Abhishek… instead of Kamal Haasan and a Trisha, Nayanthara, Priyanka or a Kareena instead of Jayaprada

    Don’t bring up the names of the Surpanakhas and Pisachis early in the day. πŸ˜‰

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