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Song of the Day # 856

From: bb on:  Thu Mar 15, 2007 7:20 pm 

Song of the Day: A Hundred Songs of Bhanumathi - Part XI

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- Saravanan writes:

ippadiyum oru peN

~ A Hundred Songs of Bhanumati ~

Part XI: saarangadhaara

We progress now to 1958, when there came two Tamil movies that had Bhanumati in their cast. Both movies were released in August. One was with Sivaji Ganesan and the other was with MGR, and in both movies Bhanumati distinguished herself with her top-notch performances and superlative songs. Let us take a look in this part at her movie with Sivaji Ganesan…

24. saarangadhara (15.8. 1958/ Minerva Pictures)

The Sarangadhareswara Swami Temple is located in Rajahmundry in the East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. The local legend goes thus- The Chalukya King of Vengi Raja Raja Narendra had a handsome son called Sarangadhara. Sarangadhara is a epitome of all virtues and valour, and his fame spreads far and wide. The rulers of the neighboring states vie with one another to get their daughters married to the noble Sarangadhara. One such princess was the beautiful Chitrangi, who has fallen in love with Sarangadhara, seeing his picture and hearing of his courage and chivalry. In a quirky twist of fate, King Narendra himself is smitten by Chitrangi’s ethereal beauty and gets married to her by devious means. Chitrangi falls into the trap, believing that she is getting married to her beloved Sarangadhara. She discovers the horrifying treachery only after the marriage has been solemnized. Though Chitrangi is now the stepmother of Sarangadhara, she is unable to get over her love for him, and having to see him at such close quarters everyday is sheer misery. She attempts to make him understand her feelings, but he spurns all her advances, reminding her that she is his father’s wife and hence akin to his mother. Love turns to hatred easily when Chitrangi realizes that her desires would remain unfulfilled forever. Anger and frustration blinding her senses, Chitrangi accuses Sarangadhara of trying to molest her. The infuriated King Narendra orders that Sarangadhara’s hands and legs be amputated.

But not having the heart to see his beloved son being maimed, the King orders that the punishment be carried out atop a hill in a nearby forest. The dismembered Sarangadhara cries out in agony. At the same time there is heard a voice from the heavens (aakasa vaaNi!) declaring that Sarangadhara is wholly innocent and this terrible fate was a consequence of his deeds in his previous birth. A great devotee of Lord Shiva called Meghanadha hears the cries of Sarangadhara and rushes to his help. Meghanadha advises Sarangadhara to pray to Lord Shiva and beseech His divine intervention. Sarangadhara does likewise, and Lord Shiva appears before him and restores his hands and legs.

The hill where Shiva blessed Sarangadhara thus is called ‘Sarangadhara Metta’ and the presiding deity of the temple built to commemorate this instance of the Lord’s grace is called Sarangadhareswara Swami. The ancient temple attracts pilgrims from all over the South every year during the annual festival that marks Sarangadhara’s deliverance.

The stirring saga of Sarangadhara has been part of Telugu mythology and folklore and has been passed on from yore through the vibrant and varied Telugu art forms. It had also been translated into the other southern languages. The famed litterateur and educationist Gurajada Venkata Appa Rao wrote the story of Sarangadhara as a long poem in English, which was published in “Indian Leisure Hour” in 1883. The legend of Sarangadhara was a favorite subject for stage adaptation by the various drama companies that were flourishing in the South. In his early years as a stage artiste associated with the Rama Vilasa Sabha of Chitoor, actor V. Nagiah secured critical acclaim for his performance in the role of Chitrangi! Pammal Sambandham Mudaliar’s stage adaptation popularized the story in Tamil. S.G.Kittappa and M.K.Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, among others, acted and sang in the various Tamil stage adaptations of Sarangadhara.

With all this, could cinema afford to ignore this engrossing story? The earliest celluloid adaptation of the story was by Y.V.Rao, and his silent movie ‘sarangadhara’ (General Pictures Corporation) was released in 1930. After the advent of the ‘talkies’, V.S.K. Padham directed the Tamil movie ‘sarangadhara’ (1935/ Lotus Pictures). Made at the famed Wadia Movietone Studios in Bombay, the movie starred Kothamangalam Cheenu and T.M.Saradhambal in the lead roles. Cheenu sang songs like ‘vidhiyai vendRavar yaar’, and songs already popularized by S.G.Kittappa such as ‘vEdikkaiyaagavE’ and ‘kOdaiyilE’ in the movie.

The next adaptation followed in the very next year. Director K.Subramaniam cast M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar and S.D.Subbulakshmi in ‘naveena sarangadhara’ (1936/ Murugan Talkies). The movie was titled thus in order to distinguish itself from the earlier versions and also in order to highlight the slight modifications made to the original story. S.S. Mani Bhagavathar, G. Pattu Iyer and Indubala played the supporting roles. Papanasam Sivan’s compositions such as ‘sivaperuman krupai vENdum’, ‘gnana kumarai nadana singari’, (taken from the ‘vaLLi thirumaNam’ drama at Bhagavathar’s insistence), and ‘abaraatham seithaRiyEn’ when heard in Bhagavathar’s bewitching tones, had the cash boxes jingling wherever the movie was screened.

Director P. Pulliah was the next filmmaker to be bitten by the ‘Sarangadhara’ bug, and he told the story in Telugu in 1937. His ‘sarangadhara’ (Star Combines) had Banda Kanakalingeswara Rao playing Sarangadhara, P. Shantakumari as Chitrangi and Sriramamurti Addanki as Raja Raja Narendra. The movie was a runaway hit, and in the aftermath of its success, Pulliah married Shantakumari.

Two decades had passed by when audiographer/director V.S. Raghavan of Revathi Studios thought it fit to retell the story of Sarangadhara on screen. And having the firm backing of Namadeva Reddiar and Annamalai Chettiar of Minerva Pictures, he decided to go one step further and make the movie in both Tamil and Telugu. The traditional tale was amended to make it more appealing. In these versions, Sarangadhara is shown to be in love with Kanakangi, the beautiful daughter of the Court Poet. Sarangadhara therefore declines to marry Chitrangi, and King Narendra weds Chitrangi in order to keep his word.

The Telugu version was released earlier in 1957, while the Tamil adaptation found its way to the theters only in 1958. N.T. Rama Rao played the title role of Sarangadhara in Telugu, while Sivaji Ganesan was the natural choice for the role in the Tamil version. Raghavan, who had earlier worked with Bhanumati in ‘kaLvanin kaadhali’, picked on Bhanumati to bring to the life the plethora of emotions that the wretched Chitrangi goes through, and the versatile performer did so in scintillating style in both versions. Veteran S.V. Ranga Rao (King Narendra), Rajasulochana (Kanakangi) and P. Shantakumari (Queen Ratnangi) were the other artistes common to the two versions. Mukkamala Krishanmurti, Chalam, Gummadi Venkateswara Rao and Relangi Venkataramaiah were the supporting actors in Telugu, while M.N. Nambiar, ‘vaLaiyapathi’ Muthukrishnan, A. Karunanidhi and T.P. Muthulakshmi were part of the Tamil cast.

Samudrala Sr. and S.D. Sundaram wrote the dialogues in Telugu and Tamil respectively. Raghavan worked with the same technical crew in both versions- H.N. Srivatsava and Balakrishnan (Cinematography), S.V.S Rama Rao and Wardurkar (Art Direction) and V.S. Rajan (Editing).

Strangely enough, instead of following the prevailing trend of having a single Music Director compose tunes that would be common to both languages, Raghavan had Ghantasala compose music for the Telugu version and G. Ramanathan work on the Tamil score. Needless to say, with two talented composers at work, the songs came out well in both languages. With Samudrala Sr. penning the Telugu lyrics, Ghantasala had some winners in short verses such as ‘valadammaa ituvanti’, ‘kaavaka raju chittam’, ‘jagamu naa seelamu’ (all by Ghantasala), ‘raajipudu raaledu’, by Madhavapeddi Satyam, ‘kadidivirupala yandu’ by M.S. Rama Rao, and immortal classics like ‘annanaa bhaamini’ (Ghantasala & P.Leela), and ‘saagEnu baala ee sandhyavEla’ (Jikki). Bhanumati had some wonderful songs- ‘adugadugO alladugO abhinava naari manmathudu’ is a perennial favorite, followed by ‘manasEmO maatalO dinusEmO’, ‘raja naaraja’ and the short verse ‘allana gaadhiraajasutudarmili’ with Ghantasala.

The Tamil album was equal in allure. G. Ramanathan must have worked excitedly on the project, for he would have been filled with nostalgic memories of his early days as a Harmonium player and singer for stage plays when Sarangadhara was a hugely popular stage subject. A. Maruthakasi wrote the lyrics for the songs, and GR sent for his pet protégé TMS to bring luster to the lines. Who can forget the timeless Charukesi rapture ‘vasantha mullai pOlE vandhu asaindhu aadum peN puRaavE’ by TMS? I remember listening to the song ever so often even in the late 70s, though I guess at that age I was more intrigued by Sivaji’s majestic voice in the brief conversation that the song commences with, than the song itself! As an aside, a ‘pOkkiri’ version of the song is currently doing its rounds, thanks to Mani Sharma; with long-time TMS clone Krishnamoorthi singing the original lines in between! TMS had some other unforgettable songs as well such as the joyous pigeon song ‘mEgathirai piLandhu minnalai pOl nuzhaindhu’ wherein TMS is accompanied by S.C.Krishnan and GR’s associate Rajagopal, the moving solo ‘enna vENdum innum enna vENdum, innal kadalil alai mOdhum enakku vERenna vENdum’ that GR based on MKT’s ‘sivaperuman krupai vENdum’, and ‘kaNgaLaal kaadhal kaaviyam seidhu kattidum uyir Oviyam’, the best among that very few duets that TMS ever got to sing with the ebullient Jikki.

The album boasts of many other treasures as well: ‘Edhukkiththanai mOdi thaan umakku endhan meedhaiyya’ a captivating dance song where (Radha) Jayalakshmi’s pedigree shines like a beacon, ‘periya idaththu vishayam appadi irukku’ (S.C.Krishnan & A. Ratnamala), ‘etti etti paarkkudhadi thOppilE’ (A. Ratnamala, K. Rani & Chorus), ‘thannai marandhaadum en manam naadum chandiranE’ (P. Suseela), ‘vaazhga namadhu naadu, vaLarga anbinOdu’ and ‘madhiyilla moorkkarukkOr mahimai illai’ that flows into ‘veeNil varundhi enna payan’ (both by Seergazhi Govindarajan).

Amidst this imposing lineup of talented singers of the time, Bhanumati had three songs.

The first is the endearing ‘aRputha kaatchi ondRu kaNdEn’, where a dazed Chitrangi sighs and sings of the handsome prince who has stolen her heart. His strikingly good looks and majestic voice have her in a trance…

Listen to ‘aRputha kaatchi ondRu kaNdEn’

It is in intricate semi-classical songs such as these we realize more than ever what a talented singer Bhanumati was! The exacting GR must have found it a pleasure to work with an intelligent artiste like Bhanumati.

The next is the mischief filled ‘kaNNaal nalla paru un eNNam enna kooru’ (Bhanumati, A.P.Komala & K.Rani) where Chitrangi’s friends and confidantes have some fun at her expense. The faithful companion (T.P.Muthulakshmi) brings a portrait of a King of a neighboring state and asks Chirangi if he would be a suitable husband for her…. Chitrangi dismisses the man with disdain. Another woman brings the portrait of another King and sings highly of his accomplishments and valor. Chitrangi heaps scorn on this suitor’s effete looks. Exchanging knowing glances, the women bring a third portrait – that of the handsome Sarangadhara, and Chitrangi blushes with overflowing love…

Listen to ‘kaNNaal nalla paru un eNNam enna kooru’

The last is the lilting solo ‘vandhiduvaar avar en manam pOlE thandhiduvaar sugam en vaazhvilE’ Chitrangi hopes that Sarangadhara would reciprocate her feelings, and expresses faith that he would fulfill all her fantasies…

Listen to ‘vandhiduvaar avar en manam pOlE thandhiduvaar sugam en vaazhvilE’

Bhanumati fills the song with her dainty embellishments, and the longings of a lovelorn woman come to evocative life…

Despite riveting performances by Sivaji Ganesan, Bhanumati and Rangarao, emotion charged dialogues and enticing music, ‘sarangadhara’ was a commercial failure. The songs, however, live on, their magic undiminished over decades….

~ naadOdi mannan follows….

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