Janmashtami to me is one of the happiest festivals. After all, it celebrates the birth of the greatest all-rounder of all time. And today my mind goes back to a time in the 1970s when DD would screen MS’ Meera every Janmashtami. I must have seen it scores of times and I would see it yet again, given an opportunity. Around 10 years ago, Vintage Vignettes screened it and Kalki’s daughter Anandi gave a never-to-be-forgotten talk on the making of the film, after which Randor Guy too spoke. I wept yet again at the final merging of Meera with Krishna (a superb cameo by Kamala). MS is of course Meera herself. And the authenticity of the settings (the Teej festival, the boat ride on Lake Picchola, the palaces and the grandeur of the Mewar darbar) would put any modern film to shame.
There are several favourite songs from MS’ Meera and personally I would rank songs such as brndAvan ki mangala lIla (brndAvanattil kaNNaN valarnda in Tamil), mOrE to giridhar gopAl and pyArE darsan dIjo higher than the best known kATrinilE varum gItam. But first place in my rating would go for a song that has no MS in it and that is the opening bhajan – asharana sharanE shyAm harE. Legend has it that the tune was set by the young Radha Viswanathan who played the child Meera and who in the film, sings it along with Serukalathur Sama who plays Roop Goswami. In terms of pace there is no match for it. I love Sama’s nasal tone merging with the chorus and then Radha’s clear and young voice singing. I watch it often on Youtube and on this holy day I share it with all my friends.
To paraphrase Serukalathur Sama’s dialogue in the film – Nand gokul ke bacchon ke saath makkhan kathe aur khelte prabhu hum sab ki raksha kare. (May the Lord who eats butter and plays with the children of Nanda’s Gokul protect us)