Musing on some film songs – 2
Have you seen Gemini’s Mangamma Sabadam? I have not. It was made in 1943 when my dad was seven – that is just to give you an idea of its age. I however like its songs very much, in particular Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay Vekkam Aagude, sung (and danced by) by Vasundhara Devi,the mother of Vyjayanthimala. She is the heroine of the film. For someone who came from a very orthodox Iyengar family, Vasundhara was considered very bold in her lifestyle, deportment and dress. The song was a big hit, as was the film. The 1940s and early 1950s were when Gemini could never make a flop.
The music for the film is by Saluri Rajeswara Rao and the Gemini Orchestra. He is often credited with being the first Music Director to bring in modern western music into Indian films. I do not know if that is strictly correct but this song is definitely an instance of a direct lift from Hollywood. The original is from That Night in Rio (1941) and the song – iiiiiii like you very much, sung by and pictured on Carmen Miranda can be seen in this link. You can see that Vasundhara’s costume and some of her movements are also based on what Carmen did in the original. Of course, Vasundhara is far more musical to an Indian ear.
Like Vasundhara, Carmen too had a very interesting life, though she passed away early, unlike Vasundhara who was unfortunate enough to live long and suffer many tribulations, many of her own creation.
In 1951, SS Vasan of Gemini decided to remake Mangamma Sabadam in Hindi and Telugu, titled Mangala. The heroine was P Bhanumathi, while the hero was the same as in the Tamil original – Ranjan. In Indian cinema heroines age very fast while heroes are always considered young. The same song was pictured on Bhanumathi, with words beginning Suno Suno Pyare More Sajna. The lyrics were by Gemini staffer Pt Indra and the music by Emani Sankara Sastry and MD Parthasarathy. I wonder if Vasan could not have made matters easier by just crediting the music to Harry Warren and Mack Gordon of That Night in Rio! Anyway that is not to belittle the music of Emani or Parthasarathi or Rajeswara Rao, all of whom were very talented in their own way. Youtube credits Samshad Begum (another of my favourites) with singing this song pictured on Bhanumathi but that is not correct. She did sing for Bhanumathi elsewhere (and more on that in a later column) but this song is in the latter’s own voice as can be heard here. She too, like Vasundhara, brings her own stamp to the song. Incidentally, both women wink ala Priya Warrier!
Much of the information for this article are from two of my mentors – Randor Guy and VAK Ranga Rao.
PS: I had already posted this article when SP Suresh (@vajrabhrt), sent me a message on twitter that “his evergreen hero Sarangapani’s” version of the same song, for the film Vedhala Ulagam ought to be included. That was news to me. But then there it was, in the link that Suresh sent so helpfully. The song begins at 2.17. In terms of dates, that film, made in 1948, falls in between Mangamma Sabadam and Mangala. It was made by AVM and I wonder what Vasan thought when he saw a lift from his movie song, which in turn was lifted from another. He most likely laughed it off. Or both Meyyappan and he would have laughed all the way to the bank.
This article is the second in a series on film songs that I like. The first part can be read here