In Andhra she is Sasirekha and in Tamil Nadu Vatsala. Such a character, the daughter of Balarama and Revathi (quick quiz question – where does Revathi have a temple to herself?) does not feature in Vyasa’s Mahabharatha. But whoever conjured her up and created such an ingenious plot around her wedding to Abhimanyu deserves nothing short of a Nobel Prize for Literature.
Its origins are shrouded in mystery but it has long been popular in folk theatre in Andhra and in Harikatha in Tamil Nadu. Earlier this year, B Suchitra, the granddaughter of veteran TR Kamala Murthy did a wonderful Kathakalakshepam on this for the Music Academy. But let me get back to the film that was inspired by it all – Vijaya Vauhini’s Maya Bazaar, made in 1957.
If I were asked to enumerate my top ten films I would rank this one and a half, just behind Guru Dutt’s (or is it Abrar Alvi’s?) Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam. The storyline, the casting, the dialogues, the songs, the technical crew, everything perfect, perfect, perfect. I have seen the Telugu and Tamil versions several times, the former featuring A Nageswara Rao as Abhimanyu while the latter has Gemini Ganesh, apart from some other changes in casting. Wikipedia has an excellent entry on the film and so I do not want to repeat anything here.
My song for the day is Ghatotkacha’s Kalyana Samayal Sadam (Vivaha Bhojanambu in Telugu). Even though SV Ranga Rao did several other excellent roles in many other movies, his portrayal of Ghatotkacha in this film will ever remain his finest. Indeed, to those of us who have seen this film, our mental image of the son of Bhima and Hidimbi will always be that of Ranga Rao. The song, for which music was by Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao and lyrics by Pingali Nagendra Rao in Telugu and Thanjai Ramiah Das in Tamil, was sung respectively in the two languages by Madhavapeddi Satyam and Trichy B Loganathan. It is the highpoint of the movie. I am featuring the Telugu and Tamil versions in succession:
It is heavily based on a Charles Penrose song, his first hit in fact. Released in 1922, it is very clearly the original for Ghantasala’s score for this song. You can listen to it here –
But full marks to Ghantasala, for realising the potential this piece had in a mythological movie!
This article is part of a series that I write on old film songs, chiefly Hindi and Tamil. You can read the others here