Blast from the past
Raja Mukthi 1948
M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, Serukalathur Sama, V. N. Janaki, P. Bhanumathi, M. G. Ramachandran, M. R. Swaminathan, P. S. Veerappa and C. T. Rajakantham
the magic didn’t work From Raja Mukthi
The year 1948 saw the desperate attempts of M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar to make a comeback after his sad sojourn in prison for some 30 traumatic months following the sensational Lakshmikantham murder case. As soon as he came out of prison, he took refuge in religion, started visiting temples and avoided his friends and favourite haunts. He launched a film project in Poona at the famous Prabhat Studio, appropriately titled Raja Mukthi (The Salvation of Raja (Thyagaraja)!). He called his friend Raja Chandrasekhar to direct the movie. Bhanumathi and V. N. Janaki were cast in the lead. M. G. Ramachandran, yet to hit big time, did a supporting role.
Papanasam Sivan penned the lyrics, while Alathur Subramaniam (of the famous Alathur Brothers) gave ‘sangeetha sikshai’ and C. R. Subbaraman did the orchestration. Puthumai Pitthan, one of the finest writers, worked on the script until premature death took him away. M. L. Vasanthakumari lent her singing voice to V. N. Janaki, and rendered duets with Bhagavathar.
After that phenomenal box-office record-smasher, Haridas (1944), there had been no Bhagavathar movie and consequently expectations ran high about Raja Mukthi and its release was eagerly awaited. Any Bhagavathar movie took long even in the best of times and now it was worse. As the project dragged on, the air was rife with all kinds of rumours — Bhagavathar has lost his voice; he has gone bald; the legendary “Bhagavathar crop” has vanished.
A familiar tale of kings at loggerheads, a pregnant queen (Janaki) being abandoned, a young woman (Bhanumathi) trying to seduce the hero (MKT) with an eye on the throne… all these elements were spun into the story by Raja Chandrasekhar.
MGR played the warring king. Bhanumathi who made a splash in the Telugu film Swargaseema was brought into Tamil cinema and this was her second film as vamp. Like in any Bhagavathar film, in this too, music dominated. The gramophone discs were released well in advance and songs such as ‘Unnaiyallal Oru Thurumbu...’ (MKT, raga Saramathi) became popular. However, when the film was released, it failed miserably and Bhagavathar broke under its shattering impact. It couldn’t revive his old magic. P. S. Veerappa, later noted screen villain and producer (Alayamani), made his debut in this movie. There was an on-screen nagaswaram interlude by the legend T. N. Rajaratnam Pillai but few remember it.
Remembered for: As an attempt by MKT to resurrect his film career but regrettably it did not happen...
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