Blast From The Past
M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, Serukalathur Sama, Thripuramba, T. R. Rajakumari, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Mathuram
music, its highpoint Sivakavi
One of the biggest hits of the early 1940s, Sivakavi featured Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, who was then at the zenith of his fame and fortune, in the lead. It narrated the story of the well known Poyyamozhi Pulavar. The film, produced by S. M. Sreeramulu Naidu under his then popular Pakshiraja banner, was at first directed by the sadly neglected iconic personality of Indian cinema, Raja Sandow. Due to misunderstandings with Naidu, Raja Sandow was eased out and the producer took over the making of the movie.
Like in any MKT movie, music reigned supreme. Papanasam Sivan scored the music and penned the lyrics. G. Ramanathan, another underrated music director, took care of the orchestration. Elangovan, the first star writer of Tamil cinema, wrote the script. During those days, Bhagavathar insisted that the producers pay advance to Papanasam Sivan and Elangovan before they engaged him for a movie. Rajakumari played a supporting role as a court dancer who falls for the poet hero. The song and dance number featuring Bhagavathar and Rajakumari, and beautifully filmed by Raja Sandow, ‘Kavalayai theerpadhu…’ (Naatakurinji), rightly earned its place in the galaxy of immortal movie melodies of South India.
Another song which attained immortality was a duet by Bhagavathar and Jayalakshmi, ‘Vadanamey chandra bimbamo…’ (Sindhu Bhairavi). At first, Papanasam Sivan wrote the first line as ‘mugham (face) adhu chandra bimbamo’. After the song was recorded by MKT and its positive print projected on the screen, all, including Sivan, were stunned when the first line sounded like ‘Muhammadhu chandra bimbamo…’ Hurriedly, he rewrote the line as ‘Vadanamey…’ and the song was freshly recorded. In those days, there were no tape recording facilities and songs were recorded on sound negative which had to be developed and then projected on screen to check for impact and errors, if any. Everyone would eagerly wait till it came from the lab. Bhagavathar sang ‘Manam kaninthey…’ (Rathipathipriya) to bring a dead horse alive. During this period, M. M. Dhandapani Desikar was recording a song privately in the same raga and requested Bhagavathar not to bring out the gramophone record of the film song. Bhagavathar in a gracious gesture did not record the song. That song by Desikar, ‘Jagajanani…’, became a super hit. That was MKT.
Jayalakshmi, musician-painter S. Rajam’s sister, played the heroine and Rajam went along to Coimbatore as chaperone. To keep him busy, he was cast as a handsome Brahmin (Lord Muruga in disguise) whose cameo performance can still be watched with interest. Jaya was then married and the family insisted on Rajam tagging along.
Many other songs rendered by Bhagavathar also became hits. Those include ‘Soppana vaazhvil magizhndu…’ (Bhuvanaghandhari) and ‘Vallalai Paadum vayaal…’(Senjuritti).
Sivakavi was a grand success and ran for a prolonged period even in non-Tamil speaking areas in the Madras Presidency. Those were the days when linguistic chauvinism had not yet reared its ugly head and people watched other language movies for the thematic content and particularly melodious music.
Remembered for its scintillating songs mostly rendered by Thyagaraja Bhagavathar.
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