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blast from the past

Jagathalaprathapan 1944

P. U. Chinnappa, M. S. Sarojini, M. R. Santhana- lakshmi, P. B. Rangachari, U. R. Jeevaratnam, S. Varalakshmi, T. A. Jayalakshmi, N. S. Krishnan, T.A. Mathuram, T. S. Balaiah, D. Bala-subramaniam, Kulathu Mani, M.S. Murugesan, P. Saradambal, M. V. Mani and ‘Baby' Kamala-Yogambal (Yogam)-Mangalam (dances)

Huge hit Jagathalaprathapan

This is the 150th column by Randor Guy in the ‘Blast from the Past' series

Encouraged by the success of Aryamala and Sivakavi, K. S. Narayana Iyengar and S. M. Sriramulu Naidu launched their next production under the Pakshiraja Films banner at Central Studios, titled Jagathalaprathapan.

Popularly known as ‘12 Ministers' Tale', the folk tale was all about a prince (Chinnappa) who incurs the wrath of his father (Rangachari) when he expresses his heartfelt desire to spend his life in the company of four angelic women, Indrani (Sarojini), Nagakumari (Jeevaratnam), Agnikumari (Varalakshmi) and Varunakumari (Jayalakshmi), princesses of Indraloka, Nagaloka, Agniloka, and Varunaloka respectively!

The enraged king orders the beheading of the son by daybreak, but the queen (Santhanalakshmi) sends him away to escape punishment. Prathapan wanders around and meets a friend (Krishnan), and the two protected by the Divine Mother, named Avvai, (Saradambal) live in a hut created by her. Prathapan notices a damsel (Sarojini) bathing in a pond, also created by Avvai, and steals her sari. Indrakumari, who cannot go back to her world without the sari, chases him to the hut. Avvai hides the sari and changes him into an infant!

The damsel loves the child, who soon becomes his true self. The two marry.

A king appoints him as his commander and falls for his wife. To find a cure for his feigned sickness, he sends him away to Nagaloka! Prathapan succeeds in his endeavours and returns with three more wives from each world, making four in all!

The hero undergoes incredible adventures and ultimately succeeds to live happily thereafter with them all!

Chinnappa's popularity scaled greater heights with this film. In the opening sequence when he enters to meet his parents, he walks with a spring in his step. (Iconic Tamil writer and critic Kalki reviewing the film described the walk ‘ yegiri…yegiri…'! And ‘yegiri', a Telugu word meaning ‘jump', crept into the ‘Madras Tamil' lingo!)

The film was highly entertaining with a number of songs (lyrics: Papanasam Sivan and music: G. Ramanathan) rendered by Chinnappa, Santhanalakshmi, Rangachari, Sarojini, Jeevaratnam and Krishnan.

There were also engaging dance sequences. One of them (the snake dance) was by the Bharatanatyam legend in the making, 8-year-old ‘Baby' Kamala. Another was by Yogambal (Yogam)-Mangalam. Bharatanatyam legend Vazhuvoor B. Ramaiah Pillai choreographed them.

(In keeping with the trend of the day of abbreviating names like Y. V. Rao, B.N. Rao, B.N. Reddi, H.M. Reddy and S. S. Vasan, Ramaiah Pillai's name appeared in a few films as V. B. R. Pillai!)

In a stunning sequence, Chinnappa sings a song like it's being rendered in a concert, with the accompanists playing the violin, mridangam, ghatam and ‘konnakol', all played by Chinnappa himself who appears in a single frame! It was a brilliant shot of trick photography by the talented cinematographer V. Krishnan. For some reason, this song was not released as a gramophone record of the movie. Later Chinnappa rendered a song for a private recording company. Its ad showed Chinnappa playing all the instruments.

Konnakol is not an instrument but involves keeping the rhythm orally (‘ thaka... dhimi... thatha….!). A difficult art, it has almost vanished today.

Jagathalaprathapan was a box office success and established Chinnappa as a top star of Tamil Cinema, with some critics equating him with Thyagaraja Bhagavathar.

Remembered for the interesting storyline, song and dance numbers, and Chinnappa's impressive performance.


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