Twinkle toes and a magical voice
The memorial volume on Suryakumari is a treasure trove of revelatory information and a memory jogger.
This book offers details of her international achievements and photo-ops with Alfred Hitchcock, with Queen Elizabeth.
Timeless beauty Suryakumari was a Miss Madras and Miss India Runner-Up in 1952. (From top) Sharing special moments with Alfred Hitchcock; being interviewed by Sunil Dutt for Radio Ceylon (then known as Balraj) for radio and with husband Harold Elvin.
It is her voice that brings alive the anthem Maa Telugu Talliki malle poodanda or the stirring Maadee Swatantra Desam, Maadee Swatantra Rajyam, but beyond these songs, Suryakumari had an identity that encompassed the stage, the dance floor and the arc lights. See the 3 memorial volume edited by Gutala Krishnamurthy and the multi-faceted life of perhaps the first globalised Telugu Suryakumari comes alive. The images might be sepia-toned, the scanned paper cuttings are brown but scan through the book and the niece of Tangaturi Prakasam turns out to be more than a voice which a South African newspaper called as sweet as a flute.
In Hyderabad, she is still remembered for her performance in the ballet Chitra-Arjun in Telugu. Suryakumari was mainly associated with art and culture.
She became a great social worker before she disappeared from the Indian scene only to reappear as Suryakumari –Elvin, by her marriage to Harold Elvin, an author of many a travelogue.
She lived in London for a very long time and only some news bits about her, published in vernacular kept the Telugus in touch with her name.
It was in London at the memorial service of Suryakumari that an English professor Gutala Krishnamurthy took up the job of putting together a memorial volume.
The author also came across vast collection of Suryakumari’s archives in the custody of her friend and executor of her Will Giris Rabinovitch, a follower of Swamy Sivavananda.
He was also the man who arranged the immersion of Suryakumari’s ashes at Gangotri along with those of her husband Herald. He collected information from various sources in England and US. This book offers details of her international achievements and photo-ops with . Alfred Hitchcock, with Queen Elizabeth.
Very few would know about her classical music concerts in England, America and in some other European countries. In Africa she put together a performing troupe and gave concerts and staged ballets to raise funds for social causes. Bapu made a portrait of Suryakumari, the copies of which are in this book. We find some rare photographs from her films, theatre, dance and music. Impressions written by Balanthrapu Rajani Kantha Rao, Mullapudi Venkataramana, Film actor A. Kamalachandrababu, playback singer Ravu Bala Saraswathi are worth reading.
The book depicts an interesting array of her film stills and the details; like her first screen appearance was Vipranarayana (1937) in Telugu, Watan (1952) was her first Hindi film and she starred in Uran Khatola with Dilip Kumar, Premnath and Nimmi.
The last film she figured in was Ramadasu, before she left for London. Chittor V. Nagaiah played the title role. She collected funds through her shows for hospitals, orphanages and educational institutions in different places in India and abroad. She rendered songs of Tagore and Sri Sri in US. Life magazine published a full page colour picture of Suryakumari which we find in this volume. That was when she drew the attention of Alfred Hitchcock, with whom she worked as his research assistant for his TV productions. She became international star and was presented to the Queen in 1968 and again in 1972. She settled at Kensington Court, England, where she lived for rest of her life.
Suryakumari died in a hospital on April 25, 2005 in sleep.
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