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ON SCREEN: OLD IS GOLD

 Bhakta Kuchela 1961

C. S. R. Anjaneyalu, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, Kantha Rao, T. K. Balachandran, Jos Prakash, Miss Kumari, Ambika, Shanthi, Kusalakumari, Aranmula Ponnamma, Baby Vinodini



TRAILBLAZER C.S.R. Anjaneyalu as Kuchela in the trendsetting film

This was the first big mythological by director P. Subramaniam. The success of this film inspired him and his production house to make more films of this genre.

‘Bhakta Kuchela’ was an unusual collaboration between a Malayalam producer and an array of Telugu-Tamil film stars. The key roles were handled by Telugu actors. The success of this film encouraged Malayalam producers to invite Telugu and Tamil stars, noted for their mythological roles, to act in their films of similar themes.

This film was released on November 9, 1961. On November 18, Udaya Studios released their Kuchela story under the title ‘Krishna Kuchela,’ with Malayalam film stars cast in key roles. But this film, directed by Kunchacko, bombed. The presence of Prem Nazir as Krishna, T S Muthiah as Kuchela and KPAC Sulochana as Kuchela’s wife simply failed to attract viewers to the theatres.

Subramaniam’s film told, apart from the main story of the friendship between Krishna and Kuchela, a few sequences from the Bhagavatha. It tells about sage Sandipani’s hermitage where Krishna and Kuchela are students and close friends. The difference in social status, caste or creed does not come in the way of their friendship. After leaving the hermitage they lose contact with each other. Krishna becomes the king of Dwaraka, while Kuchela struggles to make ends meet with a huge family. His worship of Krishna causes enmity with the king Sisupala. As requested by his wife Suseela, Kuchela decides to visit his old friend. For him it was a chance to renew their friendship than asking for assistance. Kuchela gets a warm welcome at Dwaraka but forgets to ask what he actually wanted. To his astonishment Krishna sends him back empty handed. But when Kuchela returns home he finds that his modest hut has miraculously been turned into a palace. The Lord had showered prosperity on his family even without asking for it.

The film included some sequences which one may not find in versions of the Bhagavatha. For example, when Krishna leaves the hermitage after studies the grief-stricken Kuchela runs after Krishna and falls down a mountain peak but is saved by his friend. This song sequence, ‘Karuna aarna deva Gopala...’ (A. P. Komala) was an added attraction.

Another attraction of the film was the brilliant performance of the Telugu singing star C. S. R. Anjaneyalu as Kuchela. CSR, as he was affectionately known, was noted for his mythological roles. His performance in the film has been compared to that of Papanasam Sivan, as Kuchela, in the Tamil hit ‘Kuchela’ (1936).

Miss Kumari as Kuchela’s wife Suseela virtually made the audience weep. Other Telugu stars, Kantha Rao as Krishna and Kusalakumari as Devaki also did well. Thikkurissi as Kamsa, Kottarakkara as Sisupala, T. K. Balachandran as Narada, Aranmula Ponnamma as Yashoda, and Baby Vinodini as the child Krishna were also impressive. Ambika and Shanthi as the consorts of Krishna added star value to the film.

An advertisement technique adopted for this film was distribution of small packets of ‘avil’ (beaten rice) along with the notices of the film. The film ran to packed theatres for many weeks in all centres.

‘Bhakta Kuchela’ had 15 songs penned by Thirunainar Kurichi Madhavan Nair and music composed by Brother Lakshmanan. Most of the songs were based on classical music. The hit solo by Kamukara Purushothaman, ‘Ishwara chinthaithonne manujanu...’ has stood the test of time, a favourite even today. The other songs like ‘Naale naale ennayittu...’ (Purushothaman), ‘Maya Madhava Gopala... (P. Leela-Purushothaman), ‘Karuna aarna deva Gopala...’ and ‘Kanna thamarakanna…’ (A. P. Komala) were all super hits.

Will be remembered: This film inspired Malayalam film producers to go in for big budget mythological movies. It will be remembered for the brilliant performance of C. S. R. Anjaneyalu, Miss Kumari and others. And also for the super hit songs like ‘Ishwara chintha ithonne...,’ ‘Naale naale ennayittu...’ and ‘Maya Madhava Gopala...’

B. VIJAYAKUMAR

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