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BLAST FROM THE PAST

Bhaktha Naradar 1942

Ranjan, ‘Kumari' Rukmini, ‘Baby' Jaya, Kothamangalam Subbu, T. E. Krishnamachari, Kothamangalam Seenu, L. Narayana Rao, M.S. Vijayal, T.N. Meenakshi, S. R. Vijaya, M. S. Sundari Bai, M. V. Mani, Kumari and Murali.



INTERESTING STORYLINE Bhaktha Naradar

The mythological tale of Sage Narada was brought to the screen during the Second World War years (1939-1945) by the South Indian movie pioneer, S. Soundararaja Iyengar of Tamil Nadu Talkies (He signed his movies as ‘S. Soundararajan'.)

As for the storyline, Saraswathi (Vijayal) learns from Brahma (Kothamangalam Seenu) about Vishnu assuming the avatar of Narada and desires to be his mother. Mohana (Meenakshi), a devadasi, finds a baby girl in the bathroom, names her Kalavathi (Vijayal, again), and grooms her to become an accomplished woman whom the king wants to marry, but Kala turns him down. Mohana decides to marry Kala to the first person she meets at daybreak. Brahma disguised as a sanyasi meets Kala and the marriage is performed at once! A divine baby is born, and named Narada!

Enraged, the king banishes Mohana's family. Kala, wishing to educate Narada, wanders from place to place only to realise that a devadasi boy cannot aspire for such privileges. Losing his mother, Narada wanders in a forest. He is blessed with a veena and dedicates himself to learning music.

The veena is Narada's instrument and not the tambura as has been shown in movies. There is an interesting reason for this — the actors playing Narada could not move around singing with a heavy veena strung around their neck! Besides, before ‘Double printing' film technology was introduced, the artist playing Narada was made to walk on studio walls. The camera placed at a low angle showed the sky, the moving clouds and Narada (with the frame line at the bottom ‘cutting' off his feet!) Most of the artistes were either old or paunchy and often fell off the wall while singing, sustaining injuries. Their chests were bare too!

Narada meets a young woman (Rukmini) and falls in love with her. But her sage guru (played by TEK) wishes to marry her and curses Narada with ugliness! After many adventures, he learns about Vishnu's Rama-avatar and discloses it to Valmiki so he could write the Ramayana later. This upsets Brahma who curses him to be a talebearer! Saraswathi prays and Brahma grants a boon that such mischief-mongering would ultimately result in goodness….

This interesting tale of Narada, not known to many, was well narrated by Soundararajan. The lyrics and the music were by Papanasam Sivan. M. D. Parthasarathy and S. Rajeswara Rao scored the background music with Gemini Studios orchestra, and the film was shot in that studio.

Ranjan (original name, Ramnarayan Venkataramana Sarma) got his second major role in cinema as Narada after Rishyasringar (1941). Not many are aware that his debut was as a non-speaking Buddha in a single scene in the M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar musical hit, Ashok Kumar (1941). Jiten Banerjee, the famous cinematographer and one of the directors of Newtone Studio who spotted him, named him Ranjan because he thought he looked like a Bengali!

Child star ‘Baby' Rukmini who had grown up played Nalini and made a great impact with her attractive looks and dancing thus laying the foundation for her elevation to stardom with AV. Meiyappan's box office hit, Sri Valli. (1945). Soundararajan searched high and low, inviting photographs of boys and girls suitable for the role of young Narada. A young girl, ‘Baby' Jaya, was chosen to play the role.

Remembered for the interesting storyline and taut narration by the director.

RANDOR GUY

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