Musing on some film songs – 5
The years immediately after Independence were ones of great idealism. True, the country was beset with troubles but the hope was that within a decade all problems would be set right. If only matters were that simple. Some film songs of that era embody this optimism. One of these is from the film Manamagal, released in 1951. Produced by NS Krishnan, a dubbed Telugu version, titled Pellikootharu, was also released and both were successes. The film is chiefly remembered for three reasons – it marked Padmini’s debut as a heroine, the song Ellam Inba Mayam,sung by ML Vasanthakumari and P Leela and the tuning of Subramania Bharati’s Chinnnanchiru kiliye, sung as a duet by VN Sundaram and MLV. The music for the film was by CR Subburaman, the short-lived genius and all the songs are nothing short of excellent. TS Baliah, who plays the role of a lecherous music master was superb. Lalitha, who plays the vamp and TA Madhuram, who plays a victim of Baliah’s are also very good. Padmini shows all the early signs of overacting for which she would become notorious later. Her problem was that all emotions had to be done the Bharata Natyam way.NS Krishnan plays a delightful cameo role. The casting credits are unique – they show all the people in camera – you get to see a young MLV and P Leela shyly peeping at the movie camera.
Among the various songs in the movie is a dance number – Ayirathu Thollayirathu Ambadu Aruvadu Natakam (a play of 1950 and 1960). A dance duet between Lalitha and Padmini (P Leela and MLV respectively singing playback), this lists out the problems of 1950 and then contrasts it with how golden 1960 will be. Some of the issues listed include hoarding, polygamy (M Karunanidhi wrote the dialogues), food shortage and blind beliefs. You can see this song in this link from 43.50.
Cut to 1952. SS Vasan (he does keep popping up in this column does he not?) was making Mr Sampath (Hindi) at his Gemini Studios. It starred Motilal and Padmini in the principal roles. I have seen it on DD but have forgotten much of the story. I do know it is said to be based on the eponymous novel by RK Narayan but when I saw I could not make out much similarity. The film stood out for Motilal’s superb performance. In the film was a song Aao Aao Kahani Suno Tirpan TirsatSaal Ki – listen to the story of 1953 and 1963. It featured Padmini and Vanaja (a Gemini staffer) and the playback was by Geeta Dutt and Jikki. I am not able to source who wrote the lyrics (Pt Indra?) but the music was by BK Kalla and Emani Sankara Sastry. This song was identical in content to the Manamagal song I wrote about above. The backdrop too is similar – a map of India and both are staged for an onscreen audience. Sadly for Vasan, while the movie received rave critical reviews, it bombed at the box office.
Was this the first Tamil film song to morph into a Hindi one I wonder.
Padmini must have breezed through the second dance, it must have been so familiar.
This article is part of a series on old film songs, chiefly Hindi and Tamil. The earlier parts can be read here