We have thus far in this series seen many songs that have been copied from one language to another, we have also dwelt on films dubbed from the original Hindi to Tamil and Telugu and we have seen Anarkali, remade with a new cast in Tamil/Telugu from the original Hindi. But in this genre, Malaikkallan and its Hindi remake Azaad are unusual for both were mega hits. And each had one signature song, ironically both picturised in the same situation. I allude to Ethanai Kaalam Thaan Emaatruvaar and its Hindi equivalent – Kitna Hasin Hain Mausam.

Malaikkallan (1954) poster, courtesy Wikipedia

Malaikkallan, released in 1954 by Pakshiraja Studios, was produced and directed by SM Sriramulu Naidu. It was one of those super hits that come once in a way to cinema thereby distributing wealth and fame all around and encouraging thousands of others to try their luck with the same formula only to meet with complete ruin. Wikipedia, which has a very good entry on Malaikkallan, informs me that Sriramulu Naidu remade the film in Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Sinhala as well, apart from the one in Hindi. I wonder how those fared. Each had a different hero apparently.

But having seen only the Tamil and Hindi versions, let me dwell on them. For MG Ramachandran, the hero in the Tamil version, it was a watershed. He became a cult actor thereafter, with the same formula of a Robin Hood robbing the rich and feeding the poor being used to good effect in multiple films, eventually making him the one and only niranthara mudalvar (permanent CM) of Tamil Nadu. He never ever lost an election unlike his successor who appropriated that title but did not really live up to it. As an actor he was of mediocre calibre, but his films were eminently watchable. Malaikkallan was the first step that culminated in political success and it was also the first film of his to have a central song with a strong message. That was Etthanai Kaalam. Later all his films would have such songs. It was, according to Wikipedia, the first song that TM Soundararajan sang playback for MGR. In a TV interview many years later, TMS was asked as to how he managed to sing for both Sivaji and MGR and sound different and he gave a detailed response, including a live demo of he managed it. The lyrics for this song were by either Namakkal Ramalingam Pillai (who also wrote the story) or Thanjai Ramiah Das. The music was by SM Subbiah Naidu. It is still the first song to be played at all wayside kiosks set up to commemorate MGR. Let us turn to Azad.

Azaad DVD cover, from Wikipedia

The 1950s were when Dilip Kumar, having enacted several tragic roles, was on the verge of clinical depression. At the advice of Peggy Ashcroft, he underwent counselling and was asked to take up light-hearted roles. That was when he was approached by Pakshiraja for Azaad. This was exactly what the doctor had ordered and so Dilip Kumar jumped at the opportunity. He came to Madras and as he writes in his biography, fell in love with the city and its culture. He later would plan to retire here but that was never to be. His heroine in the film (as opposed to Bhanumathi in Tamil), was Meena Kumari, who like him was seeking a break from tragic roles. That both enjoyed themselves immensely is evident from even a cursory watch of the movie. Dilip Kumar recovered from his sadness and is happily still with us. Sadly, Meena Kumari did not.

The lyrics for the Hindi version were by Rajinder Kishan and the tunes by C Ramchandra. All the songs are great but Kitna Hasin Hai Mausam, sung by Lata Mangeshkar and C Ramchandra is really the best of the lot. It is, as I said, the equivalent of Etthanai Kaalam to the last detail including horse, waterfall and rocky background. But the differences are startling – the Tamil version is stridently political in message. And hero and heroine maintain a respectful distance – Bhanumathi clearly uncomfortable twiddling her thumbs on a horse led by MGR who sings it as a solo. The Hindi version is a soft romantic number, a duet, and with plenty of interaction between hero and heroine. Legend has it Bhanumathi who was a tough cookie, had made it quite clear that no young fella was going to touch her in the song. She was after all the senior of the two. And so it was that way. Later of course MGR and she would become friends and that would culminate in her appointment as principal of the Central College of Carnatic Music when he took over as CM. Meena Kumari clearly had no such objections when it came to acting. Her cameo with the tanbour,a Persian instrument at the beginning of the song is delightful to watch.And dont miss the distinct Tamil touch – a circlet of flowers in her hair!

Another immortal number from the Hindi version is Aplam Chaplam, featuring an amazing Bharata Natyam number by the duo Sai and Subbulakshmi.

And so is Na Bole Na Bole featuring Meena Kumari.

One other interesting takeaway – the Telugu version had NT Rama Rao as hero. This film must be unique in that the heroes of the Tamil and Telugu versions became CMs of their respective states.

This article is part of a series on old film songs, chiefly Tamil and Hindi. You can read the earlier parts here.