The Hindu in its special supplement on MLV dated June 29th had an article on the special bond between Padmini and ML Vasanthakumari. The sheer volume of songs that the latter sang playback for the former’s onscreen presence is overwhelming. That left me wondering if MLV did sing any song for Savitri, Padmini’s illustrious (and let me add more talented) contemporary. I finally found this one song, which is a duet featuring MLV and P Leela.

ML Vasanthakumari

The film, made in 1957 by Vedantam Raghaviah, had Telugu and Tamil versions. Titled Bhale Ammayilu/Iru Sahodarigal/and a ghastly Bravo Girls in English (only for credit purposes),it featured Savitri and a relatively less known actor called Girija in the leads. NT Rama Rao and Gemini Ganesan played the hero in the two versions respectively. A key character of a mridangam artiste was essayed by Relangi/TS Durairaj in the two versions. Not having seen either version I can only rely on Wikipedia which has entries on both . Whoever wrote the Tamil film’s entry needs some English lessons.

The song, Gopala Jagelara/thAyE un seyal allavO, with lyrics by Vempatti Sadasivabrahmam/Thanjai Ramiah Das, had music by S Rajeswara Rao and his brother Hanumantha Rao. I guess it made political sense in 1957 for a Telugu film producer to include a song praising Tamil in his production in that language. It is set as a Veena duet between Savitri and Girija, with mridangam accompaniment by Relangi/Durairaj. The principal raga is Mohanam and the svaras at the end go on to ShaNmukhapriya, kAmbOji and madhymAvati. The Telugu print featured above is perfect. Not so great is the Tamil version below:

You can make out that neither Savitri nor Girija had any idea as to how play the Veena and kept sliding their fingers on it, making up for much of the action by flashing their eyes at each other. And who plays the Veena sitting like that unless you are a Ravi Varma model or are afflicted with arthritis? In sharp contrast are the two men who play the mridangam. Both came from theatre backgrounds and were adept at playing instruments. Their hand movements are so good.

P Leela, courtesy Wikipedia

However, the singers are really the highlights. MLV, and a little less so P Leela, have given their best. Oh, by the way, Happy 90th Birthday MLV – I hope you are at peace wherever you are.

You may also want to read:

Stalking MLV in Delhi
Sangita Vani Vasanthakumari
From Manamagal to Mr Sampath

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