Engal Selvi Poster, courtesy Wikipedia

Among the many films I saw on Doordarshan when we really had nothing else to watch on television, was Lajwanthi. It was one of the most ghastly productions ever made. Starring Nargis, Balraj Sahni and Baby Naaz, you would assume the film was really something. On the other hand, it was one of those supreme duds, and only got by on its songs.

The storyline, from what I recall is like this – there is this happy couple, and they have a baby girl. Husband suddenly suspects his wife of being unfaithful and so she leaves. Long stretch of film showing her struggling as a single woman. Then cut to husband realising that he was wrong. Long search for wife. Reunion. Bringing her home to find that baby girl, now around ten, refuses to accept the woman as her mother. Heavy melodrama follows and then everyone unites. This is one movie where Asha Bhonsle, and not Lata, sings for Nargis. The music was by SD Burman and the lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri. The film, made in 1958, was India’s entry at Cannes 1959 where I would assume the jury got a good laugh out of it. But that was not so apparently. It got nominated for a Palme d’Or.

Who would want to make this film in other languages? But there were such people and it was made in Tamil as Engal Selvi, and simultaneously made in Telugu as Kanna Koothru. The music was by KV Mahadevan. Lyrics were by Kannadasan, Maruthakasi and others. The Tamil/Telugu versions starred Anjali Devi and A Nageswara Rao

One of the scenes in both Hindi and Tamil versions is where the heroine, when single and struggling, is employed as a teacher. The children ask her to tell them a story and she narrates her own, morphing it as a tale of two swans. The Hindi version is Kuch Din Pehle Ek Taal Mein:

The Tamil version is Sila Sila Andukal Munnam, sung by P Leela. The lyrics and tune are completely different but the theme is the same:

I prefer the Hindi version.

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