Petra Manam poster courtesy Wikipedia

I have had some problems with my ipod (who uses such things these days?) and I think it has kicked the bucket. I have therefore gone retro and begun listening to CDs (who uses such things these days?). The one good thing that came out of all this was that I suddenly realised my car, which is four years old, has a CD player. The other good thing is that I am suddenly finding all kinds of old gems in my collection that I have not heard in quite a while.

One among these is a CD of ML Vasanthakumari’s film songs. And what a delight they are – O Sami, Aadal Kaaniro, Kathavai Sathadi, Ellam Inba Mayam… And then in the middle of these beauties is the occasional horror – Avar Inri Naan Illai Penne being one. But the worst of the lot is this Sinthanai Seyyada, a ghastly song made worse by interspersing the music with some high pitch emotional dialogues of Sivaji Ganesan. The film is Petra Manam (1960), which understandably sank without a trace. According to Wikipedia, it was shot simultaneously with its Telugu equivalent Pempudu Koduku but the latter was released in 1953 while the former made it only in 1960. Why? These are mysteries we may never get around to resolving.

You can view the song here

The opening lines were of a familiar tune and I kept humming them to try and identify where I had heard them before. It finally came to me – the music for this part of the song was lifted from Adha Hai Chandrama Raat Adhi, the Mahendra Kapoor-Asha Bhonsle duet from V Shantaram’s Navrang (1959). The lyrics were Bharat Vyas and music was by C Ramchandra, of whom I have just seen a delightful BBC interview on YouTube. In it he states that Bhageshree is his favourite raga and sure enough, half is moon is also in the same.

Navrang was a film that I did not like. I have sat through it during some DD screening. It was not a patch on some of V Shantaram’s earlier hits that I have enjoyed – Dahej, Do Ankhen Barah Haat, Jhanak Jhanak Payal Bhaje, Teen Batti Chaar Rasta – the presence of Sandhya in almost all of them notwithstanding. (Dahej had Jayshree, his second wife). And who can forget Ghanshyam Sundara Sridhara from Amar Bhoopali – it is a classic song of a poet Honaji Bala, on whose life the film is based. I think Navrang, which unlike most of Shantaram’s films did not have a longwinded title, marks the beginning of his decline as a filmmaker. I have also seen his later Geet Gaya Patharon Ne and did not much care for it either. Incidentally, in Maharashtra, V Shantaram is always spelt as Vhi Shantaram.

Anyway, Sinthanai Seyyada was lifted in part from Adha Hai Chandrama. I wonder what C Ramchandra thought of that? Which brings me to a million dollar question. If Petra Manam was in the making from 1953 onwards, did they record Sinthanai Seyyada before Navrang came out? In which case it was clearly the Tamil song that inspired Ramchandra. The clincher to that would be to check out if the Telugu version has the a song in the same tune. These bilingual productions usually had these. But then who is going to look through a whole film? I hope my encyclopaedias for all matters Telugu, VAK Ranga Rao and Ramineni Bhaskarendra Rao, have some answers.

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