There are many reasons as to why this classic film is a favourite of mine. Firstly it deals with the reign of an emperor I admire immensely – Krishnadeva Raya, who I rank on par with Akbar. The story is fictional but it is located in the heyday of the Vijayanagar Empire. Hampi, the capital, may be a mouldering ruin now but it was one of the greatest metropolises of its time. Each visit I make to the place, I come away awed and yet filled with a sadness.
Anyway, I am something of a Vijayanagarophile – I keep looking out for songs, plays, novels, films, etc, themed on the empire. The best are of course the kavya-s and kriti-s composed during the empire’s zenith – the works of Purandara Dasa, Kanakadasa, Vyasaraya, et al on one side and then Tenali Ramakrishna, Allasani Peddanna, Dhurjati, etc on the other. I am of course challenged by not knowing either Telugu or Kannada but I struggle on – I have read Krishnadeva’s Amuktamalyada in Telugu (Tamil transcript) with Tamil translation and also Srinivasa Sistla’s excellent English version. And I have read much of Purandara’s works – I realise I am only scratching the surface.
Anyway, to get back to the topic, Malleeswari is a delightful film, made all the more heavenly because of the songs – composed by the one and only Devulapalli Krishna Sastri and set to music by Saluri Rajeswara Rao and Addepalli Rama Rao. The most famous song is Akashaveedhilo, where the two parted lovers, NT Rama Rao and P Bhanumathi send their sorrowful messages a la the Yaksha in Kalidasa’s Megha Sandesam, via a cloud by which I mean the actual rain-bearing variety and not something run by Microsoft or Amazon. The song is addressed to a Meghamala and the word would be prefixed to Krishna Sastri’s name by the admiring public. In case you have not seen the song, here is where you can do so. It is sung by Bhanumathi and Ghantasala in playback – https://youtu.be/nS75H7ygnnw
Malleeswari is full of delightful songs. There is one that makes a ceremonial welcome to Krishnadeva’s chief queen Tirumala Devi which I particularly like and there is a Yakshagana based on Usha Parinayam which is superb except for Bhanumathi’s dancing which is execrable. The lady was talented in so many things but she was not good when it came to dance. And yet my favourite in the film is Pilichina Biguvatara, a javeli in raga Kapi, sung for and danced by Bhanumathi. The song is a gem and would fit any Carnatic concert platform. Bhanumathi has sung it superbly though once again her dance is poor – the range of movements is limited to the capability of the artiste. I could only imagine what a Kamala or Lalitha/Padmini/Ragini or a Vyjayanthimala would have done. But as I said earlier, the singing is superlative. The lyrics are as only the great Krishna Sastri could have composed – romance in every word and a come hither in ever suggestion. Dripping with shringara.
The setting is a cave where NTR and Bhanumathi have taken shelter from a thunderstorm. They are only good friends at this stage and to while away the time she dances for him. Unknown to the duo, King Krishnadeva and Peddanna have also taken shelter there and are watching the performance, which is where the story really begins to get complicated. The javali ends with Peddanna being inspired to sing a verse impromptu, which is also really good. If you are the kind that enjoys old film songs, you will like this – https://youtu.be/QPw96StPG9k
This article is part of a series I write on old Tamil, Hindi and Telugu film songs. You can read the others here –
2 responses to “A Wonderful Javali in the film Malleeswari (1951)”
Krishnadevaraya’s Minister, at the king’s young age, almost gave his life & saved him. The king, in later age, blinded the loyal minister as he did not like one of his acts.
That was Saluva Timmarasu
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