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Updated: May 6, 2010 14:23 IST

Blast from the past - Bhooloka Rambai (1940)

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A SUCCESS STORY: Bhooloka Rambai
A SUCCESS STORY: Bhooloka Rambai

K.L.V. Vasantha, T.K. Shanmugham, T.R. Mahalingam, T.S. Balaiah, N.S. Krishnan, T.A. Mathuram and Kumari Rukmini

K.L.V. Vasantha was one of the popular heroines of early Tamil cinema. Slim and attractive, she could also sing well. She made her debut in Sri Kanda Leela (1938), a Premier Cinetone, Coimbatore production, directed by noted filmmaker H.S. Mehta, and written by well-known writer L. Nanjappa Chettiar, one of the directors of the production company and studio.

Vasantha hit big time in 1939 when she played the title role in Rambayin Kaathal, directed by noted filmmaker B.N. Rao. Critics remarked that the celestial beauty of Lord Indra's court, Rambha, would have looked like Vasantha!

Following the success of Rambayin Kaathal, Vasantha was cast in Bhooloka Rambai. A folktale with many twists and turns, it's about a prince (Shanmugham) falling in love with Bhooloka Rambha (Vasantha), their secret marriage, getting a child to be sacrificed, and later saved by Divine Grace… His friend (Mahalingam) travels with him; they meet birds that talk and predict their future. Again directed by Rao, the film was produced by M. Somasundaram (Jupiter Somu) and M.D. Viswanathan under the banner of Salem Shanmugha Films and Vijaya Maruthi Pictures at Central Studios, Coimbatore. During the making of the film, the producers ran into financial problems and work halted for sometime. Around this time, the later day Indian movie mogul S.S. Vasan had just entered as a distributor with his Gemini Pictures Circuit (GPC) and was looking for movies for distribution. He called on Rao at Coimbatore and asked him whether he could complete the film in time for Deepavali if he funded the project. He also told him he was in the process of acquiring a studio in Madras, and promised Rao that he would be the director of his first production. Vasan who never went back on his word engaged Rao for the first Gemini Studios production Madanakamarajan (1941) which somewhat interestingly had much common ground in Bhooloka Rambai (both were written by well-known writer and playwright B.S. Ramaiah.)

Bhooloka Rambai proved a success and Vasantha's popularity grew by a few more notches. Besides being cast as the heroine in Madanakamarajan, Vasan cast her as ‘Chandralekha' in his mammoth movie. However, for many reasons, Vasantha opted out, and T. R. Rajakumari came on board to create movie history.

In those days, Tamil films were screened all over South India without any dubbing or subtitles, and people watched them with interest. To give them an indication of the storyline, producers invariably had an English title for each of the Tamil film. For example, Gumasthavin Penn had the title, Clerk's Daughter!

For the same reason, the name of this film in English was given in posters as Bhooloka Rambha and not ‘Rambai' as in Tamil. B.N. Rao told this writer years later that the name of the celestial dancer was Rambha and not Rambai!

As usual, the N. S. Krishnan-T.A. Mathuram pair took care of the comedy and sang a couple of duets in their own inimitable style.

Remembered for: the interesting storyline, gripping on-screen narration, the impressive presence and performance of Vasantha, and the comedy of Krishnan-Mathuram.

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