M.K. Radha, M.R. Krishnamurthi, M.G. Ramachandar, M.B. Radhabai, Saradha, T.V. Janakam, N.S. Krishnan, T.A. Mathuram, M.G. Chakrapani, P.G. Venkatesan, K.S. Sankara Iyer, T.M. Pattammal, Saroja Ratnavali, Ramalakshmi, L. Chandrika, K. Soundaram, Sundari, K.S. Velayudham and V. Nataraj
Maya Machhindra was a popular legend in ancient India and Tibet about tantric masters, and was made into a movie in more than one language six times. The first version was in Hindi and Marathi made in 1932, soon after India’s first sound film Alam Ara in 1931. This film was produced and directed by one of the icons of Indian cinema, Vankudre (for V.) Shantaram. Govinda Rao Tembe, a famed actor of Marathi cinema played Machindranath, his disciple Gorakhnath was played by another prominent actor master Vinayak, and the queen was another top star Durga Khote.
A guru discards his bachelor code and gets involved with a woman. Shocked by his guru’s behaviour the disciple undertakes to transform him and succeeds, and in the end the guru tells him that the whole thing was a drama enacted by him to teach the disciple about maya (illusion) and truth!
The Tamil version was produced in 1939 and directed by Raja Chandrasekhar, one of the noted filmmakers of his period (the leading filmmaker of his day T.R. Raghunath was his younger brother). In this film, the title role was played by M.K. Radha, noted Tamil stage star and hero of many successful movies, including Anaadhai Penn, Samsaram, Apoorva Sahotharargal, and the most famous of them all, Chandralekha. M.R. Krishnamurthy, the younger brother of the then leading Carnatic musician Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, and a successful hero of his day, played Gorakhnath. M.B. Radha Bai played the woman with whom the hero gets involved. M.G. Ramachandran, whose name appeared in the credits as ‘Ramachandar’ played a minor role. N.S. Krishnan and T.A. Mathuram provided comedy and also sang the comical songs.
According to certain sources, Machindranath was supposed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva who wanted to teach his wife Parvathi a lesson!
Lyrics were written by C.A. Lakshmana Das (today totally forgotten), while music was composed by the legendary Papanasam Sivan. There were many songs written in high-flown literary Tamil filmed on the hero, his queen and his disciple. No details are available about who lent the voices to Radha and others. However, Maharajapuram Krishnamurthi, a trained Carnatic musician sang his own songs.
In 1945, a Telugu version of the story was made in which the multilingual star Pasupuleti Kannamba played the female lead. It was directed by noted filmmaker C. Pullaiah who made films in Tamil and Telugu with much success. It was remade in Telugu in 1975 with N.T. Ramarao as both Lord Shiva and Machindranath, Vanisri as the queen and Ramakrishna as Gorakhnath.
Another Hindi version was made during the 1970s, further popularising the tantric genre. The victory cry of Gorakhnath, ‘Alak Niranjan!’ became extremely popular during that period as a catchphrase of victory and was used by ordinary people in their lives whenever they succeeded in something. It was also very popular with card players who shouted ‘Alak Niranjan!’ whenever they scored a point! Magicians too used the expression in their shows.
The film was a moderate success, thanks to the popularity of the tantric story and also the melodious music of Papanasam Sivan and the performance of M.K. Radha. He was one of the finest actors of Tamil cinema who underplayed his roles without theatrical gestures and artificial dialogue delivery that were popular at the time. He was trained by his father M. Kandaswami Mudaliar, who was also a famous playwright, stage producer and screen writer.
Remembered For The popular tantric tale of myth and impressive performance of M.K. Radha in the title role.