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Updated: January 18, 2014 16:57 IST
BLAST FROM THE PAST

Radha Kalyanam (1935)

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S. Rajam, M.R. Santhanalakshmi, K.S. Devudu Iyer, C.M. Durai, Srijanaki, B. Saradha, ‘Master’ T.V. Krishnamurthi, H. Yegneswara Bhagavathar, ‘Comedian’ K.S. Sankara Iyer, M. Lakshmanan, S. Rajamani, K. Shanthadevi, R. Rajam, Soundaravalli, K. Lakshmi and Meenambal

S. Rajam, musicologist, performing Carnatic musician and for sometime a movie star, was the first disciple of the legendary icon of Carnatic music, Papanasam Sivan. When looking for a better tomorrow, Papanasam Sivan relocated to Madras, more especially the culturally rich Mylapore, and was patronised by V. Sundaram Iyer, popular Mylapore lawyer who lived in Naidu Street. Sundaram Iyer gave him board and lodging in his own house. In return, he taught his teenage son Rajam and his sister Jayalakshmi Carnatic music. Listening in was the seven-year-old son of the lawyer who learnt music in all its forms and rose to be a superstar of not only music but cinema and others — Veena S. Balachander.

Rajam took his bow in movies as a 16-year-old boy playing Rama in the hit movie of 1933, Seetha Kalyanam. It was produced in Kolhapur by the icon of Marathi cinema, Baburao Phendarkar for Prabhat Pictures in which soon-to-be-a-top-person-of-Indian-cinema Vankudre Shantaram was one of the partners.

With the success of Seetha Kalyanam came Radha Kalyanam, the epic story of Lord Krishna and his heartthrob Radha, believed to be older than Krishna. Rajam played Krishna and the Tamil film star of yester decades M.R. Santhanalakshmi (older than Rajam!) played the dual roles of Radha and Virajai. Santhanalakshmi made a splash in 1937 playing the heroine in Ambikapathi against the first superstar of South Indian cinema M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar. It was directed by American-Indian filmmaker Ellis R. Dungan. Santhanalakshmi was active for a few years, and with advancing age she took to elderly roles such as Parvathi in the film Aryamala.

K.S. Devudu Iyer, a well-known stage artiste and singer played sage Narada while C.M. Durai (now totally forgotten) played Lord Vishnu.

The music was composed by noted musician Harikesanallur L. Muthiah Bhagavathar, assisted by Narayana Iyer. The film was directed by C.K. Sachi, one of the famed figures of early Tamil cinema. He was a cousin of the internationally known writer R.K. Narayan and worked as assistant to Ellis R. Dungan in the historic hit film Sathi Leelavathi. Sachi, a lawyer, had limited training in filmmaking in England, and with such limited knowledge and unlimited enthusiasm he directed films. He was the patron of the sadly forgotten Carnatic musician N.C. Vasanthakokilam. During their heyday, she was equated with M.S. Subbulakshmi. D.K. Pattammal, MS and NCV were known as the trio of female performers.

No information is available about the names of the dialogue writer and lyricist, and even Rajam (a friend of this writer) could not recall, but said that Papanasam Sivan could have written the songs. The film was produced by Meenakshi Films at National Movietone, Kilpauk; now a prestigious school functions on that site.

Radha Kalyanam was only an average success. Later Rajam played a minor role in Sivakavi in which his married sister Jayalakshmi played the lead role. He escorted her to Coimbatore and also played the role of Muruga.

Remembered For The epic romantic tale of Radha and Krishna and good performances by S. Rajam and Santhanalakshmi.

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