S.V. Subbaiah Bhagavathar, T.S. Velammal, T.K. Rukmini Ammal, Karaikudi Ganesha Iyer, ‘Buffoon’ Shanmugham, Kasi Viswanath and Ramasami Pillai
Samikannu Vincent can be rightly described as the founding father of cinema in south India. The South Indian Railway desk clerk-turned-film pioneer created history by building the first cinema Variety Hall (which still exists under a different name and ownership) in his hometown Coimbatore. During the 1930s, he made many films, including Valli Thirumanam, a major hit. During 1935, 28 films were produced in Tamil, and one of the successful films produced by him along with Pioneer Films, Calcutta with its own studio was Subhadhra Parinayam. It’s a familiar mythological story about Lord Krishna’s sister Subhadhra, her love for Arjuna, and how they cross many hurdles to get married. This epic story has been popular for ages, and has been performed as harikatha, stage play (especially successful in Telugu) and movies in more than one language. The film Subhadhra Haran in Hindi (early 1930s) did very well at the box-office.
Subhadhra Parinayam was directed by Profulla Ghosh, a Bengali filmmaker who also made Tamil films with some measure of success. In this film, Arjuna was played by the stage- and screen-star of the early days S.V. Subbaiah Bhagavathar. He was very popular on stage as Krishna — in one play he appeared on the stage dressed in a three-piece silk suit and a peacock feather tucked into his wig to denote that he was Krishna. He sang and danced, which was greeted with wild cheers, whistles and applause! Well, those surely were the days. T.S. Velammal, a noted actor of that day, played Subhadhra; today she is forgotten.
Here’s the story. Lord Krishna decides that Arjuna is the right husband for his sister Subhadhra, and while she is performing puja, he appears disguised as a bearded holy man and tells her Arjuna is the right consort for her. At once Subhadhra falls in love with Arjuna, though she has never met him. However, Duryodhana, the leader of the Kauravas, wishes to make her his wife. Krishna’s brother Balarama, who is on Duryodhana’s side, promises to make his desire come true. Krishna with his mastery over manipulation gets Arjuna and his sister married, and the two drive away in a chariot. Balarama and Duryodhana are shocked and send their men to capture them. How Krishna helps the couple win and Balarama reconciles with him and blesses the couple forms the rest of the film. Subbaiah Bhagavathar, a trained musician with a fine voice was in his usual form singing and making dramatic gestures, which were liked by moviegoers then. Sadly, no details are available about the music composer and the songs. According to contemporary critical accounts, the film is said to have fared well at the box-office. Soon after, the same story was made in Tamil as Subhadhra Arjuna, in which the famed singing star actor of yesteryear Serukalathur Sama played Lord Krishna and forgotten actor V.S. Mani played Arjuna. G. Subbulakshmi, the star of the hit Bhaktha Chetha played Subhadhra.
Remembered For The impressive performances of Subbaiah Bhagavathar and Velammal, the comical interludes of ‘Buffoon’ Shanmugham and others such as Ganesha Iyer, Kasi Viswanath and Ramasami Pillai.