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Updated: December 10, 2011 19:10 IST

Prabhavathi 1942

Randor Guy
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A poster of the movie Prabhavathi. Photo: Special Arrangement
The Hindu A poster of the movie Prabhavathi. Photo: Special Arrangement

C. Honnappa Bhagavathar, Sp. L. Dhanalakshmi, T. R. Rajakumari, M. S. Saroja, Nagercoil K. Mahadevan, D. Balasubramaniam, R. Balasubramaniam, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Mathuram, T. R. Ramachandran, S. V. Sahasranamam, E. R. Sahadevan, Kulathu Mani, T. V. Namasivayam, ‘Pulimoottai' Ramasami, Velayutham, M. Lakshmanan, P. A. Periyanayaki, P. A. Rajamani, A. R. Sakunthala, K. R. Chellam, ‘Lux Beauty' R. Padma, T. S. Krishnaveni and G. Rathinam

S. M. Letchumanan Chettiar, popularly known as Lena Chettiar, was a powerful figure in the world of Tamil Cinema. A native of Chettinad, he was a ‘drama contractor' in his early days, staging plays in various southern parts of the state by hiring freelancing actors and selling tickets for their plays. He also dealt in used cars and was the first man in this part of the world to print and circulate handbills about used cars in Tamil. Most of the Naattukottai Chettiars were wealthy, but did not know English. They found these handbills a novelty and encouraged Lena Chettiar. M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar's (a top-ranking freelancing stage actor then) play with another stage actress S. D. Subbulakshmi, ‘Pavalakodi', was a raving hit not only in the Tamil-speaking areas of South India but also in Ceylon. Bhagavathar was seriously planning to enter movies with Pavalakodi and Lena advised him against venturing into production on his own and convinced Bhagavathar to team up with him. With his rich pals, Lena produced Pavalakodi in 1934, which marked Bhagavathar's film debut and proved to be a major hit.

Lena produced Tamil films under many labels and finally promoted Krishna Pictures, which successfully produced many movies, some of which turned out to be huge hits. Besides, he was highly influential. One of his movies made under Krishna Pictures was Prabhavathi, a mythological tale directed by noted filmmaker T. R. Raghunath. Honnappa Bhagavathar, a Carnatic musician of the old princely state of Mysore, played the hero. He took the place of Bhagavathar in most of the movies announced with MKT as the lead but could not be made because of the latter's arrest in 1944 for his alleged involvement in the sensational murder of yellow journalist C. N. Lakshmikantham.

Sp.L. Dhanalakshmi, who was active for a short while, played the title role, and Rajakumari, Dhanalakshmi's niece, played Honnappa's love interest. Interestingly, the role of Lord Krishna was played by a female, M. S. Saroja, who was Mrs. Raghunath in her private life. (Their son Karthik Raghunath is today a successful multilingual filmmaker).

Prabhavathi was about the story of Lord Krishna, his son Pradyumna, Sage Narada and his mischief-making activities, the hero being cursed by a sage to become a woman, how he was absolved of the curse thanks to Krishna and others, and how the lovers (Honnappa and Rajakumari) were reunited. Krishnan and Mathuram as usual provided the comedy quotient. Sahasranamam played the minor role of Lord Shiva while D. Balasubramaniam played the king of Pathalaloka (the netherworld). The heroine of AV. Meiyappan's Naam Iruvar (We Two), T. A. Jayalakshmi, then a group dancer, appeared in a dance sequence. Mahadevan as usual played Sage Narada and sang quite a few songs.

Expectedly, Honnappa Bhagavathar sang a number of songs and duets with Rajakumari, while Dhanalakshmi too had her own share of singing. However, the film did not fare well at the box office

Remembered for being one of the early movies of the glamour girl Rajakumari.

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