V. A. Chellappa, T. P. Rajalakshmi, M. D. Parthasarathi, Serukalathur Sama, P. S. Sivabhagyam, C. S. Shamanna and C.V. V. Panthulu
Draupadi, the wife of the five Pandavas, is the pivotal character of the epic Mahabharata and it's therefore not surprising she has been the focal character of a dozen movies since the Silent Film Era, and right up to the early 1950s. It's interesting to trace the various movies that came out in this era, and later when movies began to talk in India in 1931 with Alam Ara produced by Ardeshir Irani of Imperial Films, Bombay.
The earliest film was made in 1917 by the South Indian film pioneer R. Nataraja Mudaliar as Draupadi Vastrapaharanam , a silent film. The next version was made again in the Silent Era as Draupadi Sowbhagya in 1922. Raghupathy Prakash, another forgotten film pioneer, made a silent version Draupadi Bhagya in 1924. Then came the version by the founding father of Indian Cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke, under the title Draupadi Vastraharan in 1927.
The first talkie version was made under the title Draupadi in Hindi in 1934. Celebrated journalist Babur Patel of Filmindia fame, who made films in his early career, made his version in Hindi in 1944.
The first Telugu version Draupadi Manasamrakshnam came out in 1936 and during the same year, there was another version in the same language. During those days, producers used to vie with one another in unhealthy competition, making the same story from the epics and folktales for which there was no copyright! During 1934, there were two versions in Tamil. One made by A. Narayanan and R. Prakash, and the version under review Draupadi Vastrapaharanam, directed by the South Indian film pioneer, R. Padmanabhan.
There was another film titled Draupadi Venibhandhan about which no details are available. A Hindi version was made in 1942 as Draupadi Vastrapaharan .
How Draupadi was humiliated by Dussasana, the younger brother of the Kaurava king Duryodhana, forms the crux of the film.
Rangaswami Padmanabhan, who entered movies during the Silent Era, was responsible for introducing lawyer-turned-movie pioneer Krishnaswami Subramanyam as screenwriter. That was not all. He brought down another pioneer to Madras to work with him, Raja Sandow, a venerable name in the history of Indian Cinema.
Noted stage and screen actor, Carnatic musician and film music composer M. D. Parthasarathy, whose name is associated permanently with the legendary Gemini Studios, played Dharmaputhra, the eldest of the Pandavas, while the handsome movie star and filmmaker Serukalathur Sama played Lord Krishna. The first star of Tamil Cinema, T. P. Rajalakshmi, played Draupadi, while the famed V.A. Chellappa was Duryodhana.
The others in the cast included the famous stage actor who played as many as nine roles in a play, C. S. Shamanna and another pioneer C. V.V. Panthulu who played the lead role in early Tamil films. (Not many are aware that Sister Helen Vincent, noted educationist and former Principal of Stella Maris, is Panthulu's niece.).
This film was produced in Calcutta by Angel Films, an early production company based in Salem, and one of the directors of this forgotten unit was the Indian movie mogul, T. R. Sundaram, who later established the famous and historic Modern Theatres in Salem. Angel Films made many movies during the 1930s and following a fire accident, the company closed down. It was then Sundaram decided to promote his own company. The rest is history, as they say. Draupadi Vastrapaharanam fared reasonably well thanks to the noted stars, impressive presentation and pleasing music.
Remembered for its impressive star cast and music.