Balayogini 1937

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stunning performance Baby Saroja in Balayogini
stunning performance Baby Saroja in Balayogini

Baby Saroja, C. V. V. Panthulu, K. B. Vatsal, R. Balasaraswathi, K. R. Chellam and Baby Rukmani

Shirley Temple became a Hollywood star when she was hardly five. Even as a child, she earned a lot, in fact more than the U.S. President! Baby Saroja, heroine of Balayogini, was known as the ‘Shirley Temple of India’

Hailed as the first children’s film of South Indian cinema, Balayogini, written, directed and produced by the sadly forgotten pioneer of Indian cinema, Krishnaswamy Subramanyam, is still remembered by film aficionados mainly because of the stunningly cute child star, Baby Saroja, who made her debut with this film. She was Subramanyam’s niece and daughter of his brother K. Viswanathan who played a main role in the movie as District Collector under the screen name K. B. Vatsal! His wife’s name was Vatsala.

The story was not only about children but highlighted the adverse impact of western civilisation on traditional Indian values.

There were quite a few children in the film such as Saroja, R. Balasaraswathi (later the multilingual singing star of ‘Malligai poo maalai roja’ fame),and Rukmani (later Kumari Rukmani of Sri Valli fame and mother of the talented star, Lakshmi). Ever a talent scout, Subramanyam introduced these ‘babies’ to cinema, spotting the oak in the acorn.

The film had catchy music (music: Moti Babu and lyrics: Papanasam Sivan). ‘Kanney papa, kanimuthu paapa’, rendered by Baby Saroja as a lullaby to her doll, became popular.

During the War years, there was a song which was popular among people, especially among boys, walking on the roads of the Madras Presidency… “Baby Saroja… naan waarukku poren, nee varutha padaadhey… kappal meley poren nee kavalapadaadhey… Baby Saroja...”

As a kid, Baby Saroja stole many hearts, young and old, male and female. (Now as Saroja Ramamrutham, she leads a contented life in south Madras.)

Baby Saroja achieved greater fame with her role in the classic Thyaga Bhoomi (1939) with S. D. Subbulakshmi, Papanasam Sivan and K. J. Mahadevan. She also acted in one more movie, Kamadhenu. After these three films, she bade goodbye to the industry.

Remembered for the captivating performance of Baby Saroja who became an overnight sensation. That was not all. Many girl children in several parts of South India were named Saroja after this movie!




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