P. Bhanumathi, Ranjan, T. R. Ramachandran, Suryaprabha, Indira Acharya, Surabhi Kamalabai, Doraiswamy, L. Narayana Rao, Kolathu Mani, T.E. Krishnamacharya, ‘Srivatsava’ T. Venkateswarlu, Vijaya Rao, Lakshmanan and Master Pawan Sarin.

Bhanumathi Ramakrishna was so bowled over by the performance of Vasundhara Devi (mother of yesteryear heroine Vyjayanthimala Bali) in Gemini’s blockbuster 1943 Tamil hit, Mangamma Sabadham , that she wished, if at all the film were to be remade in Telugu, she would act in it. In fact, the Tamil movie was released by Gemini supremo S.S. Vasan at a few centres in Andhra also and was well received there too. A few years later, Vasan decided to remake the movie in Telugu and Hindi under the title Mangala . Impressed by Bhanumathi’s performance in the Tamil film, Rajamukthi , he decided to sign her and approached her husband, Ramakrishna Rao. It was an opportunity she was waiting for and Bhanumathi immediately accepted the offer. She was paid a remuneration of Rs. 1 lakh for both the versions. Ranjan, who did the hero’s role in Mangamma Sabadham , was retained to play the lead role in both Telugu and Hindi versions. Popular editor of the time, Chandru (who had done commendable work as editor for Gemini’s earlier trilingual, Apoorva Sahodarulu ) was entrusted with the job of directing the movie. Thaapi Dharma Rao wrote the dialogue and the lyrics.

Based on a popular folklore, an engrossing narrative was weaved by Gemini’s story department. Mangala (Bhanumathi), the charming daughter of a rich farmer, is very haughty by temperament. When Prince Sugunapal (Ranjan) fails to win her love, he throws a challenge that he would marry her and then imprison her for life, denying her the marital bliss. She counter-challenges him that she would bear a child from him and make the child whip him in his court.

The prince marries her and puts her in a lonely palace. She makes her father (Doraiswamy) dig a tunnel from the palace to her village, sneaks through it to her house and learns dance. Disguised as a gypsy, she entices the Prince, secretly gives birth to a child, and when he grows up (Ranjan – dual role) gets her vow fulfilled through him. Realisation dawns on the Prince and the tale ends on a happy note.

All through it is Mangala’s show and Bhanumathi essayed it brilliantly. If Vasundhara Devi was admired for her nice dances in the Tamil version, Bhanumathi scored through her acting prowess. Ranjan made his presence felt in dual role. ‘Appa’ Doraiswamy, who played the father, had done the same role in the original Tamil version too.

He played mostly father roles in Tamil films and hence the prefix ‘appa’ to his name. Ace comedian and hero, T. R. Ramachandran, who had acted in many Telugu films too, entertained the audience as the street circus performer Singaram. Suryaprabha did the role of his sweetheart. The first heroine of Telugu talkie, Surabhi Kamalabai, played Singaram’s mother. Indira Acharya, a popular classical dancer of the time played Rathi, the heroine’s maid. The film was remade in 1965 by D.V.S. Raju with NTR and Jamuna in the lead and Vanisri reprised the role played by Indira Acharya. Vithalacharya was the director.

All that the film’s director Chandru had to do was to follow the original version which was well crafted by Acharya (T.G. Raghavachari). C.S. Rao worked as his assistant. However, Chandru’s expertise as an editor added lustre to the movie. So was Kamal Ghosh’s superb cinematography, ably assisted by talented A. Vincent.

While S. Rajeswara Rao’s music for the original Tamil version was a hit, the same was not the case with M.D. Parthasarathy’s tunes for ‘Mangala.’ However, Vasan retained for the Telugu and Hindi versions one tune composed earlier by Rajeswara Rao – Ayyayyayyo Seppa Siggu Aayene (rendered by Vasundhara for Mangamma Sabadham and Bhanumathi in Mangala ).

Mangala celebrated a successful run in both versions, giving a boost to Bhanumathi’s career.

The movie’s director, Chandru, had a tragic end years later. One day while alighting from a bus in Pondy Bazaar, Madras, he was fatally run over by another bus, which was coming from behind. He is still regarded as one of the best editors that the South Indian cinema has ever produced.

m.l. narasimham