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'Premanandamaya’ is the song of the besotted

Lakshmi Bai  

The year was 1932. A V Meiyappan, the young entrepreneur from Karaikudi moved to Madras and founded Saraswati Stores to deal exclusively in gramophone records. Meiyappan won the franchise for the distribution of the German label, Odean. At that time most of the records he sold were classical songs. Breaking away from the tradition, Meiyappan had released a few records of popular folk songs and tasted big success.

Fascinated by the talkies, along with a few partners, Meiyappan formed Saraswati Sound Productions and produced three Tamil movies, Alli Arjuna (1934), Ratnavali (1936) and Nandakumar (1937). When they all flopped, Meiyappan realised that he could do better if he had his own film studio. He hired the Admiralty House in Santhome and converted it into Pragathi Studios. Observing that mythologies made good money in Telugu, Meiyappan decided to make one in that language and chose the popular Kannada play, Bhookailas staged by Sri Sahitya Samrajya (SSS) Nataka Mandali of Mysore for his first production from the studio. He retained the lead actors — Mysore Venkatappa (M V) Subbaiah Naidu, R Nagendra Rao, Lakshmi Bai and Kamala Bai — from the stage play and took Master Viswam, to play the role of Bala Ganapathi. Meiyappan signed Sundararao Nadkarni to direct the movie and Balijepalli Lakshmikantha Kavi to pen the dialogues and the lyrics.

A V Meiyappan

A V Meiyappan  

While the actors themselves sang their songs, the music was credited to Saraswati Stores orchestra. However, at the helm of the orchestra was the talented composer Ramakrishna Sudarsanam.

Vindicating his faith in the Telugu audience, Bhookailas turned a money spinner for Meiyappan. One of the major contributors for its success was its melodious music. R Nagendra Rao (who played Narada) and Lakshmi Bai’s renditions from the film were a rage in those days. Giving vent to the love-struck Mandodari’s feelings, playing the role, Lakshmi Bai’s rendition of the song, Premanandamaya... was easily one of the best from the movie.

The song

Devaa! Jeevaa / Aadhaaraa / Dayaraadaa

Mandodari, in search of Ravana whom she had seen at the garden, expresses her anguish at not finding him again there. Plucking the flowers, her handmaids indulge in conversation: Paapam mana Mandodari prathidinam vastune vundi, yedo oka peru pettukuni (under some pretext or other our Mandodari is coming here every day). Yem labham aa Lankanaathudu mallee kanabadithegaa (What use it is, when she is unable to see the King of Lanka again). Unmindful of the surroundings, Mandodari continues to pour out her feelings.

Devaa! Jeevaa/ Aadhaaraa / Dayaraadaa/ Naa pai vaadaa / Premanandamaya Sadayaa / Naa manorathamu eederpavugaa / Naa gathi neeve kaavaa – karunaabharanaa/ Premanandamaya Sadayaa / Kalalo leelaa gaathala thone / Gadipedavaa naa jeevithamu / Itule gadipedavaa naa jeevithamu / Premanandamaya Sadayaa

The scene

To fulfil the word he has given to his mother Kaikasi (played by Parvati Bai) that he would get the ‘atma lingam’ from Lord Siva (Rayaprolu Subrahmanyam), Ravana (M.V. Subbaiah Naidu) sets out to do a penance. While Ravana is crossing a garden, Mayasura’s daughter Mandodari who sees him, falls in love with him. Unaware of her presence, Ravana continues with his journey. A besotted Mandodari sings this song in despair at not seeing him again.

The scene was shot at the Theosophical Society in Adyar. Adi Irani was the cinematographer. Lakshmi Bai’s sweet-toned rendition and R. Sudarsanam’s mellifluent music made the melancholic romantic song memorable. Incidentally, Sudarsanam was the music director for Akkineni Nageswara Rao’s first Tamil starrer, AVM’s Or Iravu, and composer for , Sankarambadi Sundarachari’s prayer song ‘Maa Telugu Talli kee mallepoodanda’ rendered by Tanguturi Suryakumari.

Sudarsanam

Sudarsanam  

Interestingly, Lakshmi Bai had played the role of Mandodari earlier in the first Kannada talkie, Sati Sulochana (1934) directed by Y.V. Rao. A versatile singer, it was her captivating voice that won her more fans.Veteran music historian, V.A.K. Rangarao in his compilation of popular old songs, Alanaati Andaalu, brought out as an LP record, which included Lakshmi Bai’s song, ‘Sumadoli keli haali’ from Bhookailas.

Bhookailas received the censor certificate on November 20, 1940 but could not be released as none of the Telugu film distributors liked it. After a wait, Meiyappan decided to release the movie on his own, hired a theatre in Vijayawada and released it on May 31, 1941. Bhookailas was a great hit and the demand for the film grew. The songs were most loved.

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 3:28:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/rewind-lakshmi-bais-voice-and-r-sudarsanams-music-made-the-song-premanandamaya-a-hit/article26569195.ece

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