Cinema

Chogamelar 1942

Drenched in devotion: Chogamelar  

During the mid-1930s and later well into the 1940s, a genre which can be called “Bhakthi Cinema” enjoyed the patronage of the classes and the masses alike. Some of the films made under this genre went on to become box office hits. Many such films dealt with those sections of devotees who were denied entry into Hindu temples. How the devotees succeeded in obtaining divine blessings formed the theme.

Movies such as Nandanar, Sri Thyagaraja, Bhaktha Namadeva, Sri Ramanuja, Bhaktha Jana, Gora Kumbar, Purandaradasa, Thiruneelakantar, Arunagirinathar, Pattinathar, Bhaktha Kabirdas, Bhaktha Chetha, Eknath, Tukaram and Chogamelar fall under this genre.Chogamelar was denied entry into the famous Lord Pandarinath temple at Pandaripur because he was lowborn. Orthodox Brahmins ill-treated him in many ways, but, thanks to his prayers, God appeared before him and, according to legend, visited his humble home daily and partook of Chogamelar's modest food. Orthodox folks protested and attacked Chogamelar, but they found miracles taking place in the temple like the idol sustaining the same injuries as he did! Soon they realised their folly and Chogamelar entered the temple and received the Lord's blessings denied to the others…

This film was directed by one of the pioneers C. V. Raman and written by G. Sundara Bhagavathar (noted music director G. Ramanathan was his brother.) Raman (his name always appeared as ‘C. V. Raman, B.A. LLB') made several movies but did not achieve success as expected. He was the founder of the studio on the banks of the Adayar River (named Lalitha Cinetone) in Madras, which changed many hands and names before it finally became ‘Satya Studio'.

(The area of Adayar on the other side of the river was then in Chinglepet District, now Chengalpattu!)

The singing actor of yesteryear, Kothamangalam Seenu played Chogamelar. V. S Srinivasan, better known as Kothamangalam Seenu, hailed from Vatraairuppu (anglicised as ‘Watrap'), a fertile village near Madurai. Trained in Carnatic music, he moved to Kothamangalam in Chettinad area looking for a living and joined the other celebrity Kothamangalam Subbu. Both staged plays and Seenu gave concerts and music tuitions until he got a break in Tamil cinema. With his melodious voice and energetic style of singing, he was popular for quite sometime, but somehow did not achieve the success he eagerly expected. His last film was Ekambavaanan (1947) and though he lived for nearly 40 more years, he never faced a movie camera again. His notable films include Dasi Aparanji, Bhaktha Chetha and Vipranarayana.

(Some have gone on record saying that Subbu and Seenu were brothers because of their common surname, but it is not correct!)

G. Sundara Bhagavathar wrote the script and the lyrics, and composed the music. Aranganayaki, now hardly remembered, was popular for a short period and her best role was as the wife of Bilwamangal in the M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar classic Chintamani (1937). M. R. Radha, a later day cult figure and icon of Tamil cinema and theatre, played one of the leaders of the village who hated Chogamelar for his devotion.

However, Chogamelar did not do well as expected though some songs became popular because of their bhakthi content.

Remembered for the emotion-drenched storyline and the energetic singing of Kothamangalam Seenu.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 3:35:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/Chogamelar-1942/article15608201.ece

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