Cinema

Devamanohari 1951

C. Honnappa Bhagavathar, P. Bhanumathi, B. S. Saroja, M. R. Swaminathan, G. M. Bashir, Kali N. Ratnam, ‘Lux Beauty' R. Padma, Lakshmi Devi, ‘Stunt' Somu, M. M. Radha Bai, K. V. Srinivasan, V. K. Karthikeyan, Lalitha-Padmini-Ragini (dance)

A. T. Krishnaswami (ATK) was a noted writer, director and producer of the early decades of Tamil cinema. Also a playwright influenced by Western Literature, he joined the AV. Meiyappan unit as an assistant during the mid-1930s and worked on all the AVM projects. He made a splash with Sabapathi and later left AVM for some personal reasons.

ATK made films such as Vidyapathi and Manam Oru Kurangu. His most successful film was Arivali, an adaptation of Shakespeare's ‘Taming Of The Shrew'. He did it as a stage play titled ‘Oh! What a Girl!' (Jayalalitha is his niece by marriage.) Arivali, featuring Sivaji Ganesan and Bhanumathi in the lead, was a hit but, regrettably, the benefits of its success did not reach ATK. His later days were spent in obscurity and, interestingly, he passed away on the day MGR breathed his last.

ATK wrote and directed Devamanohari, which featured Honnappa Bhagavathar and Bhanumathi in lead roles. The lyrics were by Papanasam Sivan, his brother Rajagopala Iyer and Thanjai Ramaiah Das, while the famous composer G. Ramanathan scored the music. The dances by the Travancore Sisters were choreographed by Vedantham Raghavaiah, who later became a successful filmmaker, and Ghatak. The film was shot at Pragathi and Neptune studios in Adayar, sadly both have vanished today.

A folk tale, Devamanohari is about a divinely blessed princess (Bhanumathi) who is wooed by many princes. To win her, the suitor has to make a divine wheel stand upright! A young man (Honnappa Bhagavathar), unaware that he is a prince, takes his friend and enters the contest.

Meanwhile, the princess and the young man fall in love. Learning about his royal lineage, he seeks revenge and wins back his kingdom.

He approaches a sage who gives him four lessons in life to succeed — always think and think again; all that glitters is not gold; love is deeper than the ocean; and duty is greater than love. Following these lessons, the prince fights, undergoes many trials and ultimately conquers all.

Bashir, the villain, was a fairly well-known character actor of his day who tried his hand at production and direction with disastrous results.

Karthikeyan who made a mark in a comical role in AVM's Naam Iruvar plays a minor role in this film. Much was expected of him but sadly he faded fast. Honnappa Bhagavathar hailing from Karnataka was a trained Carnatic musician who entered Tamil cinema with Ambikapathi (1937).

Not many are aware that he was cast at first as the hero but soon was replaced by Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, and the rest, as they say, is history… Somewhat ironically, Bhagavathar suffered imprisonment for 30 long months as an echo of the Lakshmikantham Murder Case, and many of his films announced had to be abandoned at various stages — in such films, Honnappa Bhagavathar took his place and his stock rose fast.

Expectedly, he sang many songs and so did Bhanumathi but none of the songs became popular.

Lalitha-Padmini-Ragini performed the story of ‘Gulebakavali' as a dance drama.

In spite of the presence of the stars of the day, Devamanohari did not do well as expected.

Remembered for the interesting storyline and the dance drama of the Travancore sisters.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 7:59:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/Devamanohari-1951/article15502198.ece

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