Mahamaya 1944

P. U. Chinnappa, P. Kannamba, M.G. Chakrapani, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Mathuram, M. S. Saroja, R. Balasubramaniam, D. Balasubramaniam, S.V. Sahasranamam, M. K. Meenalochani, ‘Baby' T. D. Kusalambal (later, Kushalakumari ), T. Rajbala (later T. R. Rajani) and T. R. B. Rao

Updated - October 27, 2016 12:11 pm IST

Published - September 04, 2010 07:11 pm IST

Inspired by the unexpected box office success of Kubera Kuchela , the first star screenwriter of Tamil cinema, Elangovan, began to work on his next movie Mahamaya (1944) and according to S. K. Habibullah, (son of S. K. Mohideen,) he worked for nearly a year on the screenplay and had some problems, ending the story. So he worked out three different endings and left the final choice to the producers, M. Somasundaram and ‘SK', and director T. R. Raghunath. And all three endings were shot!

To briefly narrate the storyline…Gandhara princess Mahamaya (P. Kannamba) and Vikram (P.U. Chinnappa), prince of a neighbouring kingdom, are students of the same guru in an ashram. One day, Mahamaya innocently garlands Vikram's sword unaware of the implication of her act. According to tradition, it means she had married him! However, both get married to different partners, but when they meet again, Vikram reminds her of the garland and insists she belongs to him and when she rejects his advances, he abducts her. Mahamaya escapes but is disowned by her husband. Therefore, she kills her child and herself to prove her chastity.

The successful lead pair of Kannagi, Chinnappa and Kannamba, were cast again in lead roles, Kannamba as Mahamaya and Chinnappa as the king who lusts after her. In his hunt, he is encouraged by his wily friend Neelan, played superbly by M. G. Chakrapani (MGR's brother). This character of the manipulating genius was believed to have been based on the historic character, Kautilya, who wrote the Arthashastra and was advisor to the great Maurya emperor, Chandragupta.

Filmgoers of the 1940s considered this aspect of the king lusting after another person's wife vulgar. Especially after Kannamba had played Kannagi, the personification of chastity among the Tamils. Mahamaya flopped at the box office even though critics considered it a good film and praised the performances of Kannamba, Chinnappa and Chakrapani.

Surprisingly there were only 10 songs, which was rather unusual for a movie of that era. The reason was the restriction on footage (11,000 feet) imposed during the Second World War (1939-1945). S.V. Venkataraman and Kunnakudi Venkatarama Iyer composed the music with the lyrics by Kambadasan and Sundara Vathiyar. However, only one song rendered by Chinnappa, ‘Silaye nee ennidam', became a hit.

This film, which was shot at the Newtone Studio, had technical finesse. The cinematography was by the maestro Marcus Bartley, while Jiten Banerjee (camera), F. Nagoor (art) and Dinshaw K. Tehrani (sound), famed film technicians of that period, and directors of Newtone Studio contributed to the gloss.

There were dances by M. S. Saroja (later Mrs. Raghunath) which were choreographed by M. Meenakshisundaram Pillai and Pandit Bholonath Sharma, a Kashmiri who came down to Madras to work in films. His wife was the noted film star B.S. Saroja and sadly Sharma died in a car accident.

Elangovan was credited as co-director with A. Kasilingam, a fine editor as assistant director, who later became a noted filmmaker.

Despite the pluses, technical and creative, Mahamaya did not make the grade.

Remembered for technical finesse and M. G. Chakrapani's impressive performance.

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