Cinema

Raja Vikrama (1950)

Interesting line: Raja Vikrama  

Kempraj, brother of Devraj Urs, a former Chief Minister of Karnataka, was involved in acting and movie production during the 1950s. A member of the extended Mysore Royal family, he lived in Mylapore, Madras, where he produced films in Tamil and Kannada.

The first was Raja Vikrama made in Tamil and Kannada. The Kannada title was Shaniswara Mahatmey. Dynamic, he was ably supported by his wife Lalitha, an M.A. degree-holder. Indeed, she played one of the three heroines, and around thousand feet were shot with her. But distributors were not interested because they felt her voice was manly. Exit Lalitha, and enter Pandari Bai in one of her early roles as heroine. Lalitha, however, managed the financial side of the business in excellently.

A king (Kempraj) who incurs the displeasure of Sani (Saturn) undergoes many difficulties in life. He loses his legs which are cut off when he is accused of stealing a woman's (Rajamma) jewels, which are actually swallowed by Sani disguised as a gigantic swan! After many calamities, the king realises that one cannot fight Sani and prays to him to restore his happiness. He reigns again with his three queens played by Jayamma, Rajamma and Pandari Bai.

A well woven tale (story: Kempraj; script and lyrics: Chidambaram A. M. Nataraja Kavi), Kempraj with his handsome screen presence fitted the role of the king well.

The glamour quotient was provided by Rajamma and Pandari Bai.

The well-known stunt composer and actor of his day ‘Stunt' Somu played the commander-in-chief who tries to usurp the throne while the king is away facing problems.

The music was composed by the well-known Carnatic musician, musicologist and painter S. Rajam, who passed away recently. He also sang playback for the hero.

A popular group-dance song, ‘Varaporaan mappilai murukkuvaan meesayai', was a straight lift from the popular Hindi movie Badi Behen, ‘Chupchup kadeho zaroor koi bhaath hai'. AV. Meiyappan also used the same tune (‘Enni enni paarka manam') in his hit movie Vazhkai (1950), which introduced Vyjayanthimala to filmdom.

The film was shot at Star Combines Studios, the first studio to be established in Kodambakkam by A. Ramaiah. Sadly, this studio vanished in course of time and today the Kodambakkam Bus Terminus stands on the same site.

The comic element was provided by the comedy actors of yesteryear, T.V. Sethuraman and K. S. Angamuthu.

Pandari Bai (1928-2003) was one of the most active actors in South Indian Cinema. She acted in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi films. Not many are aware that she was an actor on contract with AVM Studios, and acted in a Hindi film Bahar under the screen name Padmini! A beautiful woman with enormous talent, she also performed ‘Harikatha Kalakshepam' even in her preteens. Deeply religious, she built a temple for Panduranga in Kodambakkam. She made her debut in 1943 in Mysore T. Chowdaiah's cult Kannada movie, Vani. She was first seen in Tamil in an uncredited small role in the record-breaking hit, Haridas (1944). She plays the role of a skimpily-clad girl, whom the hero (Thyagaraja Bhagavathar) chases on horseback in the opening song sequence, ‘Vaazhvilore thirunaal'.(Pandari Bai told this writer years later that Bhagavathar profusely apologised for making her, then a teenager, run in the woods barefooted, while he rode comfortably seated on a horse!)

The film did not do well in Tamil, but its Kannada version was a box office success encouraging Kempraj to launch his next production. Again, a two language movie, Karkottai (1954, Jaladurga in Kannada), was adapted from the Alexander Dumas classic, ‘The Count of Monte Cristo.' It had in both versions the glamorous Krishnakumari and Sandhya (Jayalalitha's mother) in main roles.

Remembered for interesting storyline and pleasing music.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 5:56:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/Raja-Vikrama-1950/article16366596.ece

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