Bilhana (1948)


During the early years of Tamil cinema, the same story — from epics, folk tales and such — was used by more than one producer at the same time to make films because there was no copyright of the story. This led to unhealthy competition between two producers vying with each other to release their films first, which resulted in lack of quality. During those days, there were two versions of stories such as Sri Valli and Sarangadhara being made simultaneously.

In 1948, two producers made movies in Tamil based on the same story of Bilhana, the celebrated Kashmiri poet. One was by the famed TKS Brothers who first produced it as a stage play, then as movie in April under the title Bilhanan. In November, the next version was made with stage and singing star K.R. Ramasami as Bilhana, and the well-known dancer-actor of that day A.R. Sakunthala as the lovely princess Yamini. Not many are aware that during the same period, the South Indian movie mogul T.R. Sundaram of Modern Theatres released advertisements announcing his version of Bilhana with M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar as the poet. Sadly, the project was given up as MKT was arrested for his alleged involvement in the sensational Lakshmikanthan murder case.

A king with a lovely daughter Yamini (Sakunthala) engages the famed poet Bilhana (Ramasami) to educate his daughter. And to prevent any romance blossoming between the two, he tells the princess that her guru is visually challenged, and tells the guru that his student has deformities in her face. Besides, he hangs a curtain between the two, and one day while lessons are in progress, the poet is thrilled by the full moon on a cloudless sky. At once, he breaks into a poem, and Yamini wonders how a blind man can sing about the moon with such brilliance. Excited, she pulls down the curtain and finds that Bilhana is a handsome young man while he finds Yamini the personification of female beauty. The two fall in love at once and decide to marry, but the enraged king sentences them to death. However, his friends and people rise in revolt against his decision, and finally he yields, and the two marry to live happily thereafter…

Ramasami made a mark Tamil theatre as a singer, entered movies and soon became one of the ‘singing’ heroes.

However, his major hit came in 1949 with Velaikkaari written by C.N. Annadurai. Sakunthala was a well-trained, talented dancer who acted in a few films. However, her career did not take off as expected. The film, produced by Mubarak Pictures, was scripted by S. Sundarachariar with music by Papanasam Sivan. It was directed by noted filmmaker B.N. Rao (originally Balakrishnan Narayanan Nair) who had made many hits such as Ramabayin Kaathal, Bhooloka Rambha, Gumaasthaavin Penn, and Madanakamarajan, and worked on the screenplay of the magnum opus Chandralekha, along with others.

The film did not do well, as the earlier version by TKS Brothers was still green in the minds of moviegoers.

Remembered For: The interesting storyline, singing of Ramasami and deft direction of B.N. Rao.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 12:01:03 PM |

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