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Samsaram 1951

The Telugu tearjerker Samsaram, directed by L. V. Prasad, created history of sorts in 1950. When Gemini Studios’ boss S. S. Vasan screened the film for his staff, family and friends, they sobbed their hearts away. Vasan bought the film’s Tamil and Hindi rights.

Vasan launched the remake of Samsaram simultaneously in accordance with his policy of making movies in two languages with separate negatives. It was economical because he could use the same sets, costumes, etc. After the success of Chandralekha, he had realised that the Hindi audience would accept south Indian actors in major roles. Of course, there was a drawback in such a system. Most south Indian artistes could not speak Hindi or had a bad accent. It was therefore necessary to engage dubbing artistes. Vasan had a Hollywood style dubbing studio set up.

He decided to stick to the original Telugu story and its film version as close as possible using even the tunes of the original. One of them is the famous duet in which a girl and her friends in a car and the hero's younger brother in a cart are involved in clashing and making wisecracks.

Samsaram is a sentimental family drama of a struggling clerk leading a contented life with his loving wife and two children. Their happiness is ruined with the arrival of his scheming mother and sister. The clerk soon disappears, abandoning his family, and his brother comes to their rescue. Mischief mongers use this opportunity to suggest an immoral relationship between the two. In frustration, the clerk’s wife sends the children to beg on the streets. Years later, the grown-up son, now working in a mill, meets a bearded beggar who, unknown to him, is his father! He gets him a job in the mill. Later, the family is reunited and all live happily thereafter.

The film was directed in a convincing and lachrymose manner by Chandru, the chief editor of Gemini Studios. Regretfully, Chandru passed away young in an automobile accident. His demise was a great loss not only to Gemini Studios but also to south Indian cinema.

Samsaram was released in 1951 to stunning success, as was the Hindi version. Its emotionally strong and sentimental storyline, elements, and convincing performances by M. K. Radha, Pushpavalli, Sriram, Vanaja, M. S. Sundari Bai and T. R. Ramachandran contributed to its box-office success.

However, there was considerable criticism, especially a scathing review by ‘Kalki’ Krishnamurthi in his popular weekly magazine Kalki. The song, ‘Amma pasikkuthey, thaaye pasikkuthey,’ was objected to on several grounds by Kalki, who argued that no mother would ever stoop to that level. Ironically, the song became a hit and was sung by many young beggars on the streets of Tamil Nadu!

Music was another factor which contributed to the movie’s success. Emani Sankara Sastri, an eminent Carnatic musician and veena exponent, was the music director, while the old-timer at Gemini Studios, M.D. Parthasarathy, supervised his work. Sastri introduced a new playback singer, A. M. Raja. Though Raja’s voice was rather thin, he made a mark with his song in this movie, ‘Samsaram... Samsaram…’ and soon became successful.

Remembered for: the excellent performances, deft direction, hit music and the controversy behind the beggar song.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 10:03:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-columns/blast-from-the-past-samsaram-1951/article6668028.ece

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