Few film historians know that the movie Bramharishi Viswamithra created history in a very different manner. For the first time in the history of Tamil cinema, a film that was released was withdrawn due to poor response. The director, N. Jagannath, shot a few new scenes with the inimitable N.S. Krishnan and T.A. Mathuram, which were then added to the film that was re-edited and re-released. It did reasonably well. Such was the popularity of the comedy couple Krishnan-Mathuram. This film had the glamorous T.R. Rajakumari, who Kalki (R. Krishnamurthi) described as ‘Kollum vizhiyaal’ (one who could kill with her eyes). She played the seductress, Maneka.
Bramharishi Viswamithra was directed by N. Jagannath In Bramharishi Viswamithra , Menaka is sent by Lord Indra to seduce Sage Vishwamitra who is deep in penance. Indra is worried about the sage becoming too powerful and hence despatches Menaka to distract the sage. She succeeds in her mission and a baby girl is born to them.
Menaka goes back to Indraloka and Vishwamitra resumes his penance. The birds raise the baby who comes to be known as Sakunthala, the heroine of Kalidasa’s Sanskrit play Abhignana Sakunthalam .
The first version of the movie was a silent one called Vishwamitra Menaka . It was made in 1921 by Kanthilal Rathod. The first Bengali version was made in 1952 by Phani Berma, and in the same year it was produced in Hindi by the celebrated Marathi and Hindi filmmaker Baburao Painter.
It was staged as a play in Andhra Pradesh and not surprisingly, superstar of Telugu Cinema N.T. Rama Rao played this role. Recently, his son Balakrishna also made his own version while Tamil superstar and icon Sivaji Ganesan played Vishwamitra in a big budget colour film Raja Rishi produced at great cost with colourful sets and costumes. This was directed by noted editor and director K. Shankar. But the film did not do well as expected.
Tamil film pioneer A. Narayanan made one version in 1936…In the 1940 classic movie of Ellis R. Dungan, Sakunthalai , featuring M.S. Subbulakshmi and another legend, G.N. Balasubramaniam as the lead pair, the American Tamil filmmaker shot a sequence right in the beginning of the movie of a sensuous dance sequence of Menaka seducing Sage Vishwamitra. Menaka was played by Sri Lankan star K. Thavamani Devi.
V. Shantaram made two films with this same story. The first was in 1943 in which his then wife Jayashree played Sakunthala opposite star actor Chandramohan. In the later version, Stree (1961), Shantaram himself played the hero opposite Sandhya .
In Bramharishi Viswamithra , N.S. Krishnan and T.A .Mathuram find the abandoned child and bring her up. Sakunthalai meets and falls in love Dushyantha, the King of Hastinapura when he comes into the forest, and a son, Bharatha, is born to them.
Rajkumari’s dances were choreographed by Subbarao - Prakasha Rao. Lyrics were by Papanasam Sivan while the music was composed by Reema (famous movie star Ranjan’s brother). The hit song ‘Naadhathiley ondru kalandhathu Ulagam’ was sung by Rajakumari. K.R. Ramsingh played Vishwamitra.
Remembered For: the familiar storyline, the scenes with NSK-TAM, dances by Rajakumari and the melodious songs …..