blast from the past Columns

Rajasuyam (1942)


Serukalathur Sama was one of the leading personalities of Tamil cinema of the past decades. He hailed from a Thanjavur village named Sirukalathur, which became Serukalathur over the years. Sama was a handsome man with charisma and an excellent bass voice. He was interested in theatre and singing, and looking for brighter morrows, he moved to Madras. Somewhat surprisingly, he became a clerk in the well-known Cosmopolitan Club of Madras, which, back then, was a beehive of high-society activity.

His excellent handwriting attracted the attention of many of the members. One of them was Ananthanarayanan Narayanan, who established Srinivasa Cinetone, the first sound recording studio of south India in Kilpauk (the site was known as ‘Nadar Gardens’). He brought Sama into movies and cast him as Lord Krishna. His good looks and singing created a good impression. Thus began the excellent career of Sama who not only made a mark as a star but also produced films, taking on lease the old National Movietone Studio on Poonamallee High Road, changing its name to Bharat Cinetone.

Besides, he directed films along with a lawyer-friend, and both signed their films Sama-Ramu. He made and played the title role in Shylock, a movie that adapted Shakespeare’s classic The Merchant Of Venice. He used the costumes of Shakespearean times and the names in the original play — such as Shylock, Portia, Bassanio, Antonio, and such.

That was not all. He even brought out a songbook, which contained all the dialogues of the film, and sold it for one anna (during that period, the Indian rupee consisted of 16 annas). These achievements of Sama have sadly gone virtually unnoticed. He played many major roles in important films such as Chintamani, Sakunthalai, Marmayogi and several others.

Rajasuyam was based on the popular episode from the epic The Mahabaratha. The story was about the yagna being performed by the Pandavas with the help of Krishna, which was opposed by Duryodhana, Sisupala, Dantavakra and others. With the help of Krishna, the yagna is successfully completed and Krishna crowns the eldest Pandava Dharmaputhra with the title ‘Samrat’.

Expectedly, Sama played Lord Krishna while L.N. Somayajulu, now forgotten, played Arjuna. Former popular schoolmaster-turned-well-known-stage and screen actor T.E. Krishnamachari (popularly known as TEK) played Dharmaputhra. Popular singer and actor V.N. Sundaram was sage Narada. Noted bodybuilder C.S.D. Singh played Bhima, flexing his muscles. Draupathi was K.V. Jayagowri, an attractive artiste who was active during that period. P.R. Mangalam, M.S. Murugesam and others provided the comic relief.

Sama sang many songs, both solo and duets. Sundaram as Narada also sang, using his expertise as a trained Carnatic musician. Bhishma also sings (this role was played by S.G. Kasi Iyer, the brother of the legendary S.G. Kittappa). The lyrics were written by Papanasam Sivan and his brother Papanasam Rajagopala Iyer, with both composing the tunes. Dances were choreographed by Rajkumar and Thiruvengada Mudaliar. The script and dialogue were by R. Balasubramaniam.

Despite the impressive performances of Serukalathur Sama, V.N. Sundaram, TEK, K.V. Jayagowri and others, and the pleasing music of Papanasam brothers, the film did not do well.

Remembered For The familiar epic storyline and the performances of Sama and others.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 3:43:53 AM |

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