Anarkali (1955)

Anjali Devi, A. Nageswara Rao, S.V. Rangarao, Kannamba, Nagaiah, Surabhi Balasaraswathi, D. Hemalatha, Dr. V.C. Kamaraju, Peketi Sivaram, Mahankali Venkaiah.

August 28, 2014 04:34 pm | Updated 04:47 pm IST

Anjali Devi in Anarkali. Photo: Special Arrangement

Anjali Devi in Anarkali. Photo: Special Arrangement

Early1954. Their maiden production, ‘Paradesi’ turning an average grosser, the bosses of Anjali Pictures, actress Anjali Devi and her music director- husband Adinarayana Rao toyed with the idea of taking up folklore for their second production. Himself a writer, Adinarayana Rao formed a team with Samudrala Senior, to create a folk tale that could work at the box-office. Popular novelist of the time, Kovvali, was also invited into the team. But, soon they realised that it was a time-consuming affair. While work on it was still on, Anjali and Adinarayayna Rao thought of producing another movie. The success of Filmistan’s ‘Anarkali’ (1953) in Hindi attracted their attention. The legendary romance between Prince Salim and commoner Anarkali, though has no basis whatsoever in history, appealed to all sections of the audience. This prompted Anjali Pictures to make ‘Anarkali’ in Telugu, putting in abeyance their folklore project. (It was later produced under the title ‘Suvarna Sundari,’ which created box-office history not only in Telugu but in Tamil and Hindi as well).

The Story : Nadira and her tribe migrate from Persia to Agra. Bowled over by her mellifluous voice and beauty, Prince Salim introduces himself to her as a soldier and the two fall in love, meeting regularly at the Anar (pomegranate) garden. While strolling in his garden, Emperor Akbar, impressed by her singing, bestows on her the title, ‘Anarkali.’ When her singing brings back to consciousness his son Salim, who is grievously injured in the war and goes into a coma, Akbar makes her the court dancer. This upsets Gulnar, the former court dancer, who has secret ambitions of marrying the Prince. On the day of Prince Salim’s coronation, Gulnar mixes alcohol in Anarkali’s drink who, under its influence, expresses her love for Salim. This angers Akbar, who orders her to be imprisoned. Salim rebels against his father but his mother Jodhabai stops him at the battle field. Salim is held captive and the Emperor orders capital punishment for the lovers. Anarkali is taken to a distant place to be buried alive. Salim rushes to save her, but by the time he reaches there she is already buried. He bangs his head on her grave and dies.

Cast and Crew : With an experienced cast and technicians (cinematography Kamal Ghosh, art director and sound recordist A.K. Sekhar, art directors Vali and Thota, editor N.S. Prakasam) and a blockbuster for reference (Hindi ‘Anarkali’), it was an easy job for Vedantam Raghavaiah to write the screenplay and direct the movie. But credit goes to him for making the movie crisper than the Hindi version. Anjali Devi as Anarkali, ANR as Salim, S.V. Rangarao (Akbar), Kannamba (Jodhabai) and Nagaiah (Raja Mansingh) gave dignified portrayals. Surabhi Balasaraswati played Gulnar.

Associate director Gadiraju Kesavarao enacted a brief role as Tansen and mouthed the saaki – ‘Madana Manohara Sundara Naari’ (Ghantasala) in the famous song – Rajasekhara Nee Pai Moju Theeraledura… ’ (sung by Jikki). In fact Samudrala made a commendable contribution with his dialogue (‘Yenaadu valapu theepe kaani kadupu theepi thelusukolevayya’ – Jodhabai to Salim) and soulful lyrics.

Apart from good performances backed by excellent technical support, the soul of the movie is its music. Though Penupathruni Adinarayana Rao borrowed a few tunes from the Hindi version – the signature tune – Jeevithame Saphalamu (Ye zindagi usiki hai …in Hindi ) and Ravoyi Sakhaa… ( Aa jaane wafaa …) - the other super hit numbers like Rajasekharaa…, Kalise Nelaraju… (Ghantasala-Jikki), Thaagi thoolenani thaliche lokamu… ( Jikki) and Andachandalugani… (P. Susheela) are original compositions of the maestro. He brought Heer method of singing to Telugu cinema with – Prema Brathuku Balichesina Amarajeevi Anarkali … the opening scene song introducing the tragic tale.

Trivia : ‘Anarkali’ was first made as a silent film in 1928 by Imperial Film Company, Bombay, with D. Billimoria as Salim and Sulochana (Ruby Mayer) as Anarkali; Sulochana played Jodhabai in the 1953 talkie version in which Pradeep Kumar and Bina Rai played the lead roles. K. Asif’s magnum opus ‘Mughal E Azam’ (1960) had the same theme.

During his college days, N.T. Ramarao used to play the role of Salim in Muddukrishna’s stage play ‘Anarkali.’ Much later in 1978 he made ‘Akbar Salim Anarkali’ with himself playing Akbar, Jamuna as Jodhabai, Balakrishna as Salim and Deepa as Anarkali. Interestingly C. Ramachandra, who had composed the music (except for the song – ‘Aa Jaane Wafaa’ which was tuned by Khemchand Prakash’s son Vasanth Prakash) for the Hindi ‘Anarkali,’ gave the music for this Telugu film too and Md. Rafi sang for Balakrishna.

Anjali Pictures ‘Anarkali’ was launched on March 11, 1954 at the Neptune Studios. The outdoor scenes were shot in Mysore. The movie was also dubbed into Tamil and met with success.

During the film’s shooting, an eight-year-old girl came to the sets along with her father, sneaked into the costume room and wore Anarkali’s dress, complete with the ‘thurayi’ (feather crown), and came out. An amused Anjali Devi asked her who she was. The girl gave her name as Saraswathi. Anjali fondly patted her. Saraswathi later rose to become the popular South Indian actress ‘Urvasi’ Sarada!

Released on April 28, 1955, ‘Anarkali’ became a musical hit and celebrated its 100-day function on August 6 that year at Vijayawada.

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