Mahatma Kabirdas 1936

Mahatma Kabirdas  

Kabirdas was a 14th Century Muslim saint who devoted his life to Rama and his philosophy and helped bring Hinduism and Islam together. Details of his early life are shrouded in mystery, while many noted historians have gone on record saying he lived in Benares (now Varanasi.) A cult figure, he has many followers who still revere him and sing his songs. Interestingly, Kabirdas is a major character in the famous Telugu play ‘Bhaktha Ramadas,' which was all about an ardent devotee of Rama who built a temple in Bhadrachalam, now in Andhra Pradesh, using the funds of the Tanisha or Nawab. He was penalised and sent to prison by the Nawab and, according to legend, Rama and Lakshmana disguised as boys walked in one night to the Nawab's bedroom and returned the money in gold coins!

The character of Kabir in the play ‘Bhaktha Ramadas' is important and two actors earned much fame doing the role on stage. One was Ghantashala Radhakrishnaiah, elder brother of the successful Telugu producer Ghantashala Balaramaiah of Prathibha Pictures, and the other was Parvatha Reddi Ramchandra Reddi. The life of Ramadas was filmed in Telugu during the early Thirties in which Radhakrishnaiah played Kabir and won much praise. It was also a popular stage play enacted by the famous Nawab Rajamanickam Pillai who won the honorific prefix to his name by playing the Nawab with majestic grandeur. It was filmed in Tamil subsequently in the early Thirties in which M. N. Nambiar took his bow as a young boy. Another star who played the Nawab on stage and later became a top Tamil movie star was M. K. Radha (of Chandralekha fame). The multilingual creative film icon Chittoor V. Nagaiah also acted as Ramadas in his early days and made it into a movie. It was a major success but the financial benefits did not reach poor Nagaiah.

Mahatma Kabirdas is about the famed saint who lived a hand-to-mouth existence with his wife Sundarbi and young son Kamal. A wealthy man lusts after the saint's lovely wife and indulges in many plans with his crooked friend to ensnare the chaste woman. However, all his plans are dashed, and many miracles are witnessed in the life of the couple, thanks to the blessings of Lord Rama. The lustful man learns his lesson and seeks the saintly couple's pardon.

T. D.V. Krishnan played Kabir and his performance, according to old-timers, was extremely impressive. Velammal who was active in the early decades of Tamil Cinema played Kabir's wife. Most of the actors in this film are forgotten today.

The screenplay and lyrics were written by Krishnan who played the lead and interestingly he was also the art director of the film. The film was directed by A. Narayanan, one of the pioneers of Tamil Cinema, for Sundaram Talkies owned by the Coimbatore-based P. S. Sathappa Chettiar and his associates.

The film was made at Sundaram Sound Studio (owned by Chettiar) situated in Adayar which later became Sathya Studios and owned by MGR and his family.

The musical score was by celebrated musicologist Prof. P. Sambamurthi. Not many are aware that the professor had his own orchestra and contributed the original background score to some films, including this one. Mahatma Kabirdas has 21 songs in a variety of ragas such as Asaveri and a raga with an unusual name ‘Zillakapi'! According to old-timers, Mahatma Kabirdas performed fairly well at the box office. Sadly, no print of the film is known to have survived.

As was the practice in that era, there was a comedy short ‘Madayargal Sandhippu!' shown along with this film. The legendary Pammal Sambandham Mudaliar wrote it and also acted in it.

Remembered for the background music and the interesting on-screen narration of the pioneer A. Narayanan.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 1:49:38 PM |

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