Blast from the past Friday Review

Mangalyabalam (1959)

ANR and Savitri in 'Mangalyabalam'  

A child marriage was performed in the absence of the girl’s parents. Her enraged father takes away his daughter with him. Growing up in different places, the couple meet at a hill station and fall in love. The young woman was beleaguered between tradition and her love for the young man, when she comes to know that she was an already married woman. The irony was that she fails to recognise her lover as her childhood bridegroom. How things take a turn later led to an engrossing climax in Annapurna Pictures Telugu-Tamil bilingual, Mangalyabalam. With exemplary artistes like Savitri and ANR playing the lead characters and with an up-and-coming but highly skilled director Adurthi Subbarao at the helm, naturally producer D. Madhusudana Rao laughed all the way to the bank as both the versions turned out to be big hits.

In fact, Adurthi created a record of sorts at the beginning of his career when he had directed back to back hits in Telugu and Tamil for the same banner which amounts to four hits in a row – Thodikodallu ( Enga Veettu Mahalakshmi in Tamil) and Mangalyabalam ( Manjal Mahimai). In a way, Mangalyabalam was made possible thanks to one of his debut film (Amarasandesam) producers- Bhavanarayana. It was he who brought a print of the 1954 Bengali film, Agnipareeksha starring Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen based on Asha Purna Devi’s popular novel of the same name. Dukkipati Madhusudana Rao was among those who watched the movie and immediately took a liking to it.

He bought the rights and brought on board Acharya Athreya to rework on the subject along with him and Adurthi, to suit to the sensibilities of the South Indian audience. One of the major changes the trio brought in was while in the original version the girl’s father dies of shock, in Mangalyabalam his character was retained till the last frame.

The Story: To fulfil her sick daughter Sita’s (G. Varalakshmi) wish Parvathamma (Kannamba) performs her eight year old granddaughter Saroja’s (Baby Sasikala/ Savitri) marriage with Sita’s ten-year-old son Chandram (Master Babji/ANR) in the absence of the girl’s parents - her son Paparao and daughter-in-law Kantham (Suryakantham). An infuriated Kantham removes the ‘mangalsutra’ from Saroja’s neck.

The children grew up in different places and meet at a hill station, fall in love not knowing they were cousins and wedded during their childhood. But Parvathamma reveals to Chandram about his childhood marriage. Saroja’s brother Suryam (Master Somnath/ Ramanamurthy) also tells his sister that she was already married to her cousin and gives her the mangalsutra that their mother threw away. Unaware that Sekhar whom she loved and Chandram are one and the same, Saroja keeps a distance from him. Meanwhile her marriage is fixed with distant relative Kailasam (Relangi) who is in love with Meenakshi (Rajasulochana). To reunite with Saroja, Chandram along with Kailasam enacts a drama and brings the story to a happy ending.

Cast & Crew: Adurthi’s innovative style of narrative filming was particularly evident in the song situations. A producer’s director, while they were shooting at Ooty, the Sun played hide and seek for several days with rains lashing the hill station and Adurthi stunned everybody by filming the popular song, ‘vaadina poole vikasinchene’ in a single day before the unit shifted to Tirupati. He received great support from P.S. Selvaraj, director of photography whose work ANR admired. Akkineni Sanjeevi edited the movie. Acharya Athreya’s dialogues besides providing light humour touched one’s heart strings in emotional scenes. His coinages – yenaatikaina meeru meeru oka nenega parayidaanni (any day you are all one, only I an outsider) delivered by Suryakantham and ‘iha pothe…’ (and then…) used by Ramana Reddy who played Sanyasi Panthulu, the caretaker of S.V. Rangarao’s fields in the village, are still popular.

ANR’s role was treated with more banter than in the Bengali version and the acting honours equally belong to Savitri and ANR. Seasoned actors Kannamba, Suryakantham and SVR were pre-eminent in portraying their characters.

Master Venu composed the tunes for Kosaraju and Sri Sri’s lyrics. He borrowed only one tune from the Bengali film’s composer Anupam Ghatak, for the song – penu cheekataye lokam… (P. Susheela, Ghantasala) from its original version – ‘ke tumi amare dako…’ (Whoever you are call me – evaro nuvvu nannu pilu) sung by Sandhya Mukerjee.

The other popular numbers were Hayigaa aalu magalai kaalam gadapali (lyric: Sri Sri, singers: P. Susheela, ‘udutha’ Sarojini, chorus), chekkili meeda cheyyi cherchi chinnadaana (Kosaraju; Jikki, Madhavapeddi Sathyam), akasaveedhilo andaala jabili and vaadina poole vikasinchene (Sri Sri; Susheela, Ghantasala).

Trivia: Mangalyabalam was said to be the first Telugu film to shoot in Ooty and it was also Savitri’s first visit to the hill town.

The Tamil version Manjal Mahimai was simultaneously made retaining all the leading actors and technicians with two changes to the cast – Thangavelu and Balaji replacing Relangi and Ramanamurthy respectively. Released on January 14, 1959 the movie ran for hundred days.

Uttam Kumar produced and acted a Hindi version of Agni Pareeksha in 1967 titled, Chotisi Mulaqat starring Vyjayanthimala.

Mangalyabalam was released on January 7, 1959 and for the first time in the history of Telugu cinema, the hundred days function was held in an open arena, the Municipal High School grounds, Vijayawada with thousands of cine fans participating and presided over by the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Kasu Brahmananda Reddy. Mangalyabalam celebrated a silver jubilee run as well and also won the certificate of Merit at the 6th National film awards.


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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 6:51:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/mangalyabalam/article7734651.ece

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