Blast from the past Cinema

Thayumanavar (1938)

Thayumanavar (1706 – 1744) was a Tamil philosopher and Hindu saint who propagated the Saiva Siddhanta philosophy. He wrote several hymns of which only 1,454 are now available. His first three songs were sung 250 years ago at the Congress of Religions in Trichinopoly. Thayumanavar's key teaching is to discipline the mind, control desires and meditate peacefully. About the human being and his mind, he remarked, “It is easy to control an elephant, catch a tiger's tail, grab a snake and dance, transmigrate into another body, walk on water or sit on the sea; but it is more difficult to control the mind and remain quiet.”

As for the story of the film… the dharmakartha of the sacred Vedaranyam temple welcomes Muthukrishnan Naicker, the king of Trichy. The grand reception impresses the feudal ruler so much that he makes the temple official his minister. In course of time, the minister marries, and in answer to his prayers a son is born and named Thayumanavan. Meanwhile, Muthukrishnan Naicker passes away. Soon after, the brilliant Thayumanavan is appointed minister by the king’s successor. Thanks to his brilliant ideas, the kingdom advances in several aspects, but the minister’s mind is ever after seeking the philosophical meaning of life. When one day the king asks him about a famine in an area of the kingdom, Thayumanavan squeezes a cloth and the arid area gets rains aplenty!

This miracle understandably astonishes the king and he recognises the greatness of his minister and becomes his disciple. Soon Thayumanavan begins visiting sacred places, meeting people and teaching them values. He prevents animal sacrifice to appease the gods and while on a visit to Rameswaram hit by famine he brings rains through his prayers. Soon he sheds his mortal form and is revered as Saint Thayumanavar….

During the early decades of Tamil Cinema, whenever a story of a saint was planned, Carnatic legend M.M. Dhandapani Desikar was invariably the choice to play the role. Not surprisingly, he played the lead in such movies as Pattinathar and Nandanar. Well trained in religious lore and music, he sang the hymns of saints with depth, verve and melody which left a deep impact on moviegoers.

There were 31 songs of which many were rendered by Desikar in ragas such as Harikambodhi, Kaanada, Senjuritti and Kedaram. There were also comedy songs to please a section of moviegoers rendered by fake swamis trying to seduce women! Such scenes were quite common even in serious films. Sadly, no print of Thayumanavar is known to exist today.

Remembered for the rich singing of Dhandapani Desikar and the scenes featuring holy places.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 11:39:52 PM |

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