CINEMA PLUS

Gokuladasi 1949

Honnappa Bhagavathar, a Carnatic musician hailing from Karnataka, was active in Tamil cinema during the 1940s. Not many are aware that he was cast at first as the hero in the mega hit of 1937, Ambikapathi, but was replaced by M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar who created history with this film and also the other 1937 release, Chintamani . When MKT was involved for his alleged role in the sensational Lakshmikantham Murder Case during 1944-1945, he was imprisoned for 30 long months. During that period, many films advertised with MKT were abandoned. Some of them brought on board Honnappa Bhagavathar and were produced.

Honnappa had a pleasant voice and some songs in films such as Valmiki became memorable. However, his Tamil film innings did not last long. He lost heavily when he attempted to produce Tamil movies. Gokuladasi was a mythological concocted by star screenwriter Elangovan. It had three roles for Honnappa — that of Narada, Kamaroopan, a lustful king who faces the curse of Parvathi, and a jeweller who tries his best in disguise to woo the heroine Anuradha (Rajamma). The heroine plays two roles — one as a singer-dancer and a devotee of Parvathi, and another reborn on earth as a devadasi in Gokulam (hence the title!) due to Sage Narada's curse!

The story undergoes many incredible twists and turns with the lustful hero trying his best to seduce the chaste heroine not realising his previous birth and its ramifications. Lord Krishna (Padmini) comes to the aid of the heroine and in the end all are absolved of their curses, and peace is restored.

Lalitha and Padmini had many roles and also performed dances. Rajamma hailed from Karnataka and made a name at first in her home State as a stage and screen actress and also produced a film. Along with her associate B. R. Panthulu, she sailed into Tamil cinema and established herself as a star, thanks to her good looks, acting prowess and singing skills. She played the heroine in quite a few films during the 1940s and with advancing years she moved to playing matriarchal roles at which she was equally successful.

Krishnamurthi, who plays a key role, was fairly active and played the lead in some films such as En Magan . A talented table tennis player, he joined the Army during the war years and slowly faded away from the world of cinema. Well-known comedian Ramachandran evoked laughs in his usual style.

A noted dancer of her day, Sowdhamini played a supporting role. Besides dancing, she played minor roles in many films during the 1940s.

The lyrics were by Papanasam Sivan and his brother Rajagopala Iyer, while the music was composed by the sadly underrated S. V. Venkataraman.

The film was shot at Neptune Studios by K. Subramanyam who wrote the screenplay and directed the film. The associate director was L. Krishnan who later migrated to Malaysia and made a name for himself as one of the top citizens of the country. He was bestowed the title ‘Dato' (equivalent of ‘Sir') by the Malaysian government and he came to be known as ‘Dato' L. Krishnan. Despite the talented cast, melodious music and deft direction, Gokuladasi did not click at the box office.

Remembered for the pleasing music, song and dance numbers by the Travancore Sisters and impressive performances by Rajamma, Honnappa Bhagavathar and T. R. Ramachandran.

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