Manimekalai 1940

soulful songs From Manimekalai

soulful songs From Manimekalai  

A soulful musical which attracted attention was talented cameraman-director Bomman Irani’s Manimekalai. Of special interest was that popular singer K. B. Sundarambal faced a movie camera after long for this film based on a Tamil epic.

“Manimekalai” is one of the five great epics in Tamil, the others being “Silappadhikaram”, “Kundalakesi”, “Jeevakachintamani”, and “Valayaapathi”. Seethalai Saathanar wrote “Manimekalai”, a sequel to Ilango Adigal’s “Silappadhikaaram”. It is a folk tale revolving around Manimekalai, daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi, told against the backdrop of Buddhism. Manimekalai was the first screen version of the great epic where K. B. Sundarambal played Manimekalai. Kothamangalam Seenu was the prince in love with her. Seenu was a noted singer-actor of the early decades of Tamil cinema but after Ekambavaanan (1947) he went into oblivion. In his heyday, he played lead roles opposite top stars such as T. R. Rajakumari and Pushpavalli (Rekha’s mother). He passed away a few years ago unsung. The movie is today remembered for the songs written and composed by Papanasam Sivan and his brother Papanasam Rajagopala Iyer and rendered by Sundarambal with verve.Songs such as ‘Aanandamey Yaarukku…’, ‘Niddhiraiyilum Bhayamundo…’, ‘Buddhabhiraaney…’, ‘Namakini Yethu Sogamey…’, and ‘Siraichaalai Enna Seyyum...’ became popular. KBS told this writer years later that during the days of the Freedom Struggle, she sang ‘Siraichaalai Enna Seyyum…’ at many Indian National Congress Party meetings held in the Tamil-speaking districts of the Madras Presidency. She was an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi and Rajaji, and a close friend of Congress leader and inimitable orator S. Sathyamurthi. She was involved in the Freedom Struggle and wore ‘khadhi’ during her lifetime. Her husband, legendary singer and Tamil theatre icon S. G. Kittappa, joined her in singing patriotic songs at Congress meetings in the earlier years before he died suddenly when he was hardly 30. Manimekalai took long to produce (according to Kothamangalam Seenu, it was launched in 1938) due to many reasons, mostly financial, and even after completion, distributors were reluctant to take the film.

As was the practice those days, ‘the film repairer’ N. S. Krishnan was brought on board and he worked on the comedy scenes with T. A. Mathuram and ‘Pulimoottai’ Ramaswami. He wrote, acted, shot and edited the scenes, which were added to the film, making the distributors happy! (In many such films, the comedy scenes were seen by the director of the main film only when the final, edited track was ready for projection!) It was all about a ‘travelling’ sari-vendor (NSK) tempting a married woman (Mathuram)! During the later years, there was another version in which P. Bhanumathi played Manimekalai. In spite of top stars, glamour and better production values, the film fared poorly at the box office.

Remembered for the soulful songs of the Papanasam Brothers, and the immortal melody ‘Siraichaalai Enna Seyyum…’ in Thodi raga rendered by Sundarambal.


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