Rishyashringar (1941)

Vasundhara Devi, Ranjan, S. Balachandar, G. Pattu Iyer, Kumari Rukmini, T. E. Krishna- machari, K. N. Ramamurthi Iyer, R. K. Ramasami, M. S. Murugesam, T. V. Sethuraman, V. N. Pankajam and K. N. Kamalam

Vasundhara, the glamour girl of the late 1930s-1940s, was one of the popular multi-faceted artistes of South India. Singer, movie star and more, she made her debut in cinema in 1941 with the Tamilnadu Talkies' mythological, Rishyashringar, produced by the sadly forgotten south Indian movie pioneer S. Soundararajan. Though directorial credit was given to Soundararajan, the film was directed by another talented filmmaker, of yester decades, lawyer-turned-writer-director T. G. Raghavachari (Acharya).

Rishyashringar was a slice of Hindu mythology. It was about the title character who had the gift of bringing rain wherever he was present. Sage Vibandakar (Pattu Iyer) who brought him up, after finding him in the woods, raised him cloistered from temptations of every kind. A growing boy, he had never seen any other human, except for his adoptive father.

A king (Krishnamachari) is cursed by a pious Brahmin, resulting in a drought affecting his kingdom. Hearing about Rishyashringar's ability to bring rain, he sends many messengers to him but without success. Finally, he sends a young woman, a slave in his palace, Maya, (Vasundhara) along with a few other women. Rishyashringar, who has never seen a woman, falls for Maya's charms. When the sage is away, he follows Maya to the kingdom, where to the delight of the king, rain pours, washing away the drought. The sage realises that no young man can be kept away from women and agrees to the marriage of the lovers, who live happily thereafter.

The boy Rishyashringar was played by a 14-year-old, later day veena wizard and multitalented filmmaker, S. Balachandar. He sang sings four songs in the film — ‘Suprajyothi suryan idho', ‘En arumai maaney', ‘Papa pahaari' and ‘Idhuvum en punniyamey' (music: Sarma Brothers and Chittoor V. Nagaiah; and lyrics: Papanasam Rajagopala Iyer). His singing and diction were excellent for his age. Many of his friends wondered why he did not pursue vocal music before he emerged a veena wizard. The Sarma Brothers were a talented duo of violinists then working for All India Radio. They composed background music and tunes for many movies of that era. Today, they are totally forgotten.

The grown-up Rishyashringar was played by the swashbuckling star of Chandralekha fame, Ranjan. This was his film debut and, in the pre-production ads, his name appeared as R. Ramani, B.A. (original name, Venkataramana Sarma). Camera wizard Jiten Banerjee of Newtone Studios christened him Ranjan because he felt the Mylaporean looked like a Bengali. A diploma holder in music, Ranjan also sang a few songs in the movie. Vasundhara as the seducer created waves. Expectedly she sang and some numbers such as ‘Anandamey un kaatchi' and ‘ Naaney bhagyavathi Naliniye' became hits. She also sang a western tune ‘ Enai thaiyai purindh!'

Rishyashringar was a major success, establishing Ranjan and Vasundhara firmly on the ladder of fame. Rukmini, who was earlier Baby Rukmini, now grown up into an attractive young woman, was introduced as Kumari Rukmini in a supporting role.

Remembered for: the melodious music and the impressive performances of Vasundhara, Ranjan and the teenage Balachandar.


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