“Shree Parvathi Devi” – Kalahasthi Mahathmyam (1954) – Telugu Feature Film

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Faded Into Oblivion Series by Vicky Iyengar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

 

“Sree Parvathi Devi” – “శ్రీ పార్వతి దేవి” – Sri Kalahasthi Mahathmyam – “శ్రీ కాళహస్తి మహాత్మ్యం” (1954), Voice: P Susheela (పులపాక సుశీల) – Composed by R. Sudarsanam, R Govardhanam, Saluri Rajeswara Rao (ర సుదర్శనం, ర గోవర్ధనం, సాలూరి రాజేశ్వర రావు)

An Eclectic Rendering! – Experience the “Bhakthi Rasa” in the Nightingale’s Voice


Kalahasthi Mahathyam is a 1954 Telugu film produced by C R Basavaraju & Gubbi Veeranna under the AVM Banner. The Film was directed by noted H. L. N. Simha starring Kannada Kantheerava Rajkumar. This is the only non-Kannada film starring Rajkumar. It is a musical hit film with some melodious Bhakti songs written by Tholeti Venkata Reddy. The music score was provided by R. Goverdhanam and R. Sudarshanam & Saluri Rajeswara Rao. The movie is a remake of Bedara Kannappa, a popular Kannada film which also stars Rajkumar in the lead role. The movie is based on the folktale of the hunter Kannappa who proves his extreme devotion to Lord Shiva by plucking out both of his eyes. The Film met with Box Office success. The cast included well known actors of the 1950-56 era such as K.Malathi, Kumari, Rushyendramani, Rajasulochana, Kuchalakumari, Yellammadevi, Rajakumar, M.Lingamurthy, Padmanabham, A.V.Subbarao, H.R.Ramachandra Sastri, M.R.Dasappa, N.R.Raju, Ratan, M.R.Sanjappa, Narayana, Ramachandra, Mani Ayyar.

R Sudarsanam was the only in-house composer for AVM Productions conducting the “Saraswathi Stores Orchestra” (initially established as a “gramaphone” record store). His association with AVM lasted for over 25 years with numerous movies like Sababathi (1941), Sri Valli (1944), Naam Iruvar (1947), Penn (Ladki 1953), Jeevitham (Vazhkai 1949), Jathakaphala (Jatakaphalam 1952), Bhaktha Ravana (Bhookailas 1958), Bhakthi Mahima, Oor Iravu (1951), Chellapillai (1955), Kula Deivam (1956), Parasakthi (1952), Kalathur Kannamma (1959), Deiva Piravi (Produced by Kamaal Bros 1960) & Annai (1962), Nanum Oru Penn (1963). Upon leaving AVM, he became an independent composer for movies – Manimagudam, Poomalai, Anbu Karangal, Thrichadi, Kasavuthattam, Kudumbam, Hrydhayathinte Nirangal & Pradeshikavaarthgal. In his early years, he is known to have followed the compositional & melodic style (Punjabi Folk) of the noted Hindi composers Husnlal Bhagathram. Husanlal Bhagatram (considered to be the first duo in Indian film industry in 1944) were popular Hindi film composers in 1940s and 1950s. They served in the era of Naushad, Anil Biswas and C. Ramachandra. They trained famous music director Shankar of Shankar Jaikishan, music director Khayyam and singer Mahendra Kapoor. Husnlal & Bhagatram got their first break in the film ‘Chand’ in 1944. They gave their first hit with ‘do dilon ko yeh duniya milne bhi nahin deti” sung by Manju. Bhagatram (Sudarsanam has used Harmonium based interludes in many of his earlier compositions) was an ace harmonium player and Husnlal was an accomplished violinist and a good classical singer. In the late 1940s, they became the most celebrated composers with the success of films like “Pyar Ki Jeet” and “Badi Bahen”. The song “Enni Enni Parkum Manam” (sung by M S Rajeswari) in Vazhkai (1949) was adapted from “Badi Bahen” (1948) – “Chup Chup Khade Ho Zaroor Koi Baat Hai” (Lata & Premlata) – a Husnlal Bhagathram composition. Some of R Sudarsanam – P Susheela hits include – “Aaadatha Manmum”, “Aaadhavan Udhithaan”, “Azhagiya Mithilai”, “Ungal Azhagenna”, “Balya Hrudaya”, “Iravu Mudindhuvidum”, “Kangalin Varthaigal”, Raamanukke Seethai”, “Eammara Sonnadhu”, “Kanna Karumai”, “Poo Pole”, “Indhuleke, “Kanna Karmugil” & “Vellathamara”.


Acclaimed Telugu film composer Saluri Rajeswara Rao’s Sahithyam (repertoire) cannot be described by “metes” & “bounds”. They are simply “immortal”. A child prodigy like Susarla Dakshinamurthy, he could identify the Carnatic music ragas at the tender age of four and by the time he was seven, he started giving stage performances. He met such stalwarts as Kundan Lal Saigal (Actor/Singer) and Pankaj Mullick (Composer for New Theatres, Calcultta) and became a disciple of Kundan Lal Saigal (K L Saigal) and learned Classical Hindustani music for a few months. Among the classical ragas, Bhimplas (Abheri), Karaharapriya, Sindhu Bhairavi, Kafi, Kalyani, Pahadi, and Malkauns were frequently incorporated into his compositions. Both Pulapaka Susheela & Saluri Rajeswara Rao are the recipients of the prestigious “Raghupathi Venkaiah Award” by the Government of Andhra Pradesh for their outstanding contribution to Telugu Cinema.The year 1939 saw Saluri become a full-fledged music composer for film “Jeyaprada” which was directed by Chitrapu Narasimha Rao. In the 1940’s these are called “Private Paatas” or “Private Recordings” and the stage poetry was metamorphasizing into modern lyric. Apart from the mentioned song, “Thummeda Oka saari”, “Kopamela Radha”, “Podarintilona”, “Rave Rave Koyila”, “Paata Paduma Krishna” all of which were written by his father Sanyasi Raju. From the 60’s they are also called “Lalitha Sangeetham”. This immortal recording showcases the composer’s vocal throw and his astute grasp of the Bhavams, Swarams and Sangadhis and this training he imparted to Mata Saraswathi Susheelamma that shaped her renditions in Telugu Cinema and hence became immortal.

Pulapaka Susheela & S Rajeswara Rao collaborated to produce very many immortal melodies in the Telugu Cinema. Some of the memorable films for which he composed music are: “Vikramathithan”, “Premapasam”, “Paanai Pidithaval Bhagyasali”, “Amaradevi”, “Iru Sagotharagal”, “Aval Yaar” besides “Chadralehka”, “Allauddin Adbhutha Deepam”, “Mangamma Sabatham”, “Apoorva Sagotharaagal”, “Missiamma”, “Chakradhari”, “Chenchu Lakshmi”, “Bheesma”, “BhaleRamudu”, “Iddaru Mithurulu”, “Kulagothralu”, “Baktha Jeyadeva”, “Amarasilpi Jakkannachari”, “Baktha Prahalatha”, “Rangula Ratnam”, “Vipranarayana”, “Dr Chakravarthy”, and “Chitti Chellalu”, “Chandrelekha” and “Nishan” (Aboorva Sahodarargal). Saluri was a trendsetter of light music in Telugu. Some Immortal Compositions in Saluri – P Susheela’s collaboration are – “Niluvuma Niluvuma” (Amara Silpi Jakkana), “Paadavela Radhika (Iddaru Mitrulu), Ee Musi Musi Navvula (Iddaru Mitralu), “Kila Kila Navvula (Chaduvukunna Ammayilu), “Amma Bangaru Talli ( Palnati Yuddham), “Andala Rupamu” (Bhale Ammiyulu), ‘Balanura Madana” (Missamma), “Ekkada Dachavoi” (Rani Ratnaprabha), “Palakadalipai” (Chenchulakshmi), “Chelikadu Ninne” (Kulagothralu), “Kalam Kani Kalamlo” (Appu Chesi Pappu Koodu), “Mahadeva Shambo” (Bheeshma) to name a few.

Note: After leaving Gemini as its Resident Composer (Mangamma Sapatham,Chandralekha, Aboorva Sahodarargal), he did unite for a Telugu Classic with B Nagi Reddy (Vijaya -Vauhini) titled “Malleswari” (1951) starring N T Rama Rao & P Bhanumathi. It was a sensational musical chartbuster. Especially listen to “Pilichina Bhiguvatara” which was crooned by Paluvayi Bhanumathi. Then came “Vipranarayana”, “Missiamma” and other musical hits, in 100s – Tamil and Telugu and a few in Kannada. Some of the films might have failed at the box office, but his music has never let down cine-goers and it lingered in their thoughts well after their departure and such was the impact that his compositions had on laymen. When “Missiamma” was made into “Miss Mary” – in Hindi, Hemanth Kumar was brought in as the composer. He composed mostly original tunes for the Hindi flick, but retained one – “Brindavanamum Nandakumaranum” which Hemanth liked so much that Saluri magnanimously let Hemanth retain it in the Hindi version.


R Govardhanam (brother of R Sudarsanam) was also a part of the AVM ensemble in his formative years assisting his brother. A composer of immense talent (could write down the complex “Todi Raga” notes played by Nadaswaram Artiste T Rajarathinam Pillai), he initially trained under the legendary C R Subburaman and later on moved to AVM. He was the conductor in the orchestra of MSV-TKR during the years 1960-70. He also assisted Ilayaraja, Vijayabhaskar and few others, performing the roles of a conductor and arranger. As an independent composer, his filmography included: Jaadhagam (1953), “Nagula Chavithi”, “Adarsha Sathi”, “Moga Nomu”, “Orey Vazhi” (1959), “Kairasi” (1960), “Constable Koothuru” “Pattanathil Bhoodham”(1967), “Poovum Pottum”(1968), “Anjal Petti 520”, “Porchilai” (1969), “Bomma Borusa Jeevitham”(1971) and “Varaprasadham” (1976). Some memorable hits of R Govardanam – P Susheela include: “Chigurakula Vuyaalalo”, “Andha Sivagami”, “Edhirpaaramal Virundhali”, “Poovu Vale”, “Ala Unte Ila”, “Gonthuvippi”, “Kannum Kannum”, “Kaathirundhen”, “Ennam Pola Kannan” & “Nadaswara Osaiyile”


Soundtrack: The soundtrack consisted of 18 songs with lyrics penned by Tholeti Venkata Reddy. The tunes were composed by R. Sudarsanam, R. Govardhanam & Saluri Rajeswara Rao and some of them became huge hits. Noted singers Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao, A. M. Rajah, M. L. Vasantha Kumari, T. S. Bhagavathi & P Susheela provided the playback. “Aasale Minukulai Tunakalai” (T S Bhagavathi), Chaalu Chaalu Navamohanaa (M L Vasanthakumari), Chekonavayya Mamsamide(Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao), “Chemmachekka Laadudaam” (A M Raja & T S Bhagavathi), “Choochi Choochi Naa” (M L Vasanthakumari), “Devaa Sevakulanna” (Ghantasala), “Jayajaya Mahaadeva” (Ghantasala), “Maayaajaalamuna Munigevu” (A M Raja), “Madhuramu Sivamantramu” (Ghantasala), “Om Namassivaayaa,Mahesaa” (Ghantasala), “Paahee Sankaraa Maampaahee” (Ghantasala), “Paradhanamula Paravanitala” (Padmanabham), “Phalinche Naa Poojaa” (T S Bhagavathi), “Sree Paarvateedevi Chelkove” (P Susheela), “Sri Kalahasteeswara” (A M Raja), “Swaamee Chanchalamaina” (Ghantasala)


The mentioned composition is a rare masterpiece and was quite popular. The song sequence was pictured on actress Kumari or “Maayapilla Kumari” (Nagaraja Kumari Maddela). She was a renowned south Indian actress of the 40s era, playback singer, musician, beauty queen, and a model. She was the first Indian actress to play dual-roles in film. She pioneered the art of playing multiple roles in a single film. She was also one of the first Indian faces used by Lux (soap), a brand that pioneered female celebrity endorsement.  “Dasavataram” in 1936 was her debut film, where she played three roles as Lakshmi, Seetha and Yashodhara. In 1939, she played the heroine in her second film “Amma” directed by Niranjan Pal. She portrayed the role of Chitralekha in “Usha” in the same year. She was then hired to do three films for Vauhini Studios.  Her major breakthrough film was “Sumangali” in 1940, and since then she was known as Kumari. She played  an innocent housemaid in “Devatha” in 1941. She competed with Chittor V. Nagiah and Tanguturi Suryakumari and earned a great repertoire. She collaborated with K. S. Prakash Rao in “Tulasidas”. She was one of the very few actress of that time that voiced her own songs (along with Tanguturi & Bezwada Rajarathinam). After a five-year hiatus, she acted in the successful film “Mugguru Maratillu” in 1946. She was well recognized (first one to don a dual character in movies ) for enacting the dual role (Asha & Rupa) in “Maayapilla” (1951). She subsequently acted in the classic film “Malliswari” (1951) as Maharani in the NTR-Bhanumathi Classic, Akasharaju (1951), Pempudu Koduku (1953) and Sri Kalahasthi Mahathmyam (1954).

Pulapaka Susheela rendered the song with such grace for the renowned actress who made a mark in the early Telugu films of the 30s and 40s.  Listen to her beautiful and distinctive tone, flawless vocal dynamics in this Bhakthi laden song. The song has a mystical aura to it (the cinematography).

Lyrics: Toleti Venkat Reddy
శ్రీ పార్వతి దేవి చెల్కోవే శైలకుమారి
మా పూజలే తల్లి గౌరీ శాంకరి
శ్రీ పార్వతి దేవి చెల్కోవే శైలకుమారి
మా పూజలే తల్లి గౌరీ శాంకరి
 shree parvathi devi chelkove shailakumari
ma pujale thalli gowri shankari
shree parvathi devi chelkove shailakumari
ma pujale thalli gowri shankari
 ప్రార్కు నీవే పాపహారి పద్మపత్ర నేత్రి
కాపాడ రావమ్మ కాత్యాయని
ప్రార్కు నీవే పాపహారి పద్మపత్ర నేత్రి
కాపాడ రావమ్మ కాత్యాయని
praarku neeve paapahaari padmapathra nethri
kaapada raavamma kathyayani
praarku neeve paapahaari padmapathra nethri
kaapada raavamma kathyayani
నిన్నే నమ్మినాను తల్లి అన్నపూర్ణ దేవి
పాలించ్చ రావమ్మ పరమేశ్వరి
నిన్నే నమ్మినాను తల్లి అన్నపూర్ణ దేవి
పాలించ్చ రావమ్మ పరమేశ్వరి

ninnu namminaanu thalli annapoorna devi
paalincha raavamma parameshwari
ninnu namminaanu thalli annapoorna devi
paalincha raavamma parameshwari

 శ్రీ పార్వతి దేవి చెల్కోవే శైలకుమారి
మా పూజలే తల్లి గౌరీ శాంకరి
శ్రీ పార్వతి దేవి చెల్కోవే శైలకుమారి
మా పూజలే తల్లి గౌరీ శాంకరి

shree parvathi devi chekove shailakumari
ma pujale thalli gowri shankari
gowri shankari


An excellent beginning, especially in the phrase “Ma Poojale Thalli Gowri Shankari”, she incorporates such a divine feeling. Close your eyes and you will feel the depth of divinity – a vivid demonstration of how the voice can serve as a direct bridge to the divine. In “Praarku Neeve Paapa Haari Padma Pathra Nethri”, the songstress holds her notes, neatly paces, and pleads with goddess Himavahini/Kathyayani to grant her some relief, very expressive indeed that cuts through your heart.


Listening to this vocal production, I could recall a quote from Archbishop Isidoris Hispalensis c.560-636 (Saint Isidore of Seville). As Saint Isidore of Seville (a ancient christian theologian & philosopher) rightly put it – “The perfect voice is, moreover, loud, sweet & clear; loud in order to reach an “high” (octavial ascend or soar) or be heard (not vociferate) in a wide field (to reach the last one standing) or Colosseum; clear in order to fill the ears; and sweet in order to entice the souls of the listeners. If any voice that is deficient in the above qualities, it is considered an imperfect voice. How true a statement and its similitude to P Susheela’s voice – a perfect voice indeed.


The second lyrical phrase, “Ninne Nambinanu Thalli Annapoorna Devi”…”Palimpa Ravamma Parameshwari”…the voice squeezing the nectar of Bhakthi is unequaled. Her vocal interpretation of “Ninne Nambinanu” – is an indicator as to the amount of emotion that would be considered proper and not over dramatic.  Call this astonishing purity!!!!. The emotional power of music, rightly employed, is a vital and moving aid to worship. It is, therefore, important that the emotional mood of a particular tune be commensurate with the sense of the lyrical text – the emotional power of music in worship be evocative & unmanufactured. Susheela is inherently blessed with such incredible control, art of vocal discipline, ability to execute subtleties, range, and expression that her contemporaries craved for. She has created such a distinguished legacy for successive generations to hear (there are others who are untrained in these qualities and call themselves ‘leaders”).

What can I say….the 50’s eclectic musical repertoire of Susheela is worth exploring…….pure nectar!

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