“Chandana Charchitha Neelakalebhara” – Tenali Raman (1956) – Tamil Feature Film


“Chandana Charchitha Neelakalebhara” – “చందన చర్చిత నీల కళేబర” (Tenali Raman – 1956), Lyrics: Jayadeva Goswami; Voice: P Susheela & Composed by Viswanathan Ramamurthy (MSV-TKR); Raga: Mohanam (Bhupali), Aadi Talam (Kherwa)


Jayadeva Goswami’s Ashtapadi (Sanskrit) from Gita Govinda & P Susheela’s Immortal Rendition in Carnatic Raga “Mohanam”


Tenali Ramakrishna is a 1956 Telugu film directed by B. S. Ranga. This film was also made in Tamil and is named as Tenali Raman. N. T. Rama Rao appeared as Srikrishna Devaraya in both films. Tenali Ramakrishna was played by A. Nageswara Rao in Telugu version while Sivaji Ganesan portrayed the role in Tamil. The plot is based on the play written by C. K. Venkataramaiah. Film is based on the story of, Tenali Rama, the court-poet of Sri Krishna Deva Raya. The Telugu version of the film has garnered the All India Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film at 4th National Film Awards. N. T. Rama Rao as Sri Krishna Deva Raya, A. Nageswara Rao as Tenali Ramakrishna (Telugu) Sivaji Ganesan as Tenali Raman (Tamil) Chittor V. Nagaiah as Timmarusu, Jamuna as Kamala, P. Bhanumathi as Krishnasani (Telugu) Rangasani (Tamil), Sandhya as Maharani Tirumaladevi, M. N. Nambiar as Rajaguru, Surabhi Balasaraswathi as Radha, Mukkamala Krishnamurthy as Tatacharyulu, Mikkilineni Radhakrishna Murthy as Kanakaraju, Master Venkateswar as son of Ramakrishna


Viswanathan–Ramamurthy worked together from Panam in 1952 for over 100 films, before splitting (due to personal differences) with the release of Aayirathil Oruvan in 1965. After the split T. K. Ramamurthy worked for 16 films, whereas M. S. Viswanathan went on to compose for over 750 films. T. K. Ramamurthy was born into an illustrious musical family (Mallaikottai Govindasamy Iyer & Krishnasamy Iyer, his grandfather and father were well known violinists) in Thrichirapalli and was a talented violinist since young. He in his early 1940’s worked in Saraswathi Stores where Studio Owner Meiyappa Chettiar was a partner. As a Violinist, he assisted Resident Music Composer, R. Sudarsanam, in some films produced by AVM. By late 1940’s, C. R. Subburaman (credited for introducing western orchestral pieces in his compositions) was a rising star in the South Indian film music world (Nalla Thambi, Raja Mukthi, Velaikari, Ratnamala, Laila Majnu, Marumagal, Chandirani, Chenchulakshmi, Swapna Sundari, Prema, Devadas fame) and Ramamoorthy rejoined him as one of his violinists in his orchestra after a brief stint with HMV. M. S. Viswanathan had always wanted to be an actor and singer, but was not successful. He had done a few small roles in stage dramas in 1940’s. The famous music composer in the 50s, T. R. Papa, who was a violinist for the doyen of the Tamil film music, S. V. Venkatraman when he met the young struggling Viswanathan, took a liking to him and arranged a job for him as an errand boy for S. V. Venkatraman’s musical troupe. In that company of all musicians, Viswanathan realised that he had the inclination and the potential for composing music. He thereafter joined S. M. Subbaiah Naidu and at times assisted him. He then joined C. R. Subburaman as a Harmonium player where he met both T. K. Ramamurthy and T. G. Lingappa, the two leading violinists at that time. T. G. Lingappa also became a renowned music composer on his own in the 1950s.


M. S. Viswanathan was known as a master of playing 3 instruments harmonium, keyboard and paino by the age of 15 whereas T. K. Ramamurthy was known as master in playing violin by his age of 16. When M. S. Viswanathan moved to C. R. Subburaman where he met T. K. Ramamurthy and T. G. Lingappa the two leading violinists at that time. M. S. Viswanathan was handling the harmonium while T. K. Ramamurthy was handling the violin for C. R. Subburaman. Both T. K. Ramamoorthy and M. S. Viswanathan always proudly name C. R. Subburaman as their Guru. M. S. Viswanathan has also mentioned that was also inspired by the music of S. V. Venkatraman and T. R. Papa. In 1952, C. R. Subburaman died unexpectedly while in the midst of completing songs for the films which he was assigned to compose music. T. K. Ramamurthy and M. S. Viswanathan joined together and completed the background music for films Devadas, Chandirani and Marumagal. M. S. Viswanathan and T. K. Ramamurthy took the lead to complete the remaining songs for those affected films such as Devadas and Kadhal. At that point of time both M. S. Viswanathan and T. K. Ramamurthy were not official partners yet but they had just worked together. Then M. S. Viswanathan suggested to T. K. Ramamurthy an alliance in the south by both of them teaming up such as Shankar and Jaikishen who were known as Shankar Jaikishan in the north. At first, T. K. Ramamurthy who had been reluctant that he was already contented with the income he was receiving from being a violinist but agreed to pair on the insistence of M. S. Viswanathan.


Their first movie was Panam, a movie by A. L. Seenivasan and directed by N. S. Krishnan. N. S. Krishnan who knew both M. S. Viswanathan and T. K. Ramamurthy fairly intimately and also their respective talents by then, with foresight, also suggested an alliance between them like Shankar Jaikishan in the North India (Bollywood). T. K. Ramamurthy, despite being an excellent musician with an orthodox carnatic musical background, was a shy, modest and reserved person whereas M. S. Viswanathan was naturally talented, charming, forward and dynamic although he lacked the similar background in Carnatic music.


It was the second film for Sivaji Ganesan and the first film for the successful pair in the history of Tamil Films, Sivaji Ganesan and Padmini. For first time their names appeared as Viswanathan Ramamurthy. Until then, the names appeared as Ramamoorthy Viswanathan. T. K. Ramamurthy was elder to M. S. Viswanathan by six years, but the placing of their names as Viswanathan Ramamurthy was agreed upon by both parties on the advice of N. S. Krishnan, who had a forsight that the elder Ramamoorthy may handle Viswanathan if his name may come behind Viswanathan’s name. That was the beginning where since then both composed several hundred songs together.


During this time, C. S. Jayaraman, music composer and singer, also engaged the services of Viswanathan Ramamurthy duo for the film Ratha Kanneer to assist him for the background music though music for all the songs in Raththa Kanner were tuned by C. S. Jayaraman himself. It was a slow progress for the duo in the 50s, a period that boasted of many talented composers with the stalwart G. Ramanathan, S. V. Venkatraman, K. V. Mahadevan, S. Rajeswara Rao, S. Dakshinamurthi, Pendyala Nageswara Rao, etc. in the lead. After Panam was a success, many film producers and directors approached them and the duo together composed music for over 100 films from 1952 – 1965. The duos were the highest paid composers and held the number one position in market together from 1957 – 1965.


However, right from the beginning, the duo displayed a flair for light sweet melodious music. The films like Porter Kanthan,Pasa Valai, Thenali Raman, Gulebakavali, Sugam Enge, Sorga Vasal, etc. in the 50s created a lot attention for them. In 1956, the duo composed for the Telugu film Santhosham, the Telugu adaptation of the Tamil film Velaikaari with N. T. Rama Rao and Anjali Devi which was a big musical hit. This was reproduced in Hindi as Naya Aadmi with music by Madan Mohan who, impressed by the duo’s music, suggested to retain some of the original tunes for the Hindi version. The Hindi song “Laut Gaya Gham Ka Zamana” sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay in that film, copy of the duo’s Telugu song “Teeyani Eenati Reyi” sung by P. Susheela and G. K. Venkatesh, was a big hit both in the North & South of the Vindhyas.


Towards the latter part of the 50s, the duo were racing ahead with musical hits like Pudhaiyal, Nichaya Thamboolam, Padhi Bhakti, Bhaaga Pirivinai, etc. The winning combinations of the duo initially were mainly with the Directors T. R. Ramanna and A. Bhimsingh who produced some mega hits in the late 50s and early 60s, for which the duo composed excellent music and thereby reaching the No. 1 slot in the early 60s. Then C. V. Sridhar, after his music composer A. M. Rajah fell out with him in 1961, engaged the duo for his films and many top hits followed. Major studios like Gemini Studios, AVM Productions, etc. were also to engage them later.


Now to the story of Tenali Raman – The Deccan Sultans of Berar, Ahmednagar, Bidar, Bijapur and Golconda who the splinters from the erstwhile Bahmani Sultnate now unite with the common purpose to defeat of Krishnadeva Raya and the conquest of the prosperous Vijayanagaram. They send their stooge Kanakaraj to assassinate Krishnadeva Raya, but Kanakaraj fails in his mission and is put to death. Then they planned courtesan Krishnasini. Krishnasini enters Vijayanagaram, and with her acclaimed dancing skills, manages to elicit the notice of the King, a great connoisseur of arts and beauty. She then plays her cards cleverly and besotted by her intelligent repartees and smoldering sensuousness, the susceptible King is soon a puppet in her hands. Orders are given that anyone who enters their private chamber would be beheaded and the King spends with Krishnasini’s for months. Reports reach the ministers that the Sultans are planning to take advantage of the King’s inaccessibility and launch a combined attack on Vijayanagaram. Worried at the state of affairs, Tenali Raman braves the prohibitory order and enters Krishnasini’s abode dressed as a woman, but all his appeals to the King seem to fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile Queen Tirumalamba falls seriously sick and the King finally comes out of his daze. Once the King is at his wife’s bedside, Tenali Ramakrishna manages to gain entry into Krishnasini’s house again, this time under the guise of an omniscient saint who assures her that he would bring the King back to her. He catches her red-handed with her gang of spies, and signals to the hidden soldiers to surround her. Realized that the game is up, Krishnasini prefers a dignified death. Shocked to see her stab herself, Timmarusu remonstrates with her that she has acted in haste, for the King would have certainly forgiven her.


The soundtrack “Ulagellam Unatharulal Malarum” (happy) by P. Leela (Lyrics: M. K. Athamanathan)”Nattu Jananga Adaiyelam” by Karikkol Raju (Lyrics: Kannadasan) “Chandana Charchita Nila Kalebara” by P. Suseela (Lyrics: Geetha Govindam) “Ullasam Thedum Ellorum Or Nal” by Ghantasala (Lyrics: Tamaizhmannan) “Ulagellam Unatharulal Malarum” (pathos) by P. Leela (Lyrics: M. K. Athamanathan) “Chittu Pole Mullai Mottuppole” by A. P. Komala (Lyrics: Kannadasan)”Adum Kalaiyellam Paruva Mangaiyar Azhagu Kurum” by P. Leela (Lyrics: Kannadasan) “Thennavan Thai Nattu Singarame” by P. Suseela (Lyrics: Kannadasan)”Thangam Pogum Meni Undhan Sondham Ini” by R. Balasaraswathi Devi (Lyrics: Kannadasan) “Putrile Pambirukkum…. Kottaiyile Oru Kalathile” by T. M. Soundararajan & Chittor V. Nagaiah (Lyrics: Kannadasan)”Kangalil Adidum Penmaiyin Nadagam” by P. Bhanumathi “Kannamirandum Minnidum Annam” by P. Bhanumathi (Lyrics: Kannadasan) “Pirandha Nal Mannan Pirandha Nal” by P. Bhanumathi (Lyrics: Kannadasan) “Vinnulagil Minni Varum Tharagaiye Po Po” by P. Bhanumathi (Lyrics: Kannadasan)”Adari Padarndha” by V. N. Sundaram (Lyrics: Kannadasan) “Ponnalla Porul” by V. N. Sundaram (Lyrics: Kannadasan) “Kanna Pinna Manna” by V. N. Sundaram (Lyrics: Kannadasan) “Vindhiyam Vadakkaga” by V. N. Sundaram (Lyrics: Kannadasan) “Chandiran Pole” by V. N. Sundaram (Lyrics: Kannadasan)”Drru Drru Ena Madugal” by V. N. Sundaram (Lyrics: Kannadasan).


The Gita Govinda by Jayadeva Goswami is organized into twelve chapters. Each chapter is further sub-divided into twenty four divisions called Prabandhas. The prabandhas contain couplets grouped into eights, called Ashtapadis. The work delineates the love of Krishna for Radha, the milkmaid, his faithlessness and subsequent return to her, and is taken as symbolical of the human soul’s straying from its true allegiance but returning at length to the God which created it. In the mentioned ashtapadi, a gopi narrates to a forlorn Radha, the romantic escapades/antics (per couplet) between Krishna and another gopi in Vrindavan.


Mohanam, a janya rāga of Harikambhoji (28th Melakarta), though it can be derived from other melakarta rāgas, Kalyani, Sankarabharanam or Vachaspati, by dropping both madhyamam and nishādham. The Hindustani equivalent Bhoop (or Bhopali) is associated with Kalyan thaat (equivalent of Kalyani). Mohanam’s notes when shifted using Graha bhedam, yields Hindolam, Shuddha Saveri, Udayaravichandrika (also known as Shuddha Dhanyasi) and Madhyamavati.


Some of the famous compositions in Carnatic music include “Mohana Rama” (Thyagaraja), “Ra Ra Rajeevalochana (Mysore Vasudevachar), “Ninnukori” (Ramnad Srinivasa Iyengar), “Swagatham Krishna”(Oothukadu Venkata Kavi), “Kapali” (Papanasam Sivan). In film music “Madhilo Veenalu Mroge” (Saluri Rajeswara Rao – P Susheela), “Padavela Radhika” (Saluri Rajeswara Rao – P Susheela/Ghantasala), “Jyothi Kalash Chalke” (Sudhir Phadke- Lata Mangeshkar), “Chanda He Tu (S D Burman – Lata Mangeshkar), “Hey Govind Hey Gopal (Jagjit Singh), “Kanchi Re Kanchi” (R D Burman – Lata Mangeshkar/Kishore Kumar), “Neel Gagan Ki” (Shankar Jaikishan – Lata Mangeshkar), “Panchi Banu Uduthi” (Shankar Jaikishan – Lata Mangeshkar), “Pankh Hote To Ud” (Ram Lal – Lata Mangeshkar), “In Ankhon Ke Masti” (Khaiyyam – Asha Bhosle), “Malargal Nanaindhana” (K V Mahadevan – P Susheela), “Mohanaragamaha” (Pendyala Nageswara Rao – P Susheela/Ghantasala), “Manasu Parimalinchene” (Pendyala Nageswara Rao – P Susheela/Ghantasala), “Seelamu Galavara’ (Saluri Rajeswara Rao – P Susheela/M Balamuralikrishna) to name a few.


In the movie the “Gita Govinda” is enacted with Sandhya’s (TN Chief Minsiter Jayalalitha’s mother) screen presence:
haririha mugdha vadhoo nikare vilaasini vilasati kelipare aa aa aa aa aa aa aa…..(A Gopi begins her narration to Radha in Vrindavan). After “vilasati kelipare”- Ma Saraswathi Susheelamma firmly establishes her control over the cascading “Virutham” (Phrase) and as is expected, she will shoulder the song for MSV-TKR all through in her almighty-gifted well-bred supreme timbre. Forget the succeeding couplets; this aria alone is worth listening and you have to hear it to believe it. No one today or yesterday can come close to such a rendition of divine cobola – intensification of emotion (compare it with Wagnerian “Esclamonde’) that is absolutely flawless. This score in particular is subtle, tender and reflects MSV-TKR’s virtuosity that makes us identify ourselves with that period (10 th century). Ma has the ability to transform simple, even primitive melodies into beautiful masterpieces – that is high art.


 chandana charchita neela kalebara peeta vasana vanamaalee

chandana charchita neela kalebara peeta vasana vanamaalee
kelichalanmani kumdala mamdita gamda yuga smita saalee
haririha mugdha vadhoo nikare vilaasini vilasati kelipare

(Sri Krishna who is adorned with ‘Tulasi’ garland is smeared with sandalwood paste all over his bluish body. He is wearing yellow silk robe. While he is playing with Gopikas his gem-studded ear-rings were dangling beautifully. Srihari is enjoying sports of love with Gopikas in Brundavana).

Oh when Ma croons that “Vanamaalee”! – technically superb. This is sheer perfection, beauty, power & magnificence. Susheelamma makes it sound like an Arabian fable – Alladin’s magic carpet ride. No one can compare with her in vocal greatness. In these couplets Ma’s magnificent voice, however, was, if anything, even grander and more opulent. At 20, this is a work which would proudly be referred to as the crowning achievement of many an illustrious career. After this unequaled diction, I suspect Ma’s native language is “Telugu” – it must definitely be Sanskrit.


kaapi vilaasa vilola vilochana khelanajanitamanojam
aa aa aa aa aa aa aa
kaapi vilaasa vilola vilochana khelanajanitamanojam
dhyaayati mugdhavadhooradhikam madhusoodanavadanasarojam
dhyaayati mugdhavadhooradhikam madhusoodanavadanasarojam
haririha mugdha vadhoo nikare vilaasini vilasati kelipare
(Oh Radha, a Gopa maid is making gestures of love with her rolling eyes. She is struck by Manmadha’s arrow and is gazing at the mesmarising beauty of Krishna in awe. She remained meditating upon his lotus-like beauty).


The phrase ‘dhyaayati mugdhavadhooradhikam” – is intensely beautiful music-making, deeply felt and exhiliarating for the listener and Ma’s glorious relationship with the music of Jayadeva. MSV-TKR and Susheelamma got everyting right: tempi, emphasis & musical weaving. She brings imaginative touches that enliven Jayadeva’s work – thereby convincingly enabling her to create a calm and sensual ambience.
slishyati kaamapi chumbati kaamapi ramayati kaamapi raamaa
slishyati kaamapi chumbati kaamapi ramayati kaamapi raamaa
pasyati sasmita chaarutaraamaparaamanugachchati vaamaa
haririha mugdha vadhoo nikare vilaasini vilasati kelipare
(Krishna is embracing one beautiful maid . He is kissing some other Gopika. Another Gopika is delighted to be with him. He is smiling attractively).


After the end of couplet “paraamanugachchati vaamaa”, as she scales up “haririha mugdha vadhoo” her voice brings with itself incalculable depths of emotions and naturalness coupled with sincerity in rendition. “slishyati kaamapi chumabati kaamapi” – looks like these were expressly crafted to suit her voice by Jayadeva Goswami’s exquisite writing – extended lower range and warmer tone.


chandana charchita neela kalebara peeta vasana vanamaalee (sustained extension)


MSV once acknowledged because of her solid powerful vocals (smoothness, control, pitching, ornamentation and expressiveness, particularly in the carnatic tradition filtered through late nineteenth century with adaptations to cinema) she can be heard in the last rows of a theatre without sound amplification systems. Susheelamma can tackle the most difficult coloratura but also sing a legato line with great warmth and exemplary evenness of tone. The couplets she sings are simple but never simplistic. Listening to Gana Saraswathi Susheelamma makes me wonder how many other mezzos would be able to sing these pieces so skilfully, expressively and with beauty of tone. None……..


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