“Kalaga Kammani Kalaga” – Sri Venkateswara Mahathmyam (1959) – 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.

In Remembrance

Dedicated to the Legendary Actress of Indian Celluloid – Mahanati Savitri (మహానటి సావిత్రి)

“Kalaga Kammani Kalaga” – “కలగా కమ్మని కలగా” / “Idhuthaan Nimmadhi Idhuthaan” – “இதுதான் நிம்மதி இதுதான்” (Sri Venkateswara Mahathmyam – “శ్రీ వెంకటేశ్వర మహాత్మ్యం” 1959) Voices: P Susheela – Ghantasala “పులపాక సుశీల – ఘంటసాల వెంకటేశ్వర రావు”, Composer: Pendyala Nageswara Rao (పెండ్యాల నాగేశ్వర రావు ); Raga Bhimplas (Abheri)

Sri Venkateswara Mahatmyam (Tamil – “Sri Srinivasa Kalyanam”) is a 1959 (Bilingual) Magnum opus Telugu mythological film produced and directed by P. Pullaiah and starring N. T. Rama Rao, Savitri, Santhakumari, S Varalakshmi, Gummadi, Chitoor Nagiah. Written by Acharya Athreya, it is based on the story of Tirumala Lord Venkateswara (Balaji). Other technicians include P L Roy (Cinematographer), S A Sriramulu (Editing) & Pendyala Nageswara Rao (Composer).

Plot: Great Rishis-Sages hold yagyas under the spiritual guidance of sage Kashyapa to rid the world of the devastating effects of Kalipurusha. Sage Bhrigu (Gummadi) went to Lord Maha Vishnu (N.T. Rama Rao) to request his help. He did not notice the sage’s arrival while enjoying the blissful company of his spouse Sri Mahalakshmi (S Varalakshmi). Furiously, the sage kicked the Lord on the chest. Vishnu without being offended at all pacified the sage and made him realize how anger makes people lose their senses. Sri Mahalakshmi, however, was offended by this “disrespect” shown towards her “Lord”. In great anger, she left Vaikuntam for the earth below. In search of her, Sri Vishnu too came down to the earth. He took shelter as Lord Srinivasa in the ashram of Vakulamatha (Santha Kumari). Later, however, Srinivasa met Padmavathi (Savitri), daughter of Akashraja and married her.

Kommareddi Savitri  (6 December 1935 – 26 December 1981), was a Legendary Indian film actress, director and producer. She appeared in versatile roles in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Hindi language films. In 1960, she received the Rashtrapati Award for her performance in the film Chivaraku Migiledi (1960). Mahanati Savithri was born on 11th January 1937 to the parents Smt.Subhadramma and Sri Guravaiah in Chirravuru village in Guntur District. Her father died when she was six years old. Thereafter, she was brought up by his uncle (father’s brother), Shri Kommareddi Venkataramaiah Chowdary at Vijayawada. He observed the taste and talent of Savithri towards dance and arranged coaching in dance. He was the driving force for Savitri’s Career. She learned music and Indian classical dance from Sistla Purnayya Sasthri, starting from the age of 8 (1941). The first dance programme was given at Bejawada Ramamohana Grandhalayam. She performed stage shows as a child at Rajahmundry, Palakollu, Kothagudem, Machilipatnam, Kakinada, Tenali, Guntur and some other places. She acted in 318 films in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Hindi languages, with between ten and fifteen movies being released per year.

She gave a few public performances as a child artiste in Vijayawada. Later, she worked in a theater company run by NTR. She also started her own company, the Navabharata Natya Mandali. Her best stage role was in Atma Vanchana, written by Bucchi Babu. he was offered a role in ‘Agni Pariksha’ in 1949. However she looked too young (she was 12) in screen tests and so was dropped. Then, she was selected for the lead role in the film Samsaram by the banner ‘Sadhana Chitra’ in 1950. However, she was replaced by Pushpavalli and was given a small role, with Nageswara Rao. She performed a dance in ‘Pathala Bhairavi’ in 1951. Her first big role was as a second lead actress ‘Pelli Chesi Choodu’ by L.V.Prasad in 1952.

She later acted in memorable Telugu films like Chandra Haram (1953), Devadasu (1953), Ardhangi (1955), Missamma (1955), Donga Ramudu (1955), Amara Deepam (1956), Todikodallu (1957),Maya bazaar (1957), Abhimanam (1958), Mangalya Balam (1958), Appu Chesi Pappu Koodu (1959), Sri Venkateswara Mahatyam (1960), Chivaraku Migiledi (1960), Manchi Manasulu (1961), Aradhana (1962), Gundamma Katha (1962), Rakta Tilakam (1963), Mooga Manasulu (1963), Doctor Chakravarthy (1964), Poojaphalam (1964), Devatha (1965), Pandava Vanavasam (1965), Kanya Sulkam, Naadi Aada Janme, Prana Mitrulu (1967), Varakatnam (1968), Maro Prapancham (1970), Manase Mandiram (1966) and Jagan Mohini (1978). These movies are testimony to her versatile acting skills.

Savitri was a very popular actress in Tamil. She was paired with leading actors like Sivaji Ganesan and M.G. Ramachandran. She married Gemini Ganesan, while acting in (Manam Pola Mangalyam) (1953) with him. Savithri’s 100th film ‘Konjum Salangai’ also happened to be paired with Gemini Ganesan. She was fondly called (‘Nadigaiyar Thilagam’) in the Tamil film industry. ‘Paasa Malar’ in which she was paired opposite Gemini Ganesan and as a sister of Sivaji Ganesan and ‘Navarathiri’ brought her accolades from all over pushing her to the top slot in the Tamil Film Industry.Kalathur Kannamma (1959), Missiamma, Pasamalar (1961), Pava Manippu (1961), Paarthal Pasi Theerum (1962), Karpagam (1963), Karnan (1963), Kai Kodutha Deivam, Navarathri (1964), Thiruvalaiyadal (1965), Saraswathi Sabadham, Antharangam, Pennin Perumai, Konjum Salangai, Yaar Paiyyan, and Padithal Mattum Podhuma are some of her memorable classics in Tamil Cinema.

She has acted in a few Hindi films – Bahut Din HuwaiGhar Basake DekhoBalaram Sri Krishna and Ganga Ki Lahren. Savitri acted in a few Kannada films towards the end of her career. She played a mother’s role in films like Thaayige Thakka Maga and Ravichandra. She also acted in Chandanada Gombe. Savitri directed films like Chinnari Paapalu (1968), ‘Chiranjeevi’, ‘Maathru Devatha’ and ‘Vintha Samsaram’ in Telugu. ‘Kuzhanthai Ullam’ and ‘Praptham’ in Tamil. Mahanati Savithri was the one and only marvelous actress, who was able to express the feelings of both agony and ecstasy through her eyes and this song stands testimony to that. Her voice is absolutely exquisite and gives testimony that even back then, she possessed a voice that reaches far beyond the expectations of the listener.

Another forgotten Pendyala gem, it has a perfect blend of sangeeta and sahitya in each sections such as pallavi and charanas. Simple poetic words of Acharya Athreya feature in the sahitya with a sustained balance of raga, bhava is maintained between the music and the words throughout. Listen to P Susheela’s beautiful and distinctive tone, flawless vocal dynamics.

కలగా కమ్మని కలగా
మన జీవితాలు మనవలేగా
కలగా కమ్మని కలగా
అనురాగమే జీవన జీవముగా
ఆనందమే మనకమ్ధముఘ
కలగా కమ్మని కలగా
రాగవసమున మేఘమాలిక మలయపవనుని కలిసి తెలగ
kalagaa kammani kalagA mana jeevitaalu manavalegaa
kalagaa kammani kalagaanurAgame jiivana jiivamugA
AnaMdame manakaMdamugA
kalagaa kammani kalaga
rAgavaSamuna mEghamAlika – malaya pavanuni kalisi tElagA

In first charana, the phrase “raghavasamuna meghamalika”- notice Ma’s agility, speed, convincing expressions – her rock-solid techniques again at full display, the hallmarks of P Susheela’s voice.

కొండను తగిలి గుమ్డియ కరిగి – నీరై ఏరై పారునుగా
కలగా కమ్మని కలగా మన జీవ్తలు ఒక కలగా
కలగా కమ్మని కలగా
వెలుగు చీకటుల కలబోసినా ఈ కాలము చేతిలో కీలుబోమ్మలము
భావనలోనే జీవనమున్నది
మమతే జఘతిని నడుపునది
కలగా కమ్మని కలగా
koMDanu tagili guMDiya karigi – niirai Erai pArunugA
kalagA kammani kalagA mana jiivitAle oka kalagA
kammani kalagaa
velugu ciikaTula kalabOsina yii kAlamu cEtilO kiilubommalamu
bhAvanalOnE jeevanamunnadi
mamatE jagatini naDupunadi
kalagA kammani kalagA

In the second charana, capturing the synthesis of the duet – Ghanatasala & Susheela’s sounds great together with their tantalizing voices traversing in unison without truncating each other – one of many fine performances from the duo.

తేటి కోసమై తేనియధచే విరికన్నియక సమ్భరమెమొ
వేరొక వీరిని చేరిన ప్రియుని కామ్చినప్పుడా కలత ఏమిటో
ప్రేమకు శోకమే ఫలమేమో
రాగము త్యాగము జ్వతలేమో
కలగా కమ్మని కలగా
tETi kOsamai tEniya daacE – virikanniyakaa saMbaramEmO?
vEroka virini cErina priyuni – kaaMchinappuDaa kalata yEmiTO
prEmaku SOkame phalamEmO – rAgamu tyAgamu jatalEmO
kalagA kammani kalagA

The third charana and the phrase “teti kosamai teniya daace – virikanniyakaa sambaramemo”, is pure bliss – Susheela’s remarkable ability to color her voice from word to word that I come back to hear over and over. Her beautiful pianissimos, singing with musicianship and free of ego – interpretation is always only her adherence to score and composer. Throughout, Susheela was in control of her trill – rare vocal asset toda.- and great singing by a great vocalist with great performance by Mahanati – inextinguishable pair. Saregama’s aquisition of some of their finest recordings has created a real P Susheela-Mahanati renaissance.

As I close this writing on a beautiful full moon night, I couldn’t forget but faintly recall Beverly Sill’s – Je veux vivre, O luce di quest’anima, Oh! quante volte, Santa di Patria……in the background. Sills also had a great voice…….

One thought on ““Kalaga Kammani Kalaga” – Sri Venkateswara Mahathmyam (1959) – Telugu Feature Film

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