“Kavi Kokila Theeyani” – Chivaraku Migiledi (1960) – Telugu Feature Film

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Faded Into Oblivion Series (7)

Chivaraku Migiledi – చివరకు మిగిలేది (1960) – “Kavi Kokila Theeyani” (కవి కోకిల తీయని) – Composed by Gudimetla Ashwathama (గుడిమెట్ల అశ్వథామ) – Voice: P Susheela (పులపాక సుశీల)

Not to be confused with the novel bearing the same title as the film “Chivaraku Migiledi” is Sivaraju Venkata Subbarao’s (Butchibabu) most famous work. The protagonist’s quest involves him in a conflict with society and results in an agonizing reappraisal of life’s values and finally leads him to self knowledge, acceptance and peace. Butchibabu was partially inspired by Bertrand Russell’s article, “A Freeman’s Worship “at the time of writing the above titled novel.

“Chivaraku Migiledi” was serialized in the Telugu magazine “Navodaya” between 1946-47. It was published in book form in 1952. “Chivaraku Migiledi” published by Adarsha Grandha Mandali in 1957 became a best seller. The book is now published by Visalaandhra Publishing House, Hyderabad. The Novel has been translated into English by Kakani Chakrapani in Four Classics of Telugu Fiction (Dravidian University, Kuppam, India).

Butchibabu was a prolific short story writer. Some of his well known short stories include Nannu Gurinchi Kadha Vrayavoo? (Won’t you write a story about me?) and Ame Needa (Her shadow). Some of the other famous stories include Maratunana Marapu Raru, Tadi Mantaku Podineellu, Kaviraja Virajitam, Desam Nakichina Sandesam, Nosantan Vrasina Vrata, Intayina Into Aidu, Vudina Chakram-Vaadani Pushpam, Naa Gajumeda.

Produced by V Purushotham Reddy under Manjeera Films banner, “Chivaraku Migiledi” (lit translates “what is left at the end”) is inspired by the 1959 Bengali movie “Deep Jwale Jaai” (দীপ জ্বেলে যাই lit translates “to light a lamp”) directed by the famed Asit Sen and remade with above title in Telugu. The Telugu feature film was directed by Gutta Ramineedu. The film is based on Bengali short story titled, ‘Nurse Mitra’ by the noted Bengali writer, Ashutosh Mukherjee. The Telugu script and dialogue was written by Atluri Pitcheswara Rao. The other crew included Anki Reddy (Editing), Rajendra Kumar (Art) & Gudimetla Ashwathama (Music). The lyrics were written by Malladi Ramakrishna Sastry & Kosaraju Raghavaiah Chowdhury. The cast included Mahanati Savitri, Kanta Rao, Prabhakar Reddy, M Balayya, Jhansi, Rajeswari, Haranadh, Kutumbarao, Balakrishna, Nallaramamurthy, Sitharam, T.Malini, Y.V.Raju, Sarala, Vijayalakshmi, Balu, Madhu, Jyothi, Velangi, Rajababu, Satyavathi, Brundavanam Chowdary, Lakshmi, Boddapati & Ramana Reddy. This was debut film for Prabhakara Reddy as an actor and for Mukkamala Sunanda as a singer.  Actress Rajeswari, mother of Sridevi, acted in a supporting role in this feature film.

For “Deep Jwaale Jaai”, the music was directed by Hemanta Kumar Mukherjee and one of the songs, “Ei Raat Tomar Amar” (this night’s just for you and me) has come to be regarded as one of the greatest and sensuous love song ever sung in Bengali. The Telugu version of the same song “Sudhavol Suhasini” was rendered by Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao. The movie is regarded as one of the greatest movies exploring emotions of a relationship.

A tender love story set against the backdrop of a psychiatric nursing home. It is perhaps one major film with a female protagonist did not offer a feminist slant on the film, the story or the character. “Chivaraku Migiledi” has survived the onslaughts of time, technology and evolution to remain one of the best films directed by Gutta Ramineedu, marking Savitri in one of her unforgettable performances in a heroine-oriented film winning the “Rashtrapathi Award” for best performance.

Shot in Black & White, the cinematography reveals a beautiful encapsulation of this technical mode that generates an ideal balancing act between Savitri’s magnificent close-ups (especially in the song “Sudhavol Suhasini”) and the shot-breaks that span everything from very slow panning shots to silhouetted shots to shots taken in semi-darkness, to long-angle shots and even an overhead crane shot in the opening frame of the film.

Plot: Based on experimental (psychoanalytical) approach to mental illness, this is a story of a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, played by Padma (effectively portrayed by Mahanati Savitri). Padma’s character is a part of a team exploring new therapy for patients who have suffered emotional trauma. The approach taken by the team is to offer these individuals an emotional resort, which is where Padma’s character plays her part. Her role is to act as a friend and a lover for the patient, but at the same time, refrain from any emotional involvement on her own part as her role is purely that of a nurse who is helping the patient recover. She has to repeatedly break the emotional attachments that she experiences because as a nurse, she is an integral part of therapy.

The movie looks at the neglected emotional trauma of this nurse who is used merely as a tool in the whole process of therapy. The movie ends by showing that Padma is being admitted to the same ward where she used to be a nurse. The last words in the movie are uttered by Padma, who whispers out “I wasn’t acting, I couldn’t” indicating that she indeed fell in love with her patient!. Also cast among others, were Prabhakar Reddy, who plays a veteran Psychiatrist eager to explore new grounds, but hesitant of the human costs. Prakasam (Kanta Rao) essays his role as an artist and a lover-scorned.

The soundtrack directed by composer Ashwathama included some legendary voices of that era notably, P Susheela – Ghantasala – M S Rama Rao. Mukammala Sunanda made her debut with “Chinnari Nee Manase”& “Nelaraju Jataamani”. The other songs were “Andhaniki Andhamu Nene” (K Jamuna Rani), “Aayinavaaru Naakevaru” (Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao), “Chenguna Aala Meeda” (M S Rama Rao), “Kavi Kokila Theeyani” (P Susheela), “Sudhavol Suhasini” (Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao). But my favorites among the crop were “Kavi Kokila” & “Sudhavol Suhasini”.

Pictured on actress Jhansi trying to woo the young M Balayya with vocal support by the legendary Susheelamma – was unique in its compositional style, orchestral arrangement & of course the fascinating rendition – too clear for the dramatic roles. It’s like plunging into a new musical adventure of sorts. You hear everything, and the unprecedented depth, power and richness of the orchestra simply captivates. No exaggeration.

Those starving for good-sounding studio Susheelamma will be delighted after five decades – a rare gem. Her voice sounds so fresh in this recording. I call this one of her miraculous musical wanderings. Words cannot even begin to describe the beauty in Susheelamma’s soprano voice.

కవి కోకిల తీయని పలుకులలో చెలువారున వరసలు
కవి రాజహంస నడకలలో పులికేవయారాలు
కలవోయి ఈనేమ నగుమోములో
కలవోయి ఈనేమ నగుమోములో
కలవోయి ఈనేమ నగుమోములో
kavi kokila theeyani palukulalo
cheluvaruna varasaalu
kavi rajahamsa natakalalo pulikevayaraalu
kalavoyi eelhema nagumomulo
kalavoyi eelhema nagumomulo
kalavoyi eelhema nagumomulo

Her opening vocal act (longer passages – one can immediately recognize the metallic “ringing” and hardness at the top register) and as a lyric coloratura is outstanding with “theeyani palukulalo”. The sweet silvery voice embraces the listener in a state of trance in “kavi rajahamsa natakalalo pulikevayaraalu”- very delicate and touching. She sings a sparkling “kalavoyi eelhema nagumomulo – solid & well executed.

కనుల విందు వెన్నెలలో
కానరాని వాడి
విరిసి విరియని పూలలో
అలుఘుకునే హాయి
మేళ మెల్ల నిఘలిలో వినిపించే ఆలాపన
నేను మరచ పరవశాల అనిపించే ఆవేదన
కలవోయి ఈనేమ నగుమోములో
కలవోయి ఈనేమ నగుమోములో
kanula vindhu vinelalo kaanarani vaadi
virisi viriyani pullalo alaghukune haayi
melamella nighalilo vinipinche aalapana
nenu maracha paravashala anipinche aa vedhana
kalavoyi eelhema nagamomulo
kalavoyi eelhema nagamomulo
kalavoyi eelhema nagamomulo

The precision of orchestral attacks, emphasis on excellent balances, and adherence to the dynamic markings in the composition score are exemplary in the first & second interludes. Particularly impressive are the chamber music-like textures that Ashwathama achieves at opportune moments. Bravo!

The first vocal act (kind of attractive and charming) begins with “kanula vindhu vennelalo kaanarani vaadi”, she with her well-built tessitura easily manages it without paying as much attention to the details of the drama. Of course Malladi’s libretto helps her immensely. In “virisi viriyani pullalo alaghukune haayimelamella nighalilo vinipinche aalapana” – listen to her fragile, vulnerable, quirky, and spontaneous portrayal. She has an endearing way of singing coloratura, with her trill intact. The songstress has some great high notes going for her – especially “vinipinche aalapana” is precarious (even for some of her contemporaries).

One cannot but notice, her creamy voice endowed with an exquisite upper register. In “nenu maracha paravashala anipinche aa vedhana” – who else can boast of such intelligence and artistic refinement capable of interpreting the role of the seductress with the mature passion and emotional integrity the role requires.

తన జీవితమే ధన విజయంఘ చేసికొనే తెలివి
తెలివిఘ ఈ లోఖములో నేలగాగానలే ఠీవి
ఠీవిగా తలచినది కోన సాగించే సాధన
పాత పడని మొదపాటం అరియధక చెలగాటం
కలవోయి ఈనేమ నగుమోములో
కలవోయి ఈనేమ నగుమోములో
thana jeevithame dhana vijayanga chesikone thelivi
theliviga ee lokhamulo nelagagalane theevi
theeviga thalachinadhi kona saaginche saadhana
paata padani modha paatam ariyadhaga chelagaatam
kalavoyi eelhema nagamomulo
kalavoyi eelhema nagamomulo
kalavoyi eelhema nagamomulo

The second vocal act begins with a lovelier passage “thana jeevithame dhana vijayanga chesikone thelivi” – her convincing vocals producing the same dramatic passion & excitement – a characterization that is well thought out. Her voice is quite full and sings straight into the soul in “theliviga ee lokhamulo nelagagalane theevi”. The ability to penetrate and cut-through and being identified when the going gets tougher (tutti-crescendos) – in the most challenging passage “theeviga thalachinadhi kona saaginche saadhana”- she soars upwards one full octave and sustains a full voice virtually all the way through the end of the orchestral finale at “paata padani modha paatam ariyadhaga chelagaatam”. The composer certainly gives the soprano the space to float her beautiful top notes. Her vocal possess such diamond-sharp incisiveness and yet yields a creamier, velvety richness.

The diva uses her impressive vocal ‘palette’ to color the lyric, illuminating the various portions expertly and reigns supreme throughout the recording. And in the process of re-hearing Susheelamma’s celluloid recordings over the years has reminded me why she was really in a class apart, there is not much point listening to other singers perform the same music, she is so naturally superior.


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