“Thanu Karagadavaralli Pushpa” – Kitturu Chennamma (1961) – Kannada Feature Film

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Kitturu Chennamma – ಕಿತ್ತೂರು ಚೆನ್ನಮ್ಮ (1961) – “Thanu Karagadavaralli Pushpa” (ತನು ಕರಗದವರಲ್ಲಿ ಪುಷ್ಪ) – Hindusthani Raga – “Puriya Dhanashree” (ರಾಗ ಪುರಿಯ ಧನಶ್ರೀ) – Composed by Thirucharapalli Govindarajulu Lingappa (T G Lingappa/ತಿರುಚಿರಪಲ್ಲಿ ಗೋವಿನ್ದರಜುಳು ಲಿಂಗಪ್ಪ) – Voice: P Susheela (ಪುಳಪಕ ಸುಶೀಲ) – Vachanam (Poem) – Akka Mahadevi (ಅಕ್ಕಮಹಾದೇವಿ) CE 1130-1160.

The Movie: Kitturu Chennamma (Kannada: ಕಿತ್ತೂರು ಚೆನ್ನಮ್ಮ) is a 1961 Indian historical drama film in Kannada language, directed and produced by B. R. Panthulu under his “Padmini Pictures” banner. It stars B. Saroja Devi as Kittur Chennamma, an Indian freedom fighter who led an armed rebellion against the British East India Company in 1824, and died in captivity in 1829. At the 9th National Film Awards, the film was awarded the Best Feature Film in Kannada. This film screened at IFFI 1992 B R Panthalu Homage section. The supporting cast included, M. V. Rajamma as Rudrambe, Leelavathi as Veeravva, Chindodi Leela as Kalavathi, Ramadevi as Mahantavva, & Rajkumar as Raja Mallasarja. The cinematography was handled by W R Subbarao & M Karnan while the editing was done by R Devarajan. The soundtrack for the film was composed by T. G. Lingappa with lyrics penned by G. V. Iyer. The songs “Kolu Thudiya Kodagananthe” and “Thanukaragadavaralli Pushpava” were taken from the “Vachanas” (poems) of Akka Mahadevi, a “Veerasaiva” poet who lived in the 12th century Karnataka. Kittur Chennamma was the Queen of Kittur, a princely state in South India. She was best known for leading an armed rebellion against the British East India Company in 1824. The resistance ended with her arrest and she became a symbol of the independence movement in India. In the state of Karnataka, she is celebrated along with Abbakka Rani, Keladi Chennamma and Onake Obavva, as the foremost women warriors and patriots.

Contribution to Kannada Literature: Akka Mahadevi was one of the early female poets of the Kannada language and a prominent personality in the Veerashaiva Bhakti movement of the 12th century. She is considered by modern scholars to be an inspirational figure in the field of female emancipation. During a time of strife and political uncertainty in the 12th century, she chose spiritual enlightenment (recording her journey (ashrama dharma) in “vachanas” of simple language but with great cognitive rigor) and stood by her choice. Her 430 extant “Vachana” poems (a form of spontaneous mystical poems), and the two short writings called “Mantrogopya” and the “Yogangatrividhi” are considered her most notable contribution to Kannada literature. Though she composed relatively fewer poems than other saints of the movement, she was bestowed with the title “Akka” (meaning elder sister) by great Veerashaiva saints such as Basavanna, Siddharama and Allamaprabhu – is an indication of her contribution to the spiritual discussions & debate about enlightenment (Moksha) held at the “Anubhava Mantapa”. Expressing “Madhura Bhava” or “Madhurya form of devotion” she considered Lord Shiva (‘Chenna Mallikarjuna’) as her husband. Folklore suggests that Mahadevi was married by arrangement to Kausika (a Jain) but disavowed him later as the king failed to honor some conditions set by her before marriage. Akka’s poetry explores the themes of rejecting mortal love in favor of the everlasting love of God. Her “vachanas” also talk about the methods that the path of enlightenment demands of the seeker, such as killing the ‘I’ &”Me”, conquering desires and the senses. She rejected her life of luxury to live as a wandering poet-saint, traveling throughout the region and singing praises of Lord Shiva. Akka’s spiritual journey ends at Kadali near Srisailam where she is supposed to have experienced union (aikya) with her Lord – Chenna Mallikarjuna.

About the Composer: Thiruchirappalli Govindarajulu Lingappa (son of G Govindarajulu Naidu who himself was a composer/conductor) was an eminent music composer who had scored music for 70 films (Tamil, Kannada and Telugu) between the 50s & 80s. Hailing from Tiruchirapalli, G Govindarajulu Naidu (a harmonium player who also happens to own a musical instruments & gramophone records shop) was close to the legendary vocalist & actor M K Thyagaraja Bhagavathar and K B Sundarambal (accredited for imparting classical music lessons to her). T.G. Lingappa was the second son and had learned music from his father G. Govindarajulu Naidu at a very early age. MKT used to frequent their house and performed during special festive occasions. In 1940 the elder Govindarajalu Naidu moved to Madras after disposing of his assets (having accrued losses in his business). Govindarajulu Naidu composed score for a few films including “Andhaman Kaithi” (1952), “Manithanum Mirugamum” (1953), “Maya Manithan” (1955), “Baghdad Thirudan” & “Raja Bhakthi” (1960).

Lingappa (credited for playing a supporting role in the film “Kamadhenu”) pursued his dream to become an actor but was unsuccessful. Lingappa was adept in playing the harmonium, guitar & the mandolin. His first film as a part of the orchestral crew was “Rajayogam” (1940) produced by Modern Theatres (starring U R Jeevarathnam, K Nadarajan, T K Sampangi, K Kokila, Ezhumalai & M A Venu). He worked under the legendary lyricist & composer Papanasam Sivan for the movie “Ashok Kumar” (1941) earning a decent salary. Between the years 1940-44, looking for opportunities he approached established studios such as Gemini (Madras) & Modern Theatres (Salem). It was at Modern Theatres he met T A Kalyanam, K V Mahadevan & T R Pappa. Not satisfied, he returned to Madras to work under R Sudarsanam (in-house composer for AVM) for the movie “Sri Valli” (1945) starring T R Mahalingam & Rukmini. The film was quite successful and Lingappa worked in AVM’s other blockbuster “Nam Iruvar” (1947). In the meantime, he acquired some modern instruments from abroad and became a freelance musician for composers such as C R Subburaman, G Ramanathan, S V Venkatraman & K V Mahadevan.

Filmography: Lingappa first came into contact with the B R Pantulu while working for T R Mahalingam’s (TRM) home production “Macha Rehkai” (1950). TRM admired Lingappa’s musical knowledge (while working in “Nam Iruvar”) as they discussed Carnatic ragas and their prayoghas (adaptation for film music). It was in 1951, that TRM entrusted the young Lingappa to compose soundtrack for his second venture “Mohanasundaram”. Thus Lingappa became an independent composer who would continue to create an impact and carve a niche for himself in South Indian cinema. Though the film was a box office disaster, the songs tuned by Lingappa became hits (“Oh Jagamadhil Inbam”, “Paatu Venuma”, “Venmugil Kaana”, “Kannana Kanmani”, “Pullimanai Pole”, “Kaneerthan En Vazhvil”). The TRM-Lingappa collaboration continued with other films such as “Chinnadurai” (“O Raagini Vaa” sung by T G Lingappa) & “Vilayattu Bommai”.

The B R Pantulu & Lingappa Collaboration: In 1954, TRM-B R Pantulu split owing to personal differences. B R Pantulu formed his own production company and named it “Padmini Pictures”. “Kalyanam Panniyum Brahmachari” was his first maiden venture as a producer. Directed by the acclaimed P Neelakantan (“Oor Iravu” fame), the soundtrack was composed by Lingappa. Thus formed a fruitful association that would last for many years. With Sivaji Ganesan-Padmini-Chandrababu- T R Ramachandran in the lead, the film tasted success at the box office. Not to mention the soundtrack became hugely popular (”Azhage Anandam”, “Jolly Life”, “Medhavi Pole”, Ethukithanai”, “Madhumalar Ellam”) launching Lingappa as a mainstream & a successful composer. But the two songs that are still etched in my memory from the above movie are “Ilam Kaviyin Kanvil Vaazhum” (V N Sundaram) & “Vennilavum Vaanum Pole” (Radha Jayalakshmi). The Carnatic Icon M M Dandapani Desikar (MMD) popularized Bharathidasan’s “Vennilaavum” in stage concerts. Lingappa adapted the same song (slight modifications) with the blessings of MMD & the Poet Bharatidasan himself.

B. R. Panthulu – Lingappa collaboration continued in Tamil with films like “Mudhal Thethi” (1955), “Thangamalai Ragasiyam (1957), “Sabaash Meena (1958), “Engal Kudumbam Perisu” (1958),  “Kuzhandaigal Kanda Kudiyarasu” (1960), “Muradan Muthu” (1964), “Kadavul Mama” (1974). The pair went on to create blockbusters in Kannada, Malayalam & Telugu languages with films like “Modhala Thedhi” (1955), “Nambekka” (1955), “Ratnagiri Rahasya” (1957), “School Master” (1958), “Bedi Bandhalu” (1958), “Makkala Rajya” (1960), “Pillalu Techina Challani Rjyam” (1960), “Sangili Devan” (1960), “Kitturu Chennamma” (1961), “Gaali Gopura (1962), “Saaku Magalu” (1963), “Chinnada Gombe” (1964), “School Master” (1964), “Dudde Dodappa”, “Emme Thammanna” (1966), “Beedi Basavanna”, “Gange Gowri” (1967), “Amma”, “Chinnari Puttana” (1968), “Malathi Madhava”, “Aliye Gelaya” (1971), “Ondhu Hennina Kathe” (1972) & “Kadavul Mama”.

He collaborated with vocalists such as M M Dandapani Desikar, T R Mahalingam, K R Ramaswamy, U R Jeevarathnam, N S Krishnan, T A Mathuram, T. M. Soundararajan, A. M. Rajah, Seerkazhi Govindarajan, V. N. Sundaram, S. C. Krishnan, M. L. Vasanthakumari, P. Leela, Jikki, T. V. Rathinam, A. P. Komala, Radha Jayalakshmi, Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi, K. Jamuna Rani, P. Susheela, K. Rani, Vani Jairam and S. Janaki.

P Susheela had rendered some songs for the elder Govindarajulu Naidu (which this writer intends to showcase as a special tribute) and subsequently was privileged to work with his son T G Lingappa as well.   The T G Lingappa – P Susheela association lasted for over two decades and produced many a immortal hits such as “Amudhai Pozhiyum” (Thangamalai Rahastyam 1957), “Amara Madhura”, “Yamuna Mukhamun”, “Iha Lokhame”, “Mana Kalyanam” (Ratnagiri Rahasya 1957),  “Kaana Inbam”, “Aanagha Pirandhadellam” (Sabash Meena 1958), “Radha Madhava”, “Sugamana Andhi Velai” (Engal Kudumbam Perisu 1958), “Radha Madhava Vinodha” (School Master 1958), “Malaye Suridhu Baa” (Makkala Rajya 1960), “Anuragade Nee” (Gaali Gopura 1961), “Naanu Andhalede” (Saaku Magalu 1963), “Kalyana Buta Tirupathi” (Sri Krishna Devaraya 1970), “Yare Bandavanu” (Kula Gowrava 1971) to name a few.

The Composition: T G Lingappa reserved the two solos from the film namely “Tanukaragadavaralli” & Nayanadhali Poreyiralu Yaara Kanali” for the Divine Songstress – P Susheela. Both were considered masterpieces. But the former stands out in its timeless appeal. Akka Mahadevi’s “Tanukaragadavaralli” (often played in AIR) is based on Hindusthani Raga “Puriya Dhanashree” (“Pantuvarali is the Carnatic equivalent). The composition is set in “Ek Taal” (Slow Tempo). This Raag occupies very important place among evening melodies (Sandhya Raga). It produces compassion and is emotional in character. It is very close to “Raag Purvi” which employs both Madhyams. The ascent begins with lower Ni; Pa is avoided, but it can occur as a terminating note in ascending movements such as  N r G M P.  Pa and Sa are important notes while Ga is a strong resting note. The phrase  M G M r G – is highly characteristic for “Puriya Dhanashree”. Raag “Puriya Dhanshree” shares the same tonal material as Raag “Shri”. However in “Puriya Dhanashree” movements begin with lower Ni and progress like N r G M d N, while movements in “Shri” commence on Sa and proceed as S r /P or S r M P N S r (higher).


tanu karagadavaralli pushpavanolleyayya neenu
mana karagadavaralli gamdhakshateyanollayya neenu
arivu kandereyadavaralli aratiyanollayya neenu
parinamigalalladavaralli naivedyavanollayya neenu
bhavashuddhavilladavaralli dhupavanollayya neenu
hrudaya kamalavilladavaralli iralollayya neenu
ennalli enumtemdu karasthaladalli imbugomDe
helaa chennamallikarjuna

Vachana in Kannada
ತನು ಕರಗದವರಲ್ಲಿ ಮಜ್ಜನವನೊಲ್ಲೆಯಯ್ಯಾ ನೀನು
ಮನ ಕರಗದವರಲ್ಲಿ ಪುಷ್ಪವನೊಲ್ಲೆಯಯ್ಯಾ ನೀನು
ಹದುಳಿಗಳಲ್ಲದವರಲ್ಲಿ ಗಂಧಾಕ್ಷತೆಯನೊಲ್ಲೆಯಯ್ಯಾ ನೀನು
ಜ್ಞಾನಶುದ್ಧವಿಲ್ಲದವರಲ್ಲಿ ಧೂಪವನೊಲ್ಲೆಯಯ್ಯಾ ನೀನು
ಅರಿವು ಕಣ್ದೆರೆಯದವರಲ್ಲಿ ಆರತಿಯನೊಲ್ಲೆಯಯ್ಯಾ ನೀನು
ತ್ರಿಕರಣ ಶುದ್ಧವಿಲ್ಲದವರಲ್ಲಿ ನೈವೇದ್ಯವನೊಲ್ಲೆಯಯ್ಯಾ ನೀನು
ಪರಿಣಾಮಿಗಳಲ್ಲದವರಲ್ಲಿ ಇರಲೊಲ್ಲೆಯಯ್ಯಾ ನೀನು
ಹೃದಯ ಕಮಲ ಶುದ್ಧವಿಲ್ಲದವರಲ್ಲಿ ಇರಲೊಲ್ಲೆಯಯ್ಯಾ ನೀನು
ಎನ್ನಲ್ಲಿ ಏನುಂಟೆಂದು ಎನ್ನ ಕರಸ್ಥಲವನಿಂಬುಗೊಂಡೆ
ಹೇಳಾ ಚೆನ್ನಮಲ್ಲಿಕಾರ್ಜುನಾ

Those with hearts that is devoid of compassion (you) declined to accept fresh flowers; Those with minds that fails take note of impecunious & the impoverished (you) declined to accept Sandalwood paste and Akshatha (turmeric/saffron-colored rice offered during worship); Those who are not self-realized (about the supreme personality of godhead) (you) declined to accept the Arathi (offering of lighted camphor); Those who dont metamorphose  (purge society of all evils) (you) declined to accept Naivedya (Edible offerings); Those lacking conscience & good sentiments (you) declined to accept Dhoop/Incense; Those who don’t have a lotus heart (love in their inner-self) (you) declined to reside; What did You see in me – Oh Lord, that You came to reside eternally in my folded hands, please reveal – Oh Lord Chennamallikarjuna

The Divine Vocals: Where does one start to dissect the composition & the rendition? Is it the lucidity of the prose or the deeply intense verses or the core spiritual philosophy or the divine love or the soulful sound (that brilliant extensions in “arivu kandereyadavaralli aratiyanollayya neenu” –ಅರಿವು ಕಣ್ದೆರೆಯದವರಲ್ಲಿ ಆರತಿಯನೊಲ್ಲೆಯಯ್ಯಾ ನೀನು”)? This composition embraces all of the elements above. The Vachana (poem) embodies the deepest & unconditional devotion to Lord Shiva and directs us to the highest reaches of spiritual attainment. This is an unparalleled composition with depth – in the ancient, lyrical and profound vernacular language, Kannada. These Vachanas have been sung and recited through the ages in musical and aural renditions.

In a musical journey spanning over six decades, P Susheela’s  many vocal renditions (playback) were considered “simply divine”, “extraordinary”, “mesmerizing”, “soulful” & “revelatory”. This piece unquestionably joins that bandwagon. Was it pre-ordained? May be. The rendition (a fulfilling one) had such poignancy & grace (“mana karagadavaralli gamdhakshateyanollayya neenu” –  “ಹದುಳಿಗಳಲ್ಲದವರಲ್ಲಿ ಗಂಧಾಕ್ಷತೆಯನೊಲ್ಲೆಯಯ್ಯಾ ನೀನು”) that one can only wonder in amazement at her musical prowess doused in spiritual nectar (“bhavashuddhavilladavaralli dhupavanollayya neenu” – “ಜ್ಞಾನಶುದ್ಧವಿಲ್ಲದವರಲ್ಲಿ ಧೂಪವನೊಲ್ಲೆಯಯ್ಯಾ ನೀನು”). Susheela added a new dimension to the beauty of the Vachana – her coloratura rendition opened a path to the divine (the opening prelude alaap). She offers comfort, encouragement, resolve, hope in the divine – via our ears to the soul.

How else could it be explained? The composer must have experienced those very feelings (deep emotions) during the rehearsals – the sense of self realization or consciousness as the soul cries out for music. T G Lingappa provided the needed inspiration (that’s the obligation of the composer), but it was Susheelamma’s vocal artistry (“hrudaya kamalavilladavaralli iralollayya neenu” – “ಹೃದಯ ಕಮಲ ಶುದ್ಧವಿಲ್ಲದವರಲ್ಲಿ ಇರಲೊಲ್ಲೆಯಯ್ಯಾ ನೀನು”) that brought it to fruition – call it sacred dynamics. Her consummate expertise coupled with a dedication beyond all superlatives made it into a transcendent whole.

Her rendition was so heartfelt – fervent longings for her beloved Chenna Mallikarjuna (“ennalli enumtemdu karasthaladalli imbugomde helaa chennamallikarjuna” – “ಎನ್ನಲ್ಲಿ ಏನುಂಟೆಂದು ಎನ್ನ ಕರಸ್ಥಲವನಿಂಬುಗೊಂಡೆ ಹೇಳಾ ಚೆನ್ನಮಲ್ಲಿಕಾರ್ಜುನಾ“) and pristine that I label it “monumental”. Endowed with a “timbre” that can melt like butter and delivered with a traditional spontaneous ease – makes the subtle beauty of this rendition really shine.

Listen to it in the dimly lit wee hours of the morning and experience the beauty of this “timeless classic” in the divine vocals of Susheela, the Evergreen Southern Nightingale…

2 thoughts on ““Thanu Karagadavaralli Pushpa” – Kitturu Chennamma (1961) – Kannada Feature Film

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