“Thennavan Thainattu Singarame” – Tenali Raman (1956) – Tamil 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.

“Thennavan Thainattu Singarame”- “தென்னவன் தாய் நாட்டு சிங்காரமே” (தெனாலி ராமன் – Tenali Raman – 1956), arnatic Raga: Reethigowla/Ragamalika – குரல்/Voice: பி சுஷீலா/P Susheela &  இசை/Composed by Viswanathan-Ramamurthy (விஸ்வநாதன்-ராமமூர்த்தி)

Tenali Ramakrishna is a 1956 (Bilingual – Tamil/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.

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).

Libretto: Poet Kannadasan

தென்னவன் தாய் நாட்டு சிங்காரமே
இங்கு சிற்பங்களும் பாடும் சங்கீதமே
தென்னவன் தாய் நாட்டு சிங்காரமே
இங்கு சிற்பங்களும் பாடும் சங்கீதமே
தென்னவன் தாய் நாட்டு சிங்காரமே
இங்கு சிற்பங்களும் பாடும் சங்கீதமே
தென்னவன் தாய் நாட்டு சிங்காரமே
அன்னங்கள் உறவாடும் அணிஜோளையும்
அருகினில் விளையாடும் எழில் யாவுமே
தென்னவன் தாய் நாட்டு சிங்காரமே
இங்கு சிற்பங்களும் பாடும் சங்கீதமே
தென்னவன் தாய் நாட்டு சிங்காரமே
கடல் மீது அசைந்தாடும் அலை நாடகம்
எங்கள் கலைமாதர் கார்கூந்தல் தரும் யாசகம்
களம் சென்ற மணவாளன் கதை சொல்லும் மாது
விந்திய நாடன்றி வேறெங்கும் ஏது
விந்திய நாடன்றி வேறெங்கும் ஏது
தென்னவன் தாய் நாட்டு சிங்காரமே
கன்னடம் செந்தமிழ் துளு மலையாளம்
ஆந்திரம் என்னும் ஐவகை நாடு
மாந்தர்கள் யாவரும் ஒரிநினமாகும்
நடை உடை பாவனை ஒன்றெனகானும்
நடை உடை பாவனை ஒன்றெனகானும்
தென்னவன் தாய் நாட்டு சிங்காரமே
இங்கு சிற்பங்களும் பாடும் சங்கீதமே
தென்னவன் தாய் நாட்டு சிங்காரமே
 தென்னவன் தாய் நாட்டு சிங்காரமே
இங்கு சிற்பங்களும் பாடும் சங்கீதமே
தென்னவன் தாய் நாட்டு சிங்காரமே
இங்கு சிற்பங்களும் பாடும் சங்கீதமே
தென்னவன் தாய் நாட்டு சிங்காரமே
இங்கு சிற்பங்களும் பாடும் சங்கீதமே
தென்னவன் தாய் நாட்டு சிங்காரமே

“Thennavan Thainattu Singarame” is one of the earliest unadulterated original score/composition in Tamil Cinema set to tune in  “Reethigowla”, a hued Carnatic Raga with its unique charm (karuna rasa) & a undulating pattern (opening phrases morphing into a ragamalika or a garland of ragas in a symmetrical progression).  The word “Reethi”derives its meaning in the Sanskrit root – meaning ‘to direct’ – a provenience claim. The Raga creates a soul-stirring transcendental experience (rasanubhoothi) in both the performer & the listener.

Legendary Indian Film Composer M S Viswanathan once acknowledged because of P Susheela’s 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 amphitheater without sound amplification systems.  Susheela can tackle the most difficult coloratura but also sing a legato line with great warmth and exemplary evenness of tone.  The couplets (“kalam sendra manavalan kadhai sollum maadhu” & “vindhiya naadandri verengum edhu”) she sings are simple (the extensions in “kannadam senthamizh tulu malayalam”) but never simplistic (compelling in the upper registers & breathtaking trademark octavial glides – “mandhargal yaavarum orinimaaghum”). Unfortunately, we never get to see the choreography of the song sequence from the film for reasons unbeknownst.

Singing for dance is a challenging task as one needs to become immersed in the spirit of the song. Her performance explores the inter-connectedness of the vocal, dance and poetic traditions as well the multiple contexts for Carnatic dance (Bharathanatyam) and music through the ages.  Listening to Susheela (those emotional and passionate musical moments) makes me wonder how many other sopranos would be able to sing these pieces so skilfully, expressively and with beauty of tone. None……..


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