“Chandana Charchitha Neelakalebara” – Tenali Ramakrishna (1956) – Telugu Feature Film

Creative Commons License
Faded Into Oblivion Series by Vicky Iyengar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

“Chandana Charchitha Neelakalebhara” – “చందన చర్చిత నీల కళేబర” (Tenali Ramakrishna – 1956), Lyrics: Jayadeva Goswami; Voice: P Susheela & Musical Score by Viswanathan Ramamurthy (MSV-TKR); Raga: Mohanam (Bhupali), Aadhi 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


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.


haririha mugdha-vadhū-nikare vilāsini vilāsati kelī-pare ||dhruvapadaṃ||

chandana-charcita-nīla-kalebara-pīta-vasana-vana-mālī |
keli-chalan-maṇi-kuṇḍala-maṇḍita-gaṇḍa-yuga-smita-śālī ||1||

(He who has a bluish body that is bedecked with sandal paste, clad in yellow (peeta) silks, garlanded with basil leaves and other flowers (vanamaali), whose cheeks are adorned with glitters from the studded earrings; is frolicking and playing with the damsels and is amid a modest, simple, naïve damsels!).

kāpi vilāsa-vilola-vilocana-khelana-janita-manojam |
dhyāyati mugdha-vadhūradhikaṃ madhusūdana-vadana-sarojam ||2||

(Krishna is surrounded by these women who are simple and naïve, the romantic gestures of Krishna. His sliding and moving wide eyes (vilochana) towards them are so attractive (He himself) that these modest damsels/women who are inexperts in romancing, started gazing and staring at the the beautiful, lotus-like face of His, the eliminator of a demon Madhu (madhusoodhana*); thus, the Lord is amidst these damsels in a delightful (blissful) circle.)

śliṣyati kām api cumbati kām api kām api ramayati rāmām |
paśyati sa-smita-cāru-tarām aparām anugacchati vāmām ||3||

(Krishna, now in the ronde, is kissing someone; someone else find Him in their bosom; yet someone else find Him delighting her in full beauty, having a look at the other damsels too (pashyati). Each damsel go after Krishna and everybody readily finds themselves with Him! Such is the delight that Rama).

haririha mugdha-vadhū-nikare vilāsini vilāsati kelī-pare ||dhruvapadaṃ||


హరిరిహ ముగ్ధ వధూ నికరే
విలాసిని విలసతి కేళిపరే
ఆ ఆ ఆ ఆ ఆ ఆ ఆ

చందన చర్చిత నీల కళేబర పీత వసన వనమాలీ
కేళిచలన్మణి కుండల మండిత గండ యుగ స్మిత

కాపి విలాస విలోల విలోచన ఖేలనజనితమనోజం
ధ్యాయతి ముగ్ధవధూరధికం మధుసూదనవదనసరోజం

శ్లిష్యతి కామపి చుంబతి కామపి రమయతి కామపి
పశ్యతి సస్మిత చారుతరామపరామనుగచ్చతి వామా


In the movie the “Gita Govinda” is enacted with Sandhya’s (Late TN Chief Minister 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 kelivare”- P Susheela 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. Simply put, 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). Susheela has the ability to transform simple, even primitive melodies into beautiful masterpieces – that is high art.


హరిరిహ ముగ్ధ వధూ నికరే
విలాసిని విలసతి కేళిపరే
ఆ ఆ ఆ ఆ ఆ ఆ ఆ
చందన చర్చిత నీల కళేబర పీత వసన వనమాలీ
చందన చర్చిత నీల కళేబర పీత వసన వనమాలీ

When Susheela croons that “Vanamaalee”! – technically superb. This is sheer perfection, beauty, power & magnificence. Susheela makes it sound like an Arabian fable – Aladdin’S magic carpet ride. No one can compare with her in vocal greatness. In these couplets her magnificent voice, however, was, if anything, even grander and more opulent. At 20 (her age at the time of recording), 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 her native language is “Telugu” – it must definitely be Sanskrit.


కాపి విలాస విలోల విలోచన ఖేలనజనితమనోజం
ధ్యాయతి ముగ్ధవధూరధికం మధుసూదనవదనసరోజం

The phrase ‘dhyaayati mugdhavadhooradhikam” – is intensely beautiful music-making, deeply felt and exhiliarating for the listener and Susheela’s glorious relationship with the music of Jayadeva. MSV-TKR and Susheela got everyting right: tempi, emphasis & musical weaving. She brings imaginative touches that enliven Jayadeva’s work – thereby convincingly enabling her to create a phlegmatic and sensual ambience.


శ్లిష్యతి కామపి చుంబతి కామపి రమయతి కామపి
పశ్యతి సస్మిత చారుతరామపరామనుగచ్చతి వామా

 After the end of couplet “paraamanugachchati vaamam”, 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.


Legendary composer M S Viswanathan once acknowledged that her solid powerful vocals (smoothness, control, pitching, ornamentation and expressiveness, particularly in the Carnatic tradition filtered through late nineteenth century with adaptations to cinema)  can be heard in the last rows of a theater 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 she sings are simple but never simplistic. Listening to Susheela makes me wonder how many other sopranos would be able to sing these pieces so skilfully, expressively and with beauty of tone.

None……..


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s