Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Three Mistresses,with their Monarchs, in Tamil Cinema.


  Referring to Mark Antony in his play'Antony and Cleopatra',Shakespeare says that"one of the triple pillars of Rome,{the other two were Octavius Caesar and Lepidus}has been transformed into a strumpet's fool".'Strumpet' and 'Courtesan' are words referring to 'mistress',another word that carries a variety of positive and negative meanings.On the negative side,women of this kind,are usually after wealthy guys and monarchs,who fall a prey to their vanquishing looks and words and lose their wealth and kingdom.

  Tamil films dealt with this subtle and serious theme,in quite a number of films in the Nineteen fifties.Apart from movies on social themes and family stories,films on royal themes,showed with fanfare,the fall of kingdoms and empires, on account of the evil designs of greedy women, who would captivate kings and capture power from them.This blog would recall from memory,  three such remarkable Tamil Films,so as to focus on the power of imagination and creativity that prevailed during the early decades of the evolution of Tamil cinema.The three such memorable are,Marmayogi,Manohara and Tenaliraman.

  Jupiter Pictures'Marmayogi'made by Ramnoth and released in 1951,was one of the earliest mega hit films of MGR,that got him strongly rooted to Tamil Cinema,as a swashbuckling hero.The title 'Marmayogi',means 'the mysterious sage'.This film was roaringly received,because it came as the first magnificent film,packed with speed in action and several trick shots.It is the story of a widowed king who was lured by a young mistress called Urvasi, {sparklingly played by Anjalidevi} who later made the King get drowned on a boating event,with the help of her lover and usurped the kingdom.

  The King had two sons Karikalan {MGR} and Veeraangan {S.V.Sakasranamam}who,when they were young princes,were planned to be killed by the lover of the mistress-turned queen,by burning the palace.Through her effective manipulations,the new queen removed the hurdles on the way and killed her powerful opponents,including her lover,whom she poisoned to death.She did not want to keep alive, anyone who new her secrets.However,as justice would always prevail, the two princes were saved from the palace burning.A mysterious sage  came under the guise of helping the power-hungry queen,in her day to day administration. Meanwhile,Karkalan who grew up as a commoner,launched a revolution against the queen's misrule.

  The climax showed the sage removing his disguise to be seen as the drowned King,coming back to life.As per nemesis,the woman who came to ruin the kingdom got her misdeeds exposed and fell down dead.The most interesting aspect of the film consisted of three questions raised against the queen,by the mysterious sage and they were 1}Who is she 2}Where did she come from 3}What is her ancestry.

  It was the fresh narrative mode of the film,that made Marmayogi one of the immortal films,in the annals of Tamil cinema.Moreover,the mysterious components of the film were enriched by the brutal scheming of the self assumed queen,who had a fiendish frame of mind.Apart from the actors mentioned above,the film had Serugalathur Sama as the King,N.Seetharaman( later came to be known as Javar(Javert)Seetharaman,as the brother in law of the King,M.N.Nambiyar as the friend of Karikalan,Madhuridevi as the pair of Karikalan and Pandaribhai as a citizen affected by the misdeeds of the queen.

   Three years after the release of Marmayogi, came the mindblowing film Manohara{1954}, splendidly made by ace film maker L.V.Prasad.It was a marvellous show of fiery dialogues penned by Kalaignar M.Karunanidhi and the power of dialogues gained momentum,with the vigorous utterances of Sivaji Ganesan,as Prince Manoharan.T.R.Rajakumari,who as Vasantha Senai,accompanied her artist husband kesari Varman{played by M.K.Mustafa},visited the Kingdom of Purushothamar{Sadhasiva Rao}and lured the king by her seductive looks. When the King fell a prey to her charms,she poisoned her husband to death and settled down powerfully,  as the ruling mistress of the King and his kingdom.

  Vasanthasena arranged to get queen Padma vadhi {brilliantly played by P.Kannaamba} arrested,through a false picture about her fidelity,by presenting the queen's sisterly relationship with the loyal Minister Sathyaseelar,{Javar Seetharaman}as an extra marital affair.Vasanthasena's intention was,to get her mentally unsound son Vasanthan,to be crowned as the future king,against the legitimate heir Manoharan.

  Meanwhile,the king came to know of the illicit relationship of Vasanthasenai,with the evil- minded lieutenant Ukkirasenan{stylishly portrayed by S.A.Natarajan}.When the king attempted to arrest his mistress,things boomeranged and it was the king who was imprisoned by the vested interests of power, manoeuvred by Vasanthasenai.Luckily,her husaband Kesarivarman,who escaped her murder attempt,was in disguise in the court with the help of Sathyaseelar.The climax was a grand throw of inspiring dialogues by the queen that energised Manoharan in fetters,to break his shackles and restore the kingdom from Vasanthasenai,with the help of the loyal soldiers secretly assembled in the court,by Manoharan and his friend Rajapriyan{S.S.Rajendran}, Vasanthasena is killed by her husband,who declares to her"Kesarivarman is not dead".

  If Marmayogi raised three impressive questions about the mistress,Manohara contains among various catchy dialogues,the three statements about the mistress,uttered by Manoharan.They are,"Vasanthasenai! the gliding eagle;the gaping wolf ;the crooked minded woman"The success of Manohara was mostly due to the scintillating dialogues and their gripping delivery,from the mouths of Sivaji Ganesan,Kannaamba and T.R.Rajakumari.With her ravishing eyes and the reigning voice,T.R.Rjakumari became the most notorious and cruel mistress in Tamil Cinema.

  In Tenaliraman(directed by B.S.Renga and released in 1956)a courtesan by name Krishna (P.Bhanumathi)deputed by Bahamani Sultanate,entered Vijayanagara Empire to win the goodwill of King Krishnadevaraya(neatly performed by N.T.Rama Rao,with his royal demeanour).She got closer to the King by her dancing skills and enchanting looks and became his mistress,to the extent of influencing the King in decision making,with her sinister designs.It was the tall witted Tenaliraman,(another great show of Sivaji Ganesan during the initial years of his acting)who caught her red-handed and exposed her Sultanate agenda,even before the Sultans could execute their plan of attacking the Vijayanagara empire. King Krishnadevarayar realized the evil effect of his vagaries and took responsible reigns of his empire.

   While the first two films are products of creative imagination,Tenaliraman is linked to the actual historical events.An interesting interlinking fact about the three films is the presence of Javar Seetharaman & S.A.Natarajan in both Marmayogi and Manohara and that of Sivaji Ganesan in Manohara and Tenaliraman. Similarly,M.N.Nambiar played significant roles in Marmayogi and Tenaliraman.

 To conclude,the general perception from these three films is that,even empires would fall,if rulers are weak-willed and the women who come as mistresses,carry the virulence to achieve their projected goals,by hook or by crook.Of the three mistresses,T.R Rajakumari as Vasanthasena,appeared as the incarnation of evil,followed by Anjalidhevi,who was mostly seen as a docile and devoted wife in many films.In fact,it was a surprise that she could don such a negative role,with its characterisitc force and fury. All the three movies would ever remain as fascinating film stuffs,surpassing the barriers of time and taste,by providing extraordinary entertainment.



  1. Wonderful analysis Sir... Thanks. Once again I need to watch Marma yogi.