Filmy Ripples – Movie featured Festivals

By P.V. Gopalakrishnan

We cannot imagine a life without festivals. The customs, colours, flavours, aromas, warmth, joy and whatnot that they bring to cement family & friendly relationships and bond the community at large! It’s hard to overstate their importance in our lives and the life of a community. Festivals are the very spirit of mankind. Through them, we are made to spread happiness and share good times. They motivate us to be better people and to share our joy with the world.

Every country has their own festivals, dependent on their culture & civilizations, such as The Beer Festival of Germany and The Tomato Festival of Spain. But when it comes to India, there are so many festivals as divergent of the various cultures & beliefs that our country is composed of. India can be easily called a Country of Festivals that is spread throughout the year. This brings colours, aroma, gaiety, bonding, culinary delights everything to the fore.

Our films, after all, represent the way we live here. As such, the screenplays of our Indian films do capture these festivities in some sequence or the other. We will look at some of the important Festivals as they were shown in our films.

Diwali, the most prominent & popular of all Hindu festivals, is celebrated with a lot of pomp and show. During this festival of lights, people wear new clothes, participate in family puja, burst crackers (now increasingly without it), and share sweets with friends & families. Sridhar’s Directorial debut was ‘Kalyana Parisu’ (1959) in which he also wrote the story & screenplay. It was a highly acclaimed film, which was later made in Hindi too as ‘Nazrana’. This triangular love story featured a song-sequence celebrating Deepavali as it is celebrated in the South.

Kalyana Parisu

Song book of Kalyana Parisu with the page containing the song UNNAI KANDU NAAN PC: From the archives of TCRC

Mid-January is an important time in the Tamil calendar as it marks the Harvest Festival, Pongal, which is the quintessential ‘Tamil Festival’. Pongal marks the traditional occasion for thanks giving to Mother Nature, for celebrating the life cycles that give us grain. This is the height of any culture, so to say. They say ‘Thai pirandhaal vazhi pirakkum’, and believe that knotty family problems will be solved with the advent of the Tamil month Thai that begins on Pongal day. ‘Thai pongalum vanthathu’ from the film ‘Mahanadhi’ showcases the important visual aspects of this great Festival.

Navrathri festival is celebrated throughout India though in different ways. In Gujarat, it is a nine-day celebration with rejuvenating Garbha nights and highly energetic Dandiya Raas dances, when People dress in beautiful, colorful traditional clothes bringing youthful environment. Basically, this festival denotes the celebration of the Goddess Amba or Sakthi as sheer Power in nine different forms.
 The South of India celebrates it with the households making a colorful Expo of dolls, known as ‘Kolu’. It is believed, kolu dolls represent the assembly of Goddess Durga. Best-dressed womenfolk exchange visits to each other’s Kolu where they sing devotionals & are given haldi, kum kum & prasadam. Durga Puja & Dusserah are variants of celebrating the Goddess!

Catch Nadigaiyar Thilakam Savithri in a Navarathiri Kolu sequence song from he film ‘Navarathiri’ in which Doyen Sivaji Ganesan donned nine different characters.

Navarathiri

Song book of Navarathri with the page containing the song NAVARATHIRI SUBHARATHIRI PC: From the archives of TCRC

Holi, known as the festival of colors, too is one of the important festivals, celebrated mostly in North India, with a lot of fervor. On the eve of Holi, people make huge Holika bonfires and sing and dance around it. On the day of Holi, people gather in open areas and apply dry and wet colors of multiple hues to each other, with some carrying water guns and colored water filled balloons. Holi signifies the victory of good (Prince Prahlad) over evil (Holika) and the arrival of spring. Holi falls on Full moon of March of the Gregorian calendar. There are many Hindi film songs on Holi but this song ‘Anthi mazahai megam’ from Nayakan (Tamil), filmed in the erstwhile Venus Studios, stands out as capturing the spirit of Holi. Why Holi in a Tamil fim? Well, the ‘Nayakan’ character played by Kamal was based on the Tamil Don of erstwhile Bombay, Velu Naicker of Dharavi!

Krishna Janmashtami or Gokulashtami is again a beautiful one among the most important religious festivals of India. its celebrations in Mathura and Vrindavan are notable. Visiting temples, praying, dancing, and singing bhajans (hymns) at midnight is a part of the celebrations of the birth of Lord Krishna with kids, often, dressing up as Lord Krishna this day. As part of Janmashtami festivities, breaking pots hung from lofty heights by revelers forming a human pyramid, is common sight. The Shammi Kapoor starred Hindi film Bluff Master featured the song ‘Govind Aalaa re’ showing the revelry of ‘handi’ breaking, which in Tamil is known as ‘Uri adi’.

Ganesh Chaturthi, another important Hindu religious festivals, is a ten-day affair of colorful festivities, in places like Mumbai. Huge handcrafted Ganesh idols are installed in homes or public pandals and Pujas are performed, before the deity is taken with grand fan fare on the last day for immersion. Cultural activities of singing, dancing and theater go hand in hand on this occasion of great celebration of the elephant faced God. The film Agnipath featured a typical street procession atmosphere during Ganpathi festival, normally witnessed in Maharashtra, charged with devotion & celebration. The song ‘Sree Ganesha Deva’ from the film is an all time favourite of Ganesh devotees.

Onam is the most important festival of the state of Kerala. It is also a harvest festival and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm by people of all communities. According to a popular legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam. Carnival of Onam lasts from four to ten days. Elaborate feasts, folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, caparisoned elephant, Snake Boat races and flower decorations (PookaLam) all are a part of the dynamic festival called Onam. We feature ‘Thiruvavani Ravu’ bringing the essence of Onam from the Malayalam movie ‘Jacobinte Swarga Rajyam’.

Raksha Bandhan festival, aka Rakhee, is one of the important festivals in the North. Celebrated each year in the month of August, this ceremony takes place on the full moon day of Shravan. The festival highlights the bondage between siblings. On this propitious day, a sister ties the sacred thread of Rakhi to her brother’s wrist for his prosperity & long life, even as the brother promises to protect his sister from all hardships of life. Rakhi is an emblem of love and protection. This festival of sibling bondage between sisters & brothers was showcased in the film ‘Chotti Behen’ in the song ‘Bhaiya mere Rakhi ka bandhan’.

Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed most commonly on December 25, though in some parts of the world like Russia it is observed in January. Christmas, religiously celebrated by the vast majority of Christians, is celebrated by other communities as well, as a cultural festival. There was a song & dance featured celebration of Christmas in the Tamil film ‘Kanne Pappa’, which we bring in here.

Kanne Pappa

Song book of Kanne Pappa with the page containing the song Merry Merry Christmas  PC: From the archives of TCRC

In the Islamic Faith, Eid al-Fitr (Feast of breaking the fast) is an important celebration by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of religious fasting. During the holy month of Ramadan, muslims fast from dawn to dusk when they refrain from consuming food & liquids, smoking, and engaging in any pleasures. They are supposed to carefully abstain from sinful behavior that may negate the reward of fasting, such as false speech (insulting, backbiting, cursing, lying, etc.) and fighting. Chand Raat is an important day in the month of Ramadan which marks the end of Ramzan fasting as the moon (Eid ka Chand) sighting is done.

Here is a song on the happy sighting of Eid Moon in the Hindi Film ‘Barsaat ki Raat’

 

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Filmy Ripples – When the vendors lipped a song

By P.V. Gopalakrishnan

Roadside vendors, particularly those shouting out their signature calls to attract customers is a common sight in our towns & cities, though in some of the Metros this is decreasingly seen in this era of Mega Consumerism & Malls.

Our Films never failed to capture such vendors, even including a bit of music on their lips, as the characters happily musically vended their ware. Even big heroes & heroines of those times have had to carry such roles as vendors in some sequence or other, contrived by the directors.

Here we are seeing some instances of the cinematic vendors as they were featured in various films, chronologically.

The rare song ‘Annam vangaleeyo’ rendered by T.R.Mahalingam featured in ‘Pavalakodi’ (1949), composed by C.R.Subbaraman, where TRM was seen hawking a live Swan. Thank god, perhaps, the Wildlife Act was not in vogue those times!

Pavalakodi

Song book of Pavalakodi with the page containing the song ANNAM VANGALEEYO PC: From the archives of TCRC

 

A doorstep milk vendor used to be a common sight till a decade or two ago in our lives. Here is a girl hawking cow’s milk with a song, ‘Pasumpal’ The singer was P.A.Periyanayaki from the film Singari (1951), in the music of T.K.Kalyanam. Periyanayaki was a much sought after singer even prior to MLV’s stint as a play back singer on Tamil screen.

There was a song ‘Ayya mudalali vanga’ sung by A.M.Raja for Sivaji Ganesan in the movie Anbu (1953) in the composition of Veteran T.R.Paappa.  It is strangely novel that a young man becomes self-employed by selling ‘No Vacancy’ boards in times of acute job losses.

Anbu

Song book of Anbu with the page containing the song AYYA MUDALALI VANGA PC: From the archives of TCRC

Here is Gemini Ganesan pranking around dancing & singing as he sells flowers to the folks around with the song ‘Ayy ammadi namma arakku pachai’ from the film ‘Athisaya Thirudan’ (1958). The singer was TMS & the Music Director was S.Dakshinamurthy.

Another flower seller, this time by a blind female character enacted by Sriranjani in Gemini produced film ‘Raji En Kanmani’ (1954). The song is ‘Malligai poo jathi malli Roja’ rendered by R.Balasaraswathi Devi in the music composition of S.Hanumantha Rao, brother of the noted Film Composer S. Rajeswara Rao.

Jose Sancho Padilla’s haunting Western number “La Violetera” has largely inspired the song. To enable you to listen & compare with the original tune, a piece from the original is also being featured in between the subject song. The talented Master Dhanraj and R. Parthasarathi, who were part of the ‘Gemini Music Troupe’ at that time under Hanumantha Rao created this classic with western interludes, as inspired by “La Violetera”. The well-known Master Dhanraj was the guitar & piano guru to various celebrity music directors such as Ilayaraja, A.R.Rahman & Vidyasagar, in his music school at Luz corner, located above the landmark Nehru News Mart, in those days.

As to the singer R. Balasaraswathi, she was a child prodigy having started recording for HMV at her six & she was the first playback singer of Telugu cinema too. She had also acted in Tamil films Baktha Kuchela (1936), Balayogini (1937), Tukaram (1938), Thiruneelakantar (1939) etc. After her marriage with the Raja of Kolanka, she gradually faded out in her screen career & went into oblivion.

A seller of tantric talisman? Yes, here he is, singing, ‘Thayathu’. Catch MGR in the ghost voice of  TMS in the film ‘Mahadevi’ (1955)  in the music of MSV-TKR.

In the bygone days of old Madras, there used to be candy sellers on the streets hawking elongated candy strings as wound on a pole. Here is K.R.Ramaswami singing & enacting the song ‘Jilu jiluvena jolikkum mittai’ from the film Neethipathi (1955). MSV-TKR composed he music.

‘Elanthai pazham’ was made famous by a song of L.R.easwari in her song on that humble fruit, picturised on Vijaya Nirmala in ‘Panama Pasama’. But here we are bringing an older song ‘Aazhakku oar ana’ sung by Thankappan & Kamala  in the film ‘Yaar Paiyan’ (1957) in the music of S.Dakshinamurthy.

Yaar Payyan

Song book of Yaar Paiyan with the page containing the song AAZHAKKU OAR ANA PC: From the archives of TCRC

Navrathri Kolu Festival used to have a major seasonal market for colourfully painted clay figures in South India. Besides, they had a market in Temple festivals. There was a sequence where Anjali Devi sold these clay Dolls with P.Suseela rendered song ‘Jorana bommai parunga’ in the film ‘Manalane mangaiyin Bakkiyam’ (1957) as composed by Adhi Narayana Rao.

In the good old film Samaya Sanjeevi (1957), J.P.Chandrababu rendered the song ‘Paper Paper’ composed by the doyen G.Ramanathan, in a sequence selling local newspapers & magazines. An interesting song, which enlists all the magazines, those were popular then.

We are familiar with Sirgazhi Govindarajan’s voice being associated with songs of divinity, philosophical or even comical flavors. But he has sung rarely for a tea seller, enacted by K.A.Thangavelu in Sridhar’s film ‘Kalyana Parisu’ (1959) composed by A.M.Raja.

Baloon sellers are a common place anywhere in the world. You could spot them even at venues such as Disneyworld! Here is a local balloon seller with a song on his lips, ‘Paisavai pottu naisaka vaangi’ filmed on V.K.Ramasami, who has several messages to deliver in the song. The film was ‘Alli Petra Pillai’ (1959) & the singer was S.C.Krishnan for Music Director K.V.Mahadevan.

Bangle sellers were traditionally allowed to catch hold of any woman in their selling effort of bangles. Catch MGR in his funny make over as a fat bangle seller singing ‘Kalyana ponnu’ in the voice of TMS in the film ‘Padagotti’ (1964) in the lilting music of MSV-TKR.

The vast beaches of old Madras city first what was called ‘High Court Beach’ (then turned into part of Madras Port, reaching upto War Memorial) & the Marina used to be sprinkled with humble ‘Sundal’ sellers. Here is a song dedicated to one such, in the song ‘Thenga manga sundal’ of TMS in the ‘Neeyum Naanum’ (1968). The Music was of  MSV.

Before we wind up, I would like to cite a vendor’s song from a Hindi movie too. This time, it’s a ‘malishwallah’ offering oil massage services. Listen to ‘Tel Malish’ rendered joyfully by the veteran Mohd.Rafi in ‘Pyassa’ (1957) as composed by S.D.Burman. It is picturised on the late comedian Johnny Walker.

The street vendors are still omnipresent in India, despite the paradigm shift in the way people shop. May be the coming generations miss out on them as they become slowly irrelevant & disappear gradually. But their recognition on our screens of the past is indelible!