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Monday, 1 July 2013

First Malayalam movie I watched: Swathi Thirunal (1987)

Sri Padmanabha Dasa Vanchipala Sri Rama Varma, better known as Swathi Thirunal Kulasekhara Perumal Maharaja, and even more popular as just Swathi Thirunal, was not only a well respected and widely known King of the State of Travancore, but continues to be an eternal Prince of Indian classical music. A man with mastery over multiple languages, he patronized both Carnatic and Hindustani forms of Indian classical music, composed many a kritis, sang them himself, and rewarded singers and dancers of repute from across the country during his reign.

It is the versatile king's bicentennial birth anniversary this year and what better occasion to finally get hold of his biopic, "Swathi Thirunal", a 1987 Malayalam movie that I was hunting for over five years. With Kannada maestro Anant Nag playing the lead role of Swathi Thirunal, there was much to expect from the movie, and I had only seen glimpses of it online. Excellent music with legends Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna and K. J. Yesudas as playback singers was the other major factor not to miss this movie. My first Malayalam movie watching experience was quite good to say the least - it was more of a musical, with very little need for dialogues as the music spoke throughout the movie. The focus of the movie also seemed to be on the king's art patronage, although he was a great visionary and brought about many reforms, in addition to introducing quality English education and allopathic medicine to southern India. He died at a very young age of 33, but he had composed over 400 kritis by then in Sanskrit, Malayalam, Hindi and Kannada. One can only wonder what great things he would have achieved if he had lived longer. But then again, great people achieve everything short duration - Adi Shankaracharya and Swami Vivekananda also come to mind.

More on Swathi Thirunal's life and times, here:

Coming back to the movie, it was worth a weekend afternoon's watch with typically brilliant acting of Anant Nag through restrained emotions, best seen during the rendition of the Charukeshi masterpiece "Kripaya Palaya Shoure", and the best part of the movie being a Jugalbandi  between Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna, K. J. Yesudas and Neyyattinkara Vasudevan, as the song "Pannagendra Shayana" (a padam composed by Swathi Thirunal sung in Ragamalika - 8 ragas for 8 yamas from dusk to dawn in praise of lord Ananthapadmanabha) took the viewer to another world.


filament said...

I'm looking for an original copy of this movie. Can you suggest me where can I get it...?

Prasanna said...

I found it very difficult to get my hand on it myself for years. May be stores in Kerala might be selling copied of the VCDs / DVDs? But not sure. I haven't found any online store selling it though.