Nandanar (1935 film)
A poster for Bhakta Nandanar
|Directed by||Manik Lal Tandon|
|Produced by||Asandas Classical Talkies|
|Starring||K. B. Sundarambal
Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer
|Budget||₹3 lakh (US$4,700)|
Bhakta Nandanar (Tamil: பக்த நந்தனார்) is a 1935 Tamil film directed by Manik Lal Tandon. It marked the film debut of the carnatic singer and stage artist K. B. Sundarambal. She was paid a then unprecedented ₹100,000 (equivalent of ₹60 million (2013 prices)) as salary for this film. This was also the first film for Ellis R. Dungan.
K. B. Sundarambal had retired from stage performances in 1932 after the death of her husband S. G. Kittappa. Hassandas, a textile magnate from Madras and a member of Chellaram business family was keen on making a film with Sundarambal in the lead. She was initially reluctant to star in the film and refused even the recommendation of her mentor S. Satyamurti. Hassandas persisted and to discourage him she offered to act in the film if he could pay One lakh Rupees. Hassandas agreed to pay her and the film was made.
The film was directed by Manik Lal Tandon with Ellis Dungan shooting many scenes in his absence. Sundarambal was cast as a man – the untouchable saint Nandanar. The same story had earlier been the subject of a 1932 Tamil film of the same name. Carnatic musician Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer was cast as the landlord Vedhiyar. He was paid 3000 Rs as salary. The script had a scene where Iyer's character would prostrate before Nandanar. Due to the prevailing social norms and her respect for Iyer, Sundarambal refused to do the scene. Director Tandon filmed a compromise by changing the scene such that both prostrated before each other. The completed film cost three Lakh (3,00,000) Rupees to make and was 18000 feet long. Tunes of three songs from the 1934 Hindi film Chandidas were reused in this film.
Cast and crew
- K. B. Sundarambal as Nandanar
- Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer as Vedhiyar
- Manik Lal Tandon – Director
- Ellis R. Dungan – Directed scenes in Tandon's absence
The film was released in 1935 amid great expectations from the public. It failed at the box office and received mixed reviews from the critics. Kalki Krishnamurthy made fun of it in Ananda Vikatan by claiming buffaloes and palm trees had acted well in the movie. He wrote the number one actor in the film was the coconut tree, number two was the buffalo and number three, the kid goat. The Tamil news paper Dina Mani also gave it a bad review. Writing in the April 1938 issue of the Eelakesari Pudhumaipithan explained the reasons for its failure:
|“||..Nandanar was released. It had beautiful scenes and melodious songs. They had made it at enormous expense. But it was not able to distinguish itself. Why? because it had a female (Sundarambal) playing a man. In a stage play, one can appreciate things like make up or facial expressions. But in a movie you have to depict Nandan's story realistically. However we try we can not picture Sundarambal as Nandanar. If we kept seeing Sundarambal and not Nandan, how can we experience Nandan's story and how can the film succeed?||”|
However it received favorable reviews in the 15 July 1935 issues of The Hindu, Tamil Nadu, Sudesamithran and Cinema Ulagam. Viswanatha Iyer was criticized by conservative brahimins of his hometown Kumbakonam for acting in the film.
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