Stars: 4.5 / 5
August 25th of this year marked the day of the festival of Sri Krishna Janmashtami, the celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna. On this day I wanted my nephews to wear the attires of Balarama (Krishna's older brother) and Krishna but they had refused to do it, the clothes being itchy. Oh well, I tried my best. In any case, there are several movies in Indian films in all languages that have plots based on Mahabharatam and Bhagavad Gita along with life of Krishna, Karna, Drona, and other key characters.
For this festival day I picked the 1967 Indian Telugu musical mythological film Sri Krishnavataram ( = The Avatar of Lord Sri Krishna), that depicts the complete life of Lord Krishna tying in with his key role in Mahabratam and Bhagavad Puranam epics.
Being a magnum opus the movie also comes with a string of named and nameless actors portraying various roles in the movie. The film is directed by Kamalakara Kameshwara Rao and produced under the banner of Tarakarama Pictures - owned by Nandamuri Taraka Ramarao (NTR) himself. The lead role of Lord Krishna is portrayed by none other than NTR with other key actors taking up key roles. Music for the film was composed by T. V. Raju with playback singing provided by Ghantasala, Madhava Peddi, Pithapuram, A. V. Ragahavulu, P. Susheela, P. Leela, L. R. Eeswari, Swarnalatha and S. Varalakshmi. The film contained 10 songs and 25 poems. Songs were written by Dr. C. Narayana Reddy and Samudrala Raghavacharya while the poems were written by Chellapilla Venkata Shastri and Diwakarla Tirupathi Shastri. The movie had been a successful one and celebrated Silver Jubilee. It had run for more than 100 days when it was re-released in 1982 and 1990 some thirty+ years after the movie was made. Although the music doesn’t seem to be very famous, at least I have not heard many of the songs.
Being a magnum opus I expected to have the movie depicted in a fast forward mode. Thus most of Lord Krishna's childhood is depicted in one single song and a few scenes with key incidents highlighted - Putana Haranam, Satakatasura (A monster who came as a chariot wheel to kill Little Krishna) Maranam, Kaaliya Mardhanam, Govardhana Giri Katha, Gopika Vastrapaharanam (Krishna teases the Gopikas by hiding their clothes while they bathed), Showing mother Yashodha the universe in his mouth, Promise to Shishupala's mother that he will not kill him until he make 100 mistakes and killing of his uncle Kamsa - before the adult Lord Krishna is shown. Then the plot continues with the wedding of Krishna with Rukmini - although he does foil the plans of Shishupala to marry Rukmini first - Shamantakamani Story including the wedding of Krishna with Satyabhama and Jambavathi, Killing of Shishupala and Sudama being received by Sri Krishna who didn’t forget the deeds that Krishna had done for him.
The plot moves on to the story of Kauravas and Pandavas showing the key role of Sri Krishna with the saving the honor of Draupadi in the court of Kauravas, Pandavas getting the aid of Sri Krishna alone and Kauravas getting all of Krishna's army, Sri Krishna taking the role of ambassador for Pandavas in the court of Kauravas who decline even giving away five small regions (in reality the entire kingdom belongs to Pandavas per the rules), Viswaroopam of Sri Krishna, the battle of Kurukshetra and finally his exit from this world.
All of Lord Krishna's eight wives are shown in this movie: Rukmini (by Devika), Satyabhama (by Kanchana), Jambavathi (by Sukanya), Lakshana Devi (by Krishna Kumari), Kalindi (by L. Vijayalakshmi), Nagnajiti (by Geetanjali), Mitravinda (by Sandhyarani) and Bhadra (not sure who was the actress who portrayed this role). The pic is very blurred due to the video quality but I am hoping all eight wives are seen.
Key Roles portrayed by famous and known actors are: Mukkamala as Kamsa, Shobhanbabu as Narada, Rajanala as Shishupala, Prabhakar Reddy as Balaramudu, Devika as Lakshmi / Rukmini, Kanchana as Satyabhama, Dhulipala as Satrajit (Satyabhama's father), Chhaya Devi as mother of Shishupala, Satyanarayana as Duryodhana, Mikkilineni as Dharmaraju Yudhishtira, Ramakrishna as Arjuna, Nagaiah as Dritharashtra, S. Varalakshmi as Draupadi and Rushyendramani as Kunti Devi. Krishnam Raju also had a role in the movie, but try hard how I might but I couldn’t figure out which role did he play.
It being a very old print, there are so many editing issues. I wish the original movie without the editing issues was available. An excellent effort to cover what goes on in two epics and many smaller mythological books in three hours of a movie. With the kind of technology existing at that time, the graphics are exemplary. Excellent performances by one and all to make it an all-rounded successful movie. The current generation might find it a bit dragging to watch, but it is a wonderful depiction of relationships, brothers, families, leeches who would take advantage of the conflicts between brothers, the knowledge of being wise, striving towards peace and prosperity and in the end choosing the right path. Definitely worth watching any time.
1) Nadamuri Harikrishna - NTR's fourth son - portrays the role of Bala Krishna (little Krishna) in the movie.