Skip to content

Film Review: Tenali Raman (Tamil) (B&W) (1956) (a biographic/period film)

May 28, 2015

Starring: the then superstars of Indian cinema: N T Rama Rao, Shivaji Ganesan – who were as popular or perhaps even more over Raj Kapoor or Dev Anand of Hindi cinema down south and in Tamil speaking nations such as Singapore/Malaysia/Fiji/Mauritius/Sri Lanka. I have had the pleasure of watching both bollywood and tamil/south Indian pictures. I grew up on a diet of Tamil & Hindi and even Sanskrit (in primary school). Sometimes I have too much in my plate but I try to do justice as much as I can and enjoy the best of both the worlds.

Timing was perfect: just about when the pseudo-sickular Indian media went abuzz with one more scoop on how in Modi govt a muslim woman was denied a flat in Mumbai, the picture was screened in a tamil tv channel this afternoon

By the way there are 2 kind of media guys/journos: Modi lovers & Modi obsessed. The second kind are a lineage of Ravana of Ramayan times. Ravan, on being killed in the ‘yudh’ by Ram, went straight to ‘Vaikunth.’ Why? Because even though he was the arch enemy of Lord Ram, he was always thinking of Ram uttering his name a 1000 times unaware. That ensured Ravan reached heaven over hell – so our Modi critics are just like Ravan in their anti-fervour for our beloved and respected Prime Minister. And when you see the scum all around especially in Pakistan, you really feel like Modi is ‘Neighbours’ Envy, Owners’ Pride.’

I am yearning for a dream date with Modi for a selfie myself – he is hot! 🙂


And now to ‘Tenali Raman.’ True history.

This is a period film made in the 1950s. Tenali Raman was a courtier in Vijayanagara Kingdom when Krishna Deva Raya was the emperor. Sadly the muslim blooded Nehru’s ministry never thought much about promoting the Moghul history at the expense of suppressing the past Hindu/Indian glory.

Indian historians and Congress govt and the minority Muslims have been incessantly trying to legitimize and romanticize one thing about the Moghuls: trying to paint them as Indians which they were not. Like the British, the moghuls were foreigners, invaders, looters far many more times worse. From imposing the Jiziya to taking Hindu women into harems, they converted and spread Islam in the subcontinent by the sword. Moghul monuments in India are no different from those of the Raj days – of British legacy. Al Qaeda to Taliban to ISIS, today’s terror outfits had predecessors in the slave kings from Afghanistan to Turkey extending upto the Moghul empire. Today’s Taliban are none but direct blood descendants of yesteryear Moghuls, just in case you forget.

Moghuls never went down well with south Indians. South Indian Hindus, to be more specific. For one thing they never came upto us – or we would have shown them their true place. Another thing, south Indians are truly patriotic in the sense we don’t glorify the moghul era the way the north Indians do like Stolkholm-syndrome afflicted. We see history for what it is because we have our own perspective of it. We have had the great Chera, Chola & Pandya kingdoms besides the Pallavas who were noble administrators and great and generous patrons of arts, music, dances and crafts. Brahadeshwara temple in Tanjore is a grander pyramid raised in a fraction of time than what it took to build any of those you may find in Egypt. The first dam in Tamil Nad was Kallanai across river Kaveri that stands good to this day, built by Karikal Chola in 3rd century BC. Tamil grammar and literature date back to the period before the birth of christ which is why most of us cannot respect or accept Moghuls as Indians. We have a parallel history – our rulers were never cruel, sadistic invaders.

The only seafaring king in Indian history was ‘Kedaram Kondan’ – a Chola king Rajendra Chola who conquered Kedah in Malaysia. Ship building was thus a known craft to Tamils,besides engineering, architecture and life sciences. Today Raja Raja Chola who built the Tanjore Big temple lies buried nameless in a small grave with a hardly visible etching. Our kings nurtured life, not death like the moghuls did building mausoleums.

A 1000 year old Shiva Lingam and a small stone edict are the only references to the great king’s grave. His legacy lives on…. his descendants live a quiet life in the state until this date.

Burying the glory of the Hindu past, hindu history is the gravest problem in India today. Indian muslims and christians are essentially converts and even they have a right to know how they came to be.

From Shivaji to Krishna Deva Raya, the glorious era of vast Hindu empires and their strong, heroic and successful resistance of the moghuls has been reduced to pathetic few paragraphs in Indian history texts. Indian media’s another chief lament is about the so-called ‘saffronization’ of our school syllabus. Indeed if truth had been told downright, there would be no need at a later date for anyone to resort to ‘correcting’ some ‘misrepresentations.’ The Chera-Chola-Pandya-Pallava empires of deep south lasted for over 1000 years and the Maratha-Vijayanagar kingdoms flourished for some 500 years over and well above the moghul regime. This is discounting other petty Hindu kings who were contemporaries and the preceding Maurya-Gupta empires when India produced renowned scientists to scholars whose names are remembered even in this 21st century. But no hindu ruler was as ruthless or as savage as any muslim invader was ever. Aurangzeb is comparable only to Pak generals and ISIS cadres. How can this monster be ever Indian and how can a road be named after him in the national capital. What is wrong with us.

The Chera-Chola-Pandya reign is known as the golden age of Tamil Nadu. Not only did the 3 co-exist with the Cheras ruling today’s Kerala, the Pandya Madurai and Chola the Tanjore belt along with the Pallavas who came later (who were behind the world heritage Mahabalipuram architecture, 50 km from Chennai) governing the coastal country, they were also exponents of maritime trade and silk weaving and other cottage industries. Sangam literature flourished in their times. Most of the edifices and monuments of their 1000 year leagacy are listed as world heritage by Unesco that none of the moghul architecture could match.

I am sharing a single link here – which is incomplete.

Architectural glory of Kanchipuram, 70 km from Chennai (after Sriperumbudur) thanks to successive tamil kings of Pallava dynasty:

The ancient wealth of south India cannot be quantified. I have not even covered in this post 0.5% of our great cultural heritage spanning over 2000 years easily.

The Andhra-Karnataka provinces thrived and flourished under the Marathas and the Vijayanagara kings respectively.

The empires down south were rock-solid, well-administered and rich with culture and trade. While northern India was torn and taken apart bit by bit, the south remained a strong forte of the great Hindu civilization.

To what extent our textbook writers have confused the Indian children/successive generations is astounding.  Many details have been blacked out. Omissions apart, there is a needless romantifization of the Moghul era. Tipu Sultan. Who was he. One who fought the British. But then who was he originally. He came from the line of invaders too. The irony of recording history and making heroes and villains out of the Moghuls and the British as we fancy never ceased to shock me right from my school days. As for me, the British were a lot more benevolent compared to the Moghuls. In what way was Tipu Sultan different from the British. I think this is what we call as leaping ‘from the frying pan to the fire.’ From one hell to another – even if Sultan could have been a rare good administrator. Its good he perished and that particular part of India came under direct British rule. I would rather the British over the Moghuls. Food for thought: wondering what would have been Tipu’s stance had the native Hindus revolted against him.

Emperor Ashoka embraced Buddhism repenting his blood thirst and regretting the lives he had taken with the war – and this is how the Hindu kings ruled Bharat. Whose compassion for other life forms you cannot see in any turk/moghul/arab invader.

I am reminded here of Paari, a great tamil king who left his chariot to a jasmine creeper to climb on. Paari was riding his horse-driven chariot when he encountered a jasmine family creeper (mullai flower in tamil) that had nothing to cling to. He looked all around and when there was nothing to lend by way of support, Paari gave his chariot to the creeper so the flowering plant could survive and walked back to his palace with his attendants in tow. This is not a myth: this is recorded in ancient  Sangam Tamil literature with date, by numerous poets of the age. ‘Mullaikku ther koduthan Paari’ they sang.

Withholding facts is as much damaging as twisting the truth. How many north Indians today know of the Chera-Chola-Pandyas or the Rayas or the Marathas. Such a shame.

Indian historians have successfully drilled into our passive minds that its the British who were the territorial aggressors and usurpers of our wealth and the Moghuls were not, which is the biggest white lie. What BJP and Hindutva guys are trying to do is to strip the mask that has been carefully slipped into its place since independence.

The picture made in the ’50s cannot be a BJP or Hindutva influence/brainchild. Its a neutral film that treats even the Moghul emperor Babur and the Sultans of Bijapur etc with due respect befitting the kings. This was truly the chief characteristic of the trusting Hindu. We had our ‘dharma’ then – even the war dharma that the Afghans or any muslim invader lacked. The film exposes the nefarious designs of the Moghuls as well as the Bahmini kingdom sultans to expand down south spreading the islamic culture and estabishing a sultanate like in Delhi.

If not for the brave and wise Shivaji or Krishna Deva Raya, what would have become of us. We would be another Pakistan or Bangladesh vermin.

Tamil language texts however carried many tales of Tenali Raman in my highschool days. What my history books denied telling me, my regional books did. It is surprising because the books were edited and printed in the DMK era for whom anything Hindu or Indian is generally anathema.

Thespian tamil hero of the 50s, 60s and 70s – Shivaji Ganesan got prefixed with his titular name ‘Shivaji’ after he enacted the Chatrapathi’s role in Tamil stage plays before he entered tamil filmdom. His brilliant characterization of the great Maratha warrior king was the first ever 15-minute solo act telecast in Tamil Doordarshan in the ’70s. We tamils have a healthy respect for Shivaji and Krishna Deva Raya who ruled the Maratha and Karnataka provinces before the British came to India. We view them in the same light we see the troika of Chera-Chola-Pandyas and Pallavas.

N T Rama Rao who later became Andhra Pradesh’s chief minister heading the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) was the popular screen Krishna of south India when the entire 4 states constituted a single Madras Presidency. NTR looks y0ung and fit in his role as the just king. The two – NTR and Shivaji went on to act in one more period film in ’60s titled ‘Karnan’ in which Shivaji played Karna in Mahabharat and NTR was Krishna. A superhit from those days, even now the historical flick is in top-10 of all time Tamil cinema chartbusters.

The death of Karna in the Mahabharath battle: Matchless rendering by Seergazhi Govindarajan: NTR as the evergreen Krishna with Shivaji as Karan:

Another interesting actor is Sandhya, mother of our CM J Jayalalitha, who plays the Maharani of Krishna Deva Raya, oh what a royal beauty she is. Such a divine and ethereal charm. Wish she had had more scenes.

Dr. Banumathy, the most famous and successful woman playright and heroine of those times plays Krishna, the ‘dasi’ (courtesan) who entices the Vijayanagara emperor to dance to her tunes. Banumathy was one of very intelligent heroines of her times when the term ‘feminism’ had not yet evolved the way it has presently. She always strikes me as a fierce feminist and bold woman who was leagues ahead of her peers.

M N Nambiar the favourite Tamil cinema villain of the black & white era plays the Raja guru.

The picture is the story of the life and times of Ramakrishna of Tenali who moves to Vijayanagara. The rajaguru of the court prevents Raman from meeting Krishna Deva Raya but Ramakrishnan, probably being India’s foremost ‘vikatakavi’ (satirist/poet) charts an indigenous route to the king’s heart. Or to use the appropriate word, Tenali Rama was the court’s jester-poet. He was known for his quick wits and retorts and words of wisdom that immensely pleased the king and enabled him render impartial justice. Raman’s wise counselling also prevailed in foiling and countering the scheming sultans’ vicious attacks on Vijayanagar empire. 

Donno how far this is true but this is how it is said Raman was blessed with his wealth of knowledge that the Vijayanagara king greatly benefited from:

The jester not only proves his loyalty to the king and his motherland over and over again, he even masquerades as a traveler visiting the moghul king Babur, dissuading him from sending his elephant troops to join the sultans of Bijapur, Ahmedabad etc of Bahmani kingdoms which were about to wage war on Vijayanagara empire. Here again I paused. Whose elephants were they really, working against whom. Such a sad history is my Hindu history. Today when I read the writings or opinions of pseudo secular Hindus and fanatical and thankless muslims of the print media, it no wonder revolts me. Converts are overzealous in proving to the world how they ‘belong.’

At the precise moment in history, the glorious Vijayanagar kingdom’s geographical extent spread maximum in India and Krishna Deva Raya single-handedly dealt with all the 5 sultans of the north (Bahmani kingdom).

The film finishes on a happy note, mercifully. It would have been heartbreaking to see the fall of the great Hindu empire ravaged by bloodthirsty islamic invaders from as far as Afghanistan.

Viswanathan-Ramamurthy did the music score – I couldn’t recall any popular tune though. Editing not upto mark but perhaps given the time of the making of the film, it can be overlooked. Director/producer – I cannot recall. Too old even for me I guess!

Over all, I found the picture educative as well as absorbing which I was not prepared for to start with.

Hampi is on our list of places to visit – now Sterling/Club Mahindra have guest houses/cottages there. We plan everytime but keep missing. I have never wanted or yearned to see the Taj Mahal – to me it will always be the Shiva-temple-turned-mausoleum. Whereas I want to go see the seats of great Hindu empires that were fountains of wisdom, knowledge, compassion, tolerance and trust of which the Moghuls never had a clue. No blaming them, character is genetic.

How the film takes care not to offend the minority community or malign the moghuls/islamic invaders of India reflects typical Nehruvian policy of those times. Indeed Nehru was our prime minister in the ’50s and even Tamil Nadu was Madras state that was headed by a congress government.

I am asking the Indian muslims this single question: Do you blend anymore? Are you Arab? If you are, expect to be treated as one. If you are Indian in body & soul, shed your burqa and love this land. Pledge your loyalty to India not Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. Defend India, not Pakistan. The grain you eat is Indian, the air you breath is Indian, the soil you let your body rest is Indian, but who are you in your heart? Prove me wrong, win my trust.

As for the Indian muslim lady who was denied the flat in Mumbai, my question is, Madam, will you rent your place to pork eaters. Beef is a big no-no just like pork is for you guys. The day you will allow pork to be cooked in your quarters or even consumed, you have a moral or even constitutional right to report discrimination in India.









Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: