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1946 186’ b&w Telugu d/p/s/m Chittor V. Nagaiah pc Sri Renuka Films dial/co-lyr Samudrala Raghavacharya c Mohammad A. Rehman lp Chittor V. Nagaiah, Lingamurthy, B. Jayamma, Hemalatha Devi, Saritha Devi, Nyapathi Narayana Murthy, Rayapralu Subramanyam, K. Doraiswamy, M.C. Raghavan, Natesan, Soundaralakshmi

The actor, singer and composer Nagaiah’s directorial debut is a classic Saint film about the Telugu saint poet Thyagaraja (1767-1847), author of c.2400 kritis (verses) and the founder of the Carnatic system of classical music. Thyagaraja (Nagaiah) is shown as a villager composing devotional music to Rama while rejecting the court of Serfoji, maharaj of Tanjore (Narayana Murthy), the dominant cultural centre of the region. Turning down invitations and gifts from the maharaj, Thyagaraja provokes the jealous wrath of his brother Japesen (Lingamurthy). The film’s climax comes when Japesen destroys Rama’s idols, Thyagaraja resurrects them and eventually sacrifices his life to his god. Nagaiah’s performance in the title role dominated the hit film together with the music, including 28 of Thyagaraja’s kritis culminating in the number Nidhi chala sukhama, sung when he rejects the royal gifts. The director-composer also introduced lyrics from Kannada (the Purandaradasa devara nama in the film’s opening), Tamil (by Papanasam Sivan and sung by D.K. Pattamal) and Hindi (sung by J.A. Rehman). Among the main female roles, Jayamma played Dharmamba, Saritha Devi played Chapala while Hemalatha Devi played Kamalamba.