Retro Review - we present the reviews of some of the films that offer great cinematic experience as if they are released now (currently). We present the content in such a way that we have just come out of the theatre and penned out our thoughts fresh. You can enjoy the reviews and relive the moments in a different way. And try to watch the films like they're new, once again.
Like a father expects his son to outperform him, a Guru is always expected to rejoice in knowing his disciple/student overcame him in terms of excellence and expertise. But this is just ideal situation. Not every time things like this hold true. Ayn Rand says, “The code of competence is the only system of morality that’s on a gold standard.” But in reality many people fear competition. Is it because of lack of ability? Inertia? Laziness? Or taking success till that point for granted? Or sheer jealousy? Competition actually makes us excel and develop our skills perpetually.
K. Vishwanath who till the point made movies about artists in various disciplines (vocal music, classical dance etc.) has used the art forms as just the background material and explored the psychology of humans in various stages of life. In the film, Swathi Kiranam, he peruses the strongest of the negative emotions, jealousy. Starring Malayalam star hero Mammootty, Radhika, and master Manjunath, the film has its music composed by Pughazhendi in the stead of the maestro K. V. Mahadevan. But he credited K. V. Mahadevan as the music director.
Anantha Rama Sharma and his downfall
Swathi Kiranam starts with the lowest point in the life of a musical maestro of the previous generation. He is Anantha Rama Sharma. He had literally run away from his premises as he lost his face due to an outbreak of jealousy in him. He felt he was defeated by a youngster who’s not even one-third of his age. The shabby looking Anantha Rama Sharma is beaten by a few people who thinks that he is a thief. He was living on the temple steps as a recluse in reality. He is taken to the nearby police station where the inspector in charge Radhakrishna recognises the man as Sangeetha Samraat Anantha Rama Sharma.
Why, and how he came to become like that? Why he was shunned by his own people or he lost his face and ran away? We need to look back into his previous life.
A couple of decades ago, Anantha Rama Sharma was the musical sensation. He was so popular and widely respected that the Government of India confers upon him Padma Award. But being an egotist, he rejects the award citing that the co-awardees are not worth to be placed alongside him. He felt it as an insult to take the State award with those who are inferior to him.
On the other side is Gangadharam, a pre-teen who is a natural talent in music. He is not a trained singer but the nature itself is his inspiration and Guru. The local music teacher, who is the aunt of the inspector Radhakrishna is very fond of him and encourages his talents. The high school teacher who is also the cousin of the music teacher likes and leaves him to his own ways. Gangadharam enjoys life in his own small world. He is from a poor family which leads its life from the income they generate from a small hotel.
The story of the film involves how the worlds of Anantha Rama Sharma clash and what sort of result the clash produces. Initially Anantha Rama Sharma rejects you train Gangadharam as he thinks the boy to be indisciplined. Later when Gangadharam sings on the same stage as Anantha Rama Sharma with his permission everyone gets mesmerised by his natural ability. Gangadharam comes up with a Kirtana in the class of Pancharatna Kritis of Tyagaraja. This makes Anantha Rama Sharma jealous. What was thought of his showreel programme becomes the showcase of a young prodigy who is already better than him.
He offers to adopt and train Gangadharam to which an unsuspecting boy and his family agrees with happily. But Anantha Rama Sharma starts to restrict Gangadharam. Gangadharam says one day to Anantha Rama Sharma’s benevolent wife, “Amma, I always feel you’re like my mother. You always treat me like your own child. But why am I unable to feel Guruji as my father?”
The situation escalates beyond control as Anantha Rama Sharma’s vanity takes better of him and he even copies one of the tunes of Gangadharam he himself rejected and sings in the stage. When he understands that Gangadharam knows his machinations and willingly allowed him to copy his work to keep his honor, Anantha Rama Sharma breaks down and blurts out his jealous rant at the boy. Knowing the situation has gone beyond control, Gangadharam takes his own life to save his Gurus life for the sake of his mother-alike.
Mammootty Vs Manjunath - clash of titans
Everyone was surprised when K. Vishwanath selected Mammootty for the lead role. He’s a Malayalam superstar and a noted actor but his display as Anantha Rama Sharma is way beyond even his national award winning performance in Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha. With just a flick of his eyebrow he shows his attitude. His eyes are miring in the fires of jealousy. His body language is that of a flawed and rotten genius. Jealousy is an emotion anyone could go through in their lives but to think of such emotion in a maestro is unbearable for the audience of those days. That might be the reason for the failure of the film.
For his part, Mammootty displayed a wide range of emotions in the song. The audience, even staunchest of Mammootty fans can be able to see Anantha Rama Sharma only on the screen. He became the part. The way he shows Rajasa while singing, the way he gets rotten in his own subconscious all are properly expressed through the acting. Mammootty is a genius actor and we can see his genius at its best in this film. Vishwanath - the filmmaker - is a master in selecting the right actor for the eight roles. Mammootty’s selection as the antihero is another masterstroke.
Another masterstroke of Vishwanath is Master Manjunath as Gangadharam the child prodigy. Manjunath who was popular as Swami in the tele-serial Swami and Friends (part of Malgudi Days?) is a natural. He is joy personified on the screen. The way he carried out heavy and conflicting emotions during the latter portions of the film is exemplary display of histrionics. Radhika as the benevolent better half of Anantha Rama Sharma is terrific. Her performance in the climax when she asks Gangadharam’s mother, “which God has killed Gangadharam?” Pointing at the divine and Anantha Rama Sharma makes one tearfully-eyed. Rest of the actors are perfectly cast.
Pranaams to Vishwanath
Writing about Vishwanath and his craft of filmmaking is a waste of time as much much much has written about him. We can just offer our pranaamsto him and now our heads. That’s enough. Swathi Kiranam is his best film of all time. And the pinnacle of his filmmaking wizardry. The dialogues by Jandhyala are inch perfect. The natural humour he brings out of various situations is superb. And those in the emotional situations are terrific. Both sides of his own are sharp.
Unravelling the mystery behind jealousy of Anantha Rama Sharma
But why in the first place Anantha Rama Sharma is jealous of Gangadharam in the first place? He is not an ordinary person to be consumed by humanly emotions. And even if he concedes his defeat and help stage Gangadharam’s progress would have made him even famous. Is it just Ahankara which led to his downfall? What stronger emotion/bug that made him kill the child prodigy?
The writer has the answer
While Anantha Rama Sharma’s world is music, the world itself is the music for Gangadharam. It is this realisation that made Anantha Rama Sharma to kill Gangadharam. When you understand that that you’re just a pipilaka in front of someone who is far superior, people always want to eradicate the existence of that person. Like Peter Keating tried to do to Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. People like Keating scoff at the talent of the best and try to break down the talents psychologically. Only that Keating failed to break Roark down. Anantha Rama Sharma succeeded.
The End is the Beginning
But seeing the end of an emotion sometimes gives redemption. After a decade and half after the death of Gangadharam, Anantha Rama Sharma starts over again and sings in apashruthi and is corrected by a little girl. When he takes this in stride (albeit tragically) the story ends in the hope that people like Anantha Rama Sharma can be redeemed. After all, like Ayn Rand said - anything is possible in a benevolent universe.
Reviewed by GitacharYa