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Revisiting Mayabazar: How the opening scene units the tone for this basic about two princes and a mischievous God – Art-and-culture News , Firstpost

If you grew up watching Tamil or Telugu movies anytime from the 1950s onward — and even had some information of those cinemas — you’ll know Mayabazar, and its towering fame, in the identical means that Hindi-film viewers know of Sholay or Mughal-e-Azam.

‘Well Begun’ is a month-to-month column about opening scenes/establishing sequences in movies.


The opening credit start, and you’ll inform {that a} interval epic is about to unfold. But first there’s a temporary, mood-setting interlude: a confrontation between an earthbound archer and a burly, mace-wielding fellow within the sky. They launch their weapons; the arrow and the mace race in direction of one another and collide in mid-air, as this stuff are inclined to do in our mythological movies.

And then the primary title seems.


A number of months in the past, whereas instructing a web based course in regards to the Mahabharata, I re-watched KV Reddy’s magnificent 1957 movie (made in each Tamil and Telugu), and was once more enthralled — by the humour, the visible grandness, the music, the performances, the ceaseless sense of marvel. But I used to be additionally struck by that opening second, which is a taster of an vital later scene.

A viewer who doesn’t know in regards to the plot of Mayabazar would possibly — on the idea of visible cues accrued from different mythological movies and TV exhibits, or the iconography of Amar Chitra Katha comics — conjecture what’s going on right here thus: the archer is the hero; the closely moustached mace man (who barely resembles the Ravana of the 1980s tv Ramayana) is the antagonist; even perhaps a depraved asura.

But because it occurs, these combatants are each the progeny of the heroic Pandavas, each destined to play key roles a lot later within the nice epic. Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna and Subhadra, has strayed into the enchanted realm of Ghatotkacha, the son of Bheema and Hidimbi. They don’t but recognise one another, however after they do a joyous brotherly reconciliation will happen — and their moms, one a Yadava princess, the opposite a rakshasi who guidelines over a forest, will greet one another as sisters. Like cousins going to a movie collectively throughout the summer time holidays, Abhimanyu and Ghatotkacha will even quiet down to observe a stage efficiency of a well-known Puranic story (the one in regards to the asura who acquires the boon that he can destroy anybody by inserting his hand on their head).

Shortly after this, Ghatotkacha will use his powers to assist Abhimanyu reunite together with his love Sasirekha — and this turns into the pretext for a pleasant comedy involving motion and impersonation and a lavish marriage ceremony feast.

Detail from poster, Mayabazar

All that comes later, although. The first narrative scene of Mayabazar (after these opening credit) is ready in Dwaraka, the abode of Lord Krishna, who’s the opposite magician or “maya-vi” determine on this movie. The early scenes will stress each the magic within the air (a box-shaped system, which may be opened to speak with people who find themselves distant, is sort of a bejewelled prototype for a web based video-call) and Krishna’s divinity — most notably in a phenomenal sequence that factors to how he has been mythologised in his personal lifetime. But these scenes are additionally about household politics, romance, and the informal chatter that takes place in on a regular basis life, even when the folks concerned are legendary figures like Krishna or Balarama.

If you grew up watching Tamil or Telugu movies anytime from the 1950s onward — and even had some information of those cinemas — you’ll know Mayabazar, and its towering fame, in the identical means that Hindi-film viewers know of Sholay or Mughal-e-Azam. Apart from its distinctive qualities as a musical-comedy-fantasy, it brings collectively a few of the most notable names in south Indian cinema — beginning with NT Rama Rao within the first (and presumably essentially the most endearing) of his many performances as Krishna, and SV Ranga Rao as Ghatotkacha, who goes from being fearsome to childlike within the blink of a watch. The younger Savitri is excellent because the heroine Sasirekha (often called Vatsala within the Tamil model), significantly within the scenes the place Ghatotkacha, disguised because the princess, shifts from daintiness to demoniac swagger and again once more. And throughout the 2 variations of the movie, the position of Abhimanyu is performed by two main stars: Akkineni Nageswara Rao in Telugu and Gemini Ganesan in Tamil.

On the opposite hand, for those who didn’t develop up with these languages and cinemas, you would possibly go a long time as a film buff with out understanding a lot about Mayabazar. I used to be in my late thirties after I bought to observe an excellent print with subtitles, and midway by way of I knew I used to be within the presence of cinematic brilliance. For me it now ranks alongside any of Indian cinema’s best achievements of that decade, from Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy to the perfect work of Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor and Bimal Roy.

To a point, this has to do with my Mahabharata-love; to have the ability to recognize Mayabazar in all its dimensions, one has to understand its recent, whimsical slant on characters who’re already acquainted from the nice epic. It is predicated on the folk-tale Sasirekha Parinayam, which had been filmed way back to the 1930s, and the methods during which the story departs from the canonical Mahabharata are very telling.

For occasion, it might sound unusual to say that this can be a comforting, heart-warming movie, contemplating that within the mainstream Mahabharata each Ghatotkacha and Abhimanyu find yourself dying in tragic circumstances — it would even be mentioned that each of them are sacrificed as a gambit by Krishna. (Ghatotkacha’s dying is the one that’s explicitly introduced as a ploy — Krishna desires Karna to make use of his deadly weapon towards the dispensable rakshasa quite than towards Arjuna — however Abhimanyu’s killing additionally serves the operate of harnessing Arjuna’s fury and elevating the stakes and depth of the conflict.) Watching the interplay of the central characters in Mayabazar — particularly the camaraderie between Krishna and Ghatotkacha — it’s exhausting to think about these identical folks in that distant, calculated state of affairs on the Kurukshetra battlefield.

Revisiting Mayabazar How the opening scene sets the tone for this classic about two princes and a mischievous God

To be capable to recognize Mayabazar in all its dimensions, one has to understand its recent, whimsical slant on characters who’re already acquainted from the Mahabharata

But the factor is, Mayabazar exists in its personal bubble or vacuum. It is unconcerned with what’s to return in an unsure future, it’s rooted in a fantasy current the place all the nice guys will emerge unscathed after having had some enjoyable with the unhealthy guys. Viewed in isolation, it performs a bit like a moralistic however comical and (principally) non-violent model of the Mahabharata. The Pandavas by no means even seem on this three-hour movie; Draupadi solely seems in a single fleeting second early on, which supplies a signpost for the depth of the Kauravas’ evil.

As Vamsee Juluri put it in his guide Bollywood Nation: India Through its Cinema, “Some of the most popular [Telugu] mythological films of this time focus not on a pedagogic panorama of well-known episodes, but instead on minor, seemingly unimportant tales […] they are less about the whims and fancies of the Gods, and more about what happens when they are enmeshed in the web of human relationships.”

In vital renderings of the Mahabharata — those which can be involved with the large image — Ghatotkacha and Abhimanyu occupy very completely different positions in the case of the query of legitimacy. Despite Ghatotkacha being the oldest little one of a Pandava, and the numerous references to their affection for him, it’s clear that he’s not an official inheritor; he exists on the margins of their kingdom. (“I live in another world, and I must go back with my mother,” he tells his father Bheema in a poignant scene in Peter Brook’s movie model of the epic, “But if one day you need me, I’ll hear your call.”) Yet the impact of folk-takes like Sasirekha Parinayam — and different related variations on the primary Mahabharata story — is to reclaim this “rakshasa” prince as a member of the internal circle.

One of the themes of Mayabazar is that appearances may be misleading and that identification may be fluid (a princess celebrating her upcoming marriage ceremony by way of a track would possibly make un-ladylike expressions and “manspreading” gestures) — and we’re ready for this theme by that opening scene, which briefly locations Abhimanyu and Ghatotkacha in opposition, then unites them. Here they’re, one the authentic Pandava inheritor, the opposite an outsider who (in typical Mahabharata tellings) is handled as a distant ally summoned to make a sacrifice; and but here’s a second the place they’re enjoined collectively in real kinship, all boundaries falling away. It is without doubt one of the loveliest conceits of this movie a few market of illusions the place something can occur.

Follow extra of Jai Arjun Singh’s writing on his weblog, or on Twitter

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