Musically, Yours

Movie Name: Swathi Thirunal

Year: 1987

Director: Lenin Rajendran

Language: Malayalam

This is the life of a ruler for whom music was like a second skin. As the camera shows us the glimpses of the palace of Travancore, the serenity and the ambience fill you with a sense of peace. Legendary Carnatic composer and King Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma, better known as Swathi Thirunal was man of many talents, an avid music composer, a sensitive ruler, a patron of art forms and a man who was proficient in various languages. He took the reins from his aunt when was barely 16 years old.

The film chronicles the important events in the life of the ruler. Swathi Thirunal was a person who breathed music and believed that it was beyond frontiers. He has umpteen compositions to his credit. The Tranvancore-ruler was believed to be a Padmanabhan daasan (a devotee of Lord Vishnu). Actor Anant Nag who played the ruler in the movie portrays the king as a man of few words and dense expressions. Being an erudite himself, Swathi Thirunal encourages his people to learn English.

As a ruler, Swathi Thirunal was never comfortable being under the control of British rule. So, there were many occasions when the two were at loggerheads. For instance, as a lover of art forms, he opened the doors of his kingdom to musicians, dancers and instrumentalists from across the country. This also included artistes from regions that refused to support the British rule. The king’s unconditional support extended to these artistes thus became a major bone of contention between the East India Company and the ruler.

Swathi Thirunal was married to Narayani Panam Pillai Amma Kochamma played by actress Ambika. The love of music makes their relationship stronger. However, a unique move by the ruler drifts them apart in the form of Sugandhavalli, a danseuse and a Devadasi. Impressed by her dancing skills, Swathi Thirunal builds a separate palace to house the danseuse and also allows her to enter the temple, much to the chagrin of the family members. Despite his efforts to uplift artistes from various backgrounds, Swathi Thirunal finds him alone, except his music towards the end of the film.

 This biopic is a soulful music that comprises of the compositions of the musician and the music director M. B. Sreenivasan. The movie fetched the singer, M. Balamuralikrishna, the Kerala State Awards in 1987. The dialogues are crisp and well-thought out. It is a film which communicates through music and silence. Thus, soulfully and musically yours.

Janani Rajeswari is a freelance journalist who feels writing is a way of staying happy and positive. She teaches foreign languages. She also loves music, pets, books, movies, art and craft and learning new languages.

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