My Grandpa used to get very offended, when, I used to tell him that King Mahabali (from now on refereed to as Maveli) had to be the only ‘Socialist’ ruler in mythology, for being able to manage a kingdom where the material needs were none, and everyone had enough to keep them happy! Now, I can’t find a better and finer example than the concept, more beautifully lived out in our mythology, than the legend of Maveli. And ancient texts, scriptures, mythology have always been a favorite hunting ground for our film makers, going back all the way to Raja Harishchandra in 1913, our first movie from India ! So, it isn’t surprising that our own Maveli too has had its share of the arc lights, though its been some time that he was last seen on the big screen. The most dedicated attempt in Indian cinema, to my knowledge, to chronicle the story of Maveli has to be the Baman Avatar (1955), directed by Raman B. Desai, who himself had directed a version of Raja Harishchandra in 1952. Someone has been kind enough to upload the entire movie on this popular video sharing site. Trilok Kapoor and a very young Nirupa Roy stars in the film, with the Vaman avatar played by Praveen Kumar.
Here is a clipping from the movie, termed the legend of Onam, but I couldn’t find anything justified the title in the entire clipping, it is terribly confusing, you be the judge.
And it also is a little saddening to see the King brought down to a caricature of what he stood for, in our times. Nothing personal, but wish we extended our king the same respect we do to the representations of any mythical figure from the puranas.
Maveli in Malayalam Cinema.
One of the most commercially successful directors of the 70’s and early 80’s, Sasi Kumar had infact directed a Malayalam film called Mahabali in 1983, under the Sreemurukalaya Films Banner, starring Prem Nazir, Raj Kumar and Adoor Bhasi. I am hoping that one of the TV channels at least have the sensibility to telecast this, in the midnight hours ! The music was by MK Arjunan and Lyrics by Pappanamcode Lakshmanan.
Here is Swarangal, sung by Vani Jayaram and Lathika, presumably picturised at Indra’s court, where Urvasi, Rambha and Thilothama do their number to entertain the Lord.
Read in detail about the movie here.
Maveli Naadu Vaanedum Kaalam in Cinema.
The earliest recording of the most famous song/composition that expresses the spirit of Onam and its history was adapted to Malayalam Cinema, way back in 1955 for Newspaper Boy, sung by Kamukara Purushothaman, Shanta P Nair, Vijayan, Ramachandran and TA Laksmi. There was another adaptation for the 1973 film Madhavikkutty, directed by Thoppil Bhasi. P Leela rendered this version. The most popular version of the song seems to be the version sung by P Madhuri for the Sasi Kumar directed 1983 film, Mahaabali.
Here is a version, that stays closest to the folk traditions.
Related : Onam Songs from old Malayalam Films.
Related : Onam Special Show | Mahabali