Bhanumati (1925-2005) is a great singer, actor, dancer, director, and film producer of South Indian films from early 50’s.One should watch movies or song clips from her early career to enjoy her sweet young voice. Savi rahe is one example for the melody and sweetness. She also charms with her graceaful and confident classical dance performance as one can see in Rara na saamy.
Pilichina biguvatara from Malliswari is yet another great one to enjoy Bhanumati’s sweet voice and her subtle and sublime, yet graceful, dance with fantastic body language and facial expressions of a young girl trying to seduce her lover. Watch how beautifully she uses her hands and fingers and with so much ease and effortlessness.
Special Thanks to Youtube, and to many movie lovers that took the effort to upload several classical clips, we can get to watch and listen to so many wonderful classics with so much ease1
I wonder sometimes what would have happened to Indian heritage in arts, music, philosophy and knowledge coming from Vedas, Gita and other classics without the Brahmin faithful?
Bhanumati is one such talent coming from Brahmin sect. Even Steve Jobs, the great Product Manager of our times, noted Brahman in his autobiography2.
What she produced during her life span makes her a super woman. No wonder she was aptly called asthavadhani. The word astha in Sanskrit stands for number eight and avadhani3 means the master. She is called so because she had mastery over eight or more areas spanning dance, acting, writing literature, languages, and movie making. She did all of these with ease, variety, and prowess.
How could a young girl from such rural area as current day Prakasam District in Andhrapradesh province in India come to learn and master dance (Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi,etc), music (Hindustani, Carnatic), play back singing, acting, writing, and multiple languages (Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi) so well as she did?
No wonder, C. N. Annadurai, considered the great leader of Tamilnadu by Tamilians, gave her the title of “Nadippukku Ilakkanam” (means Grammar for acting) which is a well deserving title. He performance in Pilchina biguvata clearly teaches grammar of dancing and acting to aspiring young artists.
For her song scenes in movies she did her own playback singing. Later she would write stories and scripts. In essense, she provided complete end-to-end experience similar to what Jobs did with his products. While Savitri is considred greatest actress of all times in Telugu films (and thus her title – Maha natini) Bhanumati deserves credit for the all round performance. A friend of mine believes Savitri (acting) + Susheela (playback singing) provide for greater experience than Bhanumati (acting) + Bhanumati(playback singing).
This example may mean that Job’s vertical model works when greats like him are in charge. But horizontal model also works as not every individual is gifted with all talents. When we pool and combine talents the result produced can yield great experience. The ideal solution may be hybrid approach and that is what real world is about. That is what Jobs did – he let thousands of developers produce Apps for iPhone thus enhancing the experience of the overall product while he limited himself to the hardware and OS. This is bit tangent to the topic of the post and worth a separate post for those interested in technology evolution. Watch for post on this separately.
I agree with my friend’s view point on Bhanumati vs. Savitri. As ANR says in his tribute to Savitri – there is one sun, one earth, one moon and likewise there is only one great actress – that is Savitri. He further, concerned that some may find weakness in his argument given scientific data that there are multiple suns, multiple moons, he goes on to equate her to the single and infinite sky for her infinite heart and towering performance. Definitely, she must be great to have won such eloquent praise from ANR and for having many fans like my friend. However, Bhanumati still deserves credit for the all round performance. Also, her career proves how education can help sustain female actors in entertainment industry. Savitri and Silk Smitha careers and personal lives seem to have parallels in how their life came to end in the end and so sadly.
Delivering complete experience in movies could work only if talented actors like her are at the helm of affairs just as Gates said about Jobs. In recent times there is not one I can name that comes close to Bhanumati in Indian film industry or anywhere. Her early film performance can be compared to Madonna who herself is another great multi-talented female artist with movie musical hits such as ‘Evita’ and in particular the song ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ from that movie.
Bhanumati has voice that makes one wonder if she has an analog piano stuck somewhere in her voice system. Her singing flows so smoothly. Check Sa virahe and it remains the most melogious rendetion of Jayadeva’s composition. Check ‘Akasa veedilo’ from Malliswari. The alapana is so faultless and worth listening multiple times.
If Bhanumati voice from her songs and in particular ones like Sa virahe are digitized and scanned we may find no modulation errors. She has so much control of her voice whether going up or coming down. In terms of technical aspects of voice she could be one of the all time greats of Indian singing. Western world has many good female singers such as Celine Dione and they may even perform better on voice control and technical aspects. But given the Indian context each of the acclaimed Indian singers deserve uncomparable praise.
Those with knowledge of Sanskrit/Hindi, Telugu or even w/o knowing any Indian language would find the songs in the side bar melodious to listen to.