Chintamani (1937 film)

Chintamani (Tamil: சிந்தாமணி) is a 1937 Tamil-language film directed by Y. V. Rao starring M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, Serugulathur Sama and Aswathamma.[2] It was the first Tamil film to run for a year in a single theatre.[3][4][5]

Chintamani 1937 film.jpg
A scene from the film
Directed byY. V. Rao
Screenplay byA. Ayyalu Somayajulu
Serukalathur Sama
Story byY. V. Rao
StarringM. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar
K. Aswathamma
Music byPapanasam Sivan
CinematographyY. B. Washikar
Edited byBholanath Auddya
Deva Datta Films Studio
Distributed byRayal Talkie Distributers
Release date
12 March 1937[1]
Running time
215 min
CountryBritish India


Chintamani was a popular play which had been performed in many languages. First, a silent film was made based on the play, then talkies based on it were made in Bengali, Hindi and Telugu. In 1937, a Tamil version of the film was directed by film-maker Y. V. Rao under the banner of Rayal Talkies, owned by yarn merchants of Madurai.[3]

Initially, the director Y. V. Rao, wanted to play Bilwamangal's role himself.[6] However, he changed his mind and acted as Bilwamangal's companion Manoharan. Serugulathur Sama was another contender for the main role. But, Rao rejected him in favor of M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar who was signed to play the part. In the initial stages, more publicity was given to the Kannada actress Aswathamma who played Chintamani's role than M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar. Her name was mentioned above that of Bhagavathar's in the credits.[7]


Chintamani was based on the legendary story of a Sanskrit poet and devotee of Lord Krishna named Bilwamangal (M. K. Thyragaraja Bhagavathar). Bilwamangal, a resident of Varanasi, was a Sanskrit scholar, who gets infatuated towards a courtesan called Chintamani (Aswathamma), a woman of ill-fame. As a result, he deserts his wife. However, Chintamani is an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna (Serugalathur Sama) and spends most of her time singing bhajans in praise of Lord Krishna. His attraction towards Chintamani eventually draws Bilwamangal closer towards Lord Krishna and transforms his life forever. Bilwangal, himself, becomes a devotee of Lord Krishna and pens a monumental Sanskrit work Sri Krishna Karnamritam.


Aswathamma who played the title role of Chintamani

Cast according to the openin credits of the film and the song book[8]

Release and receptionEdit

Gramaphone disks of songs from Chintamani manufactured and marketed by Saraswathi Stores

Chintamani was released on 12 March 1937and became one of the most acclaimed films of early Tamil cinema.[9] Though Bhagavathar's first film Pavalakkodi had achieved some success, it was Chintamani that made Bhagavathar into a successful actor. It had an uninterrupted theatrical run of more than a year.[10] It was one of the two films of Bhagavathar, released in 1937 (the other one was Ambikapathy) which ran for more than a year. It also marked the debut in Tamil for Kannada actress Aswathamma who played the title role. Aswathamma acted in one more Tamil movie before her untimely death in 1939 due to tuberculosis.[6]

With the substantial profits obtained from the movie, the owners of Rayal Talkies constructed a theatre in Madurai and named it Chintamani.[2][3][6] The Tamil writer Kalki wrote that the film has so affected viewers that the housewife would sing the song Mayaprapanchattil from the movie while preparing coffee in the morning and her husband would sing Rathey unakku kobam in order to please his sweetheart.[6]

The gramophone discs of Chintamani were also popular though M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar did not sing the songs that were featured in them as he was not under contract with Saraswathi Stores which produced the records. Instead, the songs were sung by Thuraiyur Rajagopala Sarma.[2][6] It continues to influence Sinhala film music to this day.[3]

Writing in Eelakesari magazine in April 1938, Pudumaipithan praised the film as follows:



The soundtrack was composed by Papanasam Sivan. The song "Radhe Unakku" became famous and it is a cult song.

A partial list of songs from the film


  1. ^ Dhananjayan 2014, p. 16.
  2. ^ a b c Guy, Randor (21 December 2007). "Blast from the Past - Chintamani 1937". The Hindu. Retrieved 7 December 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d Muthiah, S. (3 March 2008). "An unforgettable superhit". The Hindu:Metro Plus. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  4. ^ "Tamil cinema history - The Early Days 1937 - 1944". Archived from the original on 17 September 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2008.
  5. ^ Guy, Randor (22 August 2003). "A revolutionary filmmaker". The Hindu:Entertainment. Retrieved 12 September 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d e "MKT Filmography Part I". M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar fan site. Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-12.
  7. ^ Dhananjayan 2014, p. 17.
  8. ^ Chintamani (song book) (in Tamil). Rayal Talkies. 1937.
  9. ^ Film News Anandan 2004, p. 28.11.
  10. ^ a b S. Theodore Bhaskaran 2004, p. 62-3.