Sankarabharanam (1980 film)

Sankarabharanam (transl. The jewel of Sankara) is a 1980 Indian Telugu-language musical drama film written and directed by K. Viswanath. Produced by Edida Nageswara Rao under the production company Poornodaya Movie Creations, Sankarabharanam starred J. V. Somayajulu, Manju Bhargavi, Chandramohan, and Rajyalakshmi. The soundtrack was composed by K. V. Mahadevan and remained a chartbuster. The film throws light on the chasm between Classical and Western Music based on the perspective of people from two different generations.

Film poster
Directed byK. Viswanath
Written byK. Viswanath
Dialogue byJandhyala
Produced byEdida Nageswara Rao
Aakasam Sriramulu
StarringJ.V. Somayajulu
Manju Bhargavi
Chandra Mohan
CinematographyBalu Mahendra
Edited byG. G. Krishna Rao
Music byK. V. Mahadevan
Distributed byPoornodaya Movie Creations
Release date
  • 2 February 1980 (1980-02-02)
Running time
143 minutes[1]

Sankarabharanam won the Prize of the Public at the "Besançon Film Festival of France" in the year 1981.[2] It was screened at the 8th International Film Festival of India,[3] the Tashkent Film Festival, the Asia Pacific Film Festival, the Moscow International Film Festival held in May 1980,[4][5] and the AISFM Film Festival.[6] Forbes included J. V. Somayajulu's performance in the film on its list of "25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema".[7] IBN Live included Sankarabharanam on its list of "100 greatest Indian films of all time".[8]

Sankarabharanam opened to near-empty halls and by the end of the first week, all theaters were houseful for every show. It had an extraordinary run, running for more than 25weeks in many centers. Released in Bangalore without dubbing it ran for a year, having won four National Film Awards including the Best Film with Mass Appeal, Wholesome Entertainment & Aesthetic Values, the first for a South-Indian film at the 27th National Film Awards,[9] and seven state Nandi Awards.[10] It was later dubbed into Tamil and Malayalam under the same title.[11]


Sankara Sastri is a very popular Carnatic singer. He is a widower with a daughter named Sarada. People come in huge numbers to listen to his voice and consider him to be a great man. He has mastered the raga Shankarabharanam and hence is eponymous with the same. Tulasi is a bonded woman's daughter who has a great interest in music and dance. She is also an admirer of Sastri, and goes to the riverbank in the early mornings when Sastri teaches music to his own daughter.

One morning Tulasi is so thrilled by Sastri's singing that she begins dancing on the riverbank, oblivious of her surroundings. Sastri sees her, and Tulasi also comes to her senses and abruptly stops. She expects Sastri to rebuke her. But he appreciates her sincerity and continues singing.

Tulasi's mother wants her to follow in her family's tradition of becoming a courtesan and one day she extracts a high price for Tulasi from a rich man. The man goes on to rape Tulasi. The man sees a photo of Sastri in Tulasi's room. He breaks it and taunts her by saying that now she can become the old Sastri's mistress. This enrages Tulasi. She takes a shard of glass from the broken frame of Sastri's photo and stabs the client to death.

A murder trial ensues. Sastri tries to save Tulasi by consulting his lawyer brother, who wins the case in Tulasi's favor. Tulasi's mother is sent to jail for engaging in prostitution, while Tulasi is a free but homeless woman. Sastri brings Tulasi to his home. People assume that Tulasi has become Sastri's mistress and start avoiding him. Even Sastri's maid and musical accompanists leave him. Tulasi feels responsible for all this and leaves Sastri's home.

Over time the popularity of classical music wanes, while pop music is on the ascendant. Sastri loses his loyal audience and, with it, his comfortable lifestyle. Ten years later, Sastri is living in a small house with his now-grown daughter. Meanwhile, Tulasi has inherited her mother's property after her mother's demise. She wants to help the struggling Sastri anonymously. Tulasi has a ten-year-old son, a result of her rape, and wishes her son to become Sastri's student. Tulasi gets her son to pretend to be homeless and enter Sastri's household as a servant. Things go according to plan. Tulasi is content to watch from a distance as her son gradually becomes a part of Sastri's household and eventually, his musical protegee.

Pamulaparti Venkata Kameswara Rao, a dilettante Brahmin boy, falls in love with Sarada. Although Sastri rejects the alliance at first, he later agrees after learning of the man's interest in classical music. Tulasi then arranges for a concert on the day of Sarada's wedding,in a new music hall which she built with the name of Shankara Sastry, where Sastri finds his lost audience has returned to hear his voice. Sastri sings at the concert but suffers a heart attack part-way through it. Then his disciple, Tulasi's son, takes over from the sidelines and continues singing the song. As Sastri watches his student with pride, he also sees Tulasi at the side of the hall and realizes that the boy is Tulasi's son. A doctor is brought to attend to Sastri, but Sastri waves him off, knowing that his end is near. As Tulasi's son completes the song, Sastri symbolically anoints the boy as heir to his music,by giving his "Abharanam" (his leg bracelet) then dies. Tulasi comes running to her guru and falls down at his feet. She too dies from the shock of Sastri's death. The film ends on this tragic but uplifting note, as Sastri's newly-wed daughter and son-in-law take charge of Tulasi's son.




After hearing the plot, the producers were initially taken aback due to the parallel cinema tone to the subject matter, but finally Edida Nageswara Rao agreed to produce the film. He wanted Akkineni Nageswara Rao to enact the role of Sankara Sastry, K. Viswanath wanted Sivaji Ganesan to perform the role, but couldn't approach him for various reasons and also wanted Krishnam Raju for the role, but later refused as Viswanath felt his image as a star would ruin the role and he chose a debutant J. V. Somayajulu, a stage artist for the role.[12]

K. Viswanath scripted and directed the film, while Jandhyala gave the dialogues. Balu Mahendra performed the cinematography while the film is edited by G. G. Krishna Rao. Thota Tharani worked as the film's production designer. Vamsy, who went on to direct films like Sitaara, Anveshana and Ladies Tailor was one of the assistant directors in the film.[13]

Principal photographyEdit

The film was primarily shot in and around the city of Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh.[14]


Year Nominee / work Award Result
1980 Edida Nageswara Rao National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment Won
K. V. Mahadevan National Film Award for Best Music Direction Won
S. P. Balasubrahmanyam National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer Won
Vani Jayaram National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer Won
Edida Nageswara Rao Nandi Award for Best Feature Film - Golden Nandi Won
K. Viswanath Nandi Award for Second Best Story Writer Won[15]
S. P. Balasubrahmanyam Nandi Award for Best Male Playback Singer Won
Vani Jayaram Nandi Award for Best Female Playback Singer Won
K. V. Mahadevan Nandi Award for Best Music Director Won
("Sankara Naada Sareerapara")
Nandi Award for Best Lyricist Won
Tulasi Nandi Award for Best Child Actress Won
J. V. Somayajulu Filmfare Award for Best Actor – Telugu Won


The music, largely Carnatic based, was composed by K.V. Mahadevan. M. Balamuralikrishna was the original choice for the male playback singer, due to the heavy classical content of the compositions. Since M. Balamuralikrishna was not so much inclined to sing in the movie, K. V. Mahadevan, having faith in the mettle of S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, insisted on him taking up this challenge. The soundtrack has lyrics by Veturi and vocals by S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, S. Janaki, Vani Jayaram, S.P. Sailaja, Madhavapeddi Ramesh, Jit Mohan Mitra, and Pattabhi.

All music is composed by K. V. Mahadevan.

1."Broche Varevaru Ra"Mysore VasudevacharS. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Vani Jayaram 
2."Dorakunaa Ituvanti Seva"VeturiS. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Vani Jayaram 
3."Manasa Sancharare"Sadasiva BrahmendraS. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Vani Jayaram 
4."Maanikya Veena" (Poem)Mahakavi KalidasuS. P. Balasubrahmanyam 
5."Omkaara Naadaanusandhanam"VeturiS. P. Balasubrahmanyam, S. Janaki 
6."Paluke Bangaaramaayena"Bhadrachala RamadasuS. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Vani Jayaram 
7."Raagam Taanam Pallavi"VeturiS. P. Balasubrahmanyam 
8."Sankaraa Naadasareeraparaa"VeturiS. P. Balasubrahmanyam 
9."Saamaja Varagamana"ThyagarajaS. Janaki, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam 
10."Ye Teeruga Nanu"Bhadrachala RamadasuVani Jayaram 

Release and receptionEdit

Released on 2 February 1980, the film was released in only a very few theatres and opened to almost empty halls.[17] The film had 216-day run at Royal theatre, Hyderabad.[18] It is considered a cult classic especially due to the use of carnatic music that is more true to the classical form than for film.


The success of this film triggered a sequence of classical films in Telugu, including Tyagayya (by Bapu), Meghasandesam (by Dasari N. Rao), and Viswanath's own follow-ups: Saptapadi, Saagara Sangamam, Sruthi Layalu, Swarna Kamalam, Swayam Krushi, Sirivennela, and Swati Kiranam.[5] S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, the Telugu playback singer who rendered all the songs of Sastri's character, has often said this movie was the highlight of his career. It got 'SPB' his first National Award, and made him a household name across all of South India. Film critic Gudipoodi Srihari called it as the best Telugu film he has seen after Mayabazar.[17] Viswanath later remade the film in Hindi as Sur Sangam.[17]


  1. ^ Banerjee & Srivastava 1988, p. 158.
  2. ^ "K. Viswanath Film craft Page 6 DFF" (PDF). Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  3. ^ "8th IFFI Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 January 2018. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Filmtsav' 80" (PDF). DFF.
  5. ^ a b "Telugu Cinema Nostalgia - Sankara Bharanam - JV Somayajulu, Manju Bhargavi and K Vishwanath". Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  6. ^ The films of K. Viswanath — AISFM Blog
  7. ^ Prasad, Shishir; Ramnath, N. S.; Mitter, Sohini (27 April 2013). "25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema". Forbes. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  8. ^ "100 Years of Indian Cinema: The 100 greatest Indian films of all time". Archived from the original on 24 April 2013. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  9. ^ Careers Digest. 1980. p. 396. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  10. ^ Film World. T.M. Ramachandran. 1980. p. 217. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  11. ^ name=""
  12. ^ admin (8 September 2014). "Original choice for Sankarabharanam?". Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  13. ^ Gopal, B. Madhu (11 September 2015). "Lessons in direction". Retrieved 14 September 2016 – via The Hindu.
  14. ^ Sankarabharanam 35 Years Event, 2015
  15. ^ "నంది అవార్డు విజేతల పరంపర (1964–2008)" [A series of Nandi Award Winners (1964–2008)] (PDF). Information & Public Relations of Andhra Pradesh. Retrieved 21 August 2020.(in Telugu)
  16. ^ "Sankarabharanam songs". Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  17. ^ a b c "Telugu Cinema Etc -". Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  18. ^ " - Box-Office Records And Collections - All Time Long Run List". Archived from the original on 15 May 2007. Retrieved 14 September 2016.


External linksEdit