So far as I can remember, my father appeared to us no big fan of the cinema. While he approved of my enthusiasm for Laurel and Hardy and condemned my poor teenage sister’s insistence on going to watch the wonderful Hindi films of the Sixties, I’m sure neither of us can recall his presence at any of those films.
In all, so far as going to the movies was concerned, I only went to see two films with him: Oh God and Shankarabharanam. Some of the rationale behind my luring him to these films lay in the fact that, to me, he resembled the protagonist in both.
By that age, he seemed to me, on the one hand, a George Burns and, on the other, the story symbolized for me his life, as I saw it, of intimate friendship with God. As for the other film, it is as if I sensed that he had once a fascination for Carnatic.
Shankarabharanam is a Telugu language film and my father was from Andhra, the region in South India where this "Italian of the East" was spoken. This film, like many another Indian movie, is replete with songs. The difference is that Shankarabharanam mainly features classical Indian music.
To me, Jonnalagadda Venkata Somayajulu strongly resembled my father. There was a grace and gravity in his manner, a delicate tenderness, a beauteous posture of piety and devotion-traits which I saw in my father even in the smallest day to day routines of life. In this film, J.V. Somayajulu is "Shankarabharanam" Sankara Shastri, a Carnatic singer.
All those who have known my father will have mental images of him singing. He would often burst into gentle song to illustrate some stanza from the Bhagavad Gita or even when a fit of humour or appreciation of beauty seized his spirit and drew forth lines from Sankara’s Bhaja Govindam or Kalaidasa’s mellifluous poetry.
Quite a few urban Indian youngsters of the Seventies had turned to Rock and Pop, a trend for which the Hindi film music of the Sixties had already laid a solid basis. However, even in those families where the love of Indian classical music (Which had always been respectable in the South due to its association with devotion and seems to have gained a respectable status in the North post Independence) was not a pivot of daily intercourse, many a young lad and lass had hearts which moved more to the ragas than their bodies to the cacophony which they blared from radios much to the annoyance of sedate elders.
Shankarabharanam is said to mark a turning point in Indian cinema which brought the audience back into the fold of classical music.
Here are some songs from this film with as much information as I can find about them for the moment:
Oh, Raghuvara! Would anyone other than you come to my rescue?
Dorakuna Ituvanti Seva
Can I ever obtain a servitude like this?
The celestial sound called Om