The story is set around 1580 during the time of King Akbar. Young Meera (Baby Radha) influenced by the Aandal-Lord Krishna story, is deeply in love with Lord Krishna since childhood, so much so that she considers Lord Krishna to be her husband after she garlands him on an auspicious day as advised by her mother. Years pass by. Meera becomes a beautiful young girl (M.S. Subbulakshmi) and her devotion to Lord Krishna grows.
Much against her wishes, Meera is married to Rana (Chittoor V. Nagaiah), king of Mewar. But even after marriage, her love for Lord Krishna remains unaltered. She follows her own ideas and way of living which are not acceptable to Rana and his family, especially his brother Vikraman (T.S. Balaiah) and sister Udradevi. Meera requests Rana to construct a temple for Lord Krishna in Chittor (capital of Mewar). Out of his love for her, Rana agrees and constructs a temple. An overjoyed Meera remains in the temple most of the time, singing in praise of Lord Krishna along with other devotees and avoids staying at the palace.
On Vijayadasami day, Rana expects Meera to be with him at the royal assembly when other kings come to offer their respects. But on her way to the assembly, Meera hears Lord Krishna’s flute playing, returns to the temple, and remains there. The king gets angry when he realizes that Meera has gone back to the temple again, thus ignoring her duties as a wife. To get rid of Meera, Vikraman gives a poisoned drink through his sister Udra, but Meera is saved by Lord Krishna and the poison does not affect her. Instead, Lord Krishna’s idol at the Dwaraka temple (the origin of Lord Krishna) becomes deep blue (the poison effect), the temple doors close spontaneously, and remain closed.
At Delhi, Emperor Akbar comes to know about Meera‘s singing and devotion to Lord Krishna. He sends her a pearl necklace as a gift, which Meera puts on Lord Krishna’s idol. Rana gets angry when he comes to know of these developments and her disinterest to fulfill her duties as a wife and queen; he orders the demolition of the temple using guns so that she will come out. Vikraman goes to the temple and orders Meera and the other devotees to come out before the demolition begins. However, Meera refuses, stays back in the temple, and continues her bhajans. Meanwhile, Rana comes to know from his sister Udra about Vikraman’s failed attempt to kill Meera by poison. Shocked when he realizes Meera’s real identity (she is one with Lord Krishna), he rushes to meet her in the temple which is about to be demolished. When the gun is fired, Rana stops it and gets injured. When Meera hears Lord Krishna calling her, she admits to Rana that she has failed in her duties as a wife. She explains that her heart is with Lord Krishna and seeks his permission to leave the palace life and her desire to visit Lord Krishna’s temple at Dwaraka. Rana realizes her devotion and allows her to go. Once Meera leaves, the Mewar kingdom suffers serious drought and the subjects plead with Rana to bring Meera back.
So, Rana goes in search of her. Meera first goes to Brindavanam and meets the sage (Serukalathur Sama) who originally predicted her devotion. Together, they leave for Dwaraka, the birthplace of Lord Krishna; on reaching the temple, she starts singing in praise of the Lord. Rana, who has followed her, also reaches the temple. The doors of the temple, which were closed till then, open.
Lord Krishna appears and invites Meera inside. Meera walks towards the Lord and falls dead while her soul merges with Lord Krishna. Rana comes rushing in only to find Meera’s dead body. Meera’s devotion to Lord Krishna is finally rewarded and she is united with Him.
Meera is considered a landmark in Tamil Cinema for its cult classical music which made it a hit. Its songs are popular even today, especially ‘Kaatrinile Varum Geetham…’ sung by MS. The film became a success due to the quality of production and excellent songs rendered by MS. The film remains a musical cult film even after 65 years due to the super hit songs sung by M.S. Subbulakshmi. Of its 19 songs, the following were very popular: ‘Kaatrinile Varum Geetham…’, ‘Aranga un magimayai arindhavar yaar?…’, ‘Meera Prabhu Giridhari…’, ‘Nandha baala en manalaa…’, ‘Brindhavanathil…’, ‘Shymala vannane…’, ‘Murali Mogana…’, ‘Enadhu Ullam…’ ‘Vinnum Mannum…’ and ‘Engum Niraidhaye....’ Music director S.V. Venkatraman introduced western type re-recording with 100 background music instruments for the first time in this film.
The film was shot at Jaipur, Udaipur, Chittor, Dwaragai, Brindavan, Mathura, Yamana riverside, and several such locations to be authentic.
[from the book Pride of Tamil Cinema: 1931 to 2013 by G Dhananjayan, Blue Ocean Publishers, 2014]