indian cinema heritage foundation

Nandakumar (1938)

  • Release Date1938
  • GenreMythology
  • FormatB-W
  • LanguageTamil
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The film was made in three languages Tamil, Hindi, and  Marathi simultaneously. 

The film is on the birth and life of young Lord Krishna, who was born to Devaki and Vasudeva. A prince named Kansa of the Yadava clan sent his father Ugrasena  (King of Mathura) to prison and became the King himself. One day a loud voice from the sky prophesied that the 8th son of Kansa’s sister (Devaki) would kill  Kansa. So, Kansa sent his sister and her husband (Vasudeva) to prison. Lord  Vishnu appeared and told Devaki and Vasudeva that he himself would be their eighth son and kill Kansa.  Kansa killed the first six children and Devaki had a miscarriage of the seventh.  However, in reality, the womb was actually transferred to Rohini secretly. This was how Balarama, Krishna’s elder brother, was born. Once again Devaki became pregnant and Kansa was in a puzzle regarding ‘The Eighth One’, but his ministers advised that the divine voice emphasized “the eight garbha” and so this is the one. That night, Krishna was born in the Rohini nakshatra, and simultaneously the Goddess Durga was born as Yogamaya in Gokulam to Nanda and Yashoda.  Krishna was secretly taken out of the prison cell to be raised by his foster parents, Yashoda (T.P. Rajalakshmi) and Nandagopan or Nanda (C.V.V. Panthulu),  in Gokula. Nanda was the head of a community of cow-herders in Vrindavana.  The stories of Krishna’s childhood and his youth tell how he became a cow herder, his mischievous pranks as Makhan Chor (butter thief), his foiling of attempts to take his life, and his role as a protector of the people of Vrindavana.  A young Krishna (Master Sethuraman) kills the demoness Putana, disguised as a nurse, and the tornado demon Trinavarta both sent by Kansa. He tames the serpent Kaliya, who previously poisoned the waters of River Yamuna, which led to the death of the cowherds. 

Krishna lifts the  Govardhana hill and held it over the people like an umbrella and teaches  Indra, the king of devas a lesson, to protect native people of Vrindavana from persecution by  Indra and prevent the devastation of the pasture land of  Govardhan. 

On his return to Mathura as a young man, Krishna  (T.R. Mahalingam) overthrew and killed his maternal uncle, Kansa. He reinstated Kansa’s father, Ugrasena,  as the king of the Yadavas. During this period, he became a friend of Arjuna and the other Pandava princes of the Kuru kingdom, who were his cousins. Later, he took his Yadava subjects to the city of Dwaraka and established his own kingdom there. He married Radha (T.S. Rajalakshmi), one of the gopis (milkmaids) of Brindavana, daughter of  Vrishbhanu, one of the original residents of Vrindavan. 

It was the first film in South India to use the playback singing and known for introducing new talents like T.R. Mahalingam, T.R. Ramachandran, and Music Director S.V. Venkataraman, who dominated Tamil cinema for a decade after this film.

Music composer, S. V. Venkataraman made his debut as the music director with this film. Lalitha Venkataraman earned the credit of being the first playback singer of Tamil cinema. 

Keshavrao Dhaibar was a popular Marathi actor, cameraman, and director, who made his debut in Tamil cinema with this film. He did not direct any other film in Tamil after this.

The film was not a  commercial success but was praised for its songs. Details of songs are not available. 

[from the book Pride of Tamil Cinema: 1931 to 2013. G Dhananjayan. (2014)]