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SANKARABHARANAM (1980/Telugu) remade as SUR SANGAM (1985/Hindi) - One of the outstanding films on Indian Classical Music that made me realize the importance of watching the films in their original form and language with English subtitles. (Movies To See Before You Die - Drama/Musical)

05 May, 2020 | Indian Regional language Gems (Other Than Hindi) / Movies To See Before You Die / Drama / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / ALL ABOUT INSPIRED MOVIES / S

In the late 80s, as students of music, we got highly impressed by SUR SANGAM (1985) - a fascinating film based on Indian classical music and its exponents directed by K. Vishwanath. The film also won over us as it showed how classical music was being overtaken by the western music in India and how the younger generation was forgetting their rich tradition and heritage that was ironically being loved by the westerners. Plus, in those days Jaya Prada was considered as one of the most stunning faces on Indian screen and she probably gave her best performance in the film, along with Girish Karnad, Sachin, Sadhna Singh, Deven Varma and more. 
But the major reason for loving SUR SANGAM so intensely was its soundtrack composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal (among their career best) with lyrics by Vasant Dev, having outstanding tracks by the world renowned Sh. Rajan Sajan Mishra, who lived close to our locality and we always wished to meet them in person (a wish that got fulfilled more than a decade later through our Guruji). The soundtrack was a regular in our musical sessions and we learned a lot from it in the initial years of our learning singing it repeatedly. 
In fact I still learn from the magical creations such as Aaye Sur Ke Panchhi Aaye, Dhanya Bhag Seva Ka Avsar Paya, Saadh Re Man Sur Ko Saadh Re, Hey Shivshankar, Jaoon Torey Charan Kamal, Aayo Prabhat Sab Mil Gao, Maika Piya Bulaave, Prabhu Morey Avgun Chitt Na Dharo, Sur Ka Hai Sopaan Sureela and Sadho Aisa Hi Gur Bhaave. With duration of around an hour, SUR SANGAM’s LP or CD is also a very rare and precious possession, because of the gem of voices you get to hear in the same soundtrack.
In its ten exceptional songs you hear the blessed voices of Sh. Rajan Sajan Mishra, Lata Mangeshkar, S. Janaki, Suredh Wadekar, Anuradha Paudwal and Kavita Krishnamurthy together. One of the rarest soundtrack where you find the key voices of Lata Mangeshkar and Anuradha Paudwal used in the same film (friends who know about the controversy between the two in the mid and late 80s, would easily get that).
However, a decade later, as we became more informed about films and Indian cinema, we got to know that SUR SANGAM was not an original film, but was an official remake of 1980’s widely acclaimed Telugu film SANKARABHARANAM (Shiva’s Jewel), also written and directed by K. Vishwanath. The film featured J. V. Somayajulu, Manju Bhargavi, Chandramohan and Rajyalakshmi in the lead roles and its soundtrack was also a cult chartbuster composed by K. V. Mahadevan with lyrics by Veturi Sundararama Murthy (and more), superbly sung by S. P. Balasurahmanyam, Vani Jairam and S. Janaki. 
The Hindi remake SUR SANGAM was surely not any better film from the original SANKARABHARANAM but it also wasn’t an attempt that can be downgraded just because of being a remake in Hindi. Yes, despite being directed by the same director, it did have some exaggerations, particularly in some supporting acts and in the scenes related with western music, like the one featuring Asrani and young Urmila playing their cameos. But I actually loved its melodious soundtrack a lot more from the original, may be because of the language, I could understand, relate to and sing comfortably.
Apart from winning over the box office, SANKARABHARANAM won several awards in the country as well as abroad including the National Awards and it was also dubbed in other Indian regional languages. Moreover it is also unanimously included in the list of 100 Greatest Films of Indian Cinema by all reputed publications, critics and cinema institutes as one of the few Indian films exploring Indian Classical music and its stalwarts losing their charm due to the next generation moving away from their cultural art-forms.
Watching the film in the late 90s with English subtitles post the DVD culture came in, I learned two major things from SANKARABHARANAM and SUR SANGAM togeher, which I would like to share with my young friends here as a message.
Sur Sangam - Bobby Talks CinemaFirstly, despite being an off-beat film based on a rare musical subject, SANKARBHARANAM was readily accepted by the audience in South, whereas SUR SANGAM the remake in Hindi by the same veteran director, couldn’t do any major wonders at the box-office released just 5 years later. Surely the changing times had brought a drastic change in the vision of both the makers as well as the viewers of Hindi cinema, moving far away from what it used to be decades before, when films based on classical music were largely accepted and celebrated by the ticket buyers. So this revealed and enlightened me about the fact that how there is a vast difference in the viewership, tastes and kind of acceptance in the viewers of Indian movies made in regional languages and viewers of films made in Hindi (being too limited in their choices and preferences).
Secondly, the experience of watching the original film SANKARABHARANAM taught me one of the most important lessons in cinema - about how films should be strictly seen and why?

In reality, watching the original, I shockingly realized how the Telugu film was far more beautiful, impactful, emotional and touching in comparison to the Hindi remake, even though it was made by the same director. The fact made me realize that how we get deprived of a hell of a lot watching remakes in Hindi, that are willfully changed as per the taste of Hindi film audiences seriously affecting the actual film and its feel. Here I am not even mentioning the dubbed films (not dubbed by the makers/director themselves) as they completely take away the magic of a film by almost 50%.
So, from that point onwards, I started watching all must-watch films made in Indian regional languages in their original form with English Subtitles and that too before watching their remakes if any. The realization benefitted me in a big way and my whole attitude towards Indian cinema completely changed as I got to see more and more unmissable gems made in the Indian regional languages by the maestros silently functioning in the different parts of the country.
Believe me, if a cinema lover has not yet started watching the original films in their actual languages with the subtitles option, due to any kind of bizarre reason of his own, then he or she has yet not started experiencing and appreciating cinema, and seriously doesn’t have any idea of what is being missed and how.
So if you are reading this as a movie-buff, who still hasn’t started watching the original films with English subtitles yet, then just do this simple experiment.
Watch SANKARBHARANAM and SUR SANGAM both and see what, how and where the presentation gets through some major changes in the Hindi remake suiting the target audience, hugely affecting the film’s overall impact and reach.
Hope this experiment brings a fresh, positive and an enlightening change in your movie-watching passion, opening a new divine door to a creative treasure lying unexplored in our own country.
Bobby Sing
bobbytalkscinema.com - 11th July 2020

(Note : At the time of writing this article, both SANKARABHARANAM (with English Subtitles) and SUR SANGAM (its Hindi remake) could be seen at Youtube without any subscription.)

Tags : SANKARABHARANAM (Telugu) and SUR SANGAM (Hindi) by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Must Watch Movies on Indian Classical Music, Movies To See Before You Die List by Bobby Sing, Gems of Indian Cinema, Indian Regional Movies not to be missed.
05 May 2020 / Comment ( 0 )
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