Remember Manju Bhargavi: the Sankarabharnam actor was in Sydney recently

By Neena Badhwar

Telugu cinema lovers would remember Manju Bhargavi who acted in a well known classic Sankarabharanam (The Jewel of Shankara), a film which won many awards including four National Film Awards and five state awards. Directed by K. Viswanath this musical film made S P Balasubramnaim and Vani Jeyaram both famous with music composed by K Mahadevan. 

Manju Bhargavi was in Sydney recently travelling with her family having visited New Zealand where she was honoured by the Telugu association. Sankarabharanam starred J. V. Somayajulu, Manju Bhargavi, Chandramohan and Rajyalakshmi. It was a pleasure meeting the talented Kuchipudi dancer who came to meet her school friend in Sydney which turned out to be a school reunion with students of Holy Angels Convent, Chennai school reminiscing school memories. “It used to be very hot in Madras and we used to be mad about frozen coke we used to buy from outside for 25 paise. We were crazy about it finally when our Principal had to relent and make it available for us at the school canteen,” she giggles as she remembers school days. They talked about all the alumnis of the school who have gone and become big names after leaving school settling worldwide. Manjula was her original name which was made into a screen name ”˜Manju Bhargavi’ when she got her first role.

“I am first and foremost a dancer, acting just came my way,” when asked how did she manage to dance so well on the beach in one of the scene, she explains, “Yes, it was hard, in the remake of the movie in Hindi ”˜Sur Sangam’, Jayaprada who is a good dancer herself could not do it and needed a wooden platform planted in the sand to do the dance.”

Manju is quite a tall lady which she says came in her way as she lost many leading lady roles due to her height. When we say that she finally has her tall hero, her husband, she laughs, “Yes I found him right under my nose.” Still she has acted in over two dozen films in Telugu and also in Kanada and Tamil. 

Sankarabharanam went on to break many records having screened in many international festivals Tashkent Film Festival, Asia Pacific Film Festival, and the Moscow International Film Festival held in May 1980 and won won the Prize of the Public at the Besancon Film Festival of France  in the year 1981. “It started slowly through some selected cinemas but then went on to run for 365 days in one of the cinema halls in Hyderabad, which was a surprise,” she mentions.

Manju in the movie Sankarabharanam

It is one of the top ten classic movies of India, story of a daughter of a Dasi who adores this musician and holds a reverent bond through her dance, although chastised for her relationship with him who she worships as a guru, it was a simple movie with a simple plot. Manju’s acting was mainly her eyes with which she expressed her silent adoration for the musician, finally supporting him all the way when he is excommunicated by his fellow musicians and the community who believe that Tulasi, the role played by Manju, is his mistress. Although she herself could not hone her art because of the circumstances, when raped by a rich man, who throws the musicians’ picture on the ground. Tulasi, though raped by him, can not take the insult of her guru and kills the man with the broken glass. It is her life long adoration for the classic music and art that she is able to finally get her son become his disciple and finally be anointed the heir to his legacy. The role of the musician played by J. V. Somayajulu won him the National Award for Best acting. 

Manju with Nirmala Rao and Gita Malik

Manju teaches Kuchipudi and is a strong exponent of the art form when recently she said in an interview with The Hindu newspaper that learners of Kuchipudi should not compete and hanker for awards,  “The awards they receive there are like pizza; junk food that can give only short-term gratification.”

At the current phase of her life, Manju is happy to accept acting roles that come her way but she doesn’t go chasing for them, happy enjoying traveling the world with her family, reaping the rewards of her hard work over the years. 

Short URL: