Gulebakavali (English: The Flower of Bakavali) is a 1955 Indian Tamil-language adventure film produced and directed by T. R. Ramanna. The film stars M. G. Ramachandran, T. R. Rajakumari, Rajasulochana, G. Varalakshmi, S. D. Subbulakshmi and E. V. Saroja in the lead roles, while K. A. Thangavelu, J. P. Chandrababu, E. R. Sahadevan and A. Karunanidhi play supporting roles. The film tells the story of a young man who sets out to find a mysterious flower, which is believed to have the power to restore anyone's eyesight, in order to restore the eyesight of the blind king, and the various challenges he faces during his journey. The story originated from the Arabic folklore classic, One Thousand and One Nights.
A king has two wives. He banishes his first wife (S. D. Subbulakshmi) as an astrologer told him that he would lose his vision because of her son (M. G. Ramachandran). The mother and son live in the woods and when he meets his father without knowing his identity, the king loses his sight. When the son gets to know about the sad tale from his mother, he sets out to bring a rare flower from Bakavali, which would restore the king's sight.
To achieve it, he undergoes many adventures — enters into a debate with a queen (G. Varalakshmi) and wins the battle of wits, challenges a woman (Rajakumari) held captive by a crook (K. A. Thangavelu) in a fake dice contest, and rescues a slave dancer (Rajasulochana) of a tribal chief. The hero wins them all and succeeds in getting the flower along with the three women who turn out to be princesses and siblings! Meanwhile, his stepbrothers try to steal the flower, but are exposed.M. G. RamachandranT. R. Rajakumari as Princess LakbeshaRajasulochana as Princess MahamadhaG. Varalakshmi as Princess BhakavaliS. D. SubbulakshmiE. V. Saroja as GulzarK. A. Thangavelu as SukulJ. P. Chandrababu as GulamE. R. SahadevanA. Karunanidhi
Film historian Randor Guy wrote an article about the film's background in The Hindu in October 2010:
"Gul-e-Bakavali has its origin in the famous Persian classic ‘One Thousand Nights and One Night' (‘Alf Leila Wah Leila'). This story is also found in the famed Telugu folktale collection ‘Kasi Majili Kathalu” by Madhira Subbaraya Deekshithulu. Not surprisingly, the story has been made into a movie in India several times. The first movie version was made in 1924 as a silent film by Kohinoor Films, Bombay. Directed by Kanthilal Rathod, it featured well-known stars of that period, Jamuna and Sabitha Devi. It was again made as a silent film in 1930. Then followed four films in Hindi, in 1932, 1947, 1956 and 1963.
It was made in Telugu in 1938 as Gulebakavali directed by Kallakoori Sathasiva Rao with the noted multilingual star B. Jayamma of Karnataka as the heroine. N. T. Rama Rao made another version in Telugu in the 1960s as Gulebakavali Katha.
The film also involved a fight sequence between lead actor M. G. Ramachandran and a "ferocious tiger", which was later much talked about. Thanjai Ramaiah Das, who wrote the film's script, also wrote the film's dialogues and the song's lyrics.
The film's music was composed by the duo Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy, while the lyrics were written by Thanjai N. Ramaiah Dass. The song "Mayakkum Maalai" was composed in the raga Bhagesri, being one of the earliest film songs to do so. It was originally composed by K. V. Mahadevan for T. R. Ramanna's previous film Koondukkili (1954). As the film was delayed and the song was yet to be filmed, Ramanna instead used it in Gulebakavali, with Jikki and A. M. Raja as the singers. M. S. Viswanathan and T. K. Ramamoorthy were credited as the composers instead of Mahadevan.
Gulebakavali was released on 29 July 1955. Randor Guy praised the film for its "well-orchestrated fight sequences", the "interesting storyline and T. R. Rajakumari providing the glamour quotient (she was then 33)", and concluded that the film would be "Remembered for the excellent onscreen narration by Ramanna".