Subhadra (the sister of Balarama and Krishna) marries a Pandava named Arjuna. Their son Abhimanyu falls in love with Balarama's daughter, Sasirekha. The families consent to their marrying when they reach adulthood. When Abhimanyu and Sasirekha have grown up, Krishna introduces them to each other. One day, the Pandavas are invited by Duryodhana, the eldest of the Kauravas to join in a game of dice. Duryodhana's uncle, Shakuni, manipulates the results of the game, thereby costing the Pandavas their wealth, their liberty and their wife Draupadi. Duryodhana's brother, Dushasana, attempts to disrobe Draupadi. He is seen by Krishna, who, furious, comes to her rescue. On hearing what happened to the Pandavas, Balarama decides to teach the Kauravas a lesson and travels to their capital Hastinapuram. Shakuni and Duryodhana approach Balarama with an insincere respectful manner, then seek his approval of a marriage between Sasirekha and Duryodhana's son Lakshmana Kumara. Their true goal is to force Balarama and Krishna to support them if the Pandavas wage war. Unaware of their real intentions, Balarama agrees to the marriage.
Because of the Pandavas' ruined financial state, Balarama's wife, Revati, refuses to honour her commitment to marry Sasirekha and Abhimanyu and expresses her support for the alliance with the Kauravas. Krishna, who is aware of Duryodhana and Shakuni's real intentions, orders his charioteer Daaruka to take Subhadra and Abhimanyu through the forests to Ghatotkacha's hermitage. Ghatotkacha, who happens to be Abhimanyu's cousin, at first thinks they are intruders in his forest and attacks them but later apologises for the misunderstanding. When Subhadra explains the change in the marriage arrangements, Ghatotkacha decides to wage war against both the Kauravas and Balarama. At the urging of his mother, Hidimbi, and Subhadra, Ghatotkacha abandons his plans and is advised instead to try some trickery in Dvaraka. With the knowledge of Krishna and Sasirekha's servant, he carries the sleeping Sasirekha in her bed from Dvaraka, and flies to his hermitage. Assuming Sasirekha's form, he returns to Dvaraka and, with the help of his assistants Chinnamaya, Lambu and Jambu, wreaks havoc on her wedding to Lakshmana Kumara, preventing the marriage from being carried out.
With the help of Chinnamaya, Lambu and Jambu, Ghatotkacha creates a magical town consisting of an illusory marketplace and palace. He names the town Mayabazar and invites the Kauravas to stay there. Chinnamaya, Lambu and Jamu introduce themselves to the Kauravas as servants appointed by Balarama to look after them. They manage to trick Sarma and Sastry, Shakuni's lackeys. Ghatotkacha (in Sasirekha's form) makes Duryodhana's wife rethink the marriage arrangement and teases Lakshmana Kumara. He plans the wedding of the real Sasirekha and Abhimanyu in his hermitage which is attended by Krishna. Using his divine powers, Krishna also attends as a guest for the marriage taking place in the Mayabazar.
On the wedding day, Ghatotkacha appears before Lakshmana Kumara in various tantalising form while, at the hermitage, Sasirekha marries Abhimanyu. When Shakuni discovers what has really happened, he blames Krishna. Satyaki, Arjuna's disciple, asks Shakuni to speak standing on a magical box. He proceeds to stand on the box, which makes him involuntarily explain the Kauravas' real intentions behind the marriage proposal. Ghatotkacha then reveals his identity. After humiliating the Kauravas, Ghatotkacha sends them back to Hastinapuram. Sasirekha's parents accept her marriage. They thank Ghatotkacha, who credits Krishna as the mastermind behind everything, including Abhimanyu and Sasirekha's marriage.Common cast
After the success of Pathala Bhairavi (1951), the production company, Vijaya Productions, selected the film's technical crew for an adaptation of Sasirekha Parinayam (1936), also known as Mayabazar. The eighth adaptation of the folk tale Sasirekha Parinayam, it was the studio's first mythological film.
Kadiri Venkata Reddy wrote and directed Mayabazar, assisted by Singeetam Srinivasa Rao, and it was produced by B. Nagi Reddy and Aluri Chakrapani of Vijaya Productions. Nearly a year was spent on pre-production and casting. Pingali Nagendrarao assisted with the story, script, and lyrics. Ghantasala composed the film's score, and Marcus Bartley was the cinematographer. Mayabazar was edited by C. P. Jambulingam and G. Kalyanasundaram; Madhavapeddi Gokhale and Kaladhar were the film's art directors.
The film was produced in Telugu and Tamil versions, with a slightly different cast for each. Gemini Ganesan appeared as Abhimanyu in the Tamil version, which was portrayed by Akkineni Nageswara Rao in Telugu. Savitri was retained as the female lead in Tamil also, where her character was named Vatsala instead of Sasirekha. Sachu played the younger version of the character in Tamil. N. T. Rama Rao, hesitant to play Krishna after a negative response to his cameo appearance in Sontha Ooru (1956), agreed at Venkata Reddy's insistence and special care was taken with his costume and body language; Mayabazar was the first of Rama Rao's many appearances as Krishna. According to Rama Rao's widow Lakshmi Parvathi, Nagi Reddy and Chakrapani had initially rejected Venkata Reddy's proposal to cast Rama Rao as Krishna, but he persuaded them into believing that Rama Rao was good for the role. As Rama Rao had a broad chest, Venkata Reddy suggested a slight narrowing to look apt as Krishna. In addition to following other suggestions by Venkata Reddy, Rama Rao read the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata and other puranas to understand Krishna's character and present it properly. S. V. Ranga Rao, described by Nageswara Rao as the film's male lead in interviews, played the character of Ghatotkacha.
In the Telugu version, Gummadi Venkateswara Rao and Mikkilineni Radhakrishna Murthy were cast as Balarama and Karna, respectively, whilst Sita had a supporting role as Sasirekha's maid. Relangi Venkata Ramaiah portrayed Lakshmana Kumara, Duryodhana's son; his popularity inspired a song with him and Savitri. Allu Rama Lingaiah and Vangara Venkata Subbaiah enacted the parts of Shakuni's lackeys, Sarma and Sastry. Kanchi Narasimha Rao played Krishna, disguised as an old man who stops Ghatotkacha when he enters Dwaraka. The playback singer Madhavapeddi Satyam made a cameo appearance as Daaruka, singing "Bhali Bhali Bhali Deva". Ramana Reddy portrayed Chinnamayya, a tantrik who teaches witchcraft at Ghatotkacha's ashram, with Chadalavada and Nalla Ramamurthy playing his apprentices Lambu and Jambu.
During rehearsals, Venkata Reddy timed his actors with a stopwatch, calculating the length of each scene (including songs) to determine the film's length. D. S. Ambu Rao, Bartley's assistant, said that Mayabazar was shot according to the screenplay and Bartley's lighting. The song "Lahiri Lahiri" was shot in Ennore, a suburb of Chennai. Its outdoor filming lasted for 10 to 15 seconds. Bartley then created an illusion of moonlight, which according to Ambu Rao was a first for an Indian film. Nageswara Rao was injured on the film's set, and action sequences featuring himself and Ranga Rao were shot only after his recovery, causing a three-month delay in the release of the film. Ganesan volunteered to act as Nageswara Rao's body double in a scene where Abhimanyu's character would jump from a second-floor balcony.
In addition to the principal technicians and actors, a crew of 400, including light men, carpenters, and painters, worked on Mayabazar during production. For the Dvaraka set, 300 unique miniature houses were created in an approximately 50-by-60-foot (15 m × 18 m) electrified space at Vauhini Studios under the supervision of Madhavapeddi Gokhale and Kaladhar. The desired effect in the "laddoo gobbling" shots of Ghatotkacha in the song "Vivaha Bhojanambu" took four days to film. The entire song was filmed using stop motion animation. In the scene where Ghatotkacha (disguised as Sasirekha) stamps Lakshmana Kumara's foot with his own, the expression is Savitri's; the stamping foot belongs to choreographer Pasumarthy Krishnamurthy, who pasted false hair on his foot to make it appear demonic.
After writing the music for four songs – "Srikarulu Devathalu", "Lahiri Lahiri", "Choopulu Kalisina Shubhavela" and "Neekosame" – S. Rajeswara Rao left the project. Following his departure, Ghantasala orchestrated and recorded Rajeswara Rao's compositions with N. C. Sen Gupta and A. Krishnamurthy, and composed the rest of the film's score. The soundtrack album has 12 songs with lyrics by Pingali Nagendrarao and Thanjai N. Ramaiah Dass for the Telugu and Tamil versions, respectively, and was mixed by A. Krishnan and Siva Ram. The album was engineered by N. C. Sen Gupta and orchestrated by A. Krishnamurthy. P. Leela said in an interview that one of her songs took 28 takes to record, and her fifth song was finished by Ghantasala. "Lahiri Lahiri" ("Aaga Inba Nilavinile" in Tamil) was based on the Mohanam raga. "Vivaha Bhojanambu" ("Kalyana Samayal Saadham" in Tamil) was heavily based on lyrics from Surabhi Nataka Samajam's 1950s plays, which were influenced by 1940s Janaki Sapadham harikatha records by B. Nagarajakumari.
Nagarajakumari was inspired by a song written by Gali Penchala Narasimha Rao for Sasirekha Parinayam (1936), directed by P. V. Das. That song's melody was inspired by Charles Penrose's 1922 song "The Laughing Policeman", written by Penrose under the pseudonym of Charles Jolly. According to M. L. Narasimham of The Hindu, music "flowed at its mellifluous best" in Mayabazar. He added that Ghantasala "gave a new lease of life" to the song "Vivaha Bhojanambu", despite it being a borrowed tune.
The Telugu version of Mayabazar was released on 27 March 1957, and the Tamil version two weeks later on 12 April. Both versions have a film-reel length of 5,888 metres (19,318 ft). A commercial success, Mayabazar had a theatrical run of 100 days in 24 theatres and went on to become a silver jubilee film. After the film's release, 40,000 colour calendars of Rama Rao as Krishna were distributed to the public. Mayabazar was dubbed into Kannada with the same name in 1965; it remained the last Indian film to be dubbed into Kannada until the announcement of a dubbed version of Kochadaiiyaan (2014) after 50 years.
Dasari Narayana Rao remade the film later with the same title. Mayabazar was shown at the Public Gardens in Hyderabad on 7 April 2007 for the film's 50th anniversary, at a celebration organised by the Andhra Pradesh Department of Culture, the Film, TV and Theatre Development Corporation and Kinnera Art Theatres. Nageswara Rao and C. Narayana Reddy, who were associated with the film, were honoured on the occasion. The former released a book written by Raavi Kondala Rao at Lalitha Kala Thoranam located in the Public Gardens. Kondala Rao novelised the film's script based on Venkata Reddy's screenplay.
The film received positive reviews from critics, particularly for the work of its technical crew. In 2006, W. Chandrakanth of The Hindu wrote:
The greatness of the director lies here – he successfully reduces all characters to ordinary mortals displaying all the follies of human beings except Ghatothkacha or Krishna. And then he injects into the Yadava household a Telugu atmosphere, full with its simile, imagery, adage, sarcasm and wit. The result – a feast for the eyes and soul. That is Mayabazar for you.
Vijaysree Venkatraman wrote for The Hindu in 2008 that the "special effects in this summer's Hollywood superhero movies were spectacular, but, for me, the mythological Maya Bazaar [sic] hasn't lost any of its magic", adding, "If watching the genial half-demon polish off a wedding feast single-handedly remains a treat, seeing the greedy duo from the groom's side get whacked alternately by the furniture and the wilful carpet has me in splits". The Hindu film critic M. L. Narasimham wrote: "Though there were several movie versions in various Indian languages, the 1957 Vijaya Productions' Mayabazar is still considered the best for its all round excellence". According to The Times of India, "With a powerful cast and a strong script, this movie is a stealer. Savitri, NTR [N. T. Rama Rao], ANR [Akkineni Nageswara Rao], SV Rangarao and not to mention Suryakantam add layers to their characters. Of course, the language and the dialogues, simply unbeatable. Some of the scenes are simply hilarious."
In his 2013 book Bollywood Nation: India through Its Cinema, Vamsee Juluri wrote, "Maya Bazar's appeal is of course as much in its story as in its stars. But the performances and the beautiful songs and sets aside, the film also reveals an interesting feature of the Telugu mythological in its Golden Age—it is a story about something not very important from a doctrinal view of religion at all". Juluri also termed Ranga Rao's performance as "mighty and majestic". In April 2013, CNN-News18 referred to Mayabazar as a "pioneer in every sense". They praised its cinematography and music, adding that Rama Rao "proved his calibre as a method actor". In their 2015 book, Transcultural Negotiations of Gender: Studies in (Be)longing, Saugata Bhaduri and Indrani Mukherjee opined that Mayabazar "both breaks and perpetuates the stereotypes for masculine and feminine bhavas by making a single female actor Savitri perform both the set of emotions".
Mayabazar was the first colourised Telugu film, with its audio remastered from monaural to a DTS 5.1-channel system. In late November 2007 a Hyderabad company, Goldstone Technologies, acquired world negative rights to 14 Telugu films produced by Vijaya Vauhini Studios, including that of Mayabazar, to digitally remaster them in colour. C. Jagan Mohan of Goldstone Technologies' experience at All India Radio gave him the idea of converting the film's audio to DTS. The audio was restored, sound effects remastered, distortion eliminated, and the volume of the vocals increased, and musicians re-recorded the film's background music on seven tracks instead of one.
A team of 165 people worked for eight months; Mohan used 180,000 shades of colour to create a tone similar to human skin, and employed 16.7-million-shade colour technology. Apart from colouring clothing and jewellery, Mohan said that the song "Vivaha Bhojanambu" and the wedding scene in the climax were the most challenging sequences, and that the food should look more realistic after colourisation. In the wedding scene, Mohan explained: "Each and every rose petal strewn on the pathway had to be coloured. Further, each frame in the climax has many actors. In technical parlance, we refer to a set of colours used for skin tone, clothes, jewelry and so on as different masks. If five or six masks were used on one character, the presence of many actors in a frame called for that much more work." Three songs ("Bhali Bhali Deva", "Vinnavamma Yashodha" and "Choopulu Kalisina Subha Vela") and many poems were cut from the remastered colour version to maintain print quality.
With an estimated digitalisation budget of ₹75 million (valued at about US$1.7 million in 2010), Mayabazar was released in colour on 30 January 2010 in 45 Andhra Pradesh theatres. The colourised version was distributed by R. B. Choudary under his production banner, Super Good Films. Nageswara Rao, Gummadi Venkateswara Rao, Mikkilineni Radhakrishna Murthy and Sita were the only cast members still alive for the release of the digitally remastered version. The colour version received positive reviews and was commercially successful. M. L. Narasimham of The Hindu called the new version "laudable, but the soul was missing", adding, "Get a DVD of the original (Black & White) movie, watch it and you will agree with ANR [Akkineni Nageswara Rao] who while talking about Mayabazar once exclaimed, 'What a picture it was!'".
According to a 29 January 2010 government order, the remastered version was exempted from entertainment tax, although theatre owners charged full price because they and other film producers were uncertain of the order's validity. Despite Mayabazar's success, Mohan decided not to remaster the remaining 14 films; according to him, most producers who sold negative rights to TV channels lost control of them, and he cited legal and copyright issues.
The Film Heritage Foundation announced in March 2015 that they would be restoring Mayabazar, along with a few other Indian films from 1931 to 1965, as a part of their restoration projects carried out in India and abroad in accordance with international parameters. The foundation opposed digital colourisation, stating that they "believe in the original repair as the way the master or the creator had seen it".
Mayabazar is considered a classic of Telugu cinema, particularly in its use of technology. The film is memorable for Nagendra Rao's dialogue: "Evaru puttinchakunte maatalela pudathayi" ("How would words emerge if no one invented them?") and "Subhadra, aagadalu, aghaaityalu naaku paniki raavu" ("Subhadra, these atrocities mean nothing to me."). Various words and phrases, such as "antha alamalame kada" ("Is everything fine?"), "Asamadiyulu" ("Friends"), "Tasamadiyulu" ("Enemies"), "Gilpam" and "Gimbali" ("bed-" and "room-mat"), later became part of Telugu vernacular. The success of Donga Ramudu (1955) and Mayabazar prompted Venkata Reddy to produce the 1958 Telugu film Pellinaati Pramanalu (Vazhkai Oppantham in Tamil). It recovered its investment and won the silver medal at the annual National Film Awards.
A 1987 Telugu film directed by Jandhyala Subramanya Sastry and a 2011 Telugu film directed by Veerabhadram Chowdary were named after the song "Aha Naa Pellanta" from the film; both were successful. Jandhyala Subramanya Sastry named his 1988 Telugu films Vivaaha Bhojanambu and Choopulu Kalisina Shubhavela after the songs of the same name. Telugu comedian Mallikarjuna Rao considered Mayabazar to be the "greatest comedy film ever", adding that it represents "one of the most transcendental and joyful experiences any movie-lover can hope for". Telugu director Mohan Krishna Indraganti named his second film Mayabazar (2006, also a fantasy film). Regarding his title, Indraganti said he was a fan of Mayabazar and named his film (produced by B. Satyanarayana) at the insistence of writer D. V. Narasaraju.
In January 2007, M. L. Narasimham of The Hindu listed Mayabazar with Mala Pilla (1938), Raithu Bidda (1939), Vara Vikrayam (1939), Bhakta Potana (1942), Shavukaru (1950), Malliswari (1951) Peddamanushulu (1954) and Lava Kusa (1963) as films that have influenced society and Telugu cinema. Rama Rao reprised the role of Krishna in several films over a two-decade career.
Singeetam Srinivasa Rao used Mayabazar's storyline in his 2008 multilingual animation film Ghatothkach. Director Krishna Vamsi called Mayabazar more an "epic, than a mere classic" and said that the film's tagline, "Sasirekha Parinayam", inspired the title of his 2009 Telugu film. In February 2010, acting coach and director L. Satyanand compared Mayabazar to films such as The Ten Commandments (1956), Ben-Hur (1959), Sholay (1975) and Avatar (2009), saying that they "are evergreen and never fade away from the mind", with continued appeal. Satyanand praised Bartley's cinematography, saying that the film
... was definitely ahead of its time. It is still a mystery how Marcus Bartley could morph Sasirekha through the ripples in the pond. It was an absolute masterpiece, considering the equipment in use, those days. In the absence of hi-def cameras, computer generated visual effects and high-end computers, the direction, cinematography and visual effects were efforts of sheer human genius.
In the period drama Rajanna (2011), the central character Mallamma (played by Baby Annie) listens to Mayabazar's songs. Although this was criticised as anachronistic, director K. V. Vijayendra Prasad said that Rajanna was set in 1958, a year after Mayabazar's release. In Ram Gopal Varma's Katha Screenplay Darsakatvam Appalaraju (2011), its protagonist Appalaraju (played by Sunil), an aspiring director, is shown enjoying a sequence from the song "Lahiri Lahiri" in the song "Mayabazaaru". In her article "The making of Tollywood", commemorating the 81st anniversary of the Indian Telugu film industry, Sunita Raghu of The New Indian Express called Mayabazar the "tour de force" of Telugu cinema. In November 2012, The Times of India listed Mayabazar along with other unrelated films such as Missamma (1955), Gundamma Katha (1962), Nartanasala (1963), and Bommarillu (2006) in the list "Telugu classics to watch along with family this Deepavali". For the April 2013 centennial of Indian cinema, CNN-News18 included Mayabazar in its list of "The 100 greatest Indian films of all time", and a May 2013 CNN-News18 poll ranked it the greatest Indian film of all time. In commemoration of the centennial of Indian cinema, The Hindu listed Mayabazar along with Pathala Bhairavi (1951), Missamma, Gundamma Katha, Maduve Madi Nodu (1965), Ram Aur Shyam (1967), Julie (1975), and Shriman Shrimati (1982) as the iconic films produced by Nagi Reddy.
CNN-News18 included Mayabazar on its February 2014 list of "12 Indian films that would make great books", and in May 2014 Rediff included the film on its list of "The Best Mythological Films of Tamil Cinema". The Tamil film Kalyana Samayal Saadham (2013) was named after the song of the same name. The Andhra Pradesh state government planned to introduce the film as part of the tenth standard English syllabus in 2014. The fourth unit of the English textbook, "Films and Theatres", mentions Mayabazar and its actors and has two stills from the film. In March 2012, film historian Mohan V. Raman stated in an interview with The Times of India that Mayabazar, which "perfected the art of trick photography", was "among the significant black and white films of yore", along with Andha Naal (1954) and Uthama Puthiran (1940).
A Tamil song written by Thamarai and Harris Jayaraj for the film Yennai Arindhaal (2015) was named Mayabazar. The scene in which Krishna reveals his identity to Ghatotkacha at Dvaraka was used in Gopala Gopala (2015), with Pawan Kalyan as Krishna. References were made to Shakuni's character in the film Pataas (2015) starring Rama Rao's grandson Nandamuri Kalyan Ram. Director S. S. Rajamouli told film critic Subhash K. Jha that Venkata Reddy's work in Mayabazar was a "huge inspiration" for him to make Baahubali: The Beginning (2015) and Baahubali: The Conclusion. Writing for DailyO, an online opinion platform from the India Today Group, actor Rana Daggubati opined that films like Mayabazar were "truly cutting edge" and added, "Considering the technological limitations technicians were working with back then, these were phenomenally commendable instances of the Indian cinema". In an interview with The Hindu in November 2015, actor Kamal Haasan noted, "Visual appeal has always gone hand-in-hand with content, since the days of Chandralekha and Maya Bazaar [sic], not just after Baahubali." A 90-minute theatrical adaptation of the film was staged in December 2016 by Bangalore Little Theatre.