Balayogini (English: Girl Saint) is a 1937 Indian film made in Tamil
and Telugu languages. It was directed by K. Subramanyam. It is one of
the earliest Tamil films to be set in a contemporary social setting
and to advocate reformist social policies. This film is considered to
be first children's film of South India.
1.1 Telugu film
3 Cast and crew
7 External links
Subramanyam, was influenced by the reformist ideals of his father C.V.
Krishnaswamy Iyer. He was moved by the social conditions around him to
make reform oriented films.
Balayogini (lit. Child Saint) was made to
expose the plight and suffering of widows in middle class Brahmin
communities in Tamil Nadu. Subramanyam produced this film under his
"Madras United Artists Corporation" banner to express his criticism of
the existing social norms and his disapproval of priesthood. He
wrote the story, screenplay & dialogues and directed it himself.
He cast his niece Saroja as the titular character. The film was
started in 1936 and released in 1937. The completed film was 19,000
feet (210 minutes runtime) in length.
It was remade in Telugu with dialogues written by B.T. Raghavacharya,
under the banner of Mahalakshmi Studios. Baby Saroja, played the
key role of Widow's Daughter and the other main characters are played
by Arani Satyanarayana, Vangara, Kamala Kumari, Thilakam and S.
Sarasa's (K. R. Chellam) father is arrested by Police for being a
debtor. She goes to the sub collector's (K. B. Vatsal) house to ask
for help. The collector's widowed sister Janaki and her niece (Baby
Saroja) take pity on her. They are driven out of the house by the
angry collector. They take refuge in the house of their low-caste
servant Munuswamy. Munuswamy dies and Janaki cares for his children as
her own. This causes outrage in the conservative society and
Munuswamy's house is burned down by a mob. The child Saroja changes
everyone's mind with her arguments.
Cast and crew
"Baby Saroja" in Balayogini
K. R. Chellam
C. V. V. Panthulu
Bharathan - Gopalayyar
K. B. Vatsal (K. Viswanathan) - District Collector
K. Subramanyam - Story, Screenplay and Director
Papanasam Sivan - Lyrics
Moti Babu - Music
Maruti Seetharamiah - Music
Dharam Veer - Editor
Sailen Bose - Cinematographer
Kamal Ghosh - Assistant Cinematographer
Batuk Sen - Art Director
The film was released on 5 February 1937 to critical and public
acclaim. "Baby" Saroja was hailed as "
Shirley Temple of India".
Many girls were named "Saroja" after her. The film's success
inspired a number of socially themed films in South India.
Reviewing the film in the magazine Jaganmohini in February 1937,
reviewer Vatsakumari wrote:
After seeing Saroja's acting, Shirley Temple's talent does not impress
anymore. Saroja's appearance, acting and words give us the impression
of a lonely new flower's fragrance. There is no doubt that behind her
and the other children's acting success is the director K.
Subramaniam...It can be said such a complete Tamil film has not been
made so far.
A similar review was written in Manikodi magazine in its February 1937
..The four year old faces make us remember rose buds. Their laughter
reminds us of Jasmine flowers waiting for the Margazhi sunrise. Baby
Saroja's quick responses capture our heart. We should congratulate the
director Sri Subramanyam for making such a successful film with
Film historian Theodore Baskaran has called it the most significant
Tamil film of its period.
^ a b c Blast From the Past -
Balayogini 1937, The Hindu 10 April 2009
^ Baskaran, S. Theodore (1996). The eye of the serpent: an
introduction to Tamil cinema. Chennai: East West Books.
^ a b Baskaran, S. Theodore (1981). The message bearers: the
nationalist politics and the entertainment media in South India,
1880-1945. Chennai: Cre-A. p. 116.
^ Thoraval, Yves (2000). The cinemas of India. India: Macmillan.
p. 37. ISBN 0-333-93410-5,
^ Velayutham, Selvaraj (2008). Tamil cinema: the cultural politics of
India's other film industry (Hardback ed.). New York: Routledge.
p. 3. ISBN 978-0-415-39680-6.
^ A progressive film-maker, Frontline Magazine 03-16 July 2004
^ a b Film News Anandan (2004). Sadhanaigal padaitha Tamil Thiraipada
Varalaaru (in Tamil). Chennai: Sivagami Publications.
^ a b Rajadhyaksha, Ashish; Willemen, Paul (1994). Encyclopaedia of
Indian cinema. British Film Institute. p. 248.
ISBN 0-85170-455-7, ISBN 978-0-85170-455-5.
^ a b Baskaran, S. Theodore (2004). Chithiram Pesuthadi (in Tamil).
Chennai: Kalachuvadu. pp. 50–51. ISBN 81-87477-75-X.
^ a b Arandhai Narayanan (2008). Arambakala Tamil Cinema (1931-41) (in
Tamil). Chennai: Vijaya Publications. p. 23.
^ Muthiah, S (1989). Tales of old and new Madras: the dalliance of
Miss Mansell and 34 other stories of 350 years. Chennai: Affiliated
East-West Press. p. 135. ISBN 81-85336-25-3,
Balayogini, Telugu version on IMDb