Śaśirekhā Pariṇayamu: Tracing the Rich Cinematic Legacy of an Oral Telugu Folk Story
Timeslot:07/28 | 17:50-18:10 UTC+2/CEST
Supposedly based on oral folklore traditions from the Telugu regions, Sasirekha Parinayamu is a story that has had a remarkably rich biography in pan-Indian cinematic productions. Drawing from the familiar pool of Mahabharata characters yet creating the titular heroine Sasirekha as the daughter of Balarama, the story narrates the events surrounding the marriage (parinayamu) of Sasirekha and Abhimanyu, brought into effect by the mediation of the ever playful Krsna who leverages Ghatotkaca, the demonic son of Bhima in the process. A similar negotiation between traditional and innovative elements is revealed from the fact that though this story doesn’t feature in the Sanskrit epic, one is clearly reminded of the way Subhadra gets wedded to Arjuna there by Krsna’s machinations. Taking this fascinating story as a vantage point, this paper aims to parse out such Janus-faced negotiations occurring between the classical and vernacular Mahabharata traditions. In addition to analysis based on the disciplines of textual and folklore studies, keeping in tune with the conference’s theme of interdisciplinary approaches, I will also trace the strikingly rich life of the story in film traditions as it emerged as a classic in the wake of over eight film adaptations between 1925 to 1984 spanning across the languages of Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Marathi, and Gujarati. By way of coda, this paper will end by discussing the crowning glory of this rich series of films, the 1957 Telugu/Tamil version titled Mayabazar, which in 2007 became the first Telugu film to be digitally colorized and which still remains very much alive in the collective memory of the Telugu people.