It’s no secret that the quality of the videos from Konjum Salangai (Tamil, 1962) on YouTube stink! I’ve always had to force myself through them because while the dancing is fantastic the quality is so yellow and blurry and icky.
I am happy to present much better quality versions for all my fellow Kamala fans to view! I made an attempt to correct and subdue the colors (Kamala looks green in parts of the print I have) and get the best VCD quality I could, though I was limited by the print which is in ghastly and obviously-degraded technicolor. And not all is perfect in the videos, but I've let it be! Not only is the quality better from the existing YouTube videos, but also there are parts that were cut out, especially the entire Kathakali dance! So it’s truly been a treat seeing the full versions in all their glory. Enjoy!
"Konjum Salangai Oli"
This court scene begins with a lovely yet subdued Kathakali performance by a female dancer while Kamala looks on from above (I don’t know the character’s names in the movie so I’ll use their real names!). Next, Kuchala Kumari gives quite a terrible Bharatanatyam attempt. Just when it seems like the king will make her the court dancer, a man in the audience says he’s found a talented dancer in the kingdom (a commoner!) and the king should watch her dance before making his decision. When Kuchala watches Kamala and realizes she has competition, she signals to the musicians to increase the thaalam speed and laughs like the evil witch she is! Kamala pleads to the King that it was the musicians fault, not hers. Gemini Ganesan, who is fond of Kamala, comes to her rescue, asking a woman (Savitri) to sing, and then Kamala’s second and awesome attempt, "Konjum Salangai Oli," commences! The king is clearly impressed when it’s over. Go Kamala!
Note: I highly-recommend you select 480p in the bottom-right hand corner of the video!
"Brahman Thaalam Poda"
The final, rousing dance competition! Things start off with some wonderfully-catty, icy looks exchanged between the competing dancers and their friends. I love how Kamala’s sweet expression turns from niceties to an assured look of “bring it on!!” I must say that I do not enjoy watching Kuchalakumari dance—she's so lazy, so uninterested. Kamala is clearly given more difficult choreography, but even with her easy moves she is all smiles and glides around with effortless joy. You know she enjoys dancing with her whole heart, and it shows. Things get even more groovy when the powder comes out and the dancers make images with their feet. At first I thought the dancers just pushed off powder behind them to reveal an already-painted image underneath, but after watching it again it looks like they used some special effects to materialize the pictures! Richard at the Dances on the Footpath blog had a nice post about an interview of Kuchalakumari reflecting on this aspect of the dance. When things speed up and the dancers go at it together, Kamala has the win in the bag until she gets dizzy from exhaustion and the effects of the cuts on her feet. And then begins the most magical moment of the dance: the camera slowly circling around Kamala as she hears the sweet sounds of Gemini’s nadaswaram melody. It’s enough to revitalize her and win the competition!
"Kaana Kankodi Vendum"
This is Kamala’s first dance in the film. As it’s more focused on the music/lyrics than the dance, it doesn't keep my interest for long. Perhaps some subtitles would help. I like her costumes at 2:20 and 4:30 - it’s a skirt-style costume but has the single stripe outlining the inner part of the leg (like the pyjama-style costumes do) creating a nice shape and aesthetic.
Last, I read that Konjum Salangai was made (or dubbed?) in Telugu as Muripinche Muvvalu, and I found this great film poster to share: