Bapu’s remake of Chittor V. Nagaiah’s classic Saint film (1946) adapted his mythological style to the notion of classicism proposed by Vishwanath’s Shankarabharanam (1979). The latter film’s star, Somayajulu, here plays the Telugu saint Thyagaraja (1767-1847) who defies Serfoji, the king of Tanjore. When the hero’s sister-in-law Ganga steals his precious deity and throws it in the Kaveri river, the saint goes on a pilgrimage in search of his god. Several divine interventions later (filmed in Bapu’s typical frontal-address mythological style) and following the death of his wife Kamala, the saint eventually transforms into a sanyasi, a renouncer. Unlike the pre- Independence versions of the genre, this film exemplifies the essential requirement of a neo- traditional ‘authenticity’ in terms of contemporary caste for the cinema Vishwanath and others pioneered. Here
S.P. Balasubramanyam, who sang the kritis of Thyagaraja, was criticised by Carnatic vocalists for not being classical enough: this attack, unlike those pointing to the performance or soundtrack as the far more obvious instances of pandering to popular taste in the name of ‘high’ art, appeared to be seen as far more damaging to the film.