indian cinema heritage foundation

Prahlada (1941)

  • Release Date17/08/1941
  • FormatB-W
  • LanguageMalayalam

Based on the Hindu mythological story, Prahlada revolves around the titular character’s devotion to the God Mahavishnu. The story is an immensely popular one among Malayalam speakers, regularly used in early musical operas in the language. 

Prahlada (Kumari Lakshmi) worships Lord Vishnu against the express orders of his father, the demon king Hiranyakashipu (Guru Gopinath). The king and his wife Kayadhu (Thankamani Gopinath) repeatedly try to change their son’s mind, but to no avail. Vishnu comes to Prahlada’s rescue every time he is tormented by his father. In a climactic sequence, Vishnu appears in his avatar as the man-lion Narasimha to kill Hiranyakashipu. 

The main attraction of the film was a dance performed by Guru Gopinath in the guise of Yama, the Hindu god of death. Kumari Lakshmi’s performance in the film as well as her songs were widely acclaimed. The 24 songs in the film were written by Kilimanoor Madhava Varier, a Malayalam poet and Sanskrit scholar and set to tune by V.S. Parthasarathy Iyengar. The first mythological film in Malayalam, Prahlada was also the debut Malayalam film of director-producer K. Subrahmaniam, the actor T.K. Balachandran and the music director V.S. Parthasarathy Iyengar. It was also the onscreen debut of Guru Gopinath and Thankamani Gopinath. Shot on spectacular sets at Gemini Studios, the film unfortunately failed at the box office. No prints or stills of the film survive.