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Sevasadanam is one of the early Tamil films to be set in a contemporary social setting and to advocate reformist social policies. The film is an adapted version of Premchand ‘s novel Bazaar-e-Husn. The veteran Marxist leader N. Sankaraiah, has described Sevasadanam as an “unusual film” for choosing the subject of marriages between young girls and old men (which had social sanction). According to him, the film successfully broughtout the “sufferings of the girl” (acted by M.S.) and the “mental agony of the aged husband”.(acted by F.G.Natesa Iyer).Tamil film critic and historian Aranthai Narayanan observes in his bookThamizh Cinemavin Kathai (The Story of Tamil Cinema) that “Seva Sadhanam proved a turning point in the history of Tamil cinema. In the climax, the aged husband, now a totally changed man, was shown as casting aside with utter contempt his ‘sacred thread’, which symbolises his Brahmin superiority. It came as a stunning blow to the then Brahmin orthodoxy.”

MS Subbulakshmi also played the male role of Narada in “Savitri” (1941) to raise money for launching Kalki, her husband’s nationalist Tamil weekly. Her title role of the Rajasthani saint-poetess Meera in the eponymous 1945 film gave her national prominence. This movie was re-made in Hindi in 1947.

Year Film Language Role Co-Star Director Music Banner
1938 Sevasadanam Tamil Sumathi F. G. Natesa Iyer K. Subramanyam Papanasam Sivan Madras United Artists Corporation
1940 Sakuntalai Tamil Shakunthala G. N. Balasubramaniam, Radha Viswanathan Ellis R. Dungan Papanasam Sovan
1941 Savithiri Tamil Saint Narada Y. V. Rao, Shanta Apte Y. V. Rao Thuraiyur Rajagopala Sarma & Kamaldas Gupta Royal Talkie Distributors
1945 Meera Tamil Meerabai Chittor V. Nagaiah Ellis R. Dungan S. V. Venkatraman Chandraprabha Cinetone
1947 Meerabai Hindi Meerabai Ellis R. Dungan S. V. Venkatraman Chandraprabha Cinetone

Awards and honours

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had this to say about M.S. Subbulakshmi- “Who am I, a mere Prime Minister before a Queen, a Queen of Music”. While Lata Mangeshkar called her Tapaswini (the Renunciate), Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan termed her Suswaralakshmi (the goddess of the perfect note), and Kishori Amonkar labelled her the ultimate eighth note or Aathuvaan Sur, which is above the seven notes basic to all music. The great national leader and poet Sarojini Naidu called her “Nightingale of India”. Her many famous renditions of bhajans include the chanting of Bhaja Govindam, Vishnu sahasranama (1000 names of Vishnu), Hari Tuma Haro and the Venkateswara Suprabhatam (musical hymns to awaken Lord Balaji early in the morning).

She was widely honoured, praised and awarded. Some of the popular ones include:

She was honoured as a resident artist of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. Tirupati Urban Development Authority (TUDA) has installed a bronze statue of M.S. Subbulakshmi at the Poornakumbham circle in the temple town. It was unveiled by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy on 28 May 2006.

The Kancheepuram Saree shade known as MS Blue was named after her by the well known Congress party member and philanthropist, Sri Muthu Chettiyar when they met at the residence of Sri R. Aiyadurai and Smt. Thangam Aiyadurai at Lady Desikachari Road, Madras, who were close friends of MS and Sadasivam.

A commemorative postage stamp on her was issued on 18-December-2005. United Nations decided to issue stamp to mark birth centenary M.S. Subbulakshmi, She was bestowed with enormous prize moneys with these awards, most of which she donated to charity. She has given more than 200 charity concerts and raised well over Rs. 10,000,000. She was awarded honorary degrees from several Universities. She was an ardent devotee of Kanchi Mahaswamigal and she rendered his composition Maithreem Bhajatha (O World! Cultivate peace) in her concert at the UN in 1966. She made a 20-minute recording of Venkatesa Suprabhatam for HMV, the royalty from which goes to the Veda Patasala run by the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam. She donated many of the royalties on several best sold records to many charity organisations.