Malleshwari

During the reign of the Vijayanagara Empire, “Rani Vasam” was a common tradition that was considered a “boon” for young women. According to the tradition, young women were made the official residents of the palace when palanquins were sent to fetch them from their homes, offering large quantities of gold and jewellery to the parents in exchange. While the families of these women continue to cherish their daughters, these women were prohibited from having any contact with any male or letting any male visit them without permission. The ones who violated the rule were beheaded.Nagaraju and Malliswari of Veerapuram are maternal cousins who became close friends in childhood. This angers Malliswari’s mother Nagamma, who criticises Nagaraju and his mother Govindamma, mainly for their economic status. Malliswari’s father Narappa, also the village head, is a silent spectator, and her uncle Hanumanthappa is a minister in the court ofKrishnadevaraya, the king of the Vijayanagara Empire. Once, Nagaraju and Malliswari visit the nearby village and take shelter in a mandapa at night during a rainfall. Krishnadevaraya andAllasani Peddana, along with a few soldiers, enter the same mandapa where there are impressed with Malliswari’s talent as a singer and dancer. Nagaraju and Malliswari, unaware of their true identity, converse with them, and Nagaraju asks them to recommend the Malliswari to Krishnadevaraya for Rani Vasam.Malliswari is against this and sees this as a prank by Nagaraju. While Nagamma is keen to send her to Rani Vasam, Narappa wants his daughter to marry Nagaraju. Nagamma voices her opinion which insults Govindamma and Nagaraju, who then decides to leave Veerapuram and earn money to convince Nagamma to approve his marriage to Malliswari. Nagaraju becomes a successful sculptor in Vijayanagara and decides to return to Veerapuram. However, before he can do so, Krishnadevaraya and his wife Tirumaladevi appoint Malliswari as the official resident of the palace, thereby granting her “Rani Vasam”.Due to her insatiable desire for wealth, Nagamma forcibly sends Malliswari to the palace, and, when Nagaraju returns on the same night and learns what has happened, he becomes depressed. Govindamma become unstable after Nagaraju begins to lead the life of a recluse, mulling over his memories of Malliswari. A group of sculptors meet Nagaraju and ask him to accompany them to Vijayanagara to build a special mandapa for dancers, and he agrees. There, he meets Malliswari. They are separated by her maid Jalaja, who is afraid that they will be beheaded, as stipulated in the Rani Vasam tradition. Knowing about her past, Jalaja arranges a meeting of Malliswari with Nagaraju on the banks of the Tungabhadra river at midnight.Krishnadevaraya and his ministry attend the newly constructed dance hall, where they learn that Nagaraju is one of the sculptors. That night, Malliswari wants to meet Nagaraju again but is held back after receiving a message that Krishnadevaraya and Tirumaladevi, along with other official residents of the palace, will be attending the play “Usha Parinayam” at the dance hall and that Malliswari is expected to participate in it. Nagaraju, who is waiting for her near the Tungabhadra river, enters the palace and is chased by the soldiers. Malliswari sees Nagaraju running and calls out to him. To prevent Malliswari from being beheaded, Nagaraju acts as if he does not know her, but they are soon jailed for violating the rules of Rani Vasam.Jalaja reveals the love story of Malliswari and Nagaraju to Tirumaladevi. She also reveals that Malliswari denied any help from her and instead chose to die along with Nagaraju. The next morning, the hanging nooses are kept ready and the duo meet Krishnadevaraya before killing them. When Nagaraju blames Krishnadevaraya for sending a palanquin to her house for Rani Vasam, Krishnadevaraya defends his action and reminds Nagaraju that it was he who had asked him to send Malliswari to Rani Vasam. Krishnadevaraya forgives both Nagaraju and Malliswari, and their marriage is conducted in a grand manner at the palace.