Krishna Chaitanya

Krishna Chaitanya

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L.V. Prasad: The doyen of Cinema

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The modern generation might relate the name of L.V. Prasad with the name of the premier multiplex chain and the eye hospital and the film laboratories, but to the elder generations who have patronized cinema of the earlier times, it gives them the vivid image of a man who was associated with the first talkie film of all the languages in various capacities. L.V .Prasad was a man who gave new direction to cinema as a whole. His life is an example of ideals and the way to achieve them being successful.
 
L. V. Prasad was born in a well-to-do agricultural family in Eluru Taluk of the current-day Andhra Pradesh. Right from childhood, he showed lot of interest in plays and the then new phenomenon of films, neglecting his studies. In early 1920′s, his family lost its fortunes in trying to convert forest lands into arable lands. In 1924, he married Soundarya Manoharamma, his maternal uncle’s daughter, despite objections from her family on account of his poor financial status. With a view to pursue his dreams in establishing an acting career, he left to Bombayin 1930.
 
Lack of contacts in the film industry made life difficult for him and he had to face lot of hardship to enter into studios. After doing rounds of studios for over six months, he got an errands job in the Venus Film Company. After a short time there, he joined with Imperial Light Company for a monthly salary of 30 rupees. Ardeshir Irani was the owner of the company and was trying to make Alam Ara, the first talkie in India and Prasad was an extra artist. At the same time Prasad was acquainted with H. M. Reddy, who was assisting Irani. H.M. Reddy was given the opportunity to direct the first Telugu talkie by Irani and he promptly cast Prasad in a bit role in the first Telugu talkie, Bhaktha Prahlada. Prasad also acted in Kalidasa, the first Tamil film, around the same time. Thus, he had the unique distinction of acting in the first talkies in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil. It was around this time that his name was shortened to ‘L. V. Prasad’ by an accountant who felt that his name was too long for the daily attendance roll call.
 
In 1940, he reached Madras and became an assistant director to H. M. Reddy. Later on Reddy cast him as the hero for his film Satyame Jayam and later in Tenali Rama Krishna. But the Second World War affected the film industry in a huge way and it was very difficult even to get raw material for filming and opportunities were limited.
 

It was the time when business savvy Raja Y. Ramakrishna Prasad took over the reigns of Saradhi Films from his elder brother, Challapalli Raja Y. Sivaramaprasad, and K. S. Prakash Rao stepped in to manage the production work in place of Gudavalli Ramabrahmam. The production house chose Tripuraneni Gopichand’s story ‘Grihapravesam‘ for its next film. Gopichand himself showed interest in film-making. K.S. felt that a person with technical knowledge should assist him and he approached L.V. Prasad, who was then working as an assistant director in Bombay, besides playing cameo roles and dabbling in stage plays with Prithvi Theatres for sustenance. Prasad, who accepted the offer, was also chosen for the hero’s role. Before the shoot, Gopichand opted out, paving the way for Prasad to take over the mantle as director. The future doyen of film industry thus debuted both as a hero and as a director at one go!

 
The pioneer of Telugu talkie, H.M. Reddy, must have been a proud man when two of his assistants, P.S. Ramakrishna Rao and Akkineni Lakshmi Vara Prasada Rao (L.V. Prasad) debuted as directors in 1946. The former made some great classics in Telugu, while the latter went on to become one of the greatest sons of Indian film industry.
 
He received critical acclaim for his role and also his directorial capabilities and the movie was a commercial success. During the making of Griha Pravesham, Gudavalli Ramabrahmam called upon L V Prasad and handed him his pet project Palnati Yudham as he was taken ill. L V Prasad completed the movie and it established him as a Director to reckon with. In 1949, he directed Mana Desam and introduced N. T. Rama Rao, who achieved iconic status in Andhra Pradesh, in a bit role.
 
In 1950, he directed Samsaram starring N. T. Rama Rao and Akkineni Nageswara Rao. The movie, exploring domestic themes, was a big hit. After this, Prasad exclusively focused on directing movies with a family theme. The same year he directed another successful movie, Shavukar for B. Nagi Reddy’s Vijaya Pictures. This partnership continued over the years in the making of other successful movies such as
Pelli chesi choodu(1952), Missamma (1955) and Appu chesi pappu koodu(1959) .
 
In 1955, he turned a producer and also took over an unfinished studio. In 1956, he produced his first Telugu film (Ilavelpu) and in 1957, he produced his first Hindi film (Miss Mary). He was a successful producer and had produced, directed or acted in 50 films spread over the four different languages of Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada in his career.
 
He completed the Prasad Studios in 1965, the Prasad Film Laboratory in 1974 and the recording theater in 1976. The facilities were regarded as the best in India and on par with the best in the world. He was also the principal donor to an eye hospital at Hyderabad, which was named after him – the LVPEI (L V Prasad Eye Institute). Also the first Imax and multiplex chain of Hyderabad has been named after him.

 
L V Prasad, the doyen of Indian Cinema took his last breath on 22nd June 1994. He is still remembered by the people from all walks of life and the Government has honored him by releasing a postal stamp in the year 2006. He may not be anymore in this mortal world, but his imprint through his work and achievements lives through the generations.
 
Watch the Song from Griha Pravesham (1946), L.V.Prasad and P.Bhanumathi.
 

 
 

JAYABHERI (1959)- A True Classic

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There are very few films in Telugu Cinema which deal with the issues of caste and class. Most of the directors generally shy away from depicting these tricky issues for the fear of a controversy. There have been few directors who have tried to raise this issue but often they could not meet the commercial parameters. But one film stood out as a classic case of art exposing a social issue through artistic means yet became a success story. The film in question is JAYABHERI, which was produced on Sarada films and released in the year 1959. The film was a milestone in Telugu cinema for taking a bold stand on the current social situation, though it was a period drama. Jayabheri  movie was released in Tamil as Kalaivannan(1959).
 
STORY: 
Kasinatha Shastry (ANR), brother of Viswanatha Shastry (Gummadi) undergoes Classical music training under Viswambara Shastry (Nagaiah). Though Viswanatha and his wife Annapoorna (P.Santha Kumari) are childless, they rear Kasinatha as their own child.
 
A Banjara music troupe who conduct street plays are the most popular in folk music in the village. Kasinatha happens to witness their performance and an incident happens wherein the lead dancer of the troupe, Manjuvani (Anjali Devi), challenges the audience to compete with her. Kasinatha accepts her challenge and wins. He is lauded by the citizens of the city but his act of singing in a street play irks his teacher, Viswambara Shastry who asks him to leave the school. The Brahmin community of the city also criticizes the acts of Kasinatha and decide to punish him and his brother, Viswanatha Shastry. Unable to digest the discrimination under the name of tradition and culture, Kasinatha shuns his caste and marries Manjuvani.
 
The newly wed couple decide to earn their livelihood by performing street plays and start touring with their troupe and visit various cities and enthral their audience. Soon they become popular and their name reverberates throughout the country. One of their performances is witnessed by the King Vijayananda Gajapathi (SVR) in Vijaya Nagaram and is honoured suitably by making him a state guest.
 
The newly wed couple decide to earn their livelihood by performing street plays and start touring with their troupe and visit various cities and enthral their audience. Soon they become popular and their name reverberates throughout the country. One of their performances is witnessed by the King Vijayananda Gajapathi (SVR) in Vijaya Nagaram and is honoured suitably by making him a state guest.
 
His felicitation by the king irritates the Court Dancer, Amrutamba (Rajasulochana) and the Dharmadhikari  (Mukkamala) who presides over the Brahmin community. They design the downfall of Kasinatha by making him an addict to alcohol and a womaniser. The King realises that Kasinatha has gotten to wrong path and asks him to recommence his old ways of street plays. But his addiction to alcohol and his wayward ways are ridiculed by the society and also the near and dear. He witnesses in his inebriated state the situation of the untouchables and raises his voice against them. But his personal disintegration continues and he is saved from the situation by his Sister-in-Law, Annapurna. She tries to reform him but is disowned by her husband. She tries to commit suicide by jumping into a river but is saved by Kasinatha. The community elders of the Vijaya Nagaram realize their folly of creating false barriers among fellow human beings and the story ends with Kasinatha reuniting with his family.
 
TECHNICAL DEPARTMENTS
 
Jayabheri is often referred to as a musical marvel by the industry. It was the fit case of being called a musical for the director, P Pullaiah took the route of music and arts to promote the cause of the film. He showcased the evolution of a gifted artist and the tricks the social status plays in his life. The music scored by Pendyala Nageswara Rao is of legendary stuff and one hearing to the songs such as “Rasika Raja Taguvaramu Kama”, Madi Sharada Devi Mandirame” “Yamuna Teeramuna” “Nanduni Charitamu” , “Ragamayee rave” all the favorites of the new age singers too. Cinematography by PL Roy explored new standards of cinema through his picturisation of the song “Yamuna Teeramuna.”
 
PERFORMANCES
 
The film Jayabheri is a film which has to be said as the acting pinnacle of ANR’s career after Devadasu. The commitment of ANR to this film can be observed by the way he lip synced the tough song of “Rasika Raja…” There are no long shots to cover the song in the picturisation of this song as the camera does not leave ANR’s close-up even for a minute during the song recital. ANR’s performance was such great that we forget that Ghantasala was the one who sang the song and ANR was just lip-syncing it. A lot of the current generation actors need to take a leaf out of ANR’s book.
 
The supporting cast of Anjali Devi, SVR, Gummadi, Santha Kumari and V. Nagaiah pitch their best job to support the effort of ANR and also the director P Pullaiah. Also the antagonists, Rajasulochana, Mukkamala do their bit to hasten the sufferings of the hero. The comedy track of Relangi, Suryakantham, Surabhi Balasaraswathi Sr and Ramana Reddy is so well entrenched in the film that young script writers need to know on how to include their comic tracks within the relevance of the film and yet make a strong statement.
 
“JAYABHERI” is a classic which has to be on everyone’s shelves. Do not miss this film in your lifetime.
 
Watch the songs from this evergreen classical movie.
 
Nanduni Charitamu Vinuma Sung by Ghantasala- Lyrics by Sri Sri 

Rasika Raja Taguvaramu Kama Sung by Ghantasala , Lyrics by Malladi Ramakrishna Sastry. 

 Madi Sharada devi Mandirame sung by Ghantasala, Raghunath Panigrahi and P.B.Srinivas 
Ragamayee Rave sung by Ghantasala and P. Susheela
Yamuna Theeramuna Sandhya Samayamuna sung by Ghantasala, P.Susheela
Neeventa nerajanavoura sung by legendary carnatic singer Dr. M.L.Vasantha Kumari
 
 
 
 
 
 

C.Pullaiah: The man who made Lava Kusa

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Some names are just so interlinked with a particular piece of history that their entire life seems to be connected with that single event of a lifetime. One such legend is Chittajallu Pullaiah also famously known as C Pullaiah, the producer-director of “Lava Kusa” (1963) which had N T Rama Rao as Rama and Anjali Devi as Seeta Though he was a pioneer of many important innovations and history with regards to cinema, but for the common audience he is just synonymous with Lava Kusa.

During the silent era, C Pullaiah joined Kohinoor Film Company in Bombay in 1922. When Raghupati Venkaiah Naidu formed the “Star of the East Films Limited” in Madras, C Pullaiah joined the company as an Assistant Director with R S Prakash. But the production company was a in a lull after making “Bhishma Pratigna”. Unable to stay away from making films, C Pullaiah decided to make films on his own and purchased some lighting equipment and a camera and started shooting in his house at Kakinada. The logistical problems of developing the footage and screen it was big as he had to travel either to Madras or to Bombay or else to Calcutta. But true to his nature Pullaiah constructed a theatre in Kakinada, “City Electric Cinema”, which was later rechristened as “Minerva”.

C Pullaiah always believed in construction of film theatres as he thought that there would be no life for Cinema if there are no Cinema theatres to show the movies. Hence he spent considerable amount of his time in the construction of theatres in various places. He used to conduct Touring Theatres and used to sell them of for interested buyers and in this process he spread the film movement through out the region.

East India Film Company of Calcutta invited him to direct a few movies in the year 1932 and from then on C Pullaiah became a Director for films like “Sati Savitri”, “Lava Kusa” (previous version), “Anasuya – Dhruva”, and other such movies. Later in the year 1938, when the Studio Durga Cine Tone in Rajahmundry was up for closure, C Pullaiah, on the condition of paying a rent of Rs 1000 per month, ran it on the name of Andhra talkies and made “Satyanarayana Vratam” in it.

C Pullaiah is credited for introducing Bhanumati who later on became a celebrated personality of Telugu Cinema through his movie “Vara Vikrayam” in the year 1939.  He was called a revolutionary Director for introducing western orchestra for the Re-Recording of “Vara Vikrayam” though the songs were of local flavor. He is also remembered for shooting the first outdoor movie of Telugu Cinema “Mohini Bhasmasura” in the year 1938.

He was always a Film maker who always wished to entertain the audience with his movies and always thought that the common man who comes to watch his movies has to be satisfied for the money he paid for. His belief is glorified when he shot a comic track “Kasulaperu” and a song “Chal Mohana Ranga” to his movie “Satyanarayana Vratam”, when he thought that the film was of short duration. He clubbed two movies into a single show with “Anasuya” and “Dhruva”.

“Lava Kusa” (1963), catapulted his name into immortality and became a success without any match. The movie took seven years to complete and was a big burden on C Pullaiah, but with the help of N T R and Anjali Devi, he completed the film under his Supervision and his son C S Rao as the Director. The legend says that the audience was enthralled to see NTR as Lord Rama and Anjali Devi as Sita and they used to pray to them by offering coconuts and camphor. Such was the success of the film that people used to travel to big cities in hordes of bullock carts to watch it.

The legend of C. Pullaiah lives on inspiring many Directors and Producers.  Watch few famous songs and scenes from the epic movie Lava Kusa(1963).

 

 

Surabhi Kamala Bai: The first telugu heroine

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Indian cinema has to have a heroine, whether a script demands it or not. This is the ground rule for ages and in the earlier times it was even difficlt to get women to act on screen. Hence, the importance of Surabhi Kamala Bai who is credited as the first Telugu heroine of talkie era is noteworthy.

As some say, Kamala Bai was destined to be under arc lights as her mother, who was a stage artist herself, went into labor pains while she was on stage and gave a dramatic birth to Kamala Bai. Though her original name was Kamala Bai, she became famous as “Surabhi” Kamala Bai for her association with Surabhi theater group.

In 1931, director HM Reddy intended to make a Talkie film in Telugu on the banner of Imperial Films with Ardeshir Irani as the Producer. He chose Kamala Bai from ‘Surabhi Drama Company’ as heroine in his film. Kamala Bai became the first heroine in the first Telugu talkie ‘Bhaktha Prahlada’. Kamala Bai donned the role of ‘Leelavathi’ in the film. “Bhaktha Prahlada” was a stupendous success and Kamala Bai settled as leading actress in Telugu film industry.

Kamala Bai acted in the lead roles in her next films ‘Shakunthala and Paduka Pattabhishekam’ in 1932. These films were directed by Sarvottham Badami and produced by Chunni Bai Desai on ‘Sagar Films’ banner. Kamala Bai co-starred with Addanki Sri Rama Murthy in the film ‘Paduka Pattabhishekam’ and co-starred with Yadavalli Surya Narayana in the film ‘Shakunthala’. Though these movies were well received they could not make much money like “Bhaktha Prahlada”.

Surabhi Kamala Bai acted in nearly 140 films. She could sing songs and poems on her own in the films. She had good voice, good body language and body structure which are great assets to an actress. In the latter part of her career, Kamala Bai mostly played side roles in some movies like “Keelu Gurram(1949), Mallishwari(1951). Pathala Bhairavi (1951) as Thota Ramudu’s mother role, Devadas (1953) as Parvathi’s grand mother, Jayabheri(1958), Shabash Ramudu (1959) , Raja Makutam (19549)and Velugu Needalu (1961).

Surabhi Kamala Bai, who regaled the audience with her performances and created a benchmark for acting when the Film Industry was taking its wings. She took her last breath in 1971.

Readers may Watch few videos of Surabh Kamalabai

 
 

 

Raghupati Venkaiah Naidu: The man who started it all

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There is a beginning for everything in the world. There has to be an inventor or a discoverer or else a pioneer of newer thnings the world has to see. Even the cinema which we see today was invented by Lumiere brothers and brought to India by Dada Saheb Phalke. But there is another personality who shared the same vision which Dada Saheb had. He is none other than Raghupati Venkaiah Naidu  who brought cinema to the Southern part of India. And rightfully, he deserves to be called as the father of Southern Cinema (as there were no language based cinema at that point of time).

Raghupati Venkaiah Naidu used to run a photo studio at 161, Mount Road, Chennai. When he got to know that the Gay Mount Company in London have invented a projector called “Chrono Megaphone” which could transmit moving pictures along with sound, he mortgaged his studio and ordered the projector for an amount of Rs.30,000, which was a huge amount in those days, along with 400 shorts.

Raghupati Venkaiah Naidu managed a show, to exhibit the projector, at Victoria Hall in Madras and wowed the audience. Later on he started exhibiting films through a touring theatre and conducted shows in Bangalore and other cities of Andhra. He also exhibited in Sri Lanka and Burma. Later on in 1912, Raghupati Venkaiah Naidu built a permanent theatre “Gaiety” in Madras.  Later on he built “Crown” in Mint Street and “Globe” in Parasuvakam. In 1913, under the management of “Star of the East”, “Glass Studios” was established behind the premises of Globe theatre.

Raghupati Venkaiah Naidu sent his son, Raghupati Surya Prakash, to London to learn Cinematography. When his son came back, Raghupati Venkaiah Naidu produced a film named “Bhishma Pratigna”, under the direction of his son, Raghupati Surya Prakash, under the banner of “Star of the East”, in 1921. Later on he produced “Gajendra Moksham”, “Bhaktha Nandanar” and “Matsyavataar” which were all silent films.

Raghupati Venkaiah Naidu retired from the company in 1929. He transferred all his responsibilities of the company to his son, Raghupati Surya Prakash. He deceased in the year 1941.

Raghupati Venkaiah Naidu’s life was remarkable as he was the one who started film movement in South India by daring to exhibit movies, to own a film studio and later on produce movies. He took the risk when there was no guarantee for the returns on his investments. He paved a way for the coming generations to follow and told the world that million others can depend on this form of entertainment not just for entertainment but also for livelihood. He created cinema out of nowhere and proved to be a successful one at that. Recognizing his contribution, the Andhra Pradesh Government has been giving the Life Time Achievement Award on his name and most of the present generation now comes to know that Award as Raghupati Venkaiah Naidu Award. Raghupati Venkaiah Naidu’s name shall remain forever in the annals of southern cinema history and his name shall be the first page anyone comes across while discussing the origin of southern cinema.

Adurthi Subba Rao: Director par excellence

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There are directors who are much respected for their craft. There are directors who are admired for their success stories. And there are directors who are known for their disciplinarian methods. But there was one director of yore who was Loved by all for the craft he brought in, for his success and also for the discipline which he brought through jovial manners. He was Adurthi Subba Rao, the man who gave Telugu cinema the lessons in commercial film making.
 
Adurthi Subba Rao was born to Adurthi Satthenna and Rajya Lakshmi. He showed much interest in literature and photography from his college days in Kakinada. He was prolific in writing telugu poetry and was more involved with literature than the syllabus books. He had a personal camera in those days which he used for capturing nature. May be his penchant for natural photography laid seeds for the director in him to shoot at real natural locations which he used in films like, “Mooga Manasulu”.
 
He was a vivid cine buff and he took a decision to become a cinematographer and pursued cinematography course in Bombay in St. Xavier’s College against the wishes of his parents.
 
Adurthi had to struggle a lot during his initial days of the course. 3 years was the duration of the course and it was very difficult to sustain for that long without any support coming from the family. Adurthi searched for part-time jobs and he found one in Bombay film studio in the camera department. Though he was in the camera department he was never allowed to touch the camera forget operating it. He was disillusioned with the treatment he got and joined a film lab where he got knowledge about the film processing and printing.
 
He again changed lanes and assisted Dena Norwekar a noted editor. He forged friendship with the music director Nalam Nageshwara Rao and turned a lyric writer and wrote songs for movies like “Vana Rani, Mangala Suthram, Oka Roju Raju, and Circus Raju” etc. The famous hit song “Rajuvu Neevaithe, Neetho Raanini Nenautha” sung by G.Vara Lakshmi, was written by Adurthi.
 
After treading in various departments Adurthi Subba Rao entered direction department when director Uday Shankar picked him as an assistant director for “Kalpana”.
 
In the meanwhile tragedy struck Adurthi at personal level. He had left his home by antagonizing his parents and he could not even get to know the passing away of his father. After settling in the industry earning good wages as an Assistant Director, Adurthi once came home and got to know of his father’s death. He was shocked and learnt the lessons of life which played truant to him and his family.
 
Adurthi was noticed for his workmanship during the shoot of “Kalpana”. Those who had an eye for budding talent had already put him in high pedestal and suitably so he was beckoned by a Telugu film producer, to work in the editing of the film “Parijathapaharanam”.
 
Later on, he worked as assistant director to KS Prakasha Rao in the direction of the film “Deeksha”. With the confidence in Adurthi’s ability, Prakasha Rao gave chance to him to shoot some scenes independently. Adurthi also worked as editor for the films “Sankranthi, and Kannathalli”.
 
Adurthi made his directorial debut with “Amara Sandesham” with DB Narayana, S Bhava Narayana and Nava Yuga K.Srinivasarao being the producers. This film was a commercial failure though it was critically acclaimed. The artistic values in the film gave Adurthi and the producers a good reputation.
 
Adurthi then wanted to direct his next film based on the story of “Panduranga Mahathyam”. He came to know that NAT banner was going to produce the film with the same story with Kamalakara Kameswara Rao at the helm, he dropped his idea.
 
At the same time Annapurna Pictures management was searching for the director for their second film and Adurthi was handpicked to direct Todikodallu. The film was a runaway success and established Aurthi Subba Rao as a name to reckon with.
 
Then started the great run of Adurthi Subba Rao which had included evergreen telugu films alongside Tamil and Hindi films as well. Five of his films were chosen as the Best feature films in Telugu and Tamil by the National Awards committee. Films like, Nammina Bantu, Doctor Chakravarthy, Mooga Manasulu, Sudigundalu were made in Telugu while Kumudam which he directed in Tamil won him that honour.
 
He turned  producer and had established the banner “Babu Movies” in the partnership of C Sundaram. As a producer-director he made “Manchi Manasulu, Mooga Manasulu, Thene Manasulu and Kanne Manasulu”. With Thene Manasulu he made a hero out of Krishna who till then was acting in side roles.  Mooga Manasulu established many a record during its run and is credited as the first film to have collected a gross of Rs. 1 crore at the box-office. This film was remade in Hindi, LV Prasad producing it, with Sunil Dutt and Nutan doing the roles of ANR and Savitri while Jamuna played her own role. Milan was a runaway success even in Hindi.
 
Adurthi Subba Rao had formed Chakravathy Chitra in collaboration with ANR and wanted to make some socially-relevant films. The duo made “Maro Prapancham and Sudigundalu” under the banner. Though the films are regarded as classics in the genre even today, they were colossal failures at the time of their release as the audience were already moving away from social messages.
 
Adurthi encouraged new talent and he was responsible for introducing. Krishna as hero and Ram Mohan with “Thene Manasulu” He introduced Manjula with “Mayadari Malli Gadu”. Other such talents who were introduced by him were P Venkateshwara Rao, Mada, Vijaya Chander, Sukanya, Sandhya Rani, Pushpa Kumari and Prasanna Rani.
 
 K Vishwanath, V Madhusudana Rao, T Krishna, Pendyala Naganjaneyulu, T Madhava Rao, and PC Reddy learnt the art of direction by working as assistants to Adurthi Subba Rao. The famous writers Mullapoodi Venkata Ramana, Sathyanand, Subbarao, NR Nandi, Modukoori Johnson, and Dr.Korrapati Gangadhara Rao were also introduced to film field through his films.
 
He was very jovial at work. Those working under him knew no stress and he made the atmosphere around look very casual though he never compromised at the quality of the work. His colleagues who often used to throw tantrums always respected him. It was this quality that made him a darling of the producers who wanted to have a tension-free shoot.
 
Adurthi Subba Rao gave immortal heights to the commercial film making of telugu cinema by making it richer with his own efforts. He had left from this world on 1-10-1975 at  9:00 PM. Telugu cinema always remembers him as one of the pioneers of Cinema and his work stands as a testimony.
Watch and enjoy the melodious songs from Telugu movie Mooga Manasulu (1964) and Hindi Version Milan (1966)

 

Rajesh Khanna(1942-2012): A Tribute

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Zindagi aur maut upar waalon ke haathon mein hain jahaapanah. Use  naa aap badal sakte hain aur na hum. Hum sab toh is rang manch ke  katputliyah hain jiske dor upar walon ke hath mein bandhe hain. Kab kaun kaise uthegaa kisiko bi pata nahin”

It was just a week ago that the fears about the health of Bollywood icon were dispelled as he was discharged from hospital. Countless fans of his heaved a sigh of relief when it was announced that Rajesh Khanna is doing well. But all of a sudden the news came in this afternoon that, he is no more. It is not just the mourning of his wife, Dimple Kapadia and daughter, Twinkle and Rinkie and son-in-law, Akshay Kumar, but also the mourning of a nation. The Indian nation is collectively saying, Our Anand is no more, our Amar Prem is no more, our Bawarchi is no more, our Kaka is no more.

What a gush of emotions and what a whiff of his memories. He was 69 when he left this world, but what he left behind is a sea of memories and fondness.

When he first emerged on to the Bollywood screen in Aakhri Khat, little did anyone imagine what would be the impact this handsome man would be leaving such a legacy which would be impossible for anyone to emulate his success. He is often considered as the first superstar of free India leaving behind the troika of Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand. He was a mixture of all of them. He was man who was as handsome and as romantic as Dev Anand, if not more. He was as clownish as Raj Kapoor and as tragic as Dilip Saab. He was all of them rolled into one.

 Kaka was like a cocktail and showed to the film industry what stardom is. He was the one who was adulated wherever he went and the police had to request him to cancel his public appearances for the fear of stampede. Rajesh Khanna symbolised the triumph of an emerging India. He appealed to the romantics of the time who were just emerging out from the college. The womenfolk went gaga over them. His charm was such that even an 80 year old wanted to go on a secret date with him. The young men imitated him and his style. They had that swagger about them which they saw in Rajesh Khanna.

Kaka was the one who rejuvenated Bollywood with hit after hit. 15 consecutive superhits from 1969-1972 is stuff of legends. Raaz, Aaradhana, Anand, Amar Prem, Bawarchi, Namak Haram, Kati Patang, Ittefaaq, Haathi Mere Saathi, Safar, Aan Milo Sajna, Andaz, Roti, Dushman, Dus Numbri, Aap Ki Kasam, Sachcha Jhoota, Daag, Khamoshi were all the part of the phenomenon and these were the films which are remembered for the storylines and also for the lilting music and the romance which signified his films. His pairing with each and every actress was equally lauded. Mumtaj, Asha Parekh, Sharmila Tagore and Hema Malini were just in awe of his stardom. Equally stuff of legends of his marriage with Dimple Kapadia who just stole the nation’s hearts with “Bobby.”

His fall from grace was equally drastic. After the consecutive super hits, he had a string of flops and also his lack of discipline went against him. His dwindling fame and his alcoholism did not help either. His personal family life went into tatters when Dimple had enough of his problems and separated from him. With time, he lost his handsome shape and began to look bloated. His fall from grace was not digested by his countless fans who still nursed some hopes. But the aam janta were already enamored by the super success of Amitabh Bachchan who became the numero uno. Still Kaka gave some hits in the form of Souten, Ghar ka Chiraag but his halycon days never returned.

Kaka briefly dabbled in politics and was even an Member of Parliament in Lok Sabha. But his innings in politics was not as fruitful and he quit politics. He tried to attempt a comeback at the tinselville with films like, “Aa Ab Laut Chalen” but it was a damp squib at the box-office. Also his last film, “Wafa” was like a sour taste and is more infamous for its heroine, Laila Khan. His health which was affected by cancer did not allow him to pursuit more and since April 2012 he was battling with death till it consumed him.

His final appearance was when he became a brand ambassador for “Havells,” a fan company. It was his first ad and was his last. Like an immortal dialogue from “Anand,”
 
zindagi aur maut upar waalon ke haathon mein hain jahaapanah. Use naa aap badal sakte hain aur na hum. Hum sab toh is rang manch ke katputliyah hain jiske dor upar walon ke hath mein bandhe hain. Kab kaun kaise uthegaa kisiko bi pata nahin”
 
When he reeled off this dialogue we fell in deep sadness for his loss. When he romanced singing, “Roop tera Mastana” we felt the passions of romance. When he brooded as a disillusioned lover in “Amar Prem” we just sympathised with him. Whatever he did we were with him, Rajesh Khanna was just us and our Kaka remains an immortal in our hearts and his signature remains forever.

Chakrapani- A Legend Whom Legends Respect

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If at all there is one production house of yesteryears which stands as the most prestigious among those production houses that produced Telugu Cinema then it has to be Vijaya Pictures. The movies churned out by the house have been the iconic memories of Telugu cinema and the man behind it, Aluri Venkata Subba Rao alias CHAKRAPANI is revered as the brain behind the banner. Along with Nagireddy, Chakrapani is remembered as the most iconic of Producers and the stories and anecdotes about his ways have occupied most cinema  space than any other producer.

The name Chakrapani would bring the colorful pictures of the famous magazine “Chandamama” and the famous film banner “Vijaya Pictures” before us. He was the soul behind these Telugu Creative Giants.

Chakrapani was born on 05-08-1908 at Aitha Nagaram in Tenali, AP and was christened as Aluri Venkata Subba Rao. He got interested into literature and took up writing. He assumed charge of a Hindi school and had translated some hindi write-ups into Telugu. He took up writing seriously and wrote for the magazines “Chitragupta and Vinodini”. He assumed a pen name of “Chakrapani” which was suggested by Vrajananda Sharma.

Chakrapani was introduced to Bengali literature when he was at the sanitorium at Madanapalli undergoing treatment for Tuberculosis. He was introduced to Sharath’chandra Chattarji’s Bengali works and was highly influenced by his works. He started to translate most of the Sharath’s works into Telugu. He employed such a lucid language in translating the novels that people assumed Sharath to be a telugu person rather than a Bengali. Chakrapani’s work won him the appreciation of Puchchalapalli Sundaraiah, a famous Communist leader.

Chakrapani’s life always surrounded the artisitic world. Literature, Magazines and Films formed the core of his world and had always immersed him with these passions. He was a versatile writer who wrote the stories “Patha Mangali, Aham Brahmasmi, and Komma” etc and wrote satires on the society under the title of “Panileni Mangali”. He secured a high position in Telugu literature. He started the magazines “Andhra Jyothi” and  “Chandamama” . Chandamama catered to the taste of children. He established the universal record that as an editor he published the children’s monthly magazine “Chandamama” in 14 Indian languages. He also introduced this magazine in Braille script from 1980 for blind readers. The magazines “Vanitha and Vijaya Chitra” were also started under in his editorship. These magazines were also published in Kannada and Tamil languages.

He started his film career with this literary back ground in 1941. He wrote story and dialogues for the film “Dharmapathni” (1941) directed by P.Pullaiah. He worked as dialogue writer for the film “Swarga Seema” (1945) which was produced by Vauhini films.

Chakrapani developed friendship with B.Nagi Reddy who was the press owner of BNK Press which was used to publish the magazines of Chakrapani. Then Nagi Reddy planned to establish a film studio with the partnership of Chakrapani. They started “Vijaya Productions” and produced the first film “Shavukaru”. Chakrapani wrote the script for Shavukaaru. But the film was very much a realistic portrayal of the times sans any dramatic scenes. The film was liked by the critics but was rejected by the audience who felt that too much of realism was not their cup of tea. But still, Shaavukaru opened modern trends in Telugu cinema. Chakrapani then understood what a common man wants from films and realized that ideology should be told in a sugar coated entertainment form rather than telling it bluntly. With that realization, Chakrapani then became the doyen of cinema by moulding his scripts in such a way that there was a proper mix of values and entertainment and the end result was several silver jubilee films under the banner of Vijaya Productions.

Films like, “Paatala Bhairavi, Maya Bazaar, Gundamma Katha, Missamma, Jagadeka Veeruni Katha, Pelli Chesi Choodu, Appu Chesi Pappu Koodu, Rechukka Pagatichukka” etc etc which still are considered as the classics on Telugu screen. He contributed as a writer for most of the films and doubled up as a Producer along with Nagi Reddy. In the later years, the Vijaya acquired Vauhini studios, after Moola Narayana Swamy, the owner of Vauhini, was engulfed with tax problems and became Vijaya Studios.

Chakrapani’s intellect was the most trusted upon in the film industry. He set up a disciplinary code during the shooting of the film and no one ever dared to breach that code. The most quoted example is when Bhanumati, a star in her own right, was dropped straighaway from “Missamma” for coming late to the shoot. She offered some reasons to Chakrapani who refused to accept her reasons and replaced her with Savitri. Still, he did not let his professional decision affect his personal relation with Bhanumati and remained as a true friend of Bhanumati’s family till his death. Bhanumati used to write for Chakrapani’s publication, “Yuva” and her stories were the regular features of the Deepavali issues of the magazine. Bhanumati wrote a story “Rambha Chakrapaneeyam” keeping in view the character of Chakrapani. If  God Indra sends Rambha to Chakrapani, how he would behave with her is the theme of this article. This story secured a special place in Telugu literature.

Chakrapani used to be very straightforward during the script discussions. He did not mince words to express displeasure and directors like, Dukkipati Madhusudana Rao, BA Subba Rao used to accept his words without any bitterness. Such were the times.

Chakrapani’s theories about film making had strong conviction and showed his understanding of cinema and his hold on the pulse of the audience. Some of his principles stand good even today

1. He shunned tragic films and was all for entertainment factor coated with values.

2. He was averse to the hero crying on screen. His belief was that the hero would be the connecting factor of any film and showing him as a weak person would hamper the audience connectivity and the impact would be lost on the audience. He always made his hero overcome the obstacles faced but his hero never wept.

3. He believed in correct casting of any film. He used to say that it was okay for any new heroine to pair with a star hero but any new hero should not pair with a star heroine as the audience will not accept it easily. He was a strong advocate of popular actors. He used to say that it saved time and energy for the director to present any story as the audience would be expecting the lead pair to have some relation at some point of time during which the director would have ample time to establish the conflicts between the lead pair. A strong conviction indeed.

4. His understanding of comedy is praiseworthy and a lesson to be learnt by the next generations. His view is that comedy should never be mixed with suspense. For example while introducing the character of Savitri in Missamma, the focus was to be on the mole on Savitri’s feet and then on her. That single shot would tell the audience that she is the lost daughter of SV Ranga Rao. But that fact is not known to the the characters on screen and what follows is just comical scenes and conversations which peaks in the climax. The end result is there for everyone to see, Missamma stands as a timeless classic in every language it is made. Missiamma in Tamil and Miss Mary in Hindi.

5. Once a make-up man came to him and proudly said that he created a make-up for NTR in which he cannot be recognised that easily. Chakrapani immediately said that the disguise is for the characters on screen and not for the audience. If the audience cannot recognise that it is NTR they are seeing on screen, then NTR is not required to act at all. 

6. During the shoot of Gundamma Katha, Relangi came to Chakrapani and rued that he did not get a chance to act in the film. Chakrapani cajoled him saying that there were no comic roles for him for which Relangi replied that Ramana Reddy was doing a role which he could have done easily. Chakrapani then became very serious and replied, “నీవు చేస్తావు, కాని వాళ్ళు చూడరు.” You would definitely do it, but the audience will not see you” and went away. This lone incident justifies the importance Chakrapani laid on correct casting of his film.

Director Bapu rues that Chakrapani was not alive to supervise the direction of Vijaya’s film, “Sri Rajeswari Vilas Coffee Club” and that is why the film could not achieve the expected success though the film is still regarded as a great film. With reverence to Chakrapani, he was credited as the director of the film.

Chakrapani took his last breath on September 24th 1975. With the passing away of Chakrapani, Nagi Reddy announced to the world that Vijaya would never produce again and closed the banner. The banner was briefly revived after 2 decades with few films like, “Brindavanam and Bhairava Dweepam” though they were produced on the banner of “Vijaya Chandamama Pictures”.

The legend of Chakrapani continues to inspire generations of film makers and the stories of his intellect continue to educate film makers of today.

 

 

Gundamma Katha – The Story of 50 years

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 Gundamma Katha celebrates 50 years

There are few films in Telugu cinema which have found a place in the history and culture of Telugu people. If Maya Bazaar occupies the mythological seat in people’s hearts, Pathala Bhairavi became the eternal movie in the genre of folklore. When it comes to socials none can beat the aura of “GUNDAMMA KATHA” which when released on June 7th, 1962 became such a success story that generations of Telugus see the film just to have fun and laugh wholeheartedly at the idiosyncrasies of a Telugu household.

The premise of the film and the subsequent story, that of two brothers marrying step-sisters and bringing a reform in their mother-in-law by staging some drama in the house, is well-known. The film which was acted by the likes of NTR, ANR, Savitri, Jamuna, Haranath, L Vijayalakshmi and SVR is as famous as any mythological story. But the impressive star-cast which commands every bit of respect were for once overshadowed by two women who just reminded everyone that this is a story which can happen in any household. Suryakantham as Gundamma and Chaya Devi as Sooramma just stole the show from the stars. Ramana Reddy as the comic-villain Gantanna added to the flavor and Rajanala in a guest role provides the thrills.

The story reminds everyone that anyone can fall in bad times. Gundamma who just despises her step-daughter, Lakshmi jumps with joy on seeing her back again after Sooramma ill-treats her. Gundamma repents her own mistakes and asks Lakshmi to take her away. That scene with Suryakantham and Savitri tells it all about the reform the director, Kamalakara Kameswara Rao was talking about. Even Saroja, spoiled daughter of Gundamma is put in hardships by her husband to reform her. On the other hand, Lakshmi who suffered all through her life without complaining is given lot of happiness post-marriage. Sooramma is taught a lesson for her boorish and lecherous behaviour and even Gantanna is mildly reprimanded for his eyes on Gundamma’s property.

Gundamma Katha was directed by Kamalakara Kameswara Rao who directed previously only mythological and folklores. This film remains as his best social movie ever. The film was made on Vijaya Productions  Banner by B Nagi Reddy and Chakrapani. Gundamma Katha happens to be the most successful commercial film of Vijaya Productions and banked on the performances of the stars rather than banking on a solid script, considering the Tamil version of the same film did not succeed as the Telugu version. The reason for its success was attributed to the star cast and the performances of Suryakantham and Chaya Devi. At one point of time, Nagarjuna and Balakrishna wished to remake the film but stopped mid-way because they could not find any replacement for Suryakantham and Chaya Devi. Such was the impact of the duo on the viewers.

The music of the film, scored by Ghantasala, remains to be a high point of the production as every song turned out to be a classic and the children who participate in the reality shows are seen singing songs from this. The melodies like, “Mounamu gaane manasu paadina” “Enta haayi ee reyi” “prema yaatralaku” “sannaga veeche challagaaliki” and the satires on the society, “lechindi nidra lechindi” “Veshamu maarchenu”, the devotional “aligina velani choodaali” and the playful, “kolo kolo anna” remain as the some of the musical classics.

The film had amazing cinematography from Vijaya’s regular DOP, Marcus Bartley. He captured the outdoor shots as beautifully as he captured the studio sets. The song “kolo kolo anna” is best remembered for its choreography of which one couple, ANR and Jamuna is placed on the first storey of the house and the second couple, NTR and Savitri were placed on the ground floor. All the four actors are never to be found in a single frame and even the shoot was done in different time zones, yet the impact on screen was magical. The direction, choreography, editing and cinematography were perfect that the viewer could never point out the reality. Such was the dedication and perfection, the technicians and artists of the day gave to their work.

GUNDAMMA KATHA remains as a greatest commercial entertainer of Telugu cinema. Generations of Telugus pass on this film as a gift to their future generations. For the past 50 years the film is getting newer fan base and remains as an evergreen entertainer.

K.V.Reddy: Director from Golden Age

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If anyone who is fond of Telugu cinema is asked a question to name their favorite film in Telugu, 8 out of 10 would take the name of Maya Bazaar. Such is the aura of the film that it remains as one of the best known brands of Telugu film world. All those who have acted in this epic are remembered by their screen names and most of the technicians who have worked are remembered for their contribution to cinema as a whole. One man who coordinated all their efforts and brought out the Classic and also directed many more gems in his career is KV Reddy.

He was the man who strove for discipline and values and remained as one throughout his life. Kadiri Venkata Reddy hailed from Anantapur district. He spent his child hood at Tadipatri in the guardianship of his uncle. He finished his graduation Bsc (Hons) from Madras, present Chennai. By that time he developed keen interest in literature and wrote a series of poems which were published under the title of “Pattabhi Panchangam and Fidelu Ragaalu Dozen”.

Those were the days Cinema was finding its feet and also just learnt how to speak. KV Reddy too was attracted to the lure of cinema and joined as a cashier in “Rohini Pictures”. During the time of production of “Gruha Lakshmi” certain differences cropped up between HM Reddy and BN Reddy over the projection of the heroine. The differences became big and few big names like Nagaiah, BN Reddy and Moola Narayana Swamy walked out of the production house. KV Reddy too joined them and along with few others, they started the banner, “Vauhini” and they became a by-word for qualitative cinema. KV Reddy initially joined “Vauhini” as cashier and production manager.

 
KV Reddy worked as production manager initially for films like “Vande Matharam, Sumangali, and Devatha”. He also acted in some minor roles in these films. KV Reddy sharpened his own direction skills by observing BN Reddy closely. He was all set to direct his first film, “Bhakta Potana” . Moola Narayana Swamy asked him whether he would like to take a remuneration of Rs 1000 or a share of 10% in profits. KV Reddy opted for the latter. Everyone wondered how KV Reddy was able to bet on his film as that was his debut venture as a director. The film became a roaring hit and KV Reddy got a sum of Rs 10000 as his share. His subsequent film, Yogi Vemana also was a blockbuster and its success was attributed to Nagaiah’s performance and KV Reddy’s direction. 
 
KV Reddy took great risk of sorts by making Kasturi Siva Rao, a comedian into a hero with “Gunasundari Katha”. It was unheard of till then but KV Reddy was confident about his judgment. He believed in his script which was based on the Shakespearean drama, “King Lear.” The film was a smashing success and till today this remains as one of the best adaptations of Shakespearan dramas in Telugu. 
 
Then came the star turn with “Paatala Bhairavi” which made NTR and SVR the most respected names in Telugu cinema. This film, an adaptation of the Arabian tale, “Aladdin and the magic lamp” , scripted new trends in film world. The way the character of SV Ranga Rao is molded deserves a lesson in film making schools. The dialogues given by Pingali Nagendra Rao to the character of SVR are remembered even to this day. KV Reddy ensured that the film has no monologues in the name of language and used very simple language for the masses to understand the meaning of the conversations. KV Reddy is remembered as the single most reason for the classics of Telugu cinema. 
 
In 1957, KV Reddy made a film which remained as the best ever for Telugu Cinema. Its name is Maya Bazaar and it was based on a fictitious story which the theater group Surabhi popularized for their plays. The film was earlier made in the 1930s and was a success. The trio of Chakrapani-Nagi Reddy and KV Reddy thought of remaking the old film with the help of new technology. They penned out a script which remains as a lesson in screenplays. The film continuously talks about Pandavas but the director never introduces the characters of Pandavas in the film. It talks of the elders of Kaurava clan but they do not make an appearance. That is why the name, Maya Bazaar very well suits the film and it created a “Maya” among the audience and is acclaimed even after 55 years of its release. The credit of bringing this Classic to screen must be shared between KV Reddy, Chakrapani and Nagi Reddy. It was through this film that NTR became accepted as Lord Krishna. Again it was a gamble on part of KV Reddy as NTR was ripped apart for his earlier depiction as Krishna in another film. Along with cinematographer, Marcus Bartley, KV Reddy could just create magic and “Maya Bazaar” was and is Magic.
 
KV Reddy had a very good sense of timing of actors. During the script discussions itself, he used to estimate about the length of any scene. He used to know every actor’s timing and used to calculate the approximate length of the scene. He rarely went wrong and he also saved a lot of producer’s money by going for rehearsals. He was a strict disciplinarian on sets and anyone sitting idle and chitchatting invited his ire. Even if it was NTR or ANR, he used to behave the same way and he used to be the most respected man of the team.
 
Later on, KV Reddy established “Jayanthi Pictures” with the partnership of PS Reddy and Thikkavarapu Pattabhi Rami Reddy. “Pellinati Pramanalu” was his production in 1958 with ANR, Jamuna, SV Ranga Rao and Raja Sulochana in the lead roles. This film won silver medal from AP State Government.
 
KV Reddy continued to direct for other banners though he had his own production house. He went on to direct films like “Pelli Chesi Chudu, Jagadeka Veeruni Katha, Sathya Harischandra, and Uma Chandi Gauri Shankarula Katha for ‘Vijaya’ banners. He also directed the films like  ” Donga Ramudu,Sree Krishnarjuna Yuddham and Bhagya Chakram”. NAT’s “Sree Krishna Sathya” was his last film as a director and it was released in 1971. 
 
KV Reddy, the man who took the audience for a ride with his Maya Bazaar and took them into a fantasy world with Pataala Bhairavi took his last breath on September 16th 1972. Cinema world remembers him forever as a man who contributed and was responsible for an age which is now referred to as the Golden Age.
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