Chakrapani- A Legend Whom Legends Respect
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.
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