The First Lady Super Star from South-P.Kannamba
Pasupuleti Kannamba (1912-1964) was one of the finest actresses and singers in Indian Cinema. She was also a successful producer of movies in Tamil and Telugu. She acted in more than 170 films in Telugu and Tamil. She is a bench mark for her dialogue delivery and natural expressions. Popular Tamil film hero Shivaji Ganesan said that Kannamba put him in shade with her great dialogue delivery in the climax scene after the release of the Tamil super hit movie ‘ Manohara’ and he could have done the queen’s mother role rather than the hero in that movie. He also said that she is his mentor in acting and dialogue delivery.
Kannamba hails from Andhra region which was then part of the Madras Presidency. She made a mark in Telugu theatre playing the lachrymose role of Chandramathi in the hit play, ‘Harishchandra’, during the 1930s. This play was made as a movie with equal success and established her as an excellent actress with mastery over dialogue delivery. That was the period when the Madras Presidency which comprised of 26 districts speaking different languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam, saw movies in all languages without prejudice even though people did not understand every word of the dialogue.
It is not surprising that she attracted the attention of Tamil film producers since Madras was the head quarter of all the South Indian films and also the film studios were mostly based in Madras at that time. Kannamba was tall and attractive. She made her debut in a Tamil film Krishnan Thoothu(1940). She played the role of Draupadi and proved that she was equally at home in Tamil Cinema. She learnt horse riding and sword fighting for her hit movie Chandika(1941). She attained glory in 1942 when she played the difficult role of Kannagi, the box office hit of the year. She virtually carried the film on her shoulders putting even the top hero of the day P. U. Chinnappa in the shade. The scene where she pleads before the king to prove her husband’s innocence proved that she had no equal in the dialogue delivery and action. Even after nearly 70 years, her performance in this film stands unparalleled. It was much more commendable as she did not know Tamil at that time. The tongue-twisting lines were written in Telugu, on a blackboard kept away from the eye of the camera. Kannamba immortalized the role of Kannagi Tamil version ‘Silappadhikaram’. It remains as her best and perhaps one of the best in the history of Tamil cinema. In Gudavalli Ramabrahmam’s historical flick Palnati Yuddham (1947) she gave a memorable performance as ’Nayakuralu Nagamma’ opposite Govindarajula Subbarao. Kannamba portrayed a variety of characters like queen mother, mother, sister- in- law, wicked step mother and mother- in- law with effortless ease and gained so much popularity. Director B.N. Reddy produced ‘ Raja Makutam’ in Telugu and Tamil at the same time. Tamil film distributors insisted him to add more dialogues for her queen mother’s role, as she was a craze in Tamil Nadu for her mesmerizing dialogues and clarity of diction.
She produced several hits with the help of her husband, director Kadaru Nagabhushanam , under her production banner ‘ Sri Raja Rajeswari Pictures’. She was paid the highest remuneration 85000/- in those days. She has acted in about 170 films and won accolades for her roles in Harischandra, Draupadi Vastrapaharanam, Kanakathara, Saranagadhara, Grihalakshmi, Chandika, Ashok kumar, Kannagi, Maha Maya,Mahananda, Sumati, Palnati Yuddham,Tulasi Jalandhar, Sudarshan, Thalli Prema , Mugguru Maratheelu,Saudamini, Mangaya karasi,Anarkali ,Uma Sundari, Todi kodallu, Raja Makutam,Abhimanam, Athma Bandhuvu, Daksha Yaghnam and Lavakusha etc. Chittoor V.Nagayya’s Bhakta Ramadasu(1964) is her last movie. She has acted with all the Super Stars, in those days, M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, P.U. Chinnappa, Chittoor V.Nagayya, S.V.Ranga Rao, M.K.Radha, N.T.Rama Rao, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, Shivaji Ganeshan, M.G.R and Gemini Ganeshan. Kannamba passed away when she was 51 years old in 1964 with cancer in Chennai leaving her memories for ever.
Listen and watch Some of the songs and videos of P.Kannamba and her great performance.
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