Early silent movies in telugu are a continuation of the stage
on to the screen. This trend continued even with the early
talkies. Movies at that time were in the "praapakam" of Rajas'
and Zamindars' this is evident from the names of the producers
and directors of "maala pilla", "gunasundari katha" etc. Most
of the movies were no different from their stage version same
script, dialogues, "padyaalu", background environment changes
from scene to scene Overall it was like watching a play on the
screen instead of live actors.
The primary requirement for acting in those days was stage experience or "naatakaanubhavam". Great
actors from stage with a very good face, kanchu khantam or kokila swaralu moved on to films. No doubt
the present day stars when compared to the actors of that time pale in "havabhavaalu", dialogue
delivery, body language, presence in the scene. The only name i remember of the actors/actresses who
belonged to this era are ballari raghava (i'am doubtful here) and shanta kumari others are welcome to fill in
with some more names.
In the begining movies had to compete with stage, harikathas, burrakathas, tolubommalata and other
forms of entertainment. They had ingredients from them in all the movies to some extent. As time passed,
movie is in competition with itself only as it has monopolized the entertainment segment.
Then came background singing and the demand for people who could sing was dropped and it was like
opening the flood gates and came a crop of great actors - who could not sing very good but had good
stage experience. ANR, NTR, Relangi, Ramana Reddy, CSR, and of course SVR the one and only one
among actors and on the other side Saavitri, Bhanumati, Girija, B.Saroja Devi, Suryakantam to name a few.
It was around this time the movies started to alienate themselves from the stage in presentation of the
theme. It became more mass oriented, more entertaining and as one of the netters pointed than
burrakathas and harikathas where the listner has to conjure up the scenes, the fights, the romance and
the humor. Movies were doing it all for the viewers, this i believe is the reason for the decline of the
above mentioned art forms. Even stage has been uprooted badly.
Still movies made were adaptation of popular stage plays, stories from the puranas, janapada kathalu and
the classic example was "MAYA BAZAAR" a totally fictional story never narrated in any version of
Bharatam but was a creation of the movie writers of that age. Social themes started getting nod more and
more away from the purana katha mode and movies like Missamma, badipanthulu, rangularatnam,
shaukaru, gundammakatha reflect these. Sudigundalu is by far the best telugu movie on contemporary
problems. Very good performance by ANR and all others involved in that. Some very radical
Some of these telugu movies won the "raashtrapathi awards" at the national level for their social themes.
This trend with more and more social themes, less of purana and janapadalu continued and by 1975, the
later two almost died except for kurukshetram and d.v.s.k.
Adurti Subba Rao could be cosidered as the starting point for the new direction in the telugu film
industry. His moives like tenemanasulu, kannemanasulu brought new faces into the industry and moved
away from the established artists. Their success helped others to go for new artists, directors et al. He
was an expert in making a grosser from a simple story line with some excellent scores, and taut
screenplay. T.Krishna was an editor with Subba Rao, Vishwanath was an asst dir. to name a few of his
Movies after all became the sellers of dreams. Hero winning against all odds, good prevailing over the
evil and slowly the mainline cinema moved away from the realities. They became more and more hero
orinted by early 70's and it still continues to this day. ANR, NTR, Krishna, Harnath were the leading
actors (need not be in the order mentioned) with people like ramakrishna, ranganath, balaiah,
krishnamraju, chandramohan in the wings. Hero became the focal point of the whole story.
Some producers who were willing still came with some movies like maa bhoomi, nimajjanam, chali
cheemalu which were critically acclaimed. Toorpu velle railu, padaharella vayasu were off-beat movies
which grossed at the box office.
Adavi Raamudu in 77-78 period (i may be wrong here) was the movie that lifted NTR to the super hero
status. The movie had very good songs, a strong story line oriented around the hero with all the movie
gimmicks like elephants taking on the villians and much more. This movie ran for 100 days in 32 theaters a
record that was not bettered till recently. This started a flood of commercial movies more and more away
from reality in the sense that the solutions offered were more movie like not in real life.
Then came dasari, raghavendra rao, kodandarami reddy and others who took the cinema more and more
away from reality into the dreams. Ironically dasari came into light by working with a socially strong
themes like tata-manavadu, swargam-narakam, korikalle gurralayithe.
Those producers who could not afford the superstars like NTR, ANR and others who demanded huge
settings, exotic locations, costumes, storyline that suited their image resorted to small actors like
chandramohan ( who to this day is there only ), ramakrishna, ranganath both of them faded away into
oblivion. Narasimha raju also flourished along with sudhakar who started as a side hero to a villian, and
off for some time and now back again.
Krishna was the only star who was kind of openly challenged NTR in the film industry. When NTR left
for politics in '82, Krishna became the only superstar and all the mega buck movies starred him as the
hero. His movies became predictable and had a string of flops around then. ANR was never a potent
force for a super star even though he was talented and had the finnesse than NTR.
Chali cheemalu, toorpu velle railu brought to us a new hero - Narayana Rao who won the best actor
award at the Cannes Film Festival. A product of the DVK Raju film institute, he lacked the looks of a
superstar and was typecast to the roles of his first 2 films. Rajendra Prasad - Aha Naa Pellanta fame,
bhanu chander - nirikshana fame, chiranjeevi also graduated from the same institute together and to this
day remain friends.
The first one to get a crack at the movies was Narayana Rao. Chiranjeevi, Rajendra Prasad started as
small villians, then to side heroes and the rest is .... u know ...
>From about 1979 to early 81 chiranjeevi was doing some small roles and then he became son-in-law of
Allu. With some help from Allu and his talent he got good roles in abhilasha a hit movie, khaidi which
made him dear to the youth, who for the first time saw a hero without pot-belly, young, who could fight a
la krishna, steps like ANR. This was the beginning and there was no other new face at that particular
time. He also established himself well with good performances in "manchu pallaki", "subhalekha", "intlo
ramaiah veedhilo krishnaiah".
Producers were willing to ride his back. He was not expensive, gave them winnable combination good
music with ilaya raja entering the fray. This coupled with NTR's exit, Krishna's string of failures provided
an opportunity for any new comer to exploit and get established. Chirnajeevi was at that time a good
established young actor and he capitalised on it. kamal hasan's on and off performances were not worth
taking a risk with a heavy budget. There were other new comers like suman, who had some troubles
off-screen, bhanuchander for a while had some good movies. Rajsekhar too had some good movies. But
By the time Nagarjuna or Venkatesh entered the fame, chiranjeevi has overtaken Krishna to the lead star
position. From 1987 he did not act in more than 5 movies a year and at least 3 each year were a hit with
good songs, direction and story line which appealed to the masses. This is the same strategy NTR used
from 1980-82. Giving the public enough dosage to keep them happy but not delude them.
What happened to balakrishna who was acting from age 14 or so. He has a good dialogue delivery. But
for obvious reasons he could not compete with chiranjeevi during the mid to late 80s'. He started with
some very good performances in "babai abbai", "mangamma gaari manavadu", "seeta rama
kalyanam"(with rajani) but he was type cast into his village hero roles which kind of halted his rise. His
movie "aditya 369" was a good one.
One should not forget the role of chandra mohan who was the main stay for sannakaru, chinnakaaru
nirmaatalu, darsakulu, rachayitalu. he was their savior in many ways. He reached the status of a hero. was
willing to work against a new lady. Economical, and was not type cast into a particular role. Jaya prada,
Jaya Sudha, Suhasini, and others starred opposite him. They had talent and got a chance to show-case
their talents and got the eye of the public. The most notable of the heroines is Sri Devi in "padaharella
The telugu people even though can appreciate off-beat movies evident from the hits like
"sankarabharanam" to "abhinandana", cannot see their favorite hero in a different role. Case at point
chiranjeevi starred in the movie "swayam krushi" which was a moderate success due to viswanath's name
associated with it. But the movie "rudra veena" which had more social theme with less fights was not
accepted by the public. It won the 1988 Nargis Dutt National award for best picture towards National
Integration. Even his recent movie "aapad bhandavudu" which i liked and where he gave one of his best
performances was a flopper at the box office.
The same thing goes even with Kamal Hasan. His early movie "maro charitra" with sarita took him to
stardom, but he was quite expensive with s.p giving him voice, and he trying to establish in tamil and
then in hindi, he kind of took himself out of the race for the superstar in telugu. He lost that one in tamil
to Rajanikant but that is another long post :-)
Krishnam Raju was never a major player but was good in some movies especially katakatala rudriah,
bobbili brahmanna and of course bhakta kannappa.
Sridhar with good performance in muthyala muggu, murali mohan in ramadandu, jaggaiah, ram mohan are
few other lead stars of mention here.
There is no mention about the character artists like gummadi, padmanaabham, rajababu, rao gopala rao,
satyanaryana even though some of them are villains.
Not much about the leading ladies of the film industry. I feel it would be better for one of the lady netter's
to give us their perspective of the leading ladies. Magavaadinainu nenu naa aalochana vidhanni oka
vaipu nunchi nettukosthanu. So if it is from the other side, valla drukpadham nunchi vuntundi.
MILESTONES OF TELUGU CINEMA
bhaktaprahlaada: First Telugu Taleki.
sItaakalyaaNam is the 1st Telugu film produced in south-India and the Production house: Vel
Pictures is the 1st Studio owned by a
Telugu; i.e. pinapaala venkaTadaasu.
hariSchandra: Debut film for kannaamba and P. Pullayya
anasooya (+dhruva): 1st film casting only children .
prema vijayam: 1st social film.
sampoornaramaayanam: 1st film made in Andhra; in Rajahmundry by
Andhra Cine Tone.
gRhalakshmi: naagayya's 1st film.
malapilla: Many firsts infact. And a big turning point in Telugu film history with a revolutionary story.
First male play-back song in Telugu in vandemataram. Since it is a child's voice, MS Rama Rao's song in
devata (1941) is
considered 1st "male" play-back. (talking of child's rights....)
First male play-back (credited) in Telugu in devata
dharmapatni: 13 year young ANR made his film debut playing a small role.
First female play-back (credited) in Telugu in bhaktapotana
ghantasala's debut as play-back singer in swargasima.
gudavalli, ballari expired.
SV Rangarao's film debut in 'varoodhini'
L.V Prasad made his directorial debut with 'gehapravesam'.
anjali devi's debut in gollabhAma
NTR Makes his film debut in 'manadESam'.
Playback singer P.Leela's debut in gunasundarikatha
Playback singer P.Suseela's debut in 'kannatalli'
Playback singer S.janaki's debut in 'MLA'
sarathi's ettuku pai ettu (bAlayya's debut).
satyanarayana's debut in "sipayi kuturu".
kulagotralu: Krishna's debut
lavakuasa: First full length color production in Telugu.
tenemanasulu: Krishna's debut as a hero ('kulagotralu' is his first film).
S.P.Balasubrahmanyam's debut in 'SrI SrI SrI maryadaramanna'
oka nari-vanda tupakulu: First full length B&W cinemascope film.
alluri seeta rama raju: First full-length color & cinemascope film.
simhaasanam: First 70mm production in Telugu.
the movie industry lost:
1. N. T. Rama Rao
2. K. S. Prakash Rao
3. Prabhakar Reddy
5. Pithapuram Nageswar Rao
6. Thammareddy Lenin