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Velugu Needalu
Yandamuri Veerendranadh

Here is the the series that focuses on the many greats who lurk in the shadows behind the silver screen bringing out the best in them, to radiate and redirect their brilliance onto the silver medium. We hope that these articles would focus our attention and applause to these true "stars" to whom limelight and spot lights do not usually beckon upon.
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It is often considered that there are only 5 basic story lines, like the seven notes with music, which when tinkered with at different positions, yield the innumerable variations and thus the plethora of 'different' stories. This formulaic structure of sticking to these basic lines, more times than not, proves a hindrance, holding down the story from truly soaring, without getting bogged down within the boundaries of box-office.

It is usually rare, particularly in Telugu industry, that a story line come along, which does not obey the image constraints and returns' rules, flouting the normal conventions and trampling on tenets of box office success formula. And it is no surprise that these ideas germinate in the fertile imaginations of writers' of the published word that writer's of the celluloid world. Anudeep's devotion of Vidyadhari transcends to that level where the power of love grants him the seemingly 'illusory' powers (like his ability to grow back his chopped arm), which he uses not to further his love motives towards her but teach her the true meaning of love (in it, his love even transcended physicality). Now imagine a movie writer pitching this idea to the producer!

Chiranjeevi (not the actor, but the character) stages a suicidal drama to advance his cause of getting IPC 302 section abolished. Gandhi challenges a capitalist and proves that sky is the limit for a frustrated genius. Gopi, an abider and protector of the principles of justice, resorts to jungle law (aaTavika nyaayam) to rise against the tyranny of oppression. Darka, an practitioner of occult beyond par, uses his power against himself, to repose his faith in humanity and love. Subjects as varied as these comes natural to him (not easy, but natural). The depths he delves to research each of his topics completely and comprehensively is unparalleled - be it black magic (a loose translation of chaeta baDi, baaNamati, biLLa and other traditional occult methods), or stock market, or Indian Penal Code, or Mumbai mafia's nexus with the labor unions, or his pet subject psycho-analysis.

His arrival on the scene (be it in the publishing world or the celluloid world) lent a fresh breath of air and a fresh lease of life clearing away the stench of the stagnation and rut of the rotten. His works on and off the screen can truly be termed as "different". He remained the backbone behind the launch of a star to super stardom, rise of a fledgling production house to a powerful production company and introduction of the concept of variety. To borrow John Lennon's (of Beatles fame) most famous infamous quote, he was more popular than Jesus Christ - Yandamoori Veerendranath.

Though Yandamoori's initial foray into the publishing world was marked with difference (yugaantam, parNaSaala, rushi, niSSabdam neeku naaku madhya, duppaTlO minnaagu and the like) that made people to sit up and notice, it was that wild and crazy mix of occult sciences with the natural sciences, coupled with hypnotism and pure horror, that he concocted for "tulasi daLam", which earned much needed cheers from the readers while earning some jeers from the critics, in the process. Though the similarity to William Peter Blatty's "The Exorcist" was acknowledged by Yandamoori, it was for the pure earthiness of the plot and the ingeniousness in construction (the Saili and the Silpam) that (y)ear-marked 1980 as the advent of a writer, for whom story telling was more important than the story that he was trying to tell.

Till his arrival, the novels that were adapted to the screen, strictly revolved around the familiar family drama themes (and the same 5 basic story lines concept), the nucleus families, the joint families, the transition from joint to single families, the trials and the tribulations ensuing, the rich boy, the poor girl and vice-versa, and to quote muLLapooDi - banDeDu kashTaalu, kunDaDu kaNNeeLLu. And since most of the writers were of female orientation (YaddhanapooDi Sulochana Rani, MaadireDDi Sulochana, Koduri Kousalya Devi, Ramalakhsmi, Ranganaayakamma etc), movies made around the same period (the mid and late 70s) effused of effeminism, and probably contributed to the rise of "mahiLaa chitraalu". Enter Yandamoori, and the age of male and macho themes dawned on both the celluloid and publishing worlds.

Even before "tulasi", the sequel to "tulasi daLam", was adapted to the screen (and badly at that), it was his ground-breaking work "abhilaasha" that was first adapted to the silver screen, thanks to the producer K.S.Rama Rao's enthusiasm in bringing to screen this inventive and exciting work of fiction. Chiranjeevi (not the actor, but the character) is no Chiranjeevi (not the character, but the actor). He is not a do-all, be-all personality. His clumsy, self-effacing style, that is seriously out of atleast two steps with the rest of the society endears Aparna for his lack of guile and the strength of conviction. And his conviction is no mean task in itself - to argue and convince Supreme Court to abolish Indian Penal Code most dreaded section - 302. The suspense in "Abhilaasha" is all home-grown, in it, the bad guy does not make his appearance just at the conclusion, reveal his ridiculous motive, that flies completely in the face to what was built up until that point, contributing toward an unsatisfying ending to the brilliant premise. Abhilaasha is as much about suspense as it is about sincerity. The way Yandamoori pits one against the other, bouncing Chiranjeevi between the walls of conviction and suspicion, brought out for the first time, the common man in uncommon circumstances theme. A truthful adaptation (by Satyamoorthy), a nice blending with the music (by Illayaraja), a sincere performance by Chiranjeevi and taut direction by A. Kodandarami Reddy, made Abhilaasha the best adaptation of a Yandamoori's work to the silver screen ('Thriller' as "mutyamanta muddu" comes in second).

(Cont'd in part 2)

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Bapu Ramana

More series of articles by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
Some Ramblings on recently released films
Aani Muthyalu - Good films, but box office failures

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