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maTTilOa maanikyaalu
best movies, yet box office failures
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by Srinivas Kanchibhotla

Here is the series that throws light on some of the box-office failures that deserve to be ranked as some of the best movies of Telugu industry. With it, want to highlight the efforts that went into the making of the movie, so that our current generation would never ever forget these long and forgotten gems.

People's Encounter

The struggle between law and justice is eternal. Society, which is founded on the principles of least common denominator rules and widely accepted transactions, has, from time immemorial, found itself torn between the guiding principles that binds a person and the commonality that binds the society as a whole. The variety in perspectives, the variations in thought processes, and the interpretations of actions keep the struggle continuing with no logical end in sight. Eye for an eye is a very knee-jerk reaction that would result instant gratification. Law implements this age old principle through a long drawnout process of battles, appeals, overturns and judgments validating the same knee-jerk reaction, creating an illusion of intelligence and sensibility while arriving at the same result. Justice dictates whatever is widely (not universally) accepted within a group of people. While law talks about the process, justice concerns itself only about the result. To kill a person is socially wrong. When the same statement passes through the legal system and gets sanitized and blessed, it becomes legally, morally and ethically acceptable. To kill a person is wrong. When an unconstitutional entity assumes the role of the executioner, the killing becomes socially condemnable, legally punishable, morally unpardonable and ethically reprehensible. The same action - two different interpreters - two entirely different consequences.

Such is the nature of the society that individual's welfare is sacrificed for the greater good, or rather, the normal functioning of the society as a well oiled machine. As the debate whether an individual has to live for the society or whether the society is for the individual rages on, lives are continually sacrificed at the altar in a direct manner by being involved in the warfare, or indirectly, by getting caught in the crossfire.

It started in a little village, Naxalbari, in West Bengal, in the late sixties. A group of ryots forcibly took control of the same lands, they were languishing as laborers in, for quite a long time from the feudal lords and a movement was born. Naxalbari movement, which crept into Orissa and finally into Andhra took a new shape of social justice and struggle against the establishment, gradually became an armed resistance and a definite force to be reckoned with. What started as a collective force of the downtrodden (aNagaarina vargaala sanghaTita Sakti) turned into a deadly force of the armed might. The ideals and the founding principles of any resistance/revolution/movement are always lofty - justice, freedom and liberty for all. How, within a society of limited resources constantly chugging towards development and improvement utilizing the same meager resources employing the Darwinian rules of survival of the fittest (bedrock principle of capitalism), are these goals achieved remains to be seen. For an organization or an individual to grow (in strict economic terms, since, behind any change lurks the power to control money) at a continual rate, requires manipulation of the moral principles and side-stepping of the social rules. There is no getting around it, because of the limited resources and unlimited demand rule. In such scenario, a society which promotes and celebrates success and growth for its sustenance, automatically mutes the voice of the weak and tramples over the rights of the downtrodden. Under such circumstances was born the right to fight and the will to resist. Whatever the weak lacked economically, they achieved the force collectively, whatever they lacked in the representation of the voice at the highest levels, they achieved by the making their voice heard through resistance at the highest levels. Thus took shape the Naxalite movement and its many offshoots.

There is no drama greater than human conflict. There is no story richer than the one about the formation and forging of different forces in the society. So when the newspaper baron, Ramoji Rao, who was on the spree of making films that were true reflections of the society, picked up the issue of naxalism, and the fallouts of the war between the armed forces and the armed resistance to make "People's Encounter", the story already wrote itself with the required dramatic tension and the necessary conflict. The progression of the story, like it is with the bhakti movies, was also quite obvious. A perfect village, untouched by the evils of the civilization, comes under the iron grip of the feudal lord. His day to day atrocities drives the innocent villagers into the (h)arms way. The armed villagers come back to eliminate the feudal lord and liberate the lands. But the sad part of the life is that, the story does not end with the victory of good over evil. The assuming of the policing authority by the innocent villagers brings them into direct confrontation with the constitutional forces and the dreaded term "Encounter" takes shape. Society does not want anybody not entitled to that privilege weild authority and control, and the very existence of society and it's hunger for development forces a counter weight to take root. In war, it is termed as collateral damage, when people who do not belong to either side are caught in between and are subjected to the rigors and the pressures of the fallout on a daily basis. An encounter takes place - the constitutional heads removes a member from the society, brands him an extremist and pat themselves on the back; the resistance force takes out the enforcing authority or the informer, terming it retaliation and pat themselves on the back, bringing Gandhiji's famous quote "An eye for an eye turns the entire world blind" into reality.

Besides the chief architects, Mohan Gandhi (director), Paruchuri Brothers (writers) and the Usha Kiran movie unit (story), it was Veturi and Keeravani, voicing the rousing of the villagers through their revolutionary ballads and mourning of the ones lost on either side and the unwitting victims of the never ending war through the teary tales, who bring out the concerns about both sides of the coin in equal measure. The saying that violence begets violence and its paradoxical corrollary, that violence is indeed necessary for any social change, makes this battle as never ending as it is necessary. The comrades mourn the loss of their partner, and on the pyre lit for him, they vow to avenge his death by lashing at the establishment violently

piDikiletti paDagaletti
nee aDugula aana beTTi
chaestunnam chaetuletti laal salaam
palugu baTTi paara baTTi
velugutunna diviTi baTTi
ragilinchae chiti manTae laal salaam

The injustice that is meted out to the weaker sections of the society by the upper crust reflects in the ballads of their daily lives

pasula kaaDa manam
paaDi kaaDa manam
palle ninDa manam
pairu kaaDa manam
tOlu kaaDa manam
tOlu seppu kinda manam
baTTa kaaDa sutthi kaaDa
baTTalutuku banDa kaaDa
kolimi kaaDa kaaTi kaaDa
veTTi chaakiree chaesae
maTTi manushulam manam

The lyrics by Veturi have strong resemblances to the original songs used by prajaa naaTya manDali, the cultural wing of the People's War Group, to lit the fire of discontent in the dis-illusioned. Looking at the final equation, which equates to the society crushing down some sections of itself and the sections trying to rebel against the tyranny, the zero sum game proves costly, not just in terms of wasted resources but also in wasted lives.

poTTa kooTi kOsam pOleesanna
maa pOTTanu koDutunnaavaa baaneesannaa
neeku naaku taeDa laedanna
needi kannu naadae laerannaa

In the name of the speaking for the weaklings charmed by the glamor of the guns under the pride of the false status in the soceity, under the pretext of the only constitutional authority empowered with enforcing the law of the land, the two sides war on, leaving scars, bodies and disturbing memories behind, all in the name of betterment of the status quo.

ae daeSa charitra choosinaa
aemunnadi garva kaaraNam
narajaati charitra samastham
parapeeDana paraayaNatvam

narajaati charitra samastham
paraspara aahaaraNyOdyOgam
narajaati charitra samastham
raNa rakta pravaahisiktam

- daeSa charitralu (from mahaa prasthaanam by SriSri)


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