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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.

Radha Kalyanam

What is the key ingredient that turns a normal story into a novel one? The set of the characters remaining constant, what variable decides the uniqueness of the plot? There were a lot of movies that dealt with triangular love stories - Sridhar's "manasae mandiram", which deals with this aspect from a pathos angle, Raghavendra Rao's "praema laekhalu", dealing with the traingle issue from a terror viewpoint and such. The basic theme of a triangle love story, in itself, lends a lot of scope to present three different view points, their intentions, motivations and machinations. Depending on which character is made out to be a bad (guy/gal) and at what point of time, the choices for the other characters (and for the audience) become amply clear and the plot would write itself from there on. Now what if all the characters in the involved in the triangle are made out to be good, caring and respectable? This offers even more meat to the writer to chew on, bringing the most essential ingredient into the picture - Conflict. Why should the gal in question opt for guy A and not guy B? Both the guys possess traits that par in extent and both of them would stand a fair chance, treating the rest of circumstances on even keel. When the heart of the heroine tugs in both the directions with the same intensity, the audience truly feels the pain of the character turning extremely sympathetic to it, thus elevating the dramatic tension, whenever all the key players assemble at one place. Much before Bhansali's Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, much before Mani Ratnam's Mouna Raagam, K.Bhagyaraj explored and exploited this unique feature in triangular love stories - the goodness of all the characters involved, in his heart-tugging "Antha 7 Natkal". Bhagyaraj does not offer a single reason (rather, one better reason) for the heroine to choose one hero over the other and at the end of it all, the movie would have remained just as wonderful, had the choice been switched.

The movie opens with the girl attempting suicide on her wedding night and the rest of the events, the cause and the effect, unfold from there on. It is quite easy and convenient with this kind of setup to shower loads of sympathy on the lover, who has been deserted and left for good by the heroine, making him a martyr in the process. And with the husband trying to win back the affection of the heroine, the script would have been reduced to a pre-marriage and post-marriage observation of the life of a typical girl, who has loved someone dearly before and currently struggling hard to adjust to this new life after the union. The focus would have continually remained on her (refer to Mani Ratnam's Mouna Raagam) and each of her actions in trying to fit her life into this new mould would not call for as much sympathy and as much understanding, if the focus remained on all the three characters - the lover, the heroine and her husband. Radha is a typical girl - her wants are limited, her wishes never stretch beyond the boundaries of her limitations. She hails from a lower middle-class family and falls deep in love with the new tenant upstairs. The character sketch of Radha does not go beyond these few strokes. Palghat Madhavan, the new tenant upstairs, satisfies all the requirements that would classify him as the victim of "sinimaa kasTaalu". He aspires to be a great music director, and he struggles to get by everyday, in the undying hope of reaching there and making it someday. Much against his judgment and his sensibility, he gets drawn towards Radha. Dr. Anand, a widower, is forced to marry Radha to fulfill his dying mother's wish. He fully intends to keep his promise of returning Radha to her rightful owner and partner, Madhavan, after hearing to Radha's reason behind committing suicide on the first night. Bhagyaraj carefully arranges all the pieces in place and moves the first piece.

As is mentioned before, conflict, according to a wise man, is the only reason why a movie should even exist in the first place. Events should lead upto conflict, and events should end up resolving the conflict. With the motivations providing the fuel for conflict in the lives of the lead characters, Bhagyaraj makes the mix interesting by adding fuel to fire bringing in choice. Whom should Radha choose finally and why? This is where Bhagyaraj needs to be applauded for making it really difficult both for the heroine and the audience in deciding whom she should end up with finally - the lover, whom she adored and hoped to spend the rest of her life, dreams and aspirations with or the husband, whom she now has a new found respect for his sincerity and dedication in trying to take her life towards a logical and a rightful end. The lover stands on one side of the shore with open arms willing to take Radha back into his arms and back into his life, understanding fully, that though Radha is no longer with him physically, she continues to remain with him, in her bubbly spirit, in her childish pranks and in her melting words, ever after her marriage. The husband stands on the other side of the shore as a pillar of nobility, willing to let his wife to back to the place of her choice and to the person of her choice. He stands as one who truly understands the meaning of marriage and the underlying intentions of a union. He does not hold any grudge nor he judge his wife to her fallibilities. This is the conflict and these are the choices. From a logical standpoint, the heroine has to return to her lover and her husband should oversee the process. From a societal standpoint, what happened much before marriage has no bearing over what happens after it and so the status quo should stand and all transfers made thereof, are illegal and immoral. In between the logical and the societal standpoint lies somewhere, the humanistic standpoint - one that belies all the logic and ones that defies all the conventions of the society.

Bapu-Ramana, who translated Bhagyaraj's original into Telugu (and later into Hindi as "Woh 7 din"), remained extremely faithful to the original, without giving in to crass commercialism and gross exploitation. Ramana's words shift from being hilarious best during the wooing period (of Madhavan by Radha) to being cautiously sensitive during the mourning period. When Radha hands a piece of paper to Madhavan and asks him to compose a tune for the lyric (slyly insinuating her intentions in the prose)

naenu laeka neevu laevu
neevu laeka naenu laenu
praema laeka manamu laemu
manamu laeka praema laedu

Madhavan wonders at the absurdity of the lyric to his assistant kuTTi - "arae kuTTi, neevu laeka naenu laevu, praema laeka manamu laevu enna raa! Evaru laekapOtae paaTa evaDu raastaayi, tune evaDu kaDataayi, picture evaDu choostaayi!" Contrasting the hilarity of this moment to the seriousness of the climax, Ramana achieves a perfect balance in his tone picking up just the right words, in his usual form, for the right moments. With Chandra Mohan, Radhika and Sarat Babu shaping the characters on paper to living and breathing characters on the celluloid, Radha Kalyanam remains as a fine piece of film-making, right from the etching of the words on the paper to the sketching on the characters on the screen. (On a side note, the character Madhavan, called Palghat Madhavan, hails from the same place, Palghat, as K.V. Mahadevan, the music director the movie, which prompted Veturi to pen

paalaghaaTu maadhavan
maaTanTae dhanaa dhan
madaraaasu madhavan paaTa jhaaNaa jhaaN
naaku chance dorikitae kaanaa
maha maha mahadevan

in the prelude to the song "chiTikaeyavae chinadaana")


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