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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.

Swathi Kiranam

The master mentors the pupil without any regard to its lineage - Sankaraabharanam. The master trains the pupil, albeit reluctantly, to honor his commitment to its lineage - Saagara Sangamam. The master chidingly guides the pupil into respecting its culture and tradition - Swarna Kamalam. Sri. K.Viswanath breaks away from this mould and (de)humanizes the actual master-pupil relationship emphasizing on the emotions that transpire between and within each one involved in the mentoring 'transaction' and makes a complete circle about this common mileu that he so often sets his movies in. Sankaraabharanam, Sagara Sangamam, Swarana Kamamlam and Swati Kiranam complete his guru-sishya movie quartet and one could clearly observe the transition of the guru's character from an idealist to an emotionally degenerate, hopping one step down along the way. At the end of the quartet the guru, having completely been over-powered the his protégé's skill set, clearly gives way to him and retreats into the background.

In Ghantasala's rendition of Bhagavadgita the translation of a verse goes this way - "vishaya vaanchala gurinci sadaa mananam caeyuvaaDu, vaani yandu anuraagmu adhikamai adi kaamamu gaa maarunu. Aa kaamamu krodhamu gaa maari, manujuDu buddhini kOlpOyi civariki adhOgati cendunu". Ego is replaced with indiscipline, indiscipline is usurped by ignorance and ignorance is shadowed by jealousy - these four steps on which the master is dragged down in process of teaching him humility and humbleness forms the core idea of Swati Kiranam. Egoism lurks around the words and actions of AnantaRama Sarma, when he declines the offer to be conferred Padma Sri alongside his accompaniments. Belittling and condescension in the veil of culture and heritage are his primary weapons to keep his competitors at bay. Professional jealousy masquerades as disciplining the pupil without letting him get carried away, in the eyes of AnantaRama Sarma. K.Viswanath fans regal airs to this character at the beginning of the movie, only to fade it away revealing the real stench burying his talent.

Contrast it to the brimming talent of Gangaadharam. He does not flinch from setting mantra pushpam to a popular beat. He views conformity and consistency as the lack of innovation. He engages in experimentation and rides on novelty. Every opportunity he gets is his chance to be different. Viswnath infuses a lot of life and zest into Gangaadharam and rewards him with indomitable spirit, in the face of constant rejections from his master, an unfazing and undaunting approach to a problem, exemplified by his nature in trying to remain original, while re-setting tunes radically different from his master's. Viswnath mirrors AnantaRama Sarma's guile in Gangaadharam's purity. He churns Sarma's deeply conflicted emotions, vis-à-vis his age and the kid's talent, his talent and the kid's age, and brings out the venomous jealousy. Gangaadharam dutifully accepts this outcome, swallowing the pride, prejudice and jealousy of his master. (Please note the parallel to Ksheera saagara madhanam). Viswanath also makes a parallel to Siva-Parvati-Ganapathi relationship through Radhika's character, throwing her in a quandary, whether to accept her husband's failings or to sympathize with her son's feelings.

Music, which forms an integral part of the story (or the other way around for Viswnath's movies), has K.V.Mahadevan bowing out after his long illustrious relationship with K.Viswanath (and with the Telugu film industry) in a grand and fitting finale. With pens wielded by cinAre, sirivennela and vennelakanti, Swati Kiranam boasts of rich lyrics set to lilting tunes. The "gambheeryata" in the tune of "pranati pranati" (by SPB) contrast to the "lalityam" of the same song (by Vani Jayaram), the pathos in the lyric of "jaaligaa jaabilamma" is countered with the rumbunctious "konDa kOnallO", the richness in "aanati neeyaraa" (which won Vani Jayaram best female singer award at the national level) is balanced with the simplicity in "teli mancu karigindi". As is usual with Sirivennela to abstract the theme and content of the entire movie in a song, his lyrics to "jaaligaa jaabilamma" reflects Gangaadharam's mature nature and Radhika's maternal nature, trying to convince each other of their intentions and finding solace in each other's helplessnesses.

The warmth of the early dawn, the inherent energy and exuberance of the morning light, the blinding radiance of noon rays, the gradual receding of the glow during dusk and the complete disappearance during night - only to let a not-so-bright distant star glow - Swati Kiranam is a day in the life of a star completely outshone by the brilliance of the sun.

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