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Analysis Scoop Untold Stories Innerviews Research
Telugu cinema writer - a sad story
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla

They claim that they are the least respected of the entire production team. Irony is what it is. Akkineni (the elder one) claims that the nuts and bolts aside, it is the story/screenplay that is the driving force for the movie. The candyfloss, the window dressing, the designer sets, the exotic locales, the glamour dolls and the other innumerable trivia that pervade the silver screen, seem totally out of place, without that one essential ingredient - the screenplay. And yet, the writer is the most un(der)-appreciated technician of the lot. "Director is the captain of the ship" extol the actors, "I take blame/credit for the movie" claims the director (as if, it was his, to start with). Week after week, movie after movie, the charade of (screen)play-less movies continue to capture the minds and the pockets of the audience and yet "We get no respect" say the writers. This is their story.

Fast-forwarding the silent era, when the directors were the true captains of the ships, let's enter the 50's era, which celebrated the golden era for those talented technicians - the one who wielded the pens.

Each production house had its own team churning out quality screenplays out of stories that were both created and borrowed. Vijaya (Prod. Nagi Reddi and Chakrapani) had Pingali Nagendra Rao, Vauhini (Prod. B.N.Reddi) had D.V.Narasa Raju, Annapoorna (Prod. D. Madhusudhana Rao) had Aatreya, and N.A.T (Prod. N. Trivikrama Rao) had Samudraala. Pingali had the knack of weaving folklore and mythology, Narasaraju was a scathing satirist, Aatreya was adept at practicality and Samudrala was the master of mythology. You hear a dialogue and you immediately could guess (and rightly at that), the pen that created it.

Take the example of Paatala Bhairavi - Mayala Phakir, who is regaling the crowd with his magic tricks, at one point during his act, asks Dingari, if he should entertain the crowd with what he knows or entertain them with what they like ("janam meccaedi manam saayaDama, manam caesaedi janam cooDaDamaa"). This dialogue has been the hallmark and the driving force behind Pingali Nagendra Rao's works. He was a true entertainer. Add to the mix, the directors' (K.V. Reddi, L.V. Prasad etc) sensibilities, he churned out one block-buster after another - Paatala Bhairavi, Mayabazaar, Jagadeka Veeruni Katha, Appu caesi Pappu kooDu (with Sadasiva Brahmam) etc. Coining new words, that almost sounded like real words, asmadeeyulu - tasmadeeyulu, alamalam, talpam-gilpam, kambaLi-gimbaLi (Mayabazar) and justfying the process with "evaroo puTTincakunDaa maaTalelaa puDataayi, vesukO veeDiki oka veera taaDu", was something that was typical of Pingali - winking at the audience and being aware of it. He was an ambidexter, in that, his ease of the dialogue flow was equally evident in the grace of his lyrical flow. Who can ever forget a "laahiri laahiri", "vivaaha Bhojanam", "kalavaramaayae madilO", "enta ghaaTu praemayO" and those other lilting numbers from Missamma, Gundamma Katha, Krishnaarjuna Yuddham.

Chakrapani, a good writer in his own right, reverentially gave way for Pingali and made him the final authority on any script matters. He was one writer, who enjoyed the true benefits of a great writer contracting for a good production house.

D.V.Narasaraju - It is a tad sad affair that not many people know about this "Father of telugu cinema satire", without mentioning his social dramas that hit the nail right on the head hard - Pedda Manashulu, Gundamma Katha, Yamagola, Bhakta Prahlaada, Raamudu-Bheemudu remain the highpoints in his career.

It is an amazing feat that he worked through almost the entire period the Telugu Film history. He inherited the wit of Chakrapani and passed on his satire to Aatreya. Pedda Manashulu, a satire on village politics, remains his best work till date. The dialogues penned for Relangi in that movie, evoke a healthy laugh to a sad situation. His movies had every character that was author-backed, in that, the characters remain true to their characters and speak the language that befits the character. Consider the role of Ramana Reddy in Gundamma Katha - an opportunist at best, he neither fully apologizes for his actions nor does he seem indifferent to his actions. The role walks on a fine line between villany and comedy and Narasaraju's words assist him ably to balance the fine-walk. It is a true situation of loving to hate a character. Same goes with Rao Gopala Rao in Yamagola. It is not a mean feat to dominate the hero and more specially when NTR dons the hero role, but Rao Gopal Rao not only holds his ground, but almost surpasses the hero's character. Consider the wit/satire in the little speech about hero rescuing the heroin from engulfing fires - "aa ee Madhya sineemaallO cooDDamlaa! heroin vonTari gaa venltoo unTundi, hero gaaDu daani meedaki rowdeelni pampistaadu, vaaLLu daanni paTTukunTaaru, adi labO dibO manTadi, aa pakkanae unTaadu kadaa mana hero, veeDu vacci vaaLLani utukutaaDu, vaaLLu paaripOtaaru, heroin bikka moham vaesukuni nela vanka coostoounTadi, mana hero kaalar egaraesi nuncunTaaDu, love, duet, EVADIKI TELEEDU EE SINIMAA KABURLU". It cannot get any irreverent, funny, self-abrasive and self-aware dialogue than that. The satirist - D.V.Narasaraju

(click here for part - 2)

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This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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