Telugu Cinema attains 75 years
It is quite happy to note that the Telugu cinema had completed 75 years of glorious service recently on September 15 and is celebrating 'Platinum Jubilee'. The first talkie cinema భక్త ప్రహలాద (Bhakta Prahlada) was released on September 15, 1931. During these 75 years a total of 4005 films were released in Telugu.
During those days, watching pictures moving on a screen in itself was a surprise. When the motion picture was able to produce sound and talking in front of them is further surprising. The Telugu cinema which learnt to talk in 30s had now grown up to a great level. During these 75 years it has grown to a very high level. Unfortunately, the present day cinema is running after the commercial values and almost lost the artistic flavour. It is not surprising to say that both the Hindi and Telugu first talkie cinemas were released in the same year and the Bollywood rose in leaps and bounds, while the Telugu film started imitating it and even got a name as Tollywood.
First decade – Mythological films
During the first 10 years (1931-40), the Telugu film industry depended mostly on the mythological films. Because, the stage plays are very popular those days and various Nataka Sanghams used to entertain the audiences with their performance on the stage and with the majestic voice of various stage artistes. In order give a tough fight to the stage plays, the then producers believed that the same stories should be told to the people in a cinematic way and attract them. Some people termed the cinema as a 'devil' (Raakshasi) which speaks on the screen, but their comments failed to impress any and the films succeeded to attract the people.
The then producers and directors made the films with mythological subjects. When some of them believed that making a film depicting the God would earn them virtue (punyam), some others felt that they could unveil a different angle in the mythological stories. Films like భక్త ప్రహలాద (Bhakta Prahlada), పాడుక పట్టాభిషేకం (Paduka Pattabhishekam), శకుంతల (Shakuntala), సతి సావిత్రి (Sati Savitri), నరకాసుర వధ (Narakasura Vadha), రామదాసు (Ramadasu), అహల్య (Ahalya), లవ కుశ (Lavakusa), సీతా కల్యాణం (Sitakalyanam), అనసూయ (Anasuya), కూచెల (Kuchela), శ్రీ కృష్ణ లీలలు (Sri Krishna Leelalu), శ్రీ కృష్ణ తులాభారం (Sri Krishna Tulabharam), సక్కుబాయి (Sakkubai), హరిష్చంద్ర (Harischandra) have come during those days.
During those days, producers were not so eager to earn huge profits, but their main aim is to entertain the people in general and at the same time like any businessman they too preferred marginal profits on their projects. However, during those days also some of them competed with the other by making a film with similar subject and this led to commerciality in films at that time too.
Social subjects – Historical stories
At this juncture, ప్రేమ విజయం (Prema Vijayam), a social subject was moulded on the celluloid in 1936. Though it did not go well in the midst of mythological movies, it remained a different from the flock. Two more social movies saw the light during the end of 30s and proved big hits. While some historical films were also made during this period, they have to be made by mixing some interested events, which were not really happened as per history.
The golden era
A film should be different from regular stage plays and accepting this grammar our Telugu film industry people did some experiments. They took close-up shots of the hero and heroine to catch the histrionics and acting talents of the artistes and proved that they were able to show difference, as the people had to keenly watch to catch the expressions of the artistes who play on stage. But, this experiment made the people to easily catch the expressions of the artistes.
Everyone has to accept that the Telugu cinema witnessed a golden era between 1941 and 60 with the help of Gudavalli Ramabrahmam, BN Reddy and KV Reddy and their expertise. Of them Gudavalli went for experiment, BN Reddy specialised in highlighting the artistic talents, while KV Reddy concentrated on entertainment. During this period only, the Telugu film industry was able to flourish by showering different flavours in the form of mythological, folk, historical and social subjects. Whatever it be, many of the films were made on the guidelines prescribed by the above three directors. Even those guidelines have become very useful to the future generations as well.
When it comes to mythological and historical films, the artistes on the stage used to sing the poems with a long raaga, shout and laugh bigger when it comes to villain roles. But all this were kept aside and the raaga was reduced considerably during the recital of poems and as the expressions could be shown clearly in close-up shots, it has become easy to show anger and this made it possible to avoid such shouts and bigger laughs. As a result, nativity was restored while showing expressions in films to suit the subject. However, this could be witnessed in the films that were made between 1951 and 60. That was the reason why those films are enthralling even the present generation audience.
There are films which remained as classics such as వందేమాతరం (Vandemataram), భక్త పోతన (Bhakta Potana), శ్రీ సీతారామ జననం (Sri Sitarama Jananam), స్వర్గ సీమ (Swarga Seema), యోగి వేమన (Yogi Vemana), కీళుగుర్రం (Keelugurram), బీదలపట్లు (Beedalapatlu), శావుకారు (Shavukaru), పాతాల భైరవి (Patala Bhairavi), మాయా బజార్ (Maya Bazaar). Films like మల్లీశ్వరి (Malliswari) and దేవదాసు (Devadasu) can't be remade even now and they remained classics forever. Several films which promoted artistic values like దొంగ రాముడు (Donga Ramudu), పాండురంగ మహత్యం (Panduranga Mahatyam), ఎంఎల్ఏ (MLA), తెనాలి రామకృష్ణ (Tenali Ramakrishna), తోడు దొంగలు (Todu Dongalu), చివరకు మిగిలేది (Chivaraku Migiledi), మా బాబు (Maa Babu) also remained classics and are enthralling the present generation also. However, commerciality entered the film industry after 1970.
Wonders by cinematographers
Though the industry did not develop technically, it is the mind power and technical experiments made by cinematographers like Marcus Bartley, that made the Telugu films attractive. The same trend was continued by the next generation cinematographers like Rehman, Roy, and Ravikanth Nagaich. Each producer who entered the film industry had a different test and they started making the films to suit their taste competing with others. In order to make the film more attractive, they took interest in providing good music and literature. At the same time, they tried to select good subjects that could touch the hearts of the audiences and while presenting the film on the celluloid, they employed good writers to pen impressive dialogues.
Orientation of expressions
The artistes of earlier generations who had rich experience of acting on stage used to continue similar expressions on the screen as well. Those who watch the old films could easily identify the 'heavy' expressions on the faces of the artistes and their behaviour and they look quite artificial. However, those who came after them had shown a lot of change in performance, voice as well as in make-up. Some of them proved all-rounders in all departments. When it comes to performance Govindarajula Subba Rao, regarding the voice modulation it is Vemuri Gaggaiah, orientation of soft roles by Nagaiah, appearance of Ch Narayana Rao stood on the top slot during those days and enthralled the audiences.
In the later generation, NT Rama Rao, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, SV Ranga Rao did wonders on the silverscreen with their performance and proved all-rounders by acting in social, historical, folk and mythological films. When it comes to heroines, besides Surabhi Kamalabai, Kannamba, Savitri, Anjali Devi, Jamuna and other heroines gave excellent performance and earned a pride place in Telugu cinema.
The performance shown by the artistes of yesteryears have become the prime lessons for the present generation artistes. While NT Ramarao's performance had given a new wave of appearance to the Indian mythology, SV Ranga Rao's appearance, dialogue delivery and performance highlighted the importance of roles like కీచక (Keechaka) and the ability of performance of Telugus across the world. Akkineni Nageswara Rao's sorrowful characters like దేవదాసు (Devadasu), లైలా మజను (Laila Majnu) and other such roles is another turning point in social films.
When it comes to the all-round performance, Bhanumati is a never-before and never-after artiste. She was able to perform, dance, sing, direct and produce films, thereby showing her prowess in all the departments. Another artiste who could never be ignored is 'Savitri'. She is an artiste of brilliance who could emote any kind of expression in her face. Such performance is the property of the Telugus and Telugus alone. All the above artistes had showed their excellence in their own style.
Though the present generation heroes dance at a fast pace by shaking legs and hands, though they did wonders in action scenes, they should follow their seniors when it comes to showing expressions and emotions. When it comes to glamour there used to be exclusive dancers for the purpose and Kanchanamala was said to be the first heroine who filled the glamour slot. But in the present generation, almost all the heroines were bitten by glamour bug.
In 1970s several rich people ventured into the film industry. They thought of bringing out rich films and earn good profits thereby they wanted to earn recognition and reputation. A total of 49 films were released in 1970, and the number went up to 69 in 1971. With the hike in number of films, several artistes, technicians got employment directly, while thousands of others got indirect employment. Along with entertainment, some films with artistic backdrop also came up. Films like ప్రేమనగర్ (Premanagar) and ప్రేమాభిశేకం (Premabhishekam) entertained the audiences.
The Box-Office took a sudden upward trend with the release of ఖైది (Khaidi) in 1983. The heroism got a new definition with this film. It is quite happy to listen that not less than 150 films are being released in Telugu every year. However, the Telugu cinema fell in slump due to various reasons and no notable number of hits for the past 10 years except a couple of films or at times one or two more. But 2006, especially when the industry is celebrating the completion of Platinum Jubilee, proved a golden year for the Telugu cinema. During the nine months about 60 films were released and the success percentage among them is quite satisfactory, when compared to earlier years. Especially, the success rate of films like దేవదాసు (Devadasu), స్టైల్ (Style), పోకిరి (Pokiri), శ్రీరామదాసు (Sriramadasu), విక్రమార్కుడు (Vikramarkudu), అందాలరాముడు (Andalaramudu), బొమ్మరిల్లు (Bommarillu) gave a new life to the producers. The upcoming films are also expected to be big hits. Now the responsibility of producers further went up to come out with better films in the coming days.
Where are we going?
Right from the beginning the Telugu cinema concentrated more on entertainment than bringing out experimental films or useful films for the benefit of the society. Most of our producers are against going different from routine and never tried to look for novel subjects. Possibly that is one of the reasons behind not bagging even one award at national level, though they were set up some 50 years ago. Neither the producers tried to produce a film which could withstand the tough fight at national level to bag the best film award, nor any artiste tried their best to perform extremely well to bag an award at national level. However, NT Ramarao created a record as an artiste who played in a number of mythological films, Dasari Narayana Rao as a director who directed more than 100 films, Dr D Ramanaidu as a producer who had produced more than 100 films in most of the Indian languages and Vijayanirmala as a woman director who had directed the highest number of films.
Competing with Bollywood
An interesting feature to note here is that it is the Tollywood which is producing more number films and it is the one industry where the highest amount is being invested by a number of people on par with the Bollywood. But the point that has to be noted here is that Bollywood films had an international market, while Tollywood films has market in only two or three States. Moreover, some of the hit films are doing business to the tune of Rs 10 crores to Rs 40 crores and bagging laurels. With the upgradation of technology, if our producers were able to produce good films that will have some benefit to the society, it will remind us of the golden era of Telugu cinema of yesteryears and at the same time, we too could earn awards at national level for both the films and the artistes.Courtesy: IndiaGlitz