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Bala Nagamma (1942)

APK | December 03, 2007

Kanchanamala In Bala Nagamma

Gemini Pictures Circuit was started by Vasan in 1939 and distributed movies both in Andhra and Tamil Nadu. After distributing Raithu Bidda and Illalu in Tamil Nadu and meeting with considerable success, he bought a bankrupt studio at an auction and renamed it as Gemini Studios. After making movies such as Madana Kamaraju, Nandanar and Jeevan Mukthi, he made Bala Nagamma in 1942.

Now Bala Nagamma was one of the most popular Burrakathas, which was incidentally a popular means of entertainment then. In spite of the beginning of the folk era of movies in 1938 with Gulebakavali Katha, Bala Nagamma still set trends. The protagonists were two-Bala Nagamma and the 'Mayala Marathi/Mayala Fakir' (Translated: Evil Magician).

The story of Bala Nagamma was known to one and all. The King prays for progeny and is blessed with children, the youngest of who is named Bala Nagamma. She is married off to Karyavardi Raju but is kidnapped by Mayala Marathi who turns her into a dog and whisks her off to his cave. Once there, he tries to take advantage of her, but she keeps him away quoting some Holy Rites and Pujas that she is involved in. Fearful, she is a prisoner in the cave for 14 years, where the Fakir's mistress, Sangu, is jealous of his obsession with Bala Nagamma. In the meantime, her son [Balavardi Raju] grows up and gets to know the truth about his mother. He seeks the Fakir out and defeats him.

Chittajallu Pullaiah directed Vara Vikrayam and Malathi Madhavam under the East India Film Company. He directed Bala Nagamma under Gemini after shifting base to Madras, and later made Apoorva Sahodarargal and Vindhya Rani, also under Gemini. Kanchanamala was the most glamorous star of that era, and was cast in the title role. Dr. Govindarajula Subbarao was Mayala Fakir. These two garnered the maximum amount of mileage from the movie, especially Govindarajula as the legendary Mayala Fakir. He was just two movies old, having been noticed earlier in Mala Pilla. Relangi in a humorous role, who takes advice from the Fakir only to face comical adversities, also became a highlight for the movie.

Govindarajula's laugh was such that it is rumored to have frightened little kids. But there is another, more amusing rumor-Kanchanamala herself fainted in the scene where he kidnaps her and brings her to his cave and starts laughing. The cave, the statues of all the Evil Deities the Fakir worships and all the sets were spent lavishly on by Gemini. The art director SVS Rama Rao worked tirelessly on little details targeting perfection, but unfortunately he and Vasan had a rift during the making. This resulted in SVS leaving Gemini's camp and starting his own version of Bala Nagamma-Shanta Bala Nagamma for which he was the producer, director and art director. This movie starred Manuluri Krishna Rao, Shakuntala and S. Rajeshwara Rao. Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao wrote a part of the script. Shanta Bala Nagamma, however, proved to be a dud at the Box Office.

The reverse was true for Bala Nagamma. Gemini raked in the money, which came in incessantly. The repeat audience for the movie was plenty. Pushpavalli, who did some positive lead roles before, was cast as a vamp in the movie which surprised many. Her song 'Aha Naa Sogase Kani' proved to be an instant hit. Saluri Rajeswara Rao composed the music which struck all the right chords with the listeners and the background music was also appreciated by viewers and critics alike.

As with SVS Rama Rao, Vasan had a spat with Kanchanamala after this movie regarding her contractual agreement. This was in fact Kanchanamala's last movie, and perhaps her most memorable one. Pushpavalli became more prominent after this, with Gemini signing her on for numerous productions during which time she married Gemini Ganesan, consequently Bhanurekha, better known as the sultry evergreen actress Rekha was born. But this movie marked the end of Kanchanamala, a rage amongst the youth of that era.

Gemini remade this movie much later with Madhubala in the lead and Savithri as Sangu in Hindi. The movie, titled 'Bahut Din Hue' did reasonably well. This was Savithri's first Hindi movie, after which she acted in a few other Hindi productions, but never in the lead. In Telugu, however, Bala Nagamma became a huge hit commercially. With the elaborate sets, lilting tunes, strong background score, picturization and of course, Kanchanamala-Govindarajula, the movie worked wonders. In Andhra and Tamil Nadu alike, the movie was a trendsetting folk-based successful venture and ran for more than 25 weeks. After Bala Nagamma, there was no looking back for Gemini.