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AVM's Bhookailas (1958)
Produced in Telugu, Tamil and Kannada by AV Meyyappan, Bhookailas has become a legend that marked the beginning of the golden period of the Telugu cinema. NTR and ANR acted in Telugu, while in Kannada Rajkumar and Kalyankumar played the corresponding roles. K Shankar directed this movie. The film has the distinction of NTR's first appearance in the pratinayaka (villain's) role as Ravana. An actor of assured popularity for his hero's role till then, NTR taking on a villain's character in the movie is an adventure in itself. He created history by being the first among the Telugu heroes to do so. It did invite criticism. Never bothered, NTR went ahead to test his own histrionics skills. His view of Ravana differed from the conventional view. In NTR's opinion, Ravana was born for a cause. Ravana to him was an unparalleled devotee of Lord Siva.
Akkineni, on the other hand, had already appeared in AVM's successful films and had a perfect equation with them. He had acted in AVM's 'Sadarama' and 'Vadine'. It is said that he had taken advance for one of their films in which he had to act the role of a thief. When the shooting began, however, ANR felt that this role would damage his hero's image and might not secure audience's appreciation. He is said to have brought this to Meyyappan's notice, and asked him to stop the production. He offered to return the advance he had taken for the movie. AVM in appreciation of his sincerity politely refused the offer. He proposed that the amount could be adjusted against the remuneration for a future film. Bhookailas was that other film. Nageswara Rao was to play Narada.
NTR and ANR playing the roles of Ravana and Narada respectively, address each other in the movie as Taata (Grandfather) and Manavadu (Grandson) in the movie. It was really humorous. For a change ANR appeared in a different role from his earlier ones in folklores and socials. He displayed a different kind of talent reflecting the original nature of Narada's character; of creating quarrels between great people for the good of the world. SV Ranga Rao played Mayasura, Nagabhushanam was lord Siva and Mahankali Venkaiah was Kumbhakarna. Jamuna played the lead role as Mandodari. B Saroja Devi was Parvati, and Hemalatha was Kaikasi. Helen, EV Saroja and Gopikrishna figured in the dancing roles displaying high standard classicism. This added luster to the film.
Bhookailas is also known for its memorable music. R Sudarshanam and R Govardhanam provided music. AVM orchestra gave excellent support to their tunes and that resulted in immortal songs rendered by the inimitable Ghantasala and others. One should carefully listen to Ghantasala's vocal magic when he sings in sequence for Ravana (NTR) and then for the role of Narada played by ANR. Two songs worth mentioning are 'Deva Deva Dhavalachala' for Ravana and 'Narayana Hari Namo Namo' for Narada. It was given only to Ghantasala to sing in two different voices and in different modulations to suit NTR and ANR!
'Neela Khandhara Deva' is another haunting song, of great appeal to the devout. 'Ramuni Avataram Ravikula Somuni Avataram,' is also an immortal song, as also, 'Andamulu Chinde Avani Idena'. 'Sundaranga Andukora' for a dance by Helen is still fresh in the memories of those who watched the movie when it was first released. A Kamala Lakshman dance number too was great. Samudrala Raghavacharya was the story, dialogue and lyric writer. Madhava Bulbule was the cinematographer, while one of the most revered Bharatanatya gurus KN Dandayudhapani Pillai choreographed the dance items. Art directed by Balu, the film, released 47 years ago is still fresh in the memory of those who saw it then.