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Dharmadata (1970)

APK | September 18, 2007

Dharmadata was a remake of the tremendously successful Tamil film Enga Oor Raja.
Tammareddy Krishnamurthy, founder of Ravindra Art Pictures, gave three hits in a row. The movies were Lakshadhikari, Bangaru Gajulu and Zamindar. Now on the lookout for a story for his fourth production, he came across the Tamil hit 'Enga Oor Raja' starring Sivaji Ganesan. He decided to remake it in Telugu, starring his favorite, ANR.

Incidentally, producer of 'Enga Oor Raja', Madhavan, had already remade Tammareddy's 'Bangaru Gajulu' in Tamil starring Sivaji Ganesan. So the remake rights were sold without a stir and Tammareddy set upon making some changes to the original script before shooting.

The story in Telugu went like this. Raghupathi is a generous Zamindar. He falls into debts after getting his sister, Laxmi, married to Raju, son of Zamindar Bhujangam. Raghupathi mortgages his home 'Srinilayam' to give dowry for his sister and is bankrupt. After the death of his wife, he takes his two sons, Shekar and Chakravarthy and daughter Jaya, and leaves the village for the city.

There, they all work hard and make some money. After that, Laxmi tries to get close to her brother's family, as it is her husband's last wish. Laxmi's daughter Padma gets friendly with Shekar. Meanwhile, Bhujangam tries to keep Srinilayam all for himself, but Shekar puts a stop to his evil designs. Finally, Shekar and Padma get married, while Jaya marries Padma's brother Ishwar and all is well.

ANR donned two roles-as father Raghupathi and son Shekar. For 'Srinilayam', a Nawab's house behind the present Lifestyle building in Begumpet was used to go in for the grand effect. Tammareddy roped in Sulochana Rani to co-write and add some more characters to the existing ones in the movie. But there was no contribution, and she even asked him why he even put her name in the credits. Pinisetty wrote the dialogues in Telugu, changing, adding and improvising on the Tamil version.

ANR donned two roles-as father Raghupathi and son Shekar.
Director Akkineni Sanjeevi worked as an editor and later debuted as a director in Jagapathi Films' Akka Chellelu. He wielded the megaphone for the second time, and was much appreciated. The cinematography was taken up by S. Venkata Ratnam, but for the tricky scenes double act scenes which needed two ANRs was taken up by senior DOP Kamal Ghosh. For the masked scenes, an assistant on the sets who resembled ANR was used.

TV Chalapati Rao was the music director. CNR wrote six of the nine songs, two of them were penned by Kosaraju and one is a short Shlokam. The entire movie was shot in black and white, but three songs were shot in color. This was the norm in those days when shooting the entire movie in color proved a costly ordeal. The first choice for a heroine was Vanisri, but was later replaced by Kanchana. Kanchana appears in a swimsuit in the movie, which caused a big stir in those days.

Ghantasala and Relangi got Padmasri before the movie released. So in the titles, there is a note of congratulations for the duo. Sowkar Janaki, Suryakantam and Relangi made guest appearances in the movie. Ghantasala sang six songs in the movie.

Dharmadata was a milestone in ANR's career, both because of its success and ANR's double act. It ran for 100 days in 12 centers, not a mean feat in those days. It proved to be another feather in the cap of Ravindra Art Pictures.