Cast: NTR, P Bhanumati, Madavapeddi, Lakshminarayana, Krishnarao and Others. Producer & Direction: BN Reddi. Banner: The Vauhini Productions Ltd. Release Year: 1951.
NTR & Bhanumati
BN Reddi launched his directorial career with 'Vandemataram' in 1939. He directed eleven films only that brought him good name. 'Bangaru Panjaram' was his last film. But for two films, the rest were made under Vauhini banner. After 'Vandemataram', 'Sumangali', 'Devata' and 'Swargaseema' appeared before this 'Malleswari'. BN got the idea of making this film in 1939 itself, while he was working on 'Vandemataram'. It so happened that BN went to Hampi for an outdoor shooting of 'Vandemataram' to capture the beauty of what Sri Krishnadevaraya created, in his time, reflecting his taste and artistic outlook. BN could watch everything there and was thrilled. While he was in the sanctum sanctorum of Virupaksha Temple, he felt that he was standing exactly at a place where Srikrishna Devaraya must have stood and prayed to the God. This very thought prompted him to go for a film in which Sri Krishnadevaraya would be the central figure. So he needed a story.
After BN returned from Hampi he began his search for a story. This prolonged search for a suitable theme went on for another two years. It so happened that he heard of a play 'Rayala Karuna Krityam' written by Buchibabu, noted Telugu novelist, and broadcast over Madras AIR. Then there was a similar story, it is said, that he read in 'Illustrated Weekly of India', with some similarities that suit his idea. He combined both and made a story out of it. During the days of Vijayanagara Empire the system was to bring willing women to royal palace and render them official residents of the palace. According to the royal tradition, they sent palanquins to their houses and fetched them, after they presented the family with gifts and jewelry. But once they were in the palace, these women should never have any contact with any man, or any man see them, without permission. If any one violated the law, they were beheaded.
Master Venkata Ramana
BN made a change in this story and elevated the character of the king projecting his positive attitude. 'Rani Vasam' was its name. Therefore, Malleswari was taken to this 'Rani Vasam'. Rather she was forced to accept this, for lure of money and jewelry. But she was already in love with her 'Bava', a sculptor. He stealthily got into the garden of the palace, to meet his beloved and was caught. He was to meet with natural justice - death penalty. But BN followed the radio play and introduced that part of 'Karuna Krityam' of Krishnadevaraya at least for once. He pardoned the hero and allowed the girl to go with him.
BN thought Devulapalli Krishna Sastry was the best person to write script and lyrics. He had already developed love for Krishna Sastry's writings. With the entry of Devulapalli, the lyrical appeal changed its colour. All his songs in 'Malleswari' were a hit. The composing took six months time. S Rajeswara Rao held rehearsal session attended by Ghantasala and Bhanumathi too. Addepalli Rama Rao provided the orchestral support. The songs were a special attraction of the film. 'Pilachina Biguvatara', 'Akasa Veedhilo', 'Manasuna Mallela Maalaloogene', 'Koti Bavaku Pellanta' and so on. S Rajeswara Rao specially liked 'Akasa Veedhilo' and sang it often in functions that he attended.
Once the script and screenplay were ready, search was on for the artistes. NTR and Bhanumati were employed to play lead roles. But BN originally wanted to feature a totally new girl. They even chose a girl named Revathi to play the female lead. Even the screen test was done. He thought later that an experienced actress with ability to sing and dance as well would be better. He chose Bhanumati who worked in 'Swargaseema' and made good name. The production took more than two years time. Purandaradasa's Pillari Geetham, 'Sri Gananatha' was used as backdrop for the title cards on the screen. This was in good taste and auspicious that too. The film was released but soon it lost its initiative as it was branded as 'class' film. However it picked up good talk as one of the best films that marked Telugu cinema. BN released it once again after some gap. This time the film proved a great success.