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Nostalgia - Pathala Bhairavi (1951)

Palakodety | December 30, 2005

Malathi and NTR

Cast: NTR, SVR, CSR, Relangi, Balakrishna, Padmanabham, Malathi, TG Kamala, Lakshmi Kantam, Girija, Surabhi Kamala and Others.
Art: M. Gokhale.
Audiography: A. Krishnan.
Choreography: P. Krishnamurthi.
Cinematography: Marcus Bartley.
Editing: CP Jamboolingam & MS Money.
Make-up: Hari Babu & Peetambaram.
Music: Ghantasala.
Singers: Ghantasala, P. Leela & Krishnaveni.
Story, Dialogues & Songs: P. Nagendra Rao.
Screenplay: KV Reddi & K. Kameswara Rao.
Producers: Nagi Reddi & Chakrapani.
Director: KV Reddi.
Banner: Vijaya Productions Ltd.
Release Year: 1951.

The Film: 'Pathala Bhairavi' an epic movie of the Telugu cinema was made in the year 1951. After the success of their debut movie 'Shavukaru' (1950), the Nagi Reddi-Chakrapani duo of Vijaya Productions Ltd. took up the making of this movie. Under the directorial grandeur of KV Reddi, the famous Aladdin story was turned into this superhit for the Telugu audience. Once the story was chosen, Vijaya Productions team worked on it for 3-4 months before plunging into the making, which in turn took about 8-9 months. The technicians like the cinematographer, the art director, etc., used to participate in these discussions apart from the storywriter and the director. One can never see such participation and dedication in the making of movies nowadays.

This movie also has a great accomplishment of being played at the first International Film Festival held at Bombay on 24th January 1952. It is also famous for the fact that it remained as a milestone in the careers of KV Reddi, Pingali, Ghantasala, NTR and SVR.

The Cast: NTR was the obvious choice for the lead role after he worked on 'Shavukaru'. To play the heroine's part, Malathi, who acted in 'Bhaktha Pothana', was selected. She was well versed with Hindi too and so delivered the dialogues in the Hindi version of the movie herself. After the lead pair, the rest of the cast was selected. Balakrishna played Anjigaadu, which turned out to be his name in many movies after this owing to the fame he achieved playing it. CSR was to play the heroine's father and Relangi CSR's brother-in-law. Relangi and Balakrishna play the comedians. To play Nepala Mantrikudu, a very important role of the movie, Mukkamala was considered first. But later, the casting team settled for SV Ranga Rao who played 'Sunnam Rangadu' in 'Shavukaru'.

Ace comedian Relangi in a female role.
The Plot: Based on the famous Aladdin story, Pingali Nagendra Rao created this plot with a romantic streak. Thota Ramudu is a poor gardener for the royal family in the kingdom of Ujjain. He falls in love with the princess Indumati. When the king gets to know about this, he snubs Thota Ramudu asking him to get the riches the princess deserves. To win her heart and to attain such wealth, he seeks the help of Nepala Mantrikudu who in turn wants to get hold of the all-powerful Pathala Bhairavi statuette by using Thota Ramudu for ritual killing. Smitten by the love bug, Thota Ramudu follows the treacherous Nepala Mantrikudu on a trying journey. Getting to know the perfidious intentions of Nepala Mantrikudu, the former tricks and beheads the latter instead. Thus Thota Ramudu achieves the Pathala Bhairavi statuette and the wealth that the king asked for. When Nepala Mantrikudu regains his life with the help of his apprentice Sadaajapudu, he tricks Soorasena (King's brother-in-law) to get his hands on the statuette. Thota Ramudu finds Nepala Mantrikudu with the help of Anjigaadu and kills him when the Nepala Mantrikudu kidnaps the princess and the duo goes in her pursuit. The story ends with Pathala Bhairavi granting the wish of the king of eternal happiness to the people of his kingdom.

Cinematography: Marcus Bartley was arguably the greatest cinematographer of those times. Almost all the superhits of those times were made with his hand at the camera. His speciality was the shots under the moonlight. In those days, a circle was drawn on a screen and the screen was lit to make it look like a moon. With this on the background, one cannot have other lights there. In spite of this difficulty, all the characters in such scenes had their shadows away from the moon. Apart from this, many of the transformations of elements in this movie were shown using Fade-In and Fade-Out techniques giving it a much better look and feel than the latest digital morphing which uses high technology computers. Marcus Bartley made this possible with his innovative ideas.

Dialogues: Dialogues are undoubtedly the greatest assets of the movie. It's not surprising that these dialogues became part of everyday language of the Telugu people. This movie shows the expanse of Pingali Nagendra Rao's brilliance in short. One need not stress how familiar people are with dialogues like 'Nijam cheppamannara - abadhham cheppamannaara', 'Saahasam seyara dimbhaka', 'Naruda - emi nee korika', 'Devi paluku..', 'Bhale Dimabhaka, saahasivira, varaputrudavura', 'Naakesi choodave bulbul', 'Mari manaku addemi ra? .. aa gaddame guru', 'Thappu thappu', 'Mahajanaaniki maradalu pilla.. andaroo bavale.. galagalalaadave gajjala kodi' and many many more.

Legendary singer Ghantasala posing with his trophies.
Music: In this movie, we see the splendour of Ghantasala as a music director again. With one of the most memorable songs like 'Teeyani oohalu', 'Itihaasam vinnara', 'Kalavaramaye madilo', 'Entha ghaatu premayo', 'Vinave baala', 'Vagaloi vagalu..', 'Thalalene ne thaalalene', 'Prema kosamai valalo padane', 'Haayiga manakina..', 'Kanugonagalano ledo', this movie stands as one in a million.

Talking about the music of this film 'Pranaya jeevulaku' and 'Kalavaramaye madilo' songs were modulated on the same raga. Similarly 'Premakosamai' and 'Kanugonagalano ledo' were modulated on the same raga. On the whole, Mohana raga, Bhimpalas and Sindhubhairavi ragas were used for the composition of music in this movie.

In this movie, comedian Relangi sang two songs 'Vinave baala' and 'Thaalalene ne thaalalene'. These songs prove without doubt that Relangi was not a comedian just with dialogues; he was one with songs too. Needless to say, these songs were very popular.

Pingali Nagendra Rao wrote the lyrics. The magnificence of the songs is vivid even after so many years. And they are going to be on the most wanted list of Telugu music for many eons to come.

Pingali Nagendra Rao: Born in Raajaam of Bobbili Taluk, Pingali Nagendra Rao has been a writer throughout his life. Starting during his student life, he went on to become one of the greatest writers of all-time in the history of Telugu Cinema. He wrote for many great movies like 'Pathala Bhairavi', 'Maya Bazar', 'Jagadekaveeruni Katha', etc. His songs and dialogues were so famous that many of the movies that were released later used them as titles. That epitomizes Pingali's talent.

Pathala Bhairavi was the first movie in which KV Reddi and Pingali worked together. K. Kameswara Rao introduced Pingali to KV Reddi before the making of this cinema. Their combo stayed on to achieve outstanding success for many movies after this.

Pathala Bhairavi could be called the brainchild of Pingali Nagendra Rao in every aspect. Being a multi-faceted writer, Pingali wrote the story, dialogues and lyrics for the movie. And no aspect is compromised in this regard. It's not surprising that dialogues like 'Haam fut', 'Mosam.. Guru' are so very famous. Pingali made words like Dingari, Dimbhaka, etc., famous. He used to say, (said so in Maya Bazar movie also through SVR's Ghatothkacha role) "If nobody coins new words, how will they be created?" and used to believe it firmly. Hence the usage of such words and new phrases in the movies. Pingali was also a great creator of mannerisms and punch dialogues in many Telugu movies as those are the attributes, which get etched in the minds of a common cinegoer forever.

Though the song was a huge hit, "Entha ghaatu premoyo.." turned out to be a topic of discussion. The Telugu pundits pointed out that love is supposed to be associated with smoothness, fragrance and the likes. But in this song, Pingali used an adjective like Ghaatu (pungent) which is against conventional ways. Pingali reasoned that Thota Ramudu was a tough guy and obviously his love doesn't have the so-called smoothness and softness.

The inimitable SV Ranga Rao as Nepala Mantrikudu.
SV Ranga Rao: Samarlakota Venkata Ranga Rao, also known as SV Ranga Rao or SVR was one of the greatest actors that the Telugu film industry has seen. He became immortal in the hearts of the people with characters like Nepala Mantrikudu in Pathala Bhairavi, Ghatothkachudu in Maya Bazar and many more.

He is the only Telugu actor to have ever won the best actor award in an International Film Festival (Jakarta, 1964) for his role as Keechaka in 'Narthana Saala'.

In 'Pathala Bhairavi', SVR used the same persona that he used for playing Shylock when he was a stage-artist. This turned out to be a very big break for him in his movie career. Though he got recognized with his roles in Shavukaru and Palletoori Pilla, he achieved real fame with Pathala Bhairavi. His famous dialogues like 'Saahasam seyara dimbhaka' and 'Jai paathaala bhairavi' were a great attraction to the audience. No other actor can ever take the place that he has in the hearts of the people.

Movie Trivia: During that period, artists used to work for monthly salaries. Vijaya Productions being a very disciplined organization, the work hours used to start at 9 am sharp at Vauhini Studios once the artists signed the attendance register.

It's a great tragedy that the actress Malathi died in a freak accident. The screen wall of a movie theatre (Prabhat) in Hyderabad collapsed causing the death of Paathaala Bhairavi's heroine who was residing in the house behind the screen wall.

After 'Pathala Bhairavi' reached the 100 days mark, Vijaya Productions team went on a success tour all over Andhra Pradesh. The famous veteran actor Satyanarayana is said to have attended the success function at Gudivada as one among the crowd.

43 years after 'Pathala Bhairavi', Vijaya Productions along with its collaborator Chandamaama made 'Bhairava Dweepam' with Bala Krishna (NTR's son) as hero, with Singeetham Srinivasa Rao as the director and Raavi Kondala Rao as the writer. This movie was made with the inspiration of 'Pathala Bhairavi'.