The famous Vauhini Pictures had just given a huge hit directed by KV Reddi, Pathala Bhairavi. This time he decided to make a socially relevant movie, about the dark side of the bureaucracy. Thus began Peddamanushulu, an important movie in the history of Telugu cinema, for several reasons. For one, it shows all the 'Peddamanushulu' in the movie (Influential People) as corrupt. So after the movie registered in the minds of the people, the term Peddamanushulu had negative connotations in Telugu culture for a long time after!
The movie has a few key characters, all in the public service, and most of them corrupt. The movie had the main characters as negative, a first for Telugu movies. Also, there were many villains instead of one main villain and his sidekick. Dharma Rao, played by Gowrinatha Sastry, is the Chairman of the municipality. The municipal contractor, a local businessman and his sidekick make up the rest of the corrupt cast who are respected by one and all, but use their influence for personal ends in secret. The municipal counselor is also a newspaper editor, Ramadasu (played by Lingamurthy in his first positive character) who is as honest as they come. What happens to all these characters is the basic plot of the movie.
Gowrinatha Sastry's role Dharma Rao was supposed to be played by Chittoor V. Nagaiah.
There are some other characters. Relangi, for instance, gained a lot of appreciation for his role as Tikka Shankaraiah. He plays Dharma Rao's brother, who is cheated by his kin and loses his mind with the shock. In the movie, Dharma Rao's son is against his father's corrupt ways. The role of Dharma Rao was tailor made for Nagaiah, but he and KV Reddy had an ego hassle regarding the dates of Yogi Vemana, so finally the role went to Gowrinatha Sastry. He had earlier done a minor role as Sreenadha in Bhakta Potana.
There was another ego hassle that KV had, because of which someone other than a regular Vauhini person gained entry into the prestigious production house. Pingali Nagendra Rao wrote Pathala Bhairavi and then shifted to Vijaya Productions and was in a contract with them. DV Narasaraju wrote it finally; he had earlier authored a play by the name Natakam. Peddamanushulu is said to be inspired by Henrik Ibsen's The Pillars Of Society, but Narasaraju denies it. The dialogues in the movie have been praised by the critics and received credit from all quarters.
BN Reddy's brother, B. Konda Reddy was the cinematographer for the movie. Having debuted with Malleswari, he was very choosy with his movies. The music was composed by two musicians-Ogirala Ramachandra Rao and Addepalli Rama Rao. It consisted of mostly situational songs. A tune from a song in Albela, also composed by Ogirala, was used.
The lyrics were written by Kosaraju Raghavaiah Chowdary, who wrote two other songs in the movie. He had given a smashing debut with Raitu Bidda and procured the title 'Kavi Ratna', after which he went back to a quiet life as a farmer. Narasaraju wished him to come back and write, to which he was hesitant. But finally he did write the extremely difficult satirical numbers in one week flat and went straight back home.
The movie set trends and made people realize that nothing needs a formula. After giving a huge folk-based hit, KV Reddi ventured into unknown waters fearlessly. He got his payback-Best Actor Filmfans Association for Linga Murthy. The actor did not desire to get back to negative roles after the feedback he got for this new positive avatar. He took up much less work consciously to avoid getting back to negative/villainous characters! Peddamanushulu did a brisk business and towed fresh paths. It also has the honor of being the first Telugu movie to receive a Rastrapathi Award.