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Swapna Sundari (1950)

APK | January 11, 2007

Cast: ANR, Anjali Devi, G. Varalakshmi, Mukkamala, Sivarao Kasturi, Surabhi Balasaraswati and Others.
Screenplay, Lyrics & Dialogues: Samudrala Raghavacharya.
Music: CR Subbaraman.
Singers: Balasaraswati Devi & Ghantasala.
Producer & Direction: Ghantasala Balaramayya.
Banner: Pratibha Productions.
Release Year: 1950.

The hit pair of yesteryear Telugu cinema-Anjali Devi and ANR.
ANR, since the beginning of his career, choose a number of folklore based (Janapada) movies to star in. He soon created a niche for himself, and was a popular choice for starring in a Janapada movie, a treat both for the successful producers and the audience. It was definitely his forte, but part of the credit went to Pratibha Productions' Ghantasala Balaramayya. In fact, ANR debuted with this production house way back in 1944 with the movie 'Sri Sita Rama Jananam'. This association continued with 'Mugguru Marathilu' in 1946 followed by 'Balaraju' in 1948. 'Balaraju' made a superstar out of Akkineni, and there was no looking back, for both the actor and the producer.

Now Balaramayya had a fascination for fantasy, and tended to use magic and ethereal set-ups in his movies. A fantasy flick full of thrills and frills would entice the audience, is what he firmly believed in. 'Swapna Sundari' was the result of that belief, an imaginative love story about a celestial being and a common man-the basis of many a modern movie, from 'Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari' to the recent 'Mayabazar'.

Prabhu always dreamt of a lovely lady, his 'Dream Girl' or 'Swapna Sundari'. On a tour he encounters a tribal queen (G. Varalakshmi), who falls in love with him, but he rejects her. He finally meets his 'Swapna Sundari' (Anjali Devi) who is actually a Deva Kanya, and the love is mutual. She leaves her Godly abode to stay with Prabhu. But an evil Mantrik finds out that with her help, he can conquer the world and become invincible so he kidnaps her. Prabhu, with the help of the tribal queen vanquishes the evil Mantrik, but the Rani dies. Swapna Sundari and Prabhu live happily ever after.

Ghantasala Balaramayya was the one who gave ANR his first break in Telugu cinema.
This story had a strong musical backing. Samudrala Raghavacharya wrote the screenplay, dialogues and the lyrics for this musical folk fiction. Subbaraman, a Telugu based musician settled in Chennai composed the songs. Balasaraswati Devi, a renowned singer, and one of the first female playback singers down South, along with the legendary Ghantasala rendered the songs which were a rage overnight.

The movie was shot in Vauhini Studios. Midway through the shooting, Balaramayya stopped shooting for 'Swapna Sundari' and started on another movie, 'Srilakshmamma Katha', using the same star cast. The reason for this was, he always wanted to put the story of 'Srilakshmamma Katha' on celluloid, another folklore story. A rival production house set about making it first, so he gloomily dropped his dream project. A stroke of luck struck Balaramayya, and the rival producers stalled their version of the Janapadam. Interestingly, two movies with this story came out at once-one by Balaramayya and the other by Mirzapur Raja. Raja's version starred Krishnaveni and Ch. Narayana Rao, and was directed by the famous author Gopichand. Balaramayya's 'Srilakshmamma Katha' hit bulls-eye and had a successful run at the box-office.

With renewed enthusiasm and vigor, they started on 'Swapna Sundari' again. The only hitch was that due to this delay, the proposed budget was crossed. 'Swapna Sundari' was dubbed into Tamil, and both versions had a good run. The movie set the imagination of the youth on fire in those days. The songs were much liked, and the grapevine tells us that some people even went on as far as to name their daughters 'Swapna Sundari'! ANR-Anjali Devi became a 'Hit' pair, and the association of ANR and Balaramayya continued, delivering good cinema for the bygone era.