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History Of Birth And Growth Of Telugu Cinema (Part 5)

A rare portrait of HM Reddy.
Kruthiventi Nageswara Rao's 'Prema Vijayam', the first social film in Telugu cinema, made in 1936, was a hit. With its advent, some more filmmakers took to socials. The subjects chosen were all contemporary topics of that period. This trend took shape in 1939 and continued for six or seven years. There was again change in the mood of the industry for various reasons. In 1947 the era of folklore began. By then, a number of socials were made. Some of them are considered even today as great films. Between 1937 and 1946 a few more mythological films were also made. Yet social themes remained the industry's big bet. They were making good money at the box office. The songs in these films too became immensely popular. Some are remembered even today. Those socials looked so real that they influenced the society and made psychological impact. The subjects invariably had the undercurrent of reference to freedom struggle, going on at that time, led by Mahatma Gandhi. There was indirect reference as British were watching the trend in cinema too. Gandhiji's ideals like 'untouchability', 'widow marriage' and so on were taken as themes. Of the ninety-seven films, made between 1937 to 1946, 29 films were socials.

The non-social films - 'Balaji', 'Bhookailas' and 'Pothana' too were a success at the box office. Of the 29 socials, 'Gruhalakshmi', 'Malapilla', 'Vandemataram', 'Mallipelli', 'Chintamani', 'Talliprema', 'Devata', 'Swargaseema', 'Gruhapravesam' were super hits. They were all good stories, true to life. 'Rythu Bidda' (1939) is one example. 'Sumangali' (1940) was another. You can call this era as trend setting era of idealism. If we look back we will sure feel they were the best days of Telugu cinema, at once sensible, purposeful. Any of those films is released today you will sure feel it is no less than any of these so-called art films. They were best days for Telugu cinema, with progressive outlook. 'Dharmapatni' (1941) was said to be a good film in story writing aspect. This was the film ANR acted as a child artiste. He was a seventeen-year-old kid then.

As this change from mythological films to socials was on, the intensity of struggle for independence in the North, had its own impact on South Indian society and cinema. The freedom struggle picked up momentum in 1936 itself. In another two years, congress governments were formed. The politics had its influence on cinema. 'Prohibition', 'abolition of zamindari system', 'dowry system', 'widow marriage’ became subjects for cinema. Films with these themes were well received.

In parallel, studios in Bombay like New Theatres, Prabhat, Ranjit and Bombay Talkies were also making powerful socials on the same lines. They were so powerful that they found good market even in Telugu land. People flocked to see them. 'Achut Kanya', 'Devadas', 'Duniya Namane', 'President', 'Aadmi' were some to name. Sometimes, they enjoyed greater patronage of audience than Telugu films had. HM Reddy, maker of first Telugu talkie, was so influenced by this trend that he decided to take advantage of the market response to these patriotic Hindi films. He was making films in North, till then. He shifted to Madras in 1936-1937 and launched his banner - Rohini Pictures. His intention was to make only socials, relevant to the prevailing conditions. 'Gruhalakshmi' (1938) was its result, which was a great hit those days. He made this on the subject of 'Prohibition'.

To Be Continued...