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History Of Birth And Growth Of Telugu Cinema (Part 8)
Stage stars were the first stars of cinema:
Those were the heydays for Telugu theatre too. Freedom movement was also at its full swing. The theatre was busy with artistes like Bellari Raghava, Yadavalli Suryanarayana, Uppuluri Sanjeeva Rao, Guraza Naidu, Hariprasada Rao, Addanki Sriramamurthy, Arani, DV Subba Rao, Madhavapeddi, Sthanam, Nagarja Rao, Kapilavayi Ramanatha Sastry, Jonnavithula Seshagiri Rao, Suribabu, Pulipati Venkateswarlu, Vemuri Gaggaya, Kocherlakota, Brahma Jyotyula and Gandikota Joginatham - all enjoying star status by then. These were the artistes who first found place in Telugu cinema. Some figured even in silent movies. With the advent of talkie, they stayed for some time. Vemuri Gaggayya played in a number of films.
Some of the drama theatres were converted into cinema halls with a few modifications. The first cinema hall was Maruthi Talkies constructed by Pothina Srinivasa Rao in 1921. This theatre was inaugurated on October 23 that year. The theatre still exists. It was the beginning of the birth of cinema theatres. The first talkie ever made in India, 'Alam Ara,' was first released in this theatre. It enjoyed such a pride of place that all the films made at Bombay and at other production centers were first released in Maruthi Talkies, along with their release in Bombay. Srinivasa Rao also turned producer-director with his film titled 'Prithvi Putra' in 1933, under his own banner Saraswathi Movietone. He was also the film's script writer. The distribution and exhibition systems were yet to take shape.
The saga of Kanchanamala:
Kanachanamala's singing prowess was not that good. But she was an excellent actress of high caliber. SS Vasan (of Gemini Pictures Circuit) used to keep his cheque book before the talented persons and asked them to write their figure to act in his film. Even after the completion of the contract Vasan never dismissed them. On the other hand he tried to retain them. Kanchanamala enjoyed that status. While the production of 'Balanagamma' was on many persons lost heart on her. Such was her charming personality. But she had one Chowdary enjoying the status of her husband. She was crazy of him. He was also good looking.
|SS Vasan - A film czar.|
She figured in 'Grihalakshmi' (1938) her first film being made in Calcutta at that time with C. Pullaiah as director. It is said that he made an oblique remark on her when she was not registering proper emotions. Later she signed contract with Vasan. 'Balanagamma' (1942) with her, in the title role, was being made. C. Pullaiah happened to be the director of that film. By then Kanchanamala became a big star. During the production she began behaving badly with Pullaiah, keeping in her mind what happened at Calcutta. She even criticized him. But her skill to play the role offset her mischievous behavior. Vasan tried to set her right. But she would not mend her ways. She forgot she was under Vasan's contract for some years to come. They used to lend the artiste to other studio if it needed his or her services. But Vasan never allowed her to work on any other film. She was practically locked up in the studios bogged down by the contract. This was the only way for Vasan to teach her to behave well with the director, lest it would effect the quality of his film. She was upset. That was also the time her husband Chowdary passed away. That gave her big shock. Taking pity on her Vasan ultimately released her from this modern kind of bondage in the name of contracts. As a symbol of this it is said that he literally tore off the contract papers before everyone. That was the beginning of the end of her era.
To Be Continued...