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Nostalgia - Thodi Kodallu (1957)

Palakodety | December 24, 2005

ANR and Savitri

'Thodi Kodallu' is a movie based on the short story called 'Nishkruthi' by the famous Bengali writer Sharat Chandra Chatterjee. Many movies like Devadasu (Devadas), Ardhaangi (Swayam Siddha), Batasaari (Bada Deedi), Parineeta (Parineeta), etc., were made based on Sharat's novels and stories. His brilliant style of story telling in the Indian context has inspired many directors and screen writers to adopt his stories without much hesitation as it proved to be a success formula over and over again.

The Making: Among the myriads to fall for Sharat's such magic was Annapurna Pictures too. After their first movie 'Donga Ramudu', which was a big hit, they started preparing for the next. Under the very able leadership of Dukkipati Madhusudana Rao, Annapurna Pictures approached KV Reddy who directed the first one, to take up the next venture in order to achieve the same success. But KV Reddy was unable to do the film because of his earlier commitments with Vauhini Productions and hence suggested the name of Aadurthi Subba Rao, who, after the directorial debut of 'Amara Sandesam', was more than glad to accept the offer. KV Reddy, however, promised to help them and support them in the making of the film.

The Cast: Working on the cast, the producer and the director decided on Akkineni Nageswara Rao, who was also a partner in Annapurna Pictures, Savitri, SV Ranga Rao, Kannamba, Suryakantham, Relangi and Jaggaiah to play the main roles. Since ANR, SVR, Kannamba and Savitri already had a very good fan base in Tamil Nadu also, it was decided that the movie would be made as a bilingual, in both Telugu and Tamil. And it was named 'Thodi Kodallu' and 'Engal Veettu Mahalakshmi' respectively. 'Engal Veettu Mahalakshmi' means 'Maa Inti Mahalakshmi' in Telugu which has no relevance with first picture produced in Hyderabad with the same Telugu name.

The Plot: The movie revolves around a joint family. SV Rangarao as a forgetful advocate, with Kannamba as his wife, played the role of the eldest member of the family Kutumba Rao. ANR plays Satyam, Kutumba Rao's cousin, living with him. The youngest of the daughters-in-law Satyam's wife, Suseela, portrayed by Savitri, imposes strict rules on the family and takes care of the well being of everybody in it. When the rustic family of the younger brother (Relangi as Ramanayya), comes for Dasara, the family finds it difficult to adapt to the disciplinarian nature of Suseela. Adding to this discomfort, Ramanayya's wife, Anasuya (Suryakantham) grows jealous of Suseela and Anasuya's distant relative Vaikuntam (Jaggaiah) starts spreading his evil influence over the family. In order to protect the prestige of the family, Satyam fights for the farmers and workers being exploited by Vaikuntam. The occurrence of such unforeseen events leads to the separation of Satyam's family from the rest. When Kutumba Rao finds out about the evildoings of Vaikuntam and reprimands him, the family reunites to live under the same roof.

Dialogues: The dialogues for the Telugu version were written by Acharya Atreya. For the Tamil version, it was Sridhar. The expressive style of Acharya Atreya is very clearly seen throughout the movie, be it in the dialogues like 'desoddhaarakudavu kadu' or the usage of umpteen number of Telugu proverbs (samethalu) and idioms (jaatheeyaalu). The emotional, the comical and the dramatic dosages of dialogues are perfectly balanced by the ace writer. The screenplay by Dukkipati Madhusudan Rao, Aadurthi Subba Rao and Acharya Atreya very aptly complements the dialogues. At no point of the movie do we feel that the original is a Bengali story. It has been a matter of surprise to many Telugu writers and authors about how such a short story was made into a full-fledged successful movie. That shows the adeptness of the writing team.

Acharya Atreya: Born Kilambi Venkata Narsimhacharyulu on 7th May 1921 in Mangalampadu of Sullurpet Mandal in Nellore District, Acharya Atreya was known to his fans as a screen writer, a stage writer and a lyricist. But very few people know that he was also a great poet. His first poem was -

Thappulu chaala galavu ne
cheppithinani kopapaduta chelladu neeve
chappuna sarididdukonumu
pappulu namalutalu kaavu padya rachanamul


Describing this first poem, he wrote -

Adiye naa tholi padyamu
adiye naa jeevithaana kamrutha ghatika, naa
kadiye yoka puttuka, naalo
nodigina pratibhalaku naandiyo yana velasen


For Acharya Athreya, the moment of writing his first poem was like the best time (amrutha ghatika) in his life. Acharya Atreya was once jailed for participating in the Quit India Movement. Though he passed away on 13th September 1989, he will live forever in the hearts of the people as 'Manasu Kavi'.

Lyrics and Music: Acharya Atreya, being the versatile genius he was, also wrote the lyrics for the movie along with Sri Sri, Kosaraju and Tapi Dharma Rao. Lyrics in Tamil were written by Udumalai Narayanan and KS Gopalakrishnan. The tuneful score in this movie by music director master Venu coupled with the sensational vocals of Ghantasala, Suseela, Jikki and Madhavapeddi Satyam formed the perfect blend for a melodious musical hit. Suseela lent her voice to Savitri for the first time in this film and subsequently the duo complemented each other in most of the movies.

The songs in this movie are 'Gaalipatam gaalipatam..', 'Kaarulo shikarukelle..', 'Enthentha dooram..', 'Bhale mavayya.. ne raanu povayya..', 'Jo jo jo..', 'Aaduthu paduthu..', 'Naluguru kalisi..', 'Townu pakkakellodduro..', 'Ramanayya maava.. navaneetamma' and 'Sreerasthu..'. Sri Sri wrote 'Naluguru kalisi..' song. The communistic principles like cooperative farming, equal sharing of the harvest, etc., are very conspicuous in this number. Though Acharya Atreya penned it, 'Kaarulo shikaarukelle' song has been a topic of debate due to its content, which displayed the communistic precept. The debate revolved around who the lyricist was Sri Sri or Acharya Atreya.

Technicians: Aadurthi Subba Rao was earlier a successful editor for many a film. As such he handled the editing of this film himself. Many of the technicians who worked for this film later went on to become successful directors. T. Krishna, who assisted Aadurthi Subba Rao in the editing of this movie, became a successful director later. Some of his directorial ventures include 'Khaidi Babai' a remake of the Rajesh Khanna starrer 'Dushman'. K. Viswanath, who later became a perfectionist director, worked as a sound recordist for this film. He directed films like 'Sankarabharanam', 'Swarna Kamalam', 'Saagara Sangamam', 'Swarabhishekam', etc. He was also awarded Padma Bhushan by the President of India. V. Madhusudana Rao worked as asst. director for the movie. He came to be known as 'Victory Madhusudana Rao' with his victorious directorial films like 'Aaradhana', 'Aatma Balam', 'Anthasthulu', 'Adrushtavanthulu', 'Veerabhimanya', etc. Editor A. Venkataratnam later went on to become a successful producer. The cinematography was by PS Selvaraj. He is said to be the man who best molded ANR's image. No wonder he worked for most of the Annapurna Productions' ventures including the prestigious 'Iddaru Mithrulu' in which ANR played dual roles as Ajay and Vijay. He also headed the cinematography department for Adurthi's own productions like 'Manchi Manasulu', 'Mooga Manasulu' under the banner of Babu Movies.

Movie Trivia: Jimmy (Rude, the dog) has a very important role in this movie. The original story has only a cow. But when the story was adopted for screen, Mr. Janakiram Chowdary's trained dog, Rude from Madanapalle bagged the role. And it does full justice to its role without question, turning out to be a major attraction for the audience.

Much of the outdoor shooting for the film was done at Janapasatram village.

Chakrapani of Vijaya Productions Ltd., who incidentally happened to be one of the well known translators of Sharat's works into Telugu, was wondering how such a short story could be turned into a full length feature film. He never realized there was so much scope in that story before. To satiate his curiosity he used to frequent the sets of 'Thodi Kodallu'. When the film was about to be completed, Chakrapani was sure of its success. Therefore, he recommended acquiring the distribution rights to Nagi Reddi, his co-producer in Vijaya Productions. But this did not materialize as planned and the idea to obtain the rights was dropped at the last minute. However, as Chakrapani predicted 'Engal Veettu Mahalakshmi', the Tamil version became a super hit.

Though the book 'Swarnayugamlo Annapurna' about Annapurna Pictures declares the date of release of the movie to be 7th January 1957 in Telugu and 14th January 1957 in Tamil, the censor board certificate for the Telugu version specifies the date of censor certification as 16th March 1957. Evidently, the date of release cannot be 7th of January 1957.