T. Krishnakumari, Ramasarma, Nirmala Devi, Bhudevi, Mohan, Vangara Venkata Subbaiah, Addala Narayana Rao, Venkateswara Rao, Seetha, Lalitha and Padmini

She wished to become a classical dancer in movies. But to her pleasant surprise she got the plum offer of a heroine. And this happened at a theatre. Krishnakumari was watching the movie Swapnasundari, starring ANR and Anjali Devi at the Rajakumari theatre (now a shopping complex) in Pondy Bazaar, Madras. During the interval a young lady, seated behind, befriended her and took her address. The next day a person from Tamil Nadu Talkies (TNT) visited her and enquired whether she was interested in acting in a movie being made by producer-director S. Soundararajan Iyengar. The lady who had met her in the theatre was Soundararajan’s daughter, N. Ye. Bhuma. Encouraged by her father Venkaji, a chief engineer in Government service, she accepted the offer and got the role of the heroine in TNT’s Navvithe Navarathnaalu.

Prior to that Krishnakumari had tried to enter films as a dancer and joined the Gemini Studios, which was planning the movie Veerakumar. She waited for 10 months and then left Gemini when she found that the film was not being launched. Subsequently, veteran comedian Kasturi Sivarao took her make-up stills for a movie he was planning. Though he shelved his plan, Sivarao showed the stills to a couple of producers. Thus Krishnakumari faced the camera for the first time in Manthradandam, an ANR, Sriranjani-starrer, in a soothsayer’s character. But it was Navvithe Navarathnaalu. that got released first, making it her debut movie. A disciple of Kuchipudi exponent Vedantam Jagannadha Sarma, she was happy with her role of Gowri, as there was scope to showcase her dancing prowess. She has four or five dance sequences which helped the movie to a large extent. While her elder sister Janaki had made her entry into the tinsel town in 1950 with Shavukaru, Krishnakumari did it a year later.

Uppuluri Ramasarma was like an in-house hero for Soundararajan. He had made his debut with TNT’s Adrushtadeepudu opposite Tanguturi Suryakumari in 1950.SamskruthiRamasarma had nurtured the idea of making it into films as a technician and enrolled in the cinematography course at the Fazal Bhai Institute in Bombay. He met veteran cinematographer Bolla Subbarao there and changed his mind. When Soundararajan was scouting for a new face for his Adrushtadeepudu, he chanced upon the handsome Ramasarma and cast him as the hero. Though the film did not do well, he repeated Ramasarma in his next production. Ramasarma did the hero’s role in Navvithe Navarathnaalu, .

The story is an amalgam of a few folklores. Gowri, daughter of a farmer Rangayya, is treated cruelly by her stepmother Ganga and her sister Chandra. One day Gowri falls into a well. Her angel-mother rescues her and bestows her with a boon that whenever Gowri smiles, nine gems would come out of her mouth. Rangayya is now a rich gem merchant. Ganga’s attitude towards Gowri softens. King Rajasekhar (Ramasarma) invites the family for a function at the palace. Ganga locks up Gowri in a room and takes her sister Chandra with her, hoping that the King would marry her. The angel-mother frees Gowri, who goes to the function. The King is fascinated by Gowri’s beauty and decides to marry her. Ganga plays some tricks and from thereon the story takes some unexpected twists and turns, ultimately ending up on a happy note.

Navvithe Navarathnaalu, turned out to be a big failure at the box-office, due to many reasons. One was the insipid story. The movie was badly made due to poor direction. Though Soundararajan was credited as the director, the film was ghost-directed by his enthusiastic daughter Bhuma. She was very enterprising and popular in film circles then, but lacked directorial experience, which resulted in the movie’s failure. However, since Soundararajan was known for holding his purse strings tight, he did not lose much. He was one producer who never held press shows. He screened the movie at Vani Mahal (built and founded by Chittoor V. Nagaiah and still functioning with improved facilities), Madras, in which he was a committee member, for a select gathering. The music for the movie was composed by the upcoming Aswathama and veteran G. Ramanathan. M. L. Vasanthakumar’s classic renditions, Telirekhalu virise and Uyyala loogenaho maanasamu are worth mentioning.

In the July 1951 issue of the magazine ‘Telugu Cinema,’ veteran writer Commuri Sambasivarao expressed surprise how such a badly-made movie could run to full houses during the first week in a few centres like Bezwada (now Vijayawada), and put the same question to a gentleman from there. The gentleman replied: “Who cares for the movie? People thronged the theatres to see the charming new heroine.” Krishnakumari had arrived.