Starring Bhanumathi, Pushpavalli, Sr. Sriranjani, Dasari Kotirathnam, Balijepalli Lakshmikantha Kavi, Daita Gopalam, Kocharlakota Sathyanarayana
Certain subjects seem to be ageless. Between1921-23 Kallakoori Narayana Rao wrote the popular drama, Varavikrayam on dowry menace. Eight decades later the play is still being staged in some part or other not only proves its popularity but also sadly reminds one that the menace still looms large.
After the debacle of his home production, Mohini Bhasmasura, C. Pullayya set his eyes on a social subject and acquired the rights of Varavikrayam to be made into a film for East India Company, Calcutta.
He signed Balijepalli Lakshmikantha Kavi to write the dialogue and also to act in the pivotal role of the much married miser Singaraju Lingaraju. Along with him, the later day phenomenon Bhanumathi Ramakrishna also made her debut. The story was about a middle class revenue inspector, a Gandhian Punyamurthula Purushothama Rao (played by Daita Gopalam), his wife Bhramaramba (Sr. Sriranjani) and their two daughters – Kalindi (Bhanumathi) and Kamala (Pushpavalli). Rao was against giving dowry.
But he was forced to sell his ten acre field to pay dowry to marry off his elder daughter Kalindi to Basavaraju (Kocharlakota Sathyanarayana) adopted son of Singaraju Lingaraju. Marriage brokers Pellilla Perayya (Peri Ramachandra Murthy) and Vivahala Veerayya (J. Sathyanarayana) con with Lingaraju to make Rao agree to pay the dowry. Upset that her marriage would leave her parents penniless, the sensitive Kalindi commits suicide by jumping into the well.
Lingaraju refuses to return the dowry money even though the marriage was not performed. Kamala who is more assertive decides to teach a lesson to Lingaraju. She agrees to marry his son much against the wish of her father. After the marriage, Kamala refuses to go to her –in law's house claiming that since she bought Basavarju by paying dowry he should come and stay with her at her parent's house. Lingaraju drags her to court by filing a complaint in the name of his son.
The judge gives a verdict in favour of Kamala, when Basavaraju fed up with his foster father's cunningness, agrees to live with her. Lingaraju realises his folly and seeks pardon from Purshothama Rao.
Interestingly, Bommaraju Bhanumathi was a reluctant entrant to acting. She was more interested in fulfilling her father Bommaraju Venkata Seshaiah's wish to sing for gramophone records. But Govindarajula Subbarao, a close friend of Seshaiah thought otherwise. He first took her to Gudavalli Ramabrahmam while he was scouting for child actors for Malapilla. But Gudavalli found she was too naïve and the role went to Sundaramma, equally talented but sadly forgotten today. (Bhanumathi Ramakrishna later said that she purposely scuttled her chances by not performing well in the screen test.) When C. Pullayya was looking for a girl who can sing well, to play the role of ‘Kalindi,' Govindarajula told him about Bhanumathi. In the screen test, Bhanumathi tried that ploy one more time. But to her dismay, Pullayya said that he found his Kalindi! Her father was happy that there were a few songs for her to sing, however he put a condition that no male actor should touch her. Pullayya told him not to worry as there is no hero for her in the movie.
C. Pullayya had to overcome a hitch. By then, he had shot a few scenes on Pushpavalli who played the younger sister. She looked older than the 14 year old Bhanumathi. So it was left for makeup artiste Eedhu to make Bhanumathi look a year older than Pushpavalli. The first song Bhanumathi rendered was – katnamichi konte gaani kanniyalaku varude raada… kannavariki kotha, kanne janmame rotha… swathanthrame ledha. By then playback singing came into vogue and the song was recorded first and shot the next day.
Bhanumathi said in an interview that since she was new to acting, she could not lip sync properly for her own rendition while enacting the scene. Pullayya assured her that he would take care of that during editing (editor: Dharmaveer).
The satirical and hilarious conversation Lingaraju had with his beautiful young wife Subhadra (Dasari Kotirathnam), and cook Ghantayya (M.S. Ramachandra Murthy) entertained the audience while the performances and rendition of Bhanumathi and Balijepalli won their appreciation. C. Pullayya's Sun Recording Company brought out a set of four gramophone records (eight sides) with original songs and dialogues.
Varavikrayam was remembered as the first film in Telugu on dowry and was a huge box office success.