Rajasulochana lit up the silver screen with her acting and song and dance numbers in the Fifties and Sixties. RANDOR GUY takes a trip down movie lane

A few weeks ago, yesteryear actor P. Rajasulochana was felicitated by the prestigious Chittoor V. Nagaiah Trust for her contribution to Telugu Cinema. The occasion sent many in the audience down memory lane. One of the most successful stars in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Kannada and Malayalam movies, Pilliarchetty Bhakthavatsalam Naidu Rajeevalochana (her original name) was born on August 15, 1934 in Bezawada (now Vijayawada), in Andhra, then part of the Madras Presidency where her father was a senior official with the Madras and Southern Maratta Railway (M&SM).

(During the British reign in India, the Railways were privately owned by British companies incorporated in England whose shares were quoted and traded on the London Stock Exchange and M&SM was one of those companies with its headquarters in Madras. After India became free in 1947, the Government began to nationalise the Railways, taking over the foreign companies. The Southern Railway was soon formed.)

How she got her name

Thanks to her father being promoted as PA to the General Manager of M&SM, (always a Britisher in those days), the family moved to Madras and settled in Triplicane, where she went to school. Here the authorities recorded her name as Rajasulochana! And that's how she continues to be known till today.

As a young girl, she showed interest in classical dance and took her early lessons at Saraswathi Gana Nilayam in Triplicane; her first guru was Lalithamma (Bharatanatyam). Later, she learnt from K. N. Dhandayuthapani Pillai (Bharatanatyam), Acharyulu and Vempati Chinnasatyam (Kuchipudi), Krishnakumar and Vishnu Vysarkar (Kathak) and Kalamandalam Madhavan (Kathakali).

Those were the days when middle-class families did not encourage girls to dance in public, and, much against convention, Rajasulochana had her ‘arangetram' in Madras which was presided over by the famed music scholar, lawyer and judge of the Madras High Court and Supreme Court of India, T. L. Venkatarama Iyer.

Not surprisingly, movies beckoned her, and she took her bow thanks to the celebrated Kannada stage and screen maestro H.L.N. Simha. “Gunasagari” (“Sathyasodhanai” in Tamil), produced by the Kannada cult figure Gubbi Veeranna, marked her screen debut.

She entered Tamil cinema in the early 1950s with “Pennarasi”, a costume drama produced by M. A. Venu, written by A. P. Nagarajan and directed by K. Somu. It was made at the famous Central Studios, Coimbatore. Her song and dance numbers attracted enormous attention, and her fame spread far and wide.

Films that created history

Rajasulochana has acted in hundreds of films in many languages. Though it is not possible to list all of them, mention must be made of some that created history. Not many are aware that she was cast as the heroine in the cult film “Parasakthi”. But she had to opt out of the film because of her pregnancy. It was only then that Telugu actress Sriranjani Jr. was brought on board.

Rajasulochana's most successful film, according to critics and moviegoers, was “Thai Pirandhaal Vazhi Pirakkum” with S. S. Rajendran, written, produced and directed by the Tamil scholar-turned-filmmaker A. K. Velan. A raving success, the film had melodious music by K. V. Mahadevan. Many songs such as ‘Amudhum thenum etharku nee aruginil irukkayiley' became hits and are still remembered. It was remade in Telugu as “Manchi Manasuku Manchi Rojulu” with N. T. Rama Rao playing the lead. The film was directed by her husband, noted writer-director C. S. Rao.

Rajasulochana had the privilege of acting with all the superstars of South Indian cinema such as M.G. Ramachandran, Sivaji Ganesan, N. T. Rama Rao, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, Rajkumar, S.S. Rajendran, A. P. Nagarajan and M. N. Nambiar.

Her other films worth mentioning are “Gulebakavali”, “Vanangamudi” “Nallavan Vaazhvaan”, “Mangalyam”, “Rangoon Radha”, “Pennarasi”, “Kavalai Illaadha Manithan” and “Ellam Inba Mayam” (all Tamil); “Pellinati Pramanalu”, “Raja Makutam”, “Jayabheri”, “Santhinivasam”, “Mahakavi Kalidasu”, “Iddaru Mitrulu”, “Tiger Ramudu”, “Valmiki” and “Thatha Manavudu” (a super hit and the debut of ace filmmaker Dasari Narayana Rao) (all Telugu); “Bedara Kannappa”, “Valmiki” (Kannada); “Chori Chori” (Hindi, a Raj Kapoor-Nargis-AVM movie she was cast with master showman Bhagwan); and “Manasakshi” (Malayalam).

In the various language movies she starred in, she spoke the dialogues herself. This is an interesting feature, especially today, when no two heroines speak in their own voice.

Well versed in ‘Vastu Shastra', she designed her bungalow in Madipakkam. Her only regret is she did not have a college education. One of her twin daughters, Devi, who lives in Chennai, is a talented dancer. Her other daughter, sons and grandchildren live in the United States.

Recipient of many awards, Rajasulochana founded her dance school ‘Pushpanjali Nritya Kala Kendram' in 1961 in Chennai, which celebrated its Silver Jubilee in 1986.

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012