Ramoji Film City (RFC) with its enchanting locales seems to be the ultimate destination for producers of mythological movies as well. Allani Sridhar who had started his career with the revolutionary Komaram Bheem is now into devotional subjects. His latest directorial venture in this genre, Chilukuri Balaji is in progress at RFC where he had erected a durbar set and a pandal (‘ pandhiri ’) to shoot a few key portions. Recently, he had shot a pivotal scene on the film’s protagonist Saikumar and S.P. Balasubrahmanyam in this pandhiri .
Madhava Reddy (Saikumar), popular among the villagers as Madhavudu, is a philanthropist whose soul mission is to serve mankind and with never a thought for any spiritual journey.
One day he realises that with his service to mankind, he was only serving God. That realisation came to him when Lord Balaji himself descended from the seven hills and came to Chilukuru to bless him. The Lord stayed back in the form of an idol and Madhavudu constructed a temporary ‘pandhiri’ temple to venerate the Lord. One day, he sees Tirumala Das (S.P. Balasubrahmanyam) passing by and requests him to sing in praise of Lord Venkateswara. But Das had vowed to sing only in the presence of Balaji of Tirumala, so he refuses to sing at Chilukuru and is about to leave. Then the unexpected happens — the curtain placed in front of the Lord slides open and the moment Tirumala Das sees the idol, as if in a trance, he starts singing – Digi vachina O Tirumalesa… Chilukuru gudiloki maa Srinivasa …
Cinematographer Srinivas Kunapureddy cranked this scene and the song plays on the nagra. Interestingly it was SPB who had recorded the song earlier and is now singing it in full folk costume facing the camera! Saikumar essays controlled emotion when pleading with Das to sing. The director seems pleased with his choice of cast.
Sridhar claims that he did a thorough research with valuable inputs from the chief priest, Soundararajan of the famed temple at Chilukuru and the family members of the ‘dharmakarthas’, before penning the story.
“There are historical aspects too besides the mythology element. The film traces the history of the temple like how and why Lord Balaji descended on this holy place and the hurdles that Madhavudu had to face in the form of the antagonist (played by Sameer) and the king Taneesha’s (Suman) representative (Vijaya Rangaraju) putting him to various tests. These are incidents that sustain viewers’ interest. Bhanusri Mehra plays the protagonist’s devout wife. Sunil Sarma is cast as Lord Balaji while Vijayachander appears as his human form, a Vaishnavite,” he says.
The six songs and the slokas were written by Jonnavithula Ramalingeswara Rao, Suddala Ashok Teja and Veerendra Kaparthi. “Ajay Shanti’s screenplay needs special mention,” says Allani Sridhar. He hopes that since Chilukuru Balaji is popular among the youth and is also known as ‘Visa’ Balaji and ‘Exams’ Balaji, they can connect well with the movie which is to hit the marquee in November.
m. l. narasimham
Cast:Saikumar, S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, Suman, Bhanusri Mehra
Banner:ETV & Film Media Productions (P) Ltd.