If you want to speak to V.B. Rajendra Prasad, you will seldom find him at his home. For the past few years he has made Film Nagar Temple his home; he has a small modest office room and pulls out a huge bunch of black and white photographs and reminisces the good old days.

“I haven’t made money but gathered a lot of good will and affection from the industry folks and the peace I derive from sitting here at the temple keeps me going. I get some wonderful vibrations here. The biggest satisfaction is making a film for the workers and distributing the money to them; some have built homes, got their daughters or son married, some have bought cars. The biggest dissatisfaction is not making a good movie for my son Jagapati Babu,” he avers. He adds, “For every film launch me going to the marwari kottu , taking a loan and breaking a coconut, became a custom. Nothing changed till my last movie. I am a spendthrift.”

Annapurna (1959)

Jaggaiah, Jamuna

Jagapati Art Pictures

This was my first film and I chose to do it with Jaggaiah who’s also my relative. The song Gali Vana Kuripinche Vana Devudu was a hit, it made everyone cry. I have been suffering from asthma throughout and during the shoot and one day I slept on the sofa in a corner. After the shoot everyone locked the studio and left. They perhaps thought I must have gone home. I banged the door and after a long time came out and walked four hours to reach home.

Aradhana (1962)

ANR, Savitri

Jagapati Art Pictures

Jaggaiah was a permanent artiste in my films; out of the 24 films from my production house he worked in 18. Not because he was related to me, but he was important to all those subjects. We bought rights of Aradhana , a Bengali film that had Uttam Kumar and Sagarika as the lead pair. ANR plays a blind man in the film.

Some well-wishers raised a pertinent doubt and said that ANR who is known as a romantic hero would be blind and on bed throughout the film and people might not accept it. But Na hrudayam lo nidurinche cheli became so popular, everything fell in place. The film became a super hit.

Anthasthulu (1964)

ANR, Bhanumati, Krishnakumari

Jagapati Art Pictures

We booked Jamuna for the role of ANR’s sister and she asked me if the film would work because all these years she had been ANR’s romantic interest. She was genuinely concerned about her career and she had a point. So I approached Bhanumati. She liked the subject and agreed to do the film immediately. I booked a room in Ritz and she didn’t want to waste money and offered to stay at Sarathi Studios. That place had an open area and snakes.

The next mornings she woke up with her nails bitten by rats. I decided to cancel the shoot, I rushed there to see Bhanumati applying iodine casually on the nails and asking me when we would start work. The song was Dhulapara Bulloda . She said, “If you cancel shoot for small things how will I be a Bhanumati… Dhulipeddham padhandi, ” she said.

Dasara Bullodu (1971)

ANR, Vanisri

Jagapati Art Pictures

V. Madhusudan Rao directed six films for us and all were hits. He was busy at one time and so was Adurthi Subba Rao so I was compelled to direct this one. I had no idea about direction, had the script ready, ANR’s dates were ready. In fact ANR gave me a lot of confidence. We put up 50 huts and arranged bathrooms in Amalapuram fields. The shooting went on for ten days but when the negative went to the lab it came out blank. Hary Flex camera’s shutter gets closed after it runs out. While we load it we should keep the shutter open. The technician forgot that. We had to shoot again and all the artistes were so magnanimous, they adjusted the dates for me. That was my first film as a director and it was a super hit. People loved all the songs from the film.

Manchi Manushulu (1976)

Shoban Babu, Manjula

Jagapati Art Pictures

Our lead pair worked in zero degree temperature in Kashmir. It was a big hit and had a box office run of 100 in 25 centres. For the first time I had to change the hero; until then ANR had been a permanent hero for all our movies. This time he had to leave for the US for a heart surgery and suggested I complete the film with someone else. This one was a remake of Aa Gale Lag Ja . The song Hari Lo Ranga Hari became very popular.

As told to y. sunita chowdhary

(This fortnightly column features the five best works as shared by the maestros from the industry)

I rushed there to see Bhanumati applying iodine casually on the nails and asking me when we would start work