Y.V. Rao, Kocharlakota Sathyanarayana, Kanchanamala, Bezawada Rajarathnam, Balijepalli Lakshmikantham, Kakinada Rajarathnam, Bangalore Rangaswamy, Vidwan Srinivasa Iyengar, Rallapalli Natesaiah

When a path-breaking movie runs successfully, its ingredients are liberally picked up by other filmmakers. That way,Malli Pelliand its director Y.V. Rao can be called trendsetters. The well-made box office hit deals with a social issue, widow remarriage, a taboo in those days. Rao, who wrote the story and scenario besides producing the film under Sri Jagadish Films banner, also exposed fake godmen, cautioning people not to fall prey to them.

The story is set in a small town. Lawyer Jagannatha Rao Panthulu (played by Balijepalli Lakshmikantham), fearing that Sarada Act (which prohibits child marriage) may come into force, gets his six-year-old daughter Lalitha (Kanchanamala) married to an elderly person, who dies and she becomes a child widow. Rao is against any social reforms and wields considerable influence in the area. He hosts a Swamiji, Kaliyugananda. People throng to his house to have the Swamiji's darshan.

Sundar Rao (Y.V. Rao), an unemployed graduate, stays with his sister Kamala (Bezawada Rajarathnam) in the opposite house. Kamala and Lalitha become friends. Soon love blossoms between Lalitha and Sundar Rao, who decides to marry her. Jagannatha Rao's nephew Venkata Rao (Kocharlakota Sathyanarayana) and Kamala are also in love.

One day, when Kamala comes to his house, Jagannatha Rao attempts to molest her. Sundar Rao thrashes Jagannatha Rao and goes to jail. A rumour spreads that Lalitha is pregnant. She goes to Sundar Rao and tries to convince him about her innocence, but when her plea turns futile she decides to end her life. The next day Sundar Rao is released from prison. He finds Lalitha lying on the roadside. She is taken to a hospital, where the doctor examines her and says she is not pregnant but is suffering from a stomach ailment. Sundar Rao repents. Ultimately, Jagannatha Rao realises his folly. He performs the marriages of Lalitha with Sundar Rao and Venkata Rao with Kamala.

Handsome and intelligent Yaragudipati Varada Rao hailed from a rich, traditional family of Nellore. While at school, he was attracted towards the theatre. He went to Bombay and Kolhapur and acted in a couple of silent films. A pioneer of silent films in the South, R.S. Prakash brought him to Madras and Y.V. Rao acted in some of the silent films produced by Star of the East Film Co. (Bhishma Prathigjna-1921,Gajendra MokshamandUsha Swapna-1924,Garuda Garvabhangam-1929). He also acted in and directedSarangadhara(1930),Pandava NirvanaandPandava Agnathavasam(1931) for General Pictures Corporation besides directingHarimayastarring Gubbi Veeranna and B. Jayamma. Interestingly, Y.V. Rao directed the first Kannada TalkieSati Sulochana(1934).

Y. V. Rao also had the distinction of directing the super hit Tamil talkie,Chinthamaniand his role of Bhavani Shankar in the movie won him kudos. When he was directing a romantic Tamil film,Lavangi, and also playing the lead role in it, he fell in love with his heroine, then an upcoming actress, Rukmini. But their marriage did not last long. After a few years they got separated (yesteryear heroine Lakshmi is their daughter) and Rukmini went on to live with another charismatic actor of the time, Ch. Narayana Rao.

Y.V. Rao, who made his foray into Telugu films withMalli Pelli, roped in Balijepalli Lakshmikantha Kavi to pen the dialogue and lyrics. Ogirala Ramachandra Rao made his debut as a music director and tuned such popular numbers asAnandamega Vaanchaneeyamu,Cheli kumkumame Pavanamu,Koyilaro yedi nee premageethi,Gopalude ma Gopalude…andNaa Sundara Suruchira Rupa..which was hailed as the first male playback song of Telugu cinema. It was a duet shot on Kanchanamala and Y.V. Rao. Since the latter could not sing, it was Ogirala who rendered the song. But on the gramophone record one finds only the name of the actor as was the practice in those days. Also, Ogirala was the first music director to use dialogue in a song. In ‘Anandamega Vaanchaneeyamu,' filmed on Kanchanamala and Bezawada Rajarathnam, while Kanchanamala sings her lines, Rajarathnam replies in rhythmic dialogue. The lyric and the dialogue blended beautifully.

What madeMalli Pellisuch a big hit was Y.V. Rao's taut screenplay besides its music and the performances of the lead actors. Rao avoided melodrama and made it an entertainer. The young audience loved the film and some of them shouted while the show was on, “Kanchanamala antha andhamga vunte nenu kooda widow ni pellichesukuntanu.” That said it.

m. l. narasimham