cast Dr. G.V. Subbarao, A. Nageswara Rao, T. Venkateswarlu, M. Lingamurthy, D.S. Sadasiva Rao, Dr. G.V. Sitapathi Rao, P. Kannamba, S.Varalakshmi and P. Chandrakala

Pioneer film-maker Gudavalli Ramabrahmam had a penchant for contemporary subjects. He made the path-breaking social, Malapilla (1938) at a time when the Travancore Maharaja declared open the temple to Harijans. And when there was a demand for the abolition of the zamindari system, he made his Rythubidda . Soon after Malapilla , Gudavalli wished to direct Palnati Yuddham for which he and writer Tripuraneni Gopichand had made a lot of ground work and published a series of articles in the magazine ‘Prajamithra' on the historic battle of the 12th century. The team went to Palnadu to have first-hand knowledge about the facts and also to study the locations. Even an advertisement was given in Andhra Patrika daily for newcomers to act in the film and the epic story was recorded in Burrakatha form. But Gudavalli had to hold the project in abeyance for want of resources.

After quitting the Saradhi banner, in 1946, he founded Sri Sarada Productions, named after his wife, Saradamba. He then revived his pet project. Though he and lyricist Samudrala were colleagues at ‘ Prajamithra,' they had never worked together in films till then. He signed Samudrala to write the lyrics and dialogue for Palnati Yuddham , and engaged Galipenchala Narasimharao to compose the music. At the Newtone Studios, Gudavalli created opulent sets for the film.

Casting was no difficult task for the ace film-maker. As Gudavalli went on dictating the script shot by shot to assistant director Inturi Venkateswara Rao, the names of who was to play which role appeared one by one. Most of them were famed names on stage and in films. Veteran actor Govindaraju(la) Venkata Subbarao was chosen for the role of Brahmanaidu, matching the versatile P. Kannamba, who was to play Gamalapati (Nayakuralu) Nagamma, which she did with verve. ANR as Balachandrudu profiled with excellence the youthful excitement, temper and boyish zeal, besides bringing alive the romantic scenes with S. Varalakshmi, who played his wife Manchala. Whenever his father Brahmanaidu subdues him, he says – “ meeru yeppudoo inthe naannaa… ” and this dialogue became a catch word with the youth in those days.

King Anugu of Palnadu has three sons – Nalagama Raju (played by Theegela Venkateswarlu), Narasinga Raju (Mudigonda Lingamurthy) and Malideva Raju (D.S. Sadasiva Rao) from his three wives. Before his death, he anoints Nalagama Raju the king and leaves him to the care of his minister Brahmanaidu. During Anugu's rule a wealthy and powerful woman Nagamma enters the kingdom. Brahmanna is a Vaishnavite, while Nagamma is a staunch Saivite. Progressive-minded Brahmanna allows Harijan entry into temples and appoints a Harijan, Kannamadasu (V. Koteswara Rao) as the army commander. This irks the upper caste people and also the prince Narasinga Raju, who seeks the help of Nagamma.

In the King's court, Nagamma accuses Brahmanaidu of fomenting trouble. This leads to Malideva demanding a division of the kingdom. Much against the wish of Nagamma, Nalagama divides the kingdom, and Macherla is given to Malideva, who rules it with Brahmanaidu as his adviser. Nagamma holds control over Gurajala and its ruler Nalagama. She hatches a conspiracy to unite the country and make Narasinga Raju as the king. As part of it, Malideva is invited for kodi pandelu (cock fight), the traditional competition held during Sankranthi. The loser has to leave the kingdom and live incognito for seven years. She cheats to win, but after the seven-year exile, refuses to hand over the kingdom to Malideva. Not only that, she arranges to kill the emissary Alaraju (Koneru Kutumbarao), son-in-law of Nalagama. This results in war and the annihilation of almost the entire clan. In the war field, Nagamma realises her mistake and seeks pardon from Brahmanna. The end dialogue is relevant even to the present-day rulers – “ prajakshemame aadarsamanukunnappudu prabhuthvam yevaru chesina okkate .”

There is even an item song in the film - Nede Nijamura.., nee repu raadura ..(sung by Sundaramma), shot on T. Rajabala, when she entertains Alaraju while giving him the poison-mixed drink. ANR had rendered two songs— Oho Charuseela…Ohoho Veerabala ' with S. Varalakshmi and Rathiraja sundara ranaranga dheera…Nagamma thalagotti . Besides a solo number, Manava naijambu Maanlenaithi , ANR has also rendered the devotional Choothamurarayya Chennayyanu.. along with Ghantasala. S. Varalakhmi's soulful rendition, Chandamama O Chandamama …okkate oka maata… and Ee kuhu rathri naa raju vencheyuna… and Kannamba's Thana panthamu naathona… won the music lovers' hearts.

Gudavalli's pet project also happened to be his swan song. After a few days shoot, he fell ill but continued with the shoot and completed his protégé S. Varalakshmi's portions before he had a paralytic attack. L.V. Prasad stepped in to complete the movie with Katuri Jaganmohan as his associate. With technical gloss and smooth narration, Prasad's brilliance came to the fore and the audience flocked to see the film. The tragedy was that Gudavalli could not see the fruition of his dream project. He is remembered not only as a leader of the industry (founder–Vice-President of South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce (1939) and also its President for two terms, 1943-44 and 1945-46), but also as the pioneer filmmaker, who nurtured many a later day film greats.

m. l. narasimham