starring N.T. Ramarao, Y. Jogarao, S.V. Rangarao, Doraswamy, Dr. Sivaramakrishniah, Mahankali Venkaiah, Balakrishna, Padmanabham, Ch. Kutumbarao, G. Varalakshmi, Savitri, Pushpalatha, T.N. Meenakshi, Suryakantham, Gangarathnam, Master Kundu (Gade Ramakrishnarao), Master Kanda Mohan, Baby Girija

After turning him into a superstar with their earlier movie, Pathalabhairavi , one expected Vijaya Production bosses Nagi Reddi and Chakrapani to make use of N.T. Ramarao’s charisma in their next film. Any other film-maker would have done that. But not this duo, because for them story was supreme. In Pelli Chesi Choodu the hero appears almost an hour after the movie’s run! It was Chakrapani’s script (story and dialogue) and director L.V. Prasad’s narrative ability that made the audience sit and enjoy every frame of that first hour too. As NTR stepped in, the movie progressed at an even faster pace and with more entertainment.

But it was not all smooth-going. During the fag end of the shooting schedule, problems cropped up with G. Varalakshmi, and Chakrapani decided to replace her with Anjali Devi and reshoot the entire movie. However, Anjali Devi’s magnanimity saved the situation. And a silver jubilee hit was added to Varalakshmi’s list of movies.

Pelli Chesi Choodu is a text-book for filmmakers on how to make a clean and wholesome entertainer on a burning issue without resorting to slogan-mongering, and yet driving home the point in a subtle manner. Nowhere does the writer tell the audience not to take dowry. It is the story that indirectly conveys the ill-effects of the dowry system.

Rathamma (T.N. Meenakshi) lives in a village with her school teacher son Raju (Yendamuri Jogarao), who is a theatre enthusiast, and daughter Ammadu (G. Varalakshmi). Raju goes to the house of the Panchayat Board President Dhoopati Viyyanna (S.V. Rangarao) to seek his help in finding a groom for his sister. But he ends up marrying Viyyanna’s daughter Savitri (played by Savitri). This angers Rathamma’s brother Govindaiah (Doraswamy) and his wife Chukkamma (Suryakantham), who want their daughter Chitti (Pushpalatha) to marry Raju. But Chitti is in love with her maternal cousin Bheemudu (Mahankali Venkaiah). Viyyanna keeps his promise and gets Ammadu married to Venkataramana (NTR), son of Venkatapathy (Dr. Sivaramakrishnaiah), a lawyer. When the agreed dowry is not paid, Venkatapathy drags his son from the marriage hall. But the son, without his father’s knowledge, lives with Ammadu in Madras. When his father visits him, the son acts as if he has lost mental balance and Ammadu, in the guise of a nurse, and Raju as the doctor treat him. As the drama unfolds, Venkatapathy comes to know of the truth, relents and the movie ends on a happy note.

Every artiste in the movie deserved full marks for excellent performance. NTR showcased yet another aspect of his acting talent, by providing wholesome comedy. So did G. Varalakshmi. Jogarao brought in traces of Chaplin in his portrayal. Savitri, the second heroine, put in a restrained performance to prove that she was the future star. S.V. Rangarao was at his best as the progressive panchayat president. The funny facial expressions that he showed such as winking the eyes and raising his eyebrows brought about ripples of laughter from the audience. All the child artistes who acted in this movie were members of Radio Annayya’s (Nyapathi Raghavarao) ‘Balanandam’ troupe.

There was an interesting anecdote worth recalling. During the stage play being enacted by children, a small boy carried his baby chair, ran towards the front row and sat on it. Director Prasad observed this and liked the way the boy did it. He incorporated the sequence in those scenes. The boy was none other than B. Venkatarama Reddi, the fourth son of B. Nagi Reddi. In later years, the same Venkatarama Reddi produced such hits as Bhairavadweepam and continues to make films under Vijaya banner in Tamil.

Pelli Chesi Choodu was a musical hit. Except the two songs, Brahmayya O Brahmayya and Amma Noppule… written by Vutukuri Satyanarayana, the rest were all penned by Pingali Nagendrarao. Interestingly, two of the hit songs – Manasa Nenevaro Neeku Thelusa… and Yedukondalavada Venkataramana… were brought out as gramophone records in two voices – Jikki and P. Leela. Music director Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao first recorded these songs with Jikki, but was not satisfied. So, subsequently, he got them rendered by Leela and they were used in the movie.

Technically a very well-made movie (cinematography Marcus Bartley, art: Gokhale and Kaladhar, audiography: A. Krishnan, editing: C.P. Jambulingam and M.S. Money), its success made even B. Nagi Reddi, who till then had never spoken at public functions, to address the audience at the 100-day celebrations at Durga Kalamandiram, Vijayawada.

The film’s lead actors, NTR and G. Varalakshmi, did not attend the celebrations. During the last phase of the movie’s shooting, a misunderstanding had cropped up between the two. A strict disciplinarian, Chakrapani never tolerated indiscipline. Unable to bear the tantrums of G. Varalakshmi, he decided to drop her, scrap the near-completed movie and reshoot it with Anjali Devi. Any other artiste would have grabbed the offer from such a big banner, but Anjali Devi was magnanimous enough to bring about a compromise by talking to G. Varalakshmi and also to Chakrapani and Prasad. The shoot resumed. Again, when Varalakshmi refused to touch NTR’s feet in the scene when he is dragged from the marriage hall by his father, director Prasad asked Bartley’s handsome-looking second assistant cameraman, B.L.N. Prasad, to wear a dhoti and stand before Varalakshmi. The feet we see in that scene are not NTR’s, but those of Nagi Reddi’s eldest son B.L.N. Prasad. The movie was simultaneously made in Tamil with the same actors except for one replacement. C.V.V. Panthulu played NTR’s father in the Tamil version. Kalyanam Panni Paar also celebrated 100- day run in many centres and in 1965 Vijaya Productions remade it in Kannada as Maduve Maadi Nodu with Rajkumar and Leelavathy in the lead, directed by Hunusur Krishnamurthy. It was also a super hit. However, when L.V. Prasad remade it in Hindi as Shaadi Ke Baad (1972) with Jeethendra, Rakhi and Shaturghan Sinha, the talented trio could not recreate the magic of NTR. G. Varalakshmi and S.V. Rangarao.

m.l. narasimham