starring: A,Nageswara Rao, N.T. Ramarao, Relangi Venkatramaiah, Dr. Damodaram, Nalla Rammurthy, Doraswamy, A.L. Narayana, Lakshmi Rajyam, Pushpalatha, Suryakantham, Surabhi Balasaraswathi, Bezawada Kanthamma, Master C.T.S. Prasad

When first-time producer C.V. Ranganath Das and his partner K.V. Krishna launched Samsaram under Sadhana Films banner, they might not have had the least idea that, besides turning a super hit, their film would announce the arrival of ANR as an actor par excellence of social films. Samsaram is also remembered today for introducing an actress who subsequently ruled both the Telugu and the Tamil filmdom for over two decades. Though originally chosen to play the second heroine, Savitri finally got, for some unknown reason, a cameo role in this film.

Raghu (NTR), a clerk in the Collector’s office, lives with his wife Manjula (Lakshmi Rajyam) and mother Venkamma (Bezwada Kanthamma) in the town, while his younger brother Venu (ANR) stays back in the village. Raghu’s sister Kamakshi (Surabhi Balasaraswathi) is married to Thatharam (Relangi), but leaves him and stays at Raghu’s house. Manjula silently bears the ill-treatment meted out to her by Venkamma and Kamakshi. Kamala (Pushpalatha), daughter of a rich man Sundara Rao (Dr. Damodaram), comes to Venu’s village on a college educational tour. Venu and Kamala fall in love. Meanwhile, Raghu, unable to clear the family debts, runs away from home leaving his wife and children. Venu, who gets a job in the city, learns about the misdeeds of his mother and sister, breaks open the hidden suitcase (in which the money is stashed) and clears the debts.

A few more twists and turns follow in the family drama which ultimately ends on a happy note with a reunion of all its members. Vempati Sadasivabrahmam, referred to popularly as ‘ katha ’ Sivabrahmam for his narrative skills, wrote the script along with K. Gopalaraya Sarma.

Another talented writer, Chirravuru Venkatarao, joined Sadasivabrahmam as an assistant with this movie and continued till the end. Venkatarao, a Sanskrit and Telugu pundit, hailed from Chirravuru in Guntur district and was the disciple of the then ‘ Aasthaana Kavi ’ Kasi Krishnamacharya.

Today of course he is sadly forgotten.

There is much scope for melodrama in such themes, but director L.V. Prasad, who had a distinct stamp of his own, drew the line between drama and melodrama.

In a way this film could be termed as his first independent venture; earlier he had been directing movies for well-versed film personalities like Gudavalli Ramabrahmam, Mirzapuram Raja, Krishnaveni, K.S. Prakash Rao and Nagi Reddi – Chakrapani, who were able to influence him on the choice of subject and the artistes to be selected. But here he was free and had no such external influence.

He succeeded in making an entertaining movie out of a poignant family theme, thanks to excellent technical support from his cinematographers M.A. Rahman and Bolla Subbarao, art director T.V.S. Sarma and music director Susarla Dakshinamurthy.

It was the second time in a calendar year that NTR and ANR shared the screen space and both excelled in their roles. Lakshmi Rajyam not only proved her acting prowess with aplomb but also bore the burden of completing the movie when producer Ranganath Das ran into financial trouble. Yesteryear popular actor Chalam and writer-director Pinisetty Sriramamurthy were Das’ discoveries.

He brought Lata Mangeshkar to Telugu films with Santhanam (1955) in which her song Nidurapora thammuda… still lingers in the ears of discerning music lovers. Ranganath Das (87) passed away in Hyderabad on November 28 last year.

Interestingly, Savitri, for whom it was the first film assignment, was originally selected to play the role of Kamala. Though a popular stage artiste by then, she is said to have felt nervous acting opposite ANR. nly a few months earlier, she had run with a crowd to have a glimpse of the hero of Balaraju at the film’s 100 day function at the Jaihind Talkies in Vijayawada, and here she was cast opposite him!

Perhaps this thought made her nervous and L.V. Prasad had no option but to replace her with the Marathi stage actress Pushpalatha, who was also a contender for the role. Savitri was relegated to play one of her college-going friends. Savitri had only one dialogue to say, looking at ANR, “ Nuvvu achu hero Nageswara Rao la vunnave ,” and had a part in the teasing song, ‘taku taku taku taku tamakula bandi’ (Ghantasala and Jikki), picturised on ANR, Pushpalatha and others.

The irony was that in later years while Pushpalatha was relegated to playing comedians’ sidekick (Pelli chesi choodu and Chandraharam ), Savitri rose to become the diva of South Indian cinema.

Susarla Dakshminamurthy’s melodious tunes — Kala nijamayega… (Jikki) and Samsaram samsaram prema sudhapooram… (Ghantasala) helped Samsaram receive repeat audiences and celebrate a silver jubilee run.

m.l. narasimham