Telugu movies played with the language, the idiom to tell a story within a successful formula.
The first Telugu mookie, Bhishma Pratignya, was directed by R. S. Prakash, son of Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu in 1922 and Bhakta Markandeya in 1926 by C. Pullaiah but Bhakta Prahlada released in 1931 cornered the glory as the first Telugu film.
Telugu film survived all these years relying heavily on success formula. However, there was no one formula for it. Starcast and other big names - in direction, music etc - only were value additions to the story. Hits, super-hits, mega-hits and all time greats, we have had many. All the stories had their base in the social ethos and the value system of Telugus. The themes celebrated the contemporary times and were moored in the social values. The masses could easily identify themselves with the heroes and even adored villains. In particular, the idiom mattered. As a language, Telugu, has no dearth of this form of expression which often possess a meaning other than its grammatical or a logical one. Addamemira Shishya... Antha Alamalame kada... Do they ring a bell? Be it a variation of the inter-personal relations, values of joint family system, plight of the aged and the bond of friendship or simple plain humour, the hits tell us a simple truth - the audience has to feel at home with the screenplay. When the hero followed the villain in Paathala Bhairavi, the audience understood the decisive turn to the plot in the backdrop of the song `Prema Kosamai... '. When Nagaraju asked the king to send `Ranivasam Pallaki' to pick up Malleswari, the viewers were sure of the twist it would give to the love story later. In both the cases they were agitated that the hero could do so. Through the central characters we recalled the myriad ways of destiny. Be it in the '40s, '50s or even in these times of a Samarasimha Reddy or a Pokiri we cannot miss the contemporaeinity aspect. The story line might have become a little violent. Even a remake like Chandramukhi, based on para-psychology, endeared itself to the people because of the dramatic element. Let it be a Mala Pilla or a Balakrishna (Sagara Sangamam) or a Shankara Sastri (Shankara Bharanam), the life of the deprived, the depressed and the deserving got due representation playing a crucial role in editing the film's way to box-office. It may be about exploitation or about tribulations or insufficiencies (a la Devadas) - Telugu audience never failed the producers.The plight of masses as in folklore Bandi Potu, the rebellious nature of the youth (Aakali Rajyam), where emotions come into direct conflict with social taboos (Sagara Sangamam); the screenplay became the toast. People loved heavy moments of Rojulu Maraayi as also the lighter unidentifiable aspects of Mosagalluku Mosagadu because of the technique. An emotional drama like Badi Panthulu showed how to tap the heart of the audience for success through a gripping story line, though melodramatic at times. So what began with Bhakta Prahlada in 1931, continued with a folklore called Keelu Gurram (1949) developed a social like Pelli Chesi Chudu (1952) or a Chandi Rani (1953) or a comedy like Chakrapani (1954) or a Thodi Kodallu which zeroed on the joint family values, the screenplay's socio-cultural mooring only gained in strength. If filmmakers don't understand that unless their story and screenplay stayed true to life, they don't succeed then don't blame the audience. Suvarna Sundari, Chenchu Lakshmi, Gundamma Katha, Jagadeka Veerudu, Takkari Donga Chakkani Chukka, Sattekalapu Satteiah...a `Manchi coffee lanti cinema - Anand' ... the originality of the screenplay matters.Yes, Telugu cinema lives - only when the reel life breathes real life!