Manga Raju's collection of shields captures better part of the nearly 75 years of Telugu cinema K.N. MURALI SANKAR tells us moreDistributors played a crucial role in film production those days Viswanath The silver miniature ship encased in a glass box promptly catches attention as one steps into the air-conditioned room that is wooden panelled from end to end. Engraved on the box are the words: `Presented to G.K. Manga Raju of Poorna Pictures, Distributor of Balaraju on 04-06-1948.'The unmistakable filmi ambience of the room in the Urvasi Theatre Complex is striking. To paraphrase the punch line of a popular ad, we will only eat films, drink films and smell films as long as we are present in the room.Catching our attention next is a huge silver cup placed next to the miniature ship. It dates back to 1946-47 and is presented to the same distributor by Sri Renuka Films to mark the success of Thyagayya, the film made on the life of saint composer Thyagaraja Swami, whose character was made immortal by Chitturu Nagayya with his portrayal.
Impressive collectionThese two rare shields are just a few of the many such historic pieces that make up the spectacular collection of mementoes by Poorna Pictures Private Limited. The collection is a one-stop place for movie buffs to reminisce the golden era of Telugu cinema. "I feel proud of this collection, which tells us the history of a better part of the 75 years of Telugu cinema," says Grandhi Viswanath, 57-year-old proprietor of the distribution firm and the theatre complex, and also president of the Andhra Pradesh Film Chamber of Commerce. He takes pride in continuing the legacy of film distribution launched by his grandfather Manga Raju in 1932. For, Poorna Pictures was an integral part of the film industry in its initial years, and it only made its position more secure by expanding its area of operation to film production and exhibition. "Relations between producers, distributors and exhibitors were so cordial in the 40s and 50s that they used to exchange mementoes to one another on occasions like the silver jubilee and golden jubilee of films," he recalls, possessively holding the shield presented by the Anjali Pictures to his grandfather in 1955 to mark the success of the film Anaarkali.Though the entire film industry was located in what was Madras then, producers of Telugu movies used to celebrate the success of their films in the Telugu land. Viswanath fondly recalls Akkineni Nageswara Rao's stay at his grandfather's house when the actor came to the city to attend the silver jubilee celebrations of Balaraju in 1948. The function was held at Jaihind Talkies, for which, incidentally, Balaraju, was the opening film.
Nostalgic momentsSo was the 100-day function of NTR-starrer Sobha, which was held in the city on August 10, 1958. "I still vividly remember how the venue was shifted to S.K.P.V. Hindu High School at the eleventh hour after a sudden downpour caught the organisers unawares. NTR and Anjali Devi came here straight from Madras," he recollects. The success of NTR-starrer Nippulaanti Manishi and Krishna-starrer Pandanti Kaapuram were also celebrated in the city in 1974. "Distributors played a crucial role in film production those days. My father Kama Raju used to participate in the story discussions before cinemas were made. Even producers used to give due respect to the opinions of distributors," he says, citing Tayaramma-Bangarayya (1979) as an example of this trend. A set of producers and directors maintained their strong association with Poorna Pictures. L.V. Prasad, Vithalacharya, Jandhyala and Dasari Narayana Rao were a few of those, who preferred to release their films through this distribution company. "The mementoes of yesteryears are there forever. They will tell the evolution of Telugu cinema to the future generations," he signs off.