Art

LAVA KUSA (1963)

Lava Kusa.  

The two masters of Telugu cinema, besides having a similar name, also shared the distinction of tasting huge success by remaking their earlier box office hits. While Poludasu Pullaiah remade his 1939 big hit, Sri Venkateswara Mahatmyam in 1960, his contemporary Chithajallu Pullaiah came up in 1963, with the remake of his 1934 blockbuster hit, Lava Kusa. Interestingly both the remakes starred N.T. Ramarao in the lead.

Ever since he saw NTR and Anjali Devi as Rama and Sita in the song Murisenu lokamu kanuma… in his earlier production Charanadasi (1958),producer A. Sankara Reddy wished to make a movie on the epic Ramayana with NTR and Anjali playing the divine couple. At that time, C. Pullaiah was also toying with the idea of remaking Lava Kusa and he gladly accepted to direct it for Sankara Reddy’s Lalitha Sivajyothi Films. Vempati Sadasivabrahmam who wrote for Charanadasi was retained to write the script for C. Pullaiah’s remake version.

The Story

The crowning ceremony of Lord Rama (played by NTR) is celebrated on a grand scale with Sita (Anjali Devi) by his side and with Lakshmana (Kantharao), Bharatha (Sathyanarayana), Satrughna (Sobhan Babu) and Anjaneya (Arja Janardhana Rao) present, besides sages and citizens. A sarcastic comment by a citizen Veeranna (Relangi) makes Rama banish Sita to the forest. She takes asylum at Valmiki’s (Nagaiah) ashram where she gives birth to twins Kusa (Master Subrahmanyam) and Lava (Master Nagaraju). Years pass by. The twins challenge Rama during the course of his Aswamedha yaga. Sita averts a war between her sons and husband and unites them before ending her avatar.

Cast & Crew

While writing the script and dialogue, Sadasivabrahmam largely followed the 1934 version’s screenplay by Vallabhajosyula Ramanamurthy and the dialogues of Balijepalli Lakshmikantha kavi, but made them simpler and luscious.

Sankara Reddy had the desire to make the film in colour. As a result the costs mounted. The movie was launched in 1958 and when one third of it was complete, it got stuck for want of funds. After a lull of about five years, Sundarlal Nahata came forward to fund in lieu of its distribution rights. B. Nagi Reddi also chipped in by providing studio facilities. By then, C. Pullaiah had fallen sick and Sankara Reddy approached B.N. Reddi to complete the project. B.N. advised him to take the services of Pullaiah’s son C.S. Rao. Rao was at first reluctant as he felt that his father had completed the work on most of the vital scenes in the Valmiki ashram and nothing more dramatic was left for him to film. But Pullaiah convinced him that the emotional scenes in Rama’s palace were of equal importance to the story. Rao proved that he was a chip of the old block and shot the remaining portions with equal panache. Kudos to art director T.V.S. Sarma for his opulent and colourful sets and P.L. Rai and his assistant Viswanath Rai for their excellent cinematography, supported by trick photography wizard Ravikant Nagaich.

Just two years earlier, NTR had won the audience hearts as Ravana in Sita Rama Kalyanam and with Lava Kusa he was literally worshipped by many as Lord Rama with his picture from the film adorning their puja room. Like Sr. Sriranjani who played Sita in the 1934 film, Anjali Devi too was held in reverence and was offered harati by womenfolk wherever she went. Master Nagaraju, a popular child actor, was cast as Lava. Master Subrahmanyam from Kakinada was chosen to play Kusa, after watching his performance in the play Lava Kusa. He was nine years old then and by the time the movie was released he was 14. The result, in some scenes the boys looked short and in some scenes tall. However the audience did not mind the jumps as they were immersed in their extraordinary performance.

Ghantasala composed the music and the popular songs were – Ye nimushaniki yemi jaruguno…(Kosaraju; Ghantasala), Ramakathanu vinarayya…, Vinudu vinudu Ramayana gaatha… and Sri Ramuni charithamunu thelipedamamma… (Samudrala; Leela, Susheela). There is an interesting episode behind the other hit number – Ollanori mama nee pillanee… (Sadasivabrahmam; Ghantasala, Jikki, Raghavulu, Rani). The song was included for want of the required length for the movie. Since Relangi and Girija were busy working on three shifts per day, the shooting for this song was held after midnight and completed by dawn. When Sankara Reddy offered extra remuneration, Relangi and Girija refused, saying that acting in such an epic itself was an honour.

Trivia

When Pullaiah’s associate G.V. R. Seshagiri Rao pointed to him that it might look awkward for a pregnant Sita to run towards Valmiki, the scene was reshot the next day.

When none of the crowns made for him suited, NTR used the one he had worn for Rama’s character in a song in Charanadasi. It just cost Rs.140 then.

Sankara Reddy also produced Lava Kusa in Tamil retaining NTR, Anjali Devi, Nagaiah, Kannamba, Sandhya and S. Varalakshmi and replacing Tamil actors for the other characters. The roles of Lava and Kusa were played by Baby Uma and Master Murali.

Released on March 29, 1963, Lavakusa, the first full length colour film in Telugu, broke all previous box office records. It won the silver medal as the best Telugu film at the National Film Awards. Its Tamil version, released on April 19, 1963 was also a massive hit. The dubbed Hindi version of Lavakusa too fared well.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 5:32:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/LAVA-KUSA-1963/article17035779.ece

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