Blast From The Past Movies

A tribute to VMR's 1971 Telugu superhit 'Kalyana Mantapam'

Kalyana Mantapam -- Sobhan Babu, Ramaprabha, Nagabhushanam

Kalyana Mantapam -- Sobhan Babu, Ramaprabha, Nagabhushanam  

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The film with a woman-centric subject was a remake of the Kannada blockbuster 'Gejje Puje'

Fresh from the success of Manushulu Maaraali, when Veeramachaneni Madhusudana Rao (VMR) was contemplating to make another movie with a woman-centric subject, he was suggested with iconic Kannada filmmaker Puttanna Kanagal’s 1969 blockbuster hit, Gejje Puje. Based on a novel of the same name by eminent Kannada writer MK Indira, the movie dealt with the life of a devadasi woman who, in order to win societal respectability, defies her traditional observance. It is said that when the producer who made the suggestion backed out, bowled over by its content and the way the maverick Puttanna had handled it, VMR launched himself as the producer and acquired the Telugu remake rights of Gejje Puje. For his first production, VMR received support from Gemini Pictures (for whom he had directed the box office hit, Manushulu Maaraali) and his protégé Kanchana. He named the Telugu version — Kalyana Mantapam.

The story

Annapurna (played by Anjali Devi), a devadasi aspires to lead a normal married life. She falls in love with a musician, Chandrasekhar (Gummadi) and begets a child, Chandramukhi (Baby Sridevi /Kanchana). When Chandrasekhar fails to return to her, yielding to the pressure from her mother Ranganayaki (Annapurnamma) and to bring up her daughter, she agrees to be a paramour to a rich man (P J Sarma). Annapurna’s sole aim is to get for her daughter – a respectable married life. Meanwhile the rich man shifts Annapurna’s family to Rajahmundry. There Chandramukhi finds a guru in the progressive thinking Avadhani (Jaggaiah). She befriends his children Ramu (Master Adinarayana / Sobhan Babu) and Lalitha (Baby Brahmaji / Sandhyarani).

Fifteen years pass by. Ramu promises to marry Chandramukhi. Chandrasekhar comes to meet his childhood friend Avadhani. He also visits Annapurna that night and explains to her the circumstance that led him to marry another woman. Chandramukhi is happy to find her father. Chandrasekhar requests her not to let out the secret that he is her father. Seeing Chandramukhi with a man from his window, not knowing that he is her biological father, Ramu misconstrues her and agrees to marry Chandrasekhar’s daughter, his legal heir. A forlorn Chandramukhi accepts her fate, agrees to be initiated into the family tradition. However, soon after, she ends her life swallowing the diamond in the ring given to her by her biological father.

Cast & crew

While mostly following the screen play of Puttanna Kanagal, who bagged the national award for best screenplay for Gejje Puje, VMR brought in a few changes in the script, making additions to the charade between the innocent husband and his promiscuous wife Savithri (played by Nagabhushanam and Ramaprabha) and changed the climax which in the Kannada movie takes place at Avadhani’s house after Chandramukhi’s brief initiation into the devadasi system at the temple. Whereas in the Telugu version, as VMR himself had stated once, to create more drama he had shot the entire climax scene in the temple.

Puttanna gave prominence to visuals and subtlety in portrayals whereas VMR’s forte was the dialogue drama. And he was ably supported by his dialogue writer Bollimuntha Sivaramakrishna. Though some unit members expressed apprehensions about the dialogue — okkarne nammukunnadi saani, padimandiki ammukunnadi samsaari (delivered by the dejected Nagabhushanam, comparing Annapurna with his wife Savithri) which might offend the women audience, VMR retained it and the dialogue proved popular. Veteran cinematographer S Venkatarathnam shot the movie in colour.

A perfectionist to the core, VMR explained at length to his actors their portions with patience and would not leave them until he got the results he had envisaged. “The actors, including me, at times swallowed anger, irritation and fear as his quest for perfection tests our nerves. But once we see the result on the screen, we wondered whether it was we who had done such great acting,” wrote Kanchana in an article. She won critical as well as popular acclaim for her portrayal of Chandramukhi. Sobhan Babu made a neat presentation. Subtle performances from veterans Anjali Devi, Jaggaiah and Gummadi added strength to the movie. Pandari Bai played Avadhani’s wife Parvathi, a role that she had essayed in Gejje Puje. Veteran Kannada supporting actress, Annapurnamma reprised the role of Ranganayaki.

Popular songs from Adinarayana Rao’s baton were – Sarigama padanisa nidapa magarisa ani palikevarunte (lyricist: Devulapalli, singer: P Susheela),

Piliche vaarunte palikenu nenu and Balamunnadani, dhanamunnadani, (Dasarathi; Susheela and S P Balasubrahmanyam).

Trivia

After the release of Kalyana Mantapam, VMR toured 12 centres to gauge public opinion and held interactive sessions. He later said that it was like an orientation course for him. “Though largely they have appreciated the movie, some made critical observations too.”

Free shows were held for the students of Mary Stella College, Vijayawada on Sundays.

During the shooting in a set, a light fell on assistant director Katragadda Murari’s head. Anjali Devi rushed towards Murari, took out ice cubes from her makeup box, rolled them in her sari pallu and pressed the cubes on his head to relieve him from the pain.

Gejje Puje was also remade in Tamil (Thaaliya Salangaiya) and in Hindi (Ahista Ahista).

Produced under Madhu Movies banner, Kalyana Mantapam celebrated its 100 days function on October 14, 1971 at New Woodlands Hotel, Madras, presided over by M G Ramachandran with A Nageswara Rao as the chief guest. ‘Shavukaru’ Janaki presented the mementos to the actors and technicians.

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Printable version | Dec 10, 2019 12:28:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/a-tribute-to-vmrs-1971-telugu-superhit-kalyana-mantapam/article30124459.ece

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