Down Memory Lane Movies

‘Maa Bhoomi’ memories: Telugu actor Saichand completes 40 years in the industry



One of the first progressive outings in Telugu, the 1979 film also introduced Saichand to the industry

He made a mark with his debut starrer, Maa Bhoomi a movie that defied conventional norms till then existent in Telugu cinema and, with its huge box office success paved the way for the genre of progressive movies. After a successful stint in that genre for close to 15 years, Tripuraneni Saichand opted out voluntarily from facing the arc lights to wield the megaphone for short films tracing the history of Telugu cinema. Twenty five years hence he had returned to acting with a pivotal role in Fida and played a significant cameo in Syra Narasimha Reddy, with his signature hallmark — the son of the soil.

It is celebration time for Saichand as he completes 40 years of acting this March 23. Mention this to him, he says in all humility, “No sir... Maa Bhoomi completes 40 years of its release.” Saichand reminisce his experiences during the making of Maa Bhoomi.

“G Ravindranath and B Narasinga Rao founded Chaitanya Chitra International and at the suggestion of Mrinal Sen, signed Goutam Ghosh to direct Maa Bhoomi, based on Krishan Chander’s Urdu novel Jab Khet Jage (translated into Telugu as Jaithra Yathra). Ravindranath’s brother Narayana Rao who had played the lead in Oka Oori Katha was their natural choice for the protagonist’s role.

A miracle

“Quite unexpectedly one day B Narasinga Rao sent word for me to come and meet him at their office. It was also my first meeting with Goutam Ghosh. While I was talking to Narsinga Rao, he kept on observing me from various angles. Then he and Narsinga Rao held discussions in another room. After a while, Goutam Ghosh asked me to remove my shirt. I was aghast and looked at Narsinga Rao. He smiled and said, “do as he said, I will tell you the reason later.” Still looking baffled, I removed my shirt, wondering why. Goutam Ghosh and Narsinga Rao were closeted once again. Emerged after a few minutes Ghosh smiled and said, ‘you are my hero.” I couldn’t understand a wee bit what he was saying. Then Narsinga Rao explained to me that Narayana Rao who had gone to Karlovy Vary Film Festival as part of Oka Oori Katha unit lost his passport and his return was delayed. Since they cannot afford to postpone the shooting, they were on the lookout for another actor and decided on me. I was in a dilemma. I just turned 22. I was unsure whether I can pull off such a strong character. Narsinga Rao assured me, ‘”believe in yourself, the rest we will take care.” It all happened like a miracle.

The first shot

“Since the story is set in 1940s, we needed a remote village without electric poles. Mangalaparthi in Medak district was chosen as the location. Goutam Ghosh asked me whether I smoke cigarettes. When I replied in the negative, he told me to learn to smoke beedi as the character requires it but also advised me not to make it a habit.

The first shot taken on me was as I walk with the heroine (Hansa Warnekar), I meet the newly married couple Ramulu (Yadagiri) and his wife (Samudrala Rajeswari). As soon as I saw Ramulu I have to run towards him. After the shot was over, Goutam Ghosh shouted ‘fantastic.’ However, after finishing the scene, Ghosh said ‘let’s do the first shot one more time.’ Then I understood that the first shot has not come out well but he complimented me to instil confidence in me.”

Dirty clothes

I was given used, smelly and dirty clothes to wear. I was wondering whether one needs to wear such clothes for realism’s sake. Later, Goutam Ghosh’s wife and the movie’s costume designer Nilanjana Ghosh told me since the costumes were not ready they have to borrow clothes from a local and assured me that my costumes will be ready in a couple of days.

Memorable scene

“From an oppressed rustic, Ramaiah rises to become a leader of the oppressed class. One night he visits his father (Kakarala). Worrying about his son, the father says, “Yemora Ramaiah... appudappudu nee sangati naaku bayamouthaadi. Naa okkagaanokka koduku. Aa nalugurunnaaru okadu pothe yemaithadi anukunenduku lekapaaye”(Ramaiah, at times I am worried about you. You are my only son, there is no way for me to think that I have four sons and what if, if one of them is gone). And I reply: “Prajala kosam paatubade daani kanna manchi bathukemuntadayya” (what better life is there than to work for the good of the people). It was shot in a tiny hut and I still wonder how cinematographer Kamal Nayak had done such amazing lighting in that small dwelling. After the scene was over, Goutam Ghosh’s assistant Munna ran towards me and said “you have performed like a seasoned actor, not a debutant.” Then I realised that Ramaiah has entered into me.

And the best compliment I cherish was the one from Narsinga Rao. After we shot the factory scene in Hyderabad, he told me, “With this movie, you will earn the name that your grandfather (Tripuraneni Ramaswamy) and father (Tripuraneni Gopichand) have earned.” Narsinga Rao and Pran Rao wrote the dialogues which were a live force for the movie.

“Maa Bhoomi was released on March 23, 1980 and created a historic box office success. I am proud to be part of that history.”

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 12:01:50 PM |

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