Gummadi, Ravi Kondala Rao; NTR And Saroja Devi in ‘Dagudu Moothalu’  

The year 1962 was an eventful one for Mullapudi Venkataramana, one of Telugu cinema’s most popular screen writers. It was the year in which the famed humorist turned film critic entered the cine-field and the credit for signing him first goes to producer Dinavahi Bhaskara (D.B.) Narayana. However, even before Ramana, as he was popularly known, could commence the work, he got an offer from producer P. Doondeswara Rao (Doondy) to pen the dialogues for Raktha Sambandham (1962), a remake of the Tamil super hit, Pasamalar. Though Doondy’s movie was his first release, Ramana’s maiden attempt at original script was DBN Productions Dagudu Moothalu, which was released on August 24, 1964.

Impressed by his literary work, which was both light bantered and moving, D.B. Narayana assigned Ramana to write the story and dialogues for his production, starring N.T. Ramarao, with whom he had earlier produced Pendli Pilupu (1961). After much thought, Ramana recollected an English movie, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, he had seen along with Ravi Kondala Rao at the Odeon Theatre, Madras, in one of its re-runs in the mid-50s . The 1936 film, directed by Frank Capra, starred Gary Cooper in the title role. Ravi Kondala Rao suggested to Ramana to see its Tamil adaption, Nalla Thambi (1949), starring N.S. Krishnan and Bhanumathi.

Nonetheless, Ramana took the lead character of Longfellow Deeds -- his inheritance of a huge property and subsequent branding as a lunatic by the antagonists eyeing the wealth -- from Frank Capra’s movie, which was based on Clarence Budington Kelland’s 1935 short novel, Opera Hat, and wrote a story creating new characters and situations.

The story

A sickly Viswasundara Rao (played by Gummadi) searches for his missing grandson Sundarayya (N.T. Ramarao) to bequeath his property to him. His relatives, Bhushanam (Ramana Reddy) and Sooramma (Suryakantham), under the pretence of serving him, plot to usurp his wealth. Bhushanam supports Sooramma’s plan to make Viswasundara Rao adopt her son Paparao (Padmanabham) on condition that she perform his daughter Ammadu’s (Sarada) marriage with Paparao. However, Viswasundara Rao succeeds in locating his grandson, with the help of Subbulu (B. Saroja Devi), his medical attendant-cum-secretary, who is in love with Sundarayya. Soon thereafter Viswasundara Rao dies. As their plans go bust, Bhushanam hatches a plot to brand Sundarayya as a lunatic. However, the truth soon comes out, and Sooramma, Bhushanam and his aide, Siddhanthi (Allu Ramalingaiah), are convicted for their misdeeds. Sundarayya marries Subbulu and Paparao gets married to Ammadu.

Cast & Crew

Adurthi Subbarao, with his taut screenplay and deft direction, proved once again how a simple story could be made into a successful movie. The film was also important for him as he owed his debut as a director to his friends, D.B. Narayana and S. Bhavanarayana, who took him as a partner in Sahini Pictures and produced the critically acclaimed movie, Amarasandesam (1954), under his direction. Besides Adurthi’s skilful handling, Mullapudi Ramana’s dialogues laced with pun and wit (‘115 degreela jwaram, antha unte manushulu bathakaru baava’; ‘yem, 120 degreelunna maa Bezawadalo manushulu bathukuthoone unnaruga’) enthralled the audience.

It was NTR’s first film with Adurthi. His role of Sundarayya had many shades, a responsible foster-brother, a lover, heir to a huge property and then a lunatic. It was a cake-walk for him and he did all the roles with aplomb. Saroja Devi and Gummadi made good impact. The up and coming Sarada impressed as Ammadu. The comic villainy of Ramana Reddy as Bhushanam, the humorous scenes between Padmanabham and Allu Ramalingaiah were entertaining. Radhakumari impressed as the demure wife of Bhushanam. Ravi Kondala Rao played the family doctor, marking his entry as a professional actor. His acting career spanned over five decades and nearly 900 movies.

K.V. Mahadevan scored the music and the popular songs were – Goronka Gootike Cheraavu Chilaka (singer: Ghantasala) and Goronka Kenduko Kondantha Alaka (P. Susheela), both penned by Dasaradhi, the duets written by Athreya and rendered by Ghantasala and Susheela, Adagaka Ichina Manase Muddu and Mella Mella Mellaga Anuvanuvu Needega, and the comedy song, Divvi Divvi Divvittam (Arudra; Pithapuram Nageswara Rao, Swarnalatha). P. L. Rai’s cinematography enhanced the beauty of the songs which were choreographed by Hiralal and Gopalakrishna.


A funny incident took place during the lunch-break at Vauhini Studios. Suryakantham knew Ravi Kondala Rao as a film journalist, but she did not know Radhakumari then. Spotting her sitting next to him, she thought Radhakumari was trying to trap him into love and made a comment. The film’s assistant director, Pendyala Naganjaneyulu, immediately corrected her by saying that they were husband and wife. Later Radhakumari became such a close friend of Suryakantham that the latter bequeathed ₹ 10,000 in her will to Radhakumari, the only such recipient from the film industry.

Dagudu Moothalu met with commercial success and Adurthi remade it in Hindi as Jwar Bhata (1973) with Dharmendra and Saira Banu in the lead. It was also remade in Tamil, titled Avan Pithana? (1966), starring S.S. Rajendran and Vijayakumari, with screenplay and dialogues by DMK stalwart M. Karunanidhi.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 4:39:13 PM |

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