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Dasari: The original trendsetter

Dasari Narayana Rao

Dasari Narayana Rao  

Like the musical trinity, it was to the credit of Dasari Narayana Rao-Bapu-K Viswanath trio to have produced many a Telugu cinema’s celluloid riches during the 70s and 80s. Dasari was never short of stories and known to work on diverse subjects simultaneously without an overlap in treatment. Most of his stories were born out of ideas that were simple and timely enough for him to adapt them into moving screenplays with impressive dramatic liberties and adequate social and political commentary. He alongside Raghavendra Rao set the tone for Telugu commercial cinema in the 80s.

His assistants had to work hard to catch up with his pace in taking up projects. Equally breathtaking was his ability to picturise them at a similar rate. Some turned successful, some didn’t, but none would ignore the indelible impression he left in Telugu cinema with films that came with a lot of emotional value. It is indeed poetic justice that both his first (Thatha Manavadu) and last films (Erra Bus) delved around the grandfather-grandson equation. Life had indeed come full circle. While his first film starred SV Ranga Rao and Raja Babu, the 2014 release had him play the grandfather and Vishnu Manchu as his grandson.

While Dasari’s film career deserves to be evaluated on impact value as much as his success rate, what made him stand out was his unpredictability in his range of subjects that bore a matchless connect with the common man. He could convince a viewer with a melodramatic Sardar Paparayudu, as much as he did with a musical like Meghasandesam and a thriller like Addala Meda. In his prime phase in the 80s, he directed and produced eight films a year on an average, balancing his stints in Hindi and Telugu, while the former were mostly remakes of his hit Telugu projects.

He was gifted with an ability to surprise audiences with his quirky titles, some of the interesting ones include Korikale Gurraliethe, Devude Digivasthe, Ravanude Ramudiethe and Naa Mogudu Naake Sontham. A phase also saw him come up with wordplay in titles like Toorpu Padamara, Swargam Narakam, Peddillu Chinnulu and Bandodu Gundamma.

Dasari’s tryst with Devdas merits a discussion. In Devadasu Malli Puttadu, Dasari had played around with a reincarnation-themed idea where Devdas, Paro and Chandramukhi come together in their second birth. Though the film tanked at the ticket window, he didn’t give up. He re-imagined Devdas in a contemporary context with mild parallels of the original characters and structured Premabhishekam in an appealing commercial exterior that gave Akkineni Nageswara Rao one of the biggest hits in his career.

The early 90s marked Dasari’s shift to produce films with issues that affect women. This was when his films bore a vigilante tone, some of them that met with success included Amma Rajinama (that boasts of the best TRPs that Gemini Network gets when it telecasts the movie), Vijayshanti-starrer Osey Ramulamma, Kante Koothurne Kanu, Adavi Chukka and Sammakka Sarakka. Most would still agree that the legend was past his best in those years. Nevertheless, there was some fire in Dasari’s belly that kept him going, he continued to make films his way regardless of their commercial fortunes.

What also worked with Dasari was his love for multiple crafts within the same medium, the fact that he was in control of several departments within the same project meant that there was consistency between off-screen thought and on-screen execution. This is enough proof to say he wasn’t only passionate about cinema but was rather obsessed with it.

Even on his deathbed, he wished to produce a project with actor Pawan Kalyan. A man who never minced his words about his counterparts, standing like a rock when the Director’s Association and technicians needed him, beyond his films, it’s his sheer presence that the Telugu film fraternity would surely miss.

Best-as Director

Dasari: The original trendsetter

* Megha Sandesam

* Premabhishekam

* Thatha Manavadu

* Gorintaku

* Katakatala Rudrayya

* Sardar Paparayudu

Best five-as lyricist

Dasari: The original trendsetter

* Vandanam Abhivandanam-Premabhishekam

* Janani Janma Bhumischa-Bobbili Puli

* Galivanalo- Swayamvaram

* Oka Laila Kosam- Ramudu Kadu Krishnudu

* Idi Toli Ratri- Majnu

Best as an actor

Dasari: The original trendsetter

* Swargam Narakam

* Swayamvaram

* Lanchavataram

* Mestri

* Seetharamayyagari Manavaralu

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 1:16:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/dasari-narayana-rao-the-original-trendsetter/article18664843.ece

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