Blast from the Past Movies

Papam Pasivadu (1972): A fascinating adaptation of South African movie 'Lost in The Desert'

(clockwise from left) S V Rangarao and Prabhakar Reddy; poster of the film; Devika; Master Ramu  

It was the second Telugu movie to be shot extensively in the deserts of Rajasthan. While the first one, Krishna’s Mosagaallaku Mosagaadu was an action adventure for treasure hunt, Sri Lakshmi Productions, Papam Pasivadu dealt with the escapades of a young boy lost in the desert.

Basking under the commercial success of his 1970 production, Rowdy Rani, a crime thriller, Atluri Purnachandra Rao was on the lookout for a fascinating subject for his next production. The just then released South African movie, Lost in The Desert written, produced and directed by Jamie Hayes (Uys) caught his eye. It is the story of an eight-year-old boy left in the lurch with his pet dog in the Kalahari desert while his father makes desperate attempts to get him back. Sensing a box office kill, Purnachandra Rao commissioned the multi-talented Gollapudi Maruthi Rao to write a story based on the movie.

Retaining the main characters, including the pet dog from Hayes’s story, Gollapudi introduced additional characters, villainy and pumped in loads of sentiment besides thrills in his adaptation.

The story

Papam Pasivadu (1972): A fascinating adaptation of South African movie 'Lost in The Desert'

Venugopala Rao (played by S V Rangarao) and his wife Janaki (Devika) are worried as their only son Gopi (Master Ramu) is diagnosed with tuberculosis and is recommended for treatment in Switzerland by the family doctor (Chittor V Nagaiah). His pilot uncle Pathy (Nagesh) takes him in a chartered plane. On their way, at Thar Desert, Pathy succumbs to heart attack. Gopi and his pet dog Tommy are left in the desert, leading to panicky situations. With the help of an airport official, Chakrapani (Prabhakara Reddy), Venugopala Rao finally locates his son’s whereabouts in a forest near the desert. Even before he reaches there his brother Narasimham (Sathyanarayana) goes to kill Gopi in order to amass his brother’s wealth. However, Gopi is saved and Narasimham dies engulfed by forest fire.

Cast & crew

Gollapudi Maruthi Rao’s intelligent adaptation of Lost in The Desert to suit the tastes of native audience coupled with his taut screenplay greatly helped director V Ramachandra Rao to expand the 90- minute English movie to 139 minutes of exciting entertainment. Gollapudi also penned the crisp dialogues. However, the hero behind the movie was cinematographer M Kannappa. The movie was shot in Eastman colour. Kannappa’s visuals in the desert scenes were a treat to watch. Purnachandra Rao while sharing his unit’s experiences during their 27-day shooting stint in the Thar desert in an article in Vijayachitra said that, “of the 35 unit members there was only actor, Master Ramu and of course the dog.” It indicates that the scenes shot on Nagesh, S V Rangarao, Devika, Prabhakara Reddy and Sathyanarayana were taken in the matching studio sets and on the sands of beaches near Madras. Art director S Krishna Rao needs special mention for bringing in such authenticity and Balu complimented him with crisp editing.

Master Ramu looked every inch a lost child in an unfamiliar territory and won sympathies and admiration from the audience. The cute little Pomeranian named Tommy cornered ‘acting honours’ and won fans as much too. Suryakantham and Chayadevi played relatives of S V Rangarao who were after his wealth.

S V Ranga Rao and Prabhakar Reddy in ‘Papam Pasivadu’

S V Ranga Rao and Prabhakar Reddy in ‘Papam Pasivadu’  

Sathyam composed the tunes for the songs written by Athreya, C Narayana Reddy and Kosaraju. The popular songs are — Amma choodali ninnu naannani choodaali rendered by P Susheela and the dance-drama enacted by choreographer K S Reddy and Vijayasri, Arey manchi annade kaanaraadu (S P Balasubrahmanyam).


Atluri Purnachandra Rao started his career as a theatre operator, then worked as a film representative, line inspector, publicity in charge and as a production manager. His debut production was the folklore, Aggi meeda guggilam followed by Ukku Pidugu (1969) both produced under Navabharath Pictures banner. With Rowdy Rani he launched Sri Lakshmi Productions and tasted big success.

Papam Pasivadu was shot near the villages in Sam Tehsil in Jaisalmer district where the iconic Hindi movies, Love and God and Reshma Aur Shera were filmed. Purnachandra Rao’s unit stayed in tents erected in open spaces outside the villages. Taking a cue from the locals that onion smell keeps the desert snakes away, before going to bed, the unit members would chew onions. The shoot was held in March under scorching sun at 53 degrees Celsius. The unit members travelled to the location on camel back. The shooting was held in two sessions daily between 8-11 in the morning and 4-7 in the evening. Every second day a veterinary doctor came to conduct fitness test for the dog. To protect from exposure to sun, after the day’s shoot, the film was sent to Jaisalmer. In its return trip the car brought groceries and water. The forest scenes were filmed at Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu.

Papam Pasivadu (1972): A fascinating adaptation of South African movie 'Lost in The Desert'

The hyena that chases master Ramu and the dog in the desert was hired from a circus company in Udaipur.

Chukkala Veera Venkata Rambabu better known as Master Ramu hailed from Vijayawada and debuted in Tamil as a child actor with the Sivaji Ganesan-Jayalalitha starrer, Enga Mama (1970) and later acted in Nindu Hrudayaalu. But it was Papam Pasivadu that established him as a child actor.

In a first for Telugu films, publicity pamphlets of the movie were tossed from helicopter in various towns. Released on September 29, 1972, Papam Pasivadu ran for 100 days in 10 centres and the celebrations were held at New Woodlands Hotel, Madras. Nagaiah, Akkineni Nageswara Rao and C Narayana Reddy were the chief guests.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 1:09:06 PM |

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