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Ch Rama Rao on helming a biopic on legendary musician Ghantasala

A still from ‘Ghantasala the great’

A still from ‘Ghantasala the great’

Ch Rama Rao’s long-cherished dream of directing a biopic of his favourite icon is turning into reality. The music lover from Kakinada began idolising renowned musician Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao very early in his life. “I would see all the films in which he sang. I had no musical knowledge but I would listen for his voice. To me, Ghantasala is song and a song is Ghantasala,” he gushes. He remembers compiling Ghantasala’s songs in alphabetical order in 2006. When he got it published as a book, more than 10,000 copies were sold. Not satisfied with that, he yearned to do more. It struck him that he should direct a film.

Ghantasala was more than a great singer — he was a great but humble person and would generously give opportunities to many people. One such incident took place during the making of Maya Bazar, reminisces Rama Rao. “Music director Saluri Rajeswara Rao left midway after composing four songs and producer and director Chakrapani and KV Reddy approached Ghantasala to compose for the film. Ghantasala told them that if they want he would compose more tunes for the film; but it isn’t fair to replace the already composed work. On another occasion, Lata Mangeshkar wanted him to sing a song in Suvarna Sundari as she wasn’t happy with Mohd Rafi, but Ghantasala declined as he didn’t want to hurt Rafi.”

Rama Rao adds, “Ghantasala was so humble, he would address all those younger than him as Nayana , Babu . The Bhagavadgita was earlier confined to pandits but now people think of Ghantasala whenever they listen to the Telugu version of the Gita. He has become synonymous with it.”

Rama Rao recollects another incident “After his father’s death, Ghantasala ran away at the age of 13 to Vijayanagaram and sold his ring to gain admission to a music college. There were days when he slept hungry and lived in penury. He always fondly remembered a lady who gave him alms. He’d say that what she dropped in his hands is not alms but ashta aishywaryalu . He was diabetic at the age of 36 and no amount of treatment could make him completely healthy and he couldn’t get his voice back too, and he died when he was only 52.”

The director embarked on the biopic despite the lack of much material on the singer’s life, as he wants the next generation to know who Ghantasala was. Ghantasala’s wife Savitri is apparently happy with the project but her son has some reservations with the idea of his life being made into a film. His eldest daughter Shyamala, who was 13 years old when he passed away, had written a book Nenu Erigina Naannagaru ; Rama Rao took references from the book. “Just as Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao went through hardships, I am going through the same,” he shares.

Made on a budget of ₹1.5 crore, the 2 hour 40 minutes long film titled Ghantasala The Great has his songs, though the voice of Ghantasala has been dubbed elsewhere. The director elaborates, “Ghantasala’s voice gambheeranga untundi. We used a dubbing artist for his voice.” How did he deal with copyright issues for the songs? He explains, “Any song or visual of less than 59 seconds can be used, without permission. Singer Krishna Chaitanya and his wife Mrudhula play Ghantasala and wife Savitri.

For those uninitiated, Ghantasala had a second wife Sarala Devi who died in Kasi after the singer passed away. In fact, she never came out of the house after they married and had three children, to safeguard his honour and keep unwanted conversations at bay. That aspect of his life has not been shown in the biopic.

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Printable version | May 19, 2022 11:36:35 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/ghantasala-ch-rama-rao-saluri-rajeswara-rao/article29910012.ece