Blast from the Past Movies


Epic goes colloquial Kanchana and Sobhan Babu, Nellore Kantharao, Sobhan Babu in stills from ‘Veerabhimanyu’

Epic goes colloquial Kanchana and Sobhan Babu, Nellore Kantharao, Sobhan Babu in stills from ‘Veerabhimanyu’  

Starring N T Ramarao, Sobhan Babu, Rajanala, ‘Nellore’ Kantharao, Kanchana.

His entry into Telugu cinema saw a sea change in dialogue writing for mythological movies. Samudrala Raghavacharya changed the hitherto flowery dialogue to colloquial Telugu, starting with his debut movie, Kanakatara (1937). When some pundits criticised him, his defence was: "Cinema is a universal medium and most of its patrons are commoners. The dialogue should reach them.” He thus set a new trend for the use of everyday spoken language in mythologies. This genius convincingly narrated the Pandava Vanavasam and Agjnaathavasam episodes from the Mahabharatha thrice, with each movie turning a box office hit. If in Nartanasala his writing focused on Arjuna, in Pandava Vanavaasam he made Bheema the protagonist. And in Rajalakshmi Productions, Veerabhimanyu, as the title suggests, his script revolved around Abhimanyu. Produced by Sundarlal Nahata and Doondy, Veerabhimanyu, directed by V Madhusudana Rao, gave Sobhan Babu his star status.

The story

Arjuna (played by Kantharao) explains to his pregnant wife Subhadra (S Varalakshmi) the nuances of entering the Padmavyuham, a deadly war-plan created by guru Dronacharya (Ravi Kondala Rao). The child in her womb, Abhimanyu, listens to it. When Arjuna is about to explain how to come out of it, Lord Krishna (N T Ramarao), enters and diverts the topic. While the Pandavas are in the Viraata kingdom during the Agjnaathavaasam, Abhimanyu (Sobhan Babu) grows up at Dwaraka as a valiant warrior. Once, while chasing Uttarakumara (Padmanabham), Abhimanyu enters the Viraata king’s garden and meets Uttara (Kanchana). They fall in love. Abhimanyu seeks the support of Ghatothkacha (‘Nellore’ Kantharao) to marry Uttara.With the end of Pandavas' Agjnaahavaasam, the marriage of Uttara and Abhimanyu is performed. On their return the Pandavas seek their share of the kingdom, but Duryodhana (Rajanala) refuses to part with even five villages. This leads to the Kurukshetra war. Drona creates the Padmavyuham to stop the valiant Abhimanyu, who is killed by the Kauravas through deceit. To a grief-stricken Arjuna, Krishna conveys, through his Viswaroopam, the truth about life’s circle.

Cast & crew

Mythological movies largely depend on trick photography and ace lens man Ravikanth Nagaich was adept at it. He was ably supported by his assistant VSR Swamy and the second unit cinematographer S Venkatarathnam. A ‘super magimation’ technique was invented to film the Viswaroopam scene in which Lord Krishna emerges from the earth in all his might. In an interview Ravikanth has explained: “The camera captures 24 frames of an image per second. If we run the camera over 24 frames per second, the effect is ‘slow.’ But if it is 48 frames per second, the actor can be made to look as if he is standing on the screen. Krishna’s emergence from the earth was filmed using this method. Since there were several episodes in Viswaroopam, I exposed the same film 45 times to show all of them at a time. I named the technique as super magimation.”

Ghatothkacha destroying Virata’s city was shot using miniature model sets. People surrounding Ghatothkacha's mammoth body was a challenging scene. “We created a 60 feet high platform for Ghatothkacha to lie down. People were made to stand below it to create the impact.” V Madhusudana Rao's resplendent directorial concept and the art director’s (S Krishna Rao) brilliant work supported it.”

Veerabhimanyu was simultaneously made in Tamil too, retaining the female stars and replacing their male counterparts with Tamil actors. NTR became so popular as Lord Krishna not only in the Telugu country but also in Tami Nadu that the Tamil version’s distributors blamed the producers for replacing NTR with Gemini Ganesan, after the Tamil film’s dismal fare at the box office.

Sobhan Babu was not the first choice for Abhimanyu’s character. Haranath and Krishnam Raju were considered. What weighed in his favour of was his earlier portrayal of Abhimanyu in Nartanasala. Sobhan Babu performed well, stabilising his career in the industry. Ravi Kondala Rao was at first given a minor role, upon Doondy’s insistence that he be given a better character, he played Dronacharya.

K V Mahadevan composed music for the hit numbers – Arudra’s lyrics, Adugo navalokam Velase manakosam and Choochi valachi chenthaku pilichi, Rambha Oorvasi thaladenne (Ghantasala, P Susheela). Dasarathi’s lyric, Thaakina chota challadanam thakkina chota vintha jwaram (P Susheela) was shot for a song on Uttara and her maid; it invited criticism, that it was lewd.


Samudrala could not get the right words for the lyric in praise of Lord Krishna as he enters the Kaurava Darbar for mediation, but with hidden innuendos. It was then given to the Tamil version’s lyricist Kannadaasan who wrote — Kallathaname uruvai vantha and Samudrala followed it with - Kallaa kapatam roopai vachhe nallani vaadaa raa.

B Nagi Reddi advised Doondy against an outdoor location for shooting the Kurukshetra war scenes as might prove laborious and expensive. Instead, he built a huge open floor at Vauhini Studios, where the war scenes were shot. Later, Nagi Reddi made it a full-fledged floor, which attained the status of the largest studio floor in Far East Asia.

Like some popular actors, the talented Rajanala also had ego issues. He refused to do the scene where Duryodhana (he) had to wash the feet of Guru Dronacharya as the Guru’s role was played by a relative newcomer). But when the director insisted, he did it reluctantly.

Veerabhimanyu released on August 12, 1965, celebrated 100-day run in 12 centres. When dubbed in Bengali, it ran for 100 days.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 2:59:49 AM |

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