Romance at the river

Arudra’s opening line of ‘Kondagaali tirigindee’ was inspired by a cowherd’s song

Published - April 17, 2018 11:05 am IST

When the signature tune is played along with the name of the banner, Anupama Films, on the title card, the audiences are sure to be entertained to melodious songs as well. The trio — producer-director K B Tilak, writer Arudra and music composer Pendyala Nageswara Rao — never disappointed the audiences and, in fact, gave them more than their ticket money’s worth. Among the several romantic numbers from them, the one that leads the pack is the evergreen lovey-dovey number Kondagaali tirigindee from Anupama’s 1965 movie, Uyyaala Jampaala .

Tilak had made the movie loosely based on Gyan Mukherjee’s 1941 Hindi hit, Jhoola . In fact, Vasireddy Narayana Rao and TVS (‘Pratibha’) Sastri, who had earlier produced the all-time musical hit, Jayabheri (1959), toyed with the idea of remaking Jhoola in Telugu and Tamil. Narayana Rao got the print from Bombay Talkies, the producers of Jhoola , and screened it in Madras, inviting a few friends, including Tilak. Later, the duo dropped the idea of remaking it.

The story of Jhoola impressed Tilak so much that he narrated it to the masterly writer Pinisetty Sriramamurthy and asked him to rework on it. Drawing the major characters, played by Ashok Kumar (as Satish who assumes the name Ramesh), Shah Nawaz (Mahesh, Satish’s elder brother) and Leela Chitnis (Geetha) and the postmaster’s family, Pinisetty wrote a story that almost read like an original. This prompted Tilak to credit the story to the ace writer.

Story behind the song

Arudra himself has revealed, while addressing a meeting at Sri Potti Sriramulu Hall in Madras in 1989, that he drew inspiration to write the song Kondagaali tirigindee from a cowherd boy in the North Andhra Pradesh region. Once while travelling in the area, Arudra's car had to stop by the roadside due to a sudden downpour. There he saw a cowherd boy standing under a tree and singing aloud, Kondagaali tirigindee , followed by a local slang. That scene got etched in his mind and he was particularly bowled over by the first line in the boy’s rendition, Kondagaali tirigindee .

When Tilak planned to film a romantic song on the hero (played by Jaggaiah) rowing a boat on the Godavari, the cowherd boy and his voice flashed across Arudra’s mind. He took the first line from the boy’s rendition and wrote one of the best romantic songs of Telugu cinema. With a lilting tune by Pendyala, Ghantasala breathed life into the lyric:

Kondagaali tirigindee – Gunde oosulaadindee / Godavari vardalaaga korika chelaregindi / Putta meeda paalapitta pongipoyi kulikindi/ Gattu meeda kanne ledi ganthulesi aadindi/ Patta pagalu siri vennela bharathanaatya maadindi/ Pattaraani letha valapu paravasinchi paadindi.

As he rows the boat towards the river bank, the heroine makes swift rhythmic steps on the bank and hums in between. Now she too joins the singing in the captivating voice of P Susheela: Kondagaali tirigindee gunde oosulaadindee/ Godavari varadalaaga korika chelaregindi

Still rowing the boat, the hero describes how the universe is enthralled by the fragrance from the flowers that adorn her plait: Mogali poola vaasanatho jagathi murisipoyindi/ Nagamalle poolatho nallani jada navvindi

And then he glorifies her beauty: Paduchudanam andaaniki tamboola michhindi

As he nears his destination, he symbolises it with his destiny — to reach her: Praaptamunna teeraaniki padava saagi poyindi/ Kondagaali tirigindee

The scene

Ravi (Jaggaiah) has to leave home because of a misdeed he has not committed; it is actually the work of his elder brother Madhu (Prabhakara Reddy). Ravi reaches the neighbouring village and stays there under the pseudonym Gopi. Sasi (Krishnakumari) also lives in the village. He had earlier met her at a mela and he teases her with a song ( O poye poye chinadaanaa , another hit song from Arudra). He writes letters to her under his real name and keeps them in a hole on the trunk of the banyan tree near the river bank. She too keeps her replies in it. One day when she comes to get her letter from the banyan tree, she sees Ravi/Gopi rowing the boat and singing the song.

Before recording the song at Bharani Studios (Sound engineer: PV Koteswara Rao), Pendyala gave the song sheet to Ghantasala. Going through the lyric, the master singer is said to have commented: “Babu! ee paata padikaalaala paatugjnapakam vuntundi baboo .” Recalling this, while paying tribute to Ghantasala, Pendyala once said, “The master sang it, enjoying the lyric to the brim. His soulful rendition made the song an evergreen hit.”

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