Blast From The Past - Rythubidda (1939)



Bellary Raghavacharya, G.V. Seethapathi Rao, P. Suribabu, Nellore Nagaraja Rao, Kosaraju Raghavaiah Chowdhary, B. Narasimha Rao, V.V. Subbaiah, M.C. Raghavan, Commuri Padmavathi Devi and Tanguturi Suryakumari.

After making the path breaking film Malapilla on backward uplift, Gudavalli Ramabrahmam trained his guns on another burning issue of the times, oppression of the peasants by the Zamindars. Ramabrahmam produced and directed Rythubidda under Saradhi Films banner promoted by Challapalli Raja Srimanthu Yarlagadda Sivarama Prasad, a progressive thinking Zamindar. Interestingly, the film was banned from screening in his native Krishna district! Rythubidda was cleared by the censor board and was released on August 27, 1939 all over. The then Zamindars of Venkatagiri were greatly offended by its content and sought a ban. They even burnt the film prints resulting in clashes. The Nellore district Magistrate imposed a ban on its screening. Similar ban was also imposed in Krishna district. Contrary to the popular belief that the film was banned in the entire province, by the government of Madras Presidency headed by C. Rajagopalachari, it was banned only in these two districts. But by then Rythubidda created the intended impact. Gudavalli dedicated the film to the memory of Bollini Munuswamy Naidu hailed as Rythubandhava and was the Premiere of Madras Presidency between 1930—32.

The story was set in Nagapuram. Rami Reddy (Kosaraju Raghavaiah) contests elections representing the peasants. The powerful Zamindar (Gidugu Seethapathi) nominates Venkayya (E. Seshaiah) as his candidate. The shavukaru (Makeup chief M.C. Raghavan) and the village Karanam (V.V. Subbaiah) force Narsi Reddy (Tadipatri (Bellary) Raghava) the peasant leader to support the zamindar's candidate. Narsi Reddy refuses. The wily zamindar arranges a Kuchipudi dance (Vedantam Raghavaiah choreographed and played) and locks up those who attended the show to keep them away from casting their vote. The farmers break open the door and Rami Reddy wins the election. While the zamindar suffers humiliation, his trusted servant Khasa Subbanna (the film's music director Bheemavarapu Narasimha Rao) creates havoc in Nagapuam. The Shavukar and the Karanam with the help of the Tahsildar (Nellore Nagaraja Rao) confiscate Narsi Reddy's property. Aghast at the floods that made them penniless, the Shavukar and Karanam repent for their deeds join Narsi Reddy to fight the zamindar. The zamindar is also a reformed man now.

Bellary Raghava made his screen debut as Duryodhana in Draupadi Manasamrakshanam (1936). Raghava brought a realistic touch to his portrayals and was a huge success on stage. Somehow he couldn't fit into film acting.

His fans and the audience were disappointed at his lacklustre performance as Narsi Reddy. Raghava had acted in one more film, R.S. Prakash's Chandika (1940) with Kannamba and returned to his forte, the stage. Commuri Padmavathidevi, a popular stage actor played Narsi Reddy's wife. Tanguturi Suryakumari made her debut in Telugu films as Narsi Reddy's daughter. A popular singer, she was barely 14 but already a known name in Tamil households with her three Tamil releases – Vipranarayana, Ambikapathi and Adrishtam. Her rendition of Basavaraju Apparao's immortal song, Raboku… Rabokura Chandurooda in Rythubidda' was a huge hit.

Gudavalli retained all the technicians who worked for Malapilla including cinematographer Sailen Bose, dialogue writers Tapi Dharmarao, Tripuraneni Gopichand, Malladi Viswanatha Kaviraju and lyricist Samudrala. Kosaraju made his screen debut both as an actor and a lyricist. Besides Basavaraju Apparao's songs Gudavalli used Thummala Seetharamamurthy and Nellore Venkatarama Naidu's progressive lyrics. Gudavalli convinced Kosaraju to play Rami Reddy. Nidra Melkora Thammuda… Ghaada Nidra Melkora Thammuda… sung by P. Suribabu was Kosaraju's first film lyric while he himself sang, enacted Rythuke votivva valananna penned by him. Gudavalli made a cameo appearance as a news paper editor.

The print is available with the National Film Archives, Pune. There is a mystery surrounding Rythubidda. The titles mention – colour by Dufa Colour, Bombay. But there is not a single frame in colour. Since title cards are shot only after completion of any movie, seems that some portions of the film were shot in colour and when they found the result was not good, either it was converted to black and white or a separate black and white version was shot. The later theory holds good as the contrast will be clearly visible if it is converted from colour but the print in the archives does not show such signs. Running close to three hours, Rythubidda won critical acclaim but was a box office failure.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2020 4:57:05 PM |

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