Blast from the past - Bhagyalakshmi (1943)

Still from Bhagyalakshmi

Still from Bhagyalakshmi

Twice in his career, Nagaiah was caught in a dilemma. The first time, it was to build a studio. He had bought 52 acres of land in Virugambakkam, Madras. At that time, B.N. Reddi, along with his friend, Moola Narayanaswamy, was constructing the Vauhini Studios. In order not to offend his mentor, Nagaiah dropped his studio plan. Later, he had to sell the land and, on that land subsequently, not one but two studios – Shyamala and Karpagam -- came up along with AVM's educational institutions. Over time, while the studios gave way toapartment complexes, AVM's schools are still functioning.

The second time Nagaiah was in a dilemma was when his friends advised him to produce films. He was then acting in Bhaktha Pothana . His friends warned him that he might end up playing character roles instead of a romantic hero. Finally, they prevailed upon him and he launched Sri Renuka Films with his friend Duvvur Narayana Reddy, a mica businessman from Gudur. Once B.N. came to know of it, he offered all support to his venture.

Nagaiah approached P. Pullaiah to direct his maiden production. Their friendship dated back to the period when Pullaiah was with Hutchins Gramphone Company and Nagaiah went there to record songs. Pullaiah wrote the story and scenario. Samudrala Venkata Raghavacharya penned the dialogue and the lyrics. Perhaps to rhyme with his debut film, Grihalakshmi , Nagaiah named his first production as Bhagyalakshmi . There is even a dialogue leading to the climax where the jilted lover says to the woman's husband, “ Aame nee Grihalakshmi, nee Bhagyalakshmi…aame nirdoshi .” Nagaiah played the silent lover and Malathi the girl next door with whom he fell in love and Umamaheswara Rao, her husband.

Dharmanna (Doraswamy), a devotee of Lord Venkateswara, during one his pilgrimages to Tirupati, stumbles upon an abandoned child, takes him home and brings him up naming him Srinivasa Rao (Nagaiah), who is now a music teacher. Dharmanna's distant relative, Rangamma (Kshatriya Parvathi Bai), lives next door with her two children Gopi (Giri) and Bhagyalakshmi (Malathi), who learns music from Rao along with her friend Shyamala (Tanguturi Suryakumari).

Rao is in love with Bhagyalakshmi, but never dares to express his feelings to her. Giri notices this and brings the proposal before his mother and uncle Kotaiah (Aadinarayanaiah). Kotaiah objects to it citing family honour as nobody knows Rao's antecedents. Bhagyalakshmi's marriage is fixed with Viswam (Umamaheswara Rao), son of a retired Tahsildar Janakiramaiah (Raghavan). Dejected, Rao leaves home and wanders aimlessly.

On his way to Tirumala, he slips, gets hurt and is rescued by a gypsy tribe. He escapes from the overtures of the tribal leader's daughter Kunji (Kamala Kotnis) and joins a group of devotees. Dharmanna who goes to Tirupati in search of his son, finds him and brings him back home. Viswam's friends sow seeds of suspicion, saying that Rao has returned only to create problems in his marital life. Rao pleads that Bhagyaakshmi is innocent. An adamant Viswam sends his wife away asking her to leave the child at his care. Finally, realisation dawns on him and he reunites with his family.

Nagaiah shows subtlety in distress situations emoting to the required level but at times gets at one's nerves during the last phase of the 17, 318-foot long movie. All that he does is appear as if in a trance, just uttering “ Lakshmi nirdoshi ” till the end when he finally smiles on knowing that everything is fine with her. Malathi is at ease both as the joyous girl and happily married woman in the first half and as the tormented wife towards the climax. Top acting honours for Doraswamy and Raghavan. Suryakumari as the music student makes a charming presence.

When shooting had to be stopped in Madras (now Chennai) during the war, Nagaiah shifted his 60-member unit to Tirupati and shot a few portions. One such was a comedy track on the popular Tamil pair – N.S. Krishnan and T. A. Madhuram. To justify their Tamil- accent Telugu, Pullaiah created them as a Telugu-speaking Tamil couple living in Tirupati. They were linked to the main story through a devotional song that Nagaiah renders as a bhajan.

The weak storyline was compensated by, apart from good acting, the camera work of M.A. Rehman and the melodious musical score of Bheemavarapu Narasimha Rao (BNR). Rehman played well with light and shade to create the right mood in emotional sequences.

The pick of the lot among the 15 songs were the BNR and Giri's renderings (shot as background songs), Sri Ramani Manoramana (which was also sung by Nagaiah, Giri and Malathi at the end of the movie) and Sumama kusumama nee jevaname saphalamuga , Malathi and Suryakumari's Radha Gokula nadha , , Malathi's solos Aadana… Paadana chindulu throkkuchu raana and Vaare dhanyulugaa Taraka yogulu vaarega sung by Suryakumari, and Nagaiah's soulful rendition of Aasa Nirasa Yela kalugunu aasa , and the peppy Thineemeeda sinnoda vannekaada shot on Kamala Kotnis and sung by Rao Balasarsawati Devi (reportedly her first playback song). Chalu ChalunayyaRammu Bharatha vanitha sakala guna bharithaVaddu babu vaddu ee baadhalu

Despite popular actors and melodious music Bhagyalakshmi did not do well at the box office. But it has a history. According to the Film Federation of India's souvenir, released on the occasion of the silver jubilee of Indian Talkie, Bhagyalaksmi was the 100th Talkie in Telugu.

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2022 9:14:53 pm |