It was his long conversations on films with Tatineni Prakasa Rao that drew the attention of Anumolu Venkata Subbarao towards film production. They were neighbours at Republic Gardens in Vijaya Raghava Road, T’Nagar, in Madras where N.T. Ramarao too stayed then. Encouraged by Prakasa Rao, A.V. Subbarao launched Prasad Art Pictures and signed Prakasa Rao’s guru L.V. Prasad to direct his first film. Akkineni Nageswara Rao (ANR) was approached for the male lead and was even given an advance amount which he had returned after listening to the story saying, he did not like it. ANR was proved right when the story was made as a Telugu-Tamil bilingual ( Pempudu Koduku and Petramanam in Tamil -1953) and flopped. But Subbarao was keen on producing a film with ANR. When things were getting finalised, ANR met with an accident in one of his film shoots and broke his leg.
PAP had to postpone the launch. T. Prakasa Rao who was directing the Tamil movie, Uthamaputhiran (1958) starring Sivaji Ganesan (in a dual role as hero and villain) and Padmini suggested him to dub it in Telugu. The dubbed version, Veera Pratap made a business of Rs. 4 lakhs and ran well.
However, it was the banner’s third production, Illarikam (1959) directed by T. Prakasa Rao from a story by Vemapti Sadasivabrahmam that established A.V. Subbarao as one of the most successful producers.
The Story: Venu (ANR) and Radha (Jamuna) are married with a condition laid by Radha’s father, the zamindar (Gummadi) that Venu should live in their house. His status-conscious wife Sundaramma (Hemalatha) looks down on Venu as he is an orphan brought up by his maternal uncle Dharmayya (Ramana Reddy). Her cousin brother and manager of their mica factories, Govindayya (C.S.R) plots to usurp the wealth.
He brings his wayward son Seshagiri (R. Nageswara Rao) weaning away from Kanakadurga (Girija) whom he had secretly married. Venu spots Kanakadurga, his presumed to be dead sister while she was performing on stage. Not knowing they are siblings, Radha suspects Venu’s fidelity.
The villains try to cash in on their rift. When things are getting worse Venu wears a Zorro like guise, teaches Govindayya and his son a lesson and paves way for a happy family reunion.
Cast & Crew: The wholesome entertainer released on May 1, 1959 gave much relief to the audience in mid-summer. The strong-willed and efficient director that he was, T. Prakasa Rao had a knack of getting the best from his actors and technicians. Arudra contributed with his witty and apt dialogues.
Aloysius Vincent was the director of Photography and P.N. Sundaram was the operative cameraman. K. Prathyagathma and Koganti Gopalakrishna were the associate directors.
Akkineni brilliantly displayed subtle emotions while Jamuna portrayed the two shades- as the favoured daughter and the suspicious spouse, with poise.There was a perfect chemistry between the two actors since they first came to act together in T. Prakasa Rao’s Nirupedalu (1954). Hemalatha showcased her prowess as an adamant woman acting along with veterans Gummadi and C.S.R. The comedy scenes between Ramana Reddy and Relangi (he played Ramana Reddy’s son-in-law Brahmanandam with Leelarani as his wife Seetha) were enjoyable. Others in the cast were – Allu Ramalingaiah (Panakalu, the accountant), T.G. Kamaladevi (Zamindar’s sister) and Peketi Sivaram who played a house husband. Bala acted as his wife.
Tatineni Chalapathi Rao’s music with lyrics from Arudra, Kosaraju and Sri Sri played a major role in the film’s stupendous success. M.V. Raju assisted him and Ghantasala, P. Susheela, Jikki and Madhavapeddi Sathyam were the singers. The super hit songs include, Niluvave vaalu kanuladaana… , Bhale chancule illarikamlo unna mazaa… , Chethulu kalasina chappatlu… and Nedu sreevariki memante paraakaa… Chalapathi Rao heavily depended on two Hindi songs for the hit numbers, Yekkadi dongalu akkadane gupchup… (Title song from Tum Sa Nahi Dekha - 1957, Music: O.P. Nayyar, singer: Md. Rafi) and Madhupatra nimpavoyi… ( Ye haseen sham from Teer Andaz - 1955. Music: C. Ramchandra, singer: Lata Mangeshkar).
Trivia: ANR suggested to remove the song – Niluvave vaalu kanuladaana . He felt the audience may not like the teasing song as by then the heroine had realised the truth.But the producer and the director felt otherwise. After its release, seeing the audience response to that song, ANR conceded that he was wrong. Tatineni Ramarao started his career as an assistant director with Illarikam . He said that PAP bought a Bengali subject and based on which Sadasivabrahmam wrote the story.Was it the 1958 Bengali film, Mejo Jamai (middle class house husband) from which Sadasivabrahmam took only the central point of a middle class man staying at his rich in-laws house, and wrote a new story? Need to be researched. Incidentally, T. Ramarao made his directorial debut with PAP’s Navarathri (1966).
A.V. Subbarao later produced many super hit films with ANR and also became his viyyankudu by giving his son in marriage to ANR’s second daughter.
Illarikam was remade in four other languages. L.V. Prasad produced the Hindi version titled Sasural (1961) with Rajendra Kumar and B. Saroja Devi in the lead.
T. Prakash Rao directed it. A.V. Subbarao himself remade it in Kannada ( Mane Aliye -1964), Malayalam ( Kalithozhan -1966) and Tamil ( Maadi Veettu Mappilai – 1967).
The Tamil and Kannada versions starred the present day Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha in the female lead, the Malayalam version starred the hit pair Prem Nazir and Sheela.
All these versions were box office hits. Illarikam was one of the very few earlier day Telugu films to run for 50 days in Hyderabad. Lead actors and technicians participated in the celebrations held in theatres all over the Telugu country for 50 days, 100 days (in 18 centre) and in the silver jubilee functions.