The ingredients of the recipe were the same. However it turned out to be more sumptuous this time. This explains the prodigious success of Vijaya Productions, Jagadeka Veeruni Katha adapted from the Tamil big hit, Pakshiraja Films’ Jagathala Prathapan (1944) based on a popular Tamil folktale. Taking the central plot and the pivotal characters from the Tamil film produced and directed by S.M. Sriramulu Naidu, Pingali Nagendra Rao and K.V. Reddi introduced new characters, extended a few, brought in more banter and made it look like a fresh theme so much so that when the film was dubbed into Tamil retaining the title, Jagathala Prathapan , it received an overwhelming reception.
Apart from writing taut screenplay, K.V. Reddi put two tough conditions for Vijaya bosses Nagi Reddi and Chakrapani. Condition number one, his name (K.V. Reddi’s) should appear as the producer like in Vauhini Pictures films and he should be given a share in the profits along with his salary as the director. Condition number two, Chakrapani should not interfere in the script or in the making. Nagi Reddi and Chakrapani had no other choice than to comply as the irreproachable director had given them the humongous hit, Mayabazar .
The Story: Angered by his eldest son Pratap’s (played by N.T.R) desire to marry Indra’s daughter Jayanthi (B. Saroja Devi), Nagakumari (L. Vijayalakshmi), Varunakumari (Jayanthi) and Agnikumari (Bala), the king of Udayagiri (Mukkamala), banishes him till he returns with his four wives. On his way Pratap meets Renduchinthala (Relangi) whose ambition is to become a king. With the help of Goddess Parvathi in the guise of an old woman (Kannamba) Pratap marries Indrakumari. The amoral king Trikosa (Rajanala) and his minister (CSR) accommodate Pratap and Indrakumari in the palace and send Pratap into adventurous zones to fetch medicines to cure Trikosa’s feigned ailments in order to entice Indrakumari. Pratap brings the medicines and also a new wife each time – Nagakumari, Varunakumari and Agnikumari. He succeeds in Indra’s tests and returns to his kingdom with his four wives.
Cast & Crew: Pingali wrote an improvised story, packaged it with apt and humorous dialogues and lilting lyrics. K.V. Reddi’s magic wand worked wonders in creating a wholesome entertainer.
The alluring costumes (designed by Kaladhar) and the enormous sets created by Madhavapeddi Gokhale and Kaladhar gave the ideal feel for the audience. Marcus Bartley’s camera wizardry came to the fore one more time coupled with special effects man Harbans Singh’s creative genius (remember the ‘ vivahabhojanambu ’ scene and the twist and twirl of the carpet and the cot to mention a few in Mayabazar they were the work of Harbans Singh from a dingy room in Vauhini Studios). In the song sequence, ‘ Sivasankari Sivanandalahari’ along with NTR four other images of his sit by his side playing various accompaniments. Bartley and Singh worked in tandem creating this spectacular scene. By the 1960’s motion picture technology was making its strides but way back in 1944 in Jagathala Prathapan , ace lens man V. Krishnan shot this multiple images scene of P.U. Chinnappa using mask shots for a similar song sequence, ‘ Thaayai paniven …’ with excellent result.
As Pratap it was a smooth ride for the seasoned NTR. Lanka Sathyam played his cunning younger brother Jagajithu. A star by then B.Saroja Devi further consolidated her position with her sparkling performance as Jayanthi. The youth went gaga when in her parrot like Telugu diction she said, ‘ hala’ (Pingali as was his vogue this time introduced an Arabic word, ‘hala,’ a form of greeting. For example, ‘hala sakhi’ is equivalent to ‘hello friend’). L. Vijayalakshmi made an impression as Nagakumari with her acting and dance prowess. Kamala Kumari who later changed her name to Jayanthi, bagged the role of Varunakumari by a chance meeting with K.V. Reddi when she went to watch the film’s shoot along with dancer ‘Gemini’ Chandra who featured in a song in the movie. A classical dancer Bala enacted the role of Agnikumari. Rusheyndramani acted as Pratap’s mother and Girija as Yekasa, the aspiring queen who ultimately becomes one by marrying Renduchinthala played effortlessly by Relangi. C.S.R was an old hat at playing comic villainy but the revelation was Rajanala in such role and he made an impact.
It was the first film for Pendyala under Vijaya banner and he made a great contribution. Apart from the evergreen hit Ghantasala’s rendition, ‘ Sivasankari Sivanandalahari… ’ the other super hit songs were – ‘ Ainadedo ainadi …’ (Ghantasala, Susheela), ‘ Jalakaalaatalalo… ’ and ‘ Varinchi Vachina Manava Veerudu… ’ (Both sung by Leela, Susheela, Sarojini, Rajarathnam).
Trivia: It was Vijaya’s first film without Nagi Reddi and Chakrapani’s name as the producers.
Since he was shooting the bathing songs on the four heroines in winter, K.V. Reddi made a note in the script for lukewarm water to be filled into the pond from time to time during the shoot. When Jayanthi was down with high fever while filming one of the songs, K.V. Reddi engaged two doctors and a nurse to attend on her at the location.
Ghantasala had a week long practice to record the song, ‘ Sivasankari …’ which he did in a single take. NTR sat with Ghantasala practicing the song for perfect lip sync and Pendyala was at the location throughout its filming.
Later day’s popular dubbing artiste Ramola, sister-in-law of poet Sri Sri and actor Rajbabu made her debut by dubbing for L. Vijayalakshmi.
Released on August 9, 1961, Jagadeka Veeruni Katha celebrated 100 days run in 18 centers and subsequently in a few more centers. Its dubbed versions in Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Oriya and Bengali were also well received. (This is the 150th column in this series from the first three decades of Telugu cinema.)