Blast from the past Friday Review

Padandi Munduku (1962)

Gummadi and Jamuna in the film  

“I strongly feel that an artiste must have a very wide choice. He must not restrict himself to certain stereotype roles though they may be commercially beneficial, albeit temporarily. I personally feel that one must develop versatility. That’s what I tried. I feel glad that the audience has accepted me in whatever character I have played.”

Jaggaiah had said this to The Hindu in February 2002. One such role that offered him to showcase his versatility was Sathyadev from the critically acclaimed film Padandi Munduku directed by V. Madhusudana Rao.

“It was also the first political film in Telugu with India’s independence movement and salt sathyagraha as its core theme,” Jaggaiah had recalled then.

When he was flooded with routine roles, Jaggaiah felt it was time to experiment with an offbeat character on the lines of the one played by Dilip Kumar in the 1948 Hindi hit, Shaheed written and directed by Ramesh Saigal. He floated Jagruthi Chitra with T. Krishnamurthy as the producer and commissioned P. Chengaiah to write the story. Taking a leaf from Shaheed, Chengaiah wrote an original story that dealt with the clash of ideologies in a family during the freedom struggle. Himself an author, Jaggaiah wrote the dialogues.

The Story: Twenty years ago in a train accident Santhamma (G. Varalakshmi) and husband Dharmarao (K.V.S. Sarma) are separated. Santhamma brings up her son Sathyadev (Jaggaiah) and adopted son Arjun (Master Suresh) teaching them Gandhiji’s principles.

During the salt sathyagraha agitation, young Arjun pulls down the British flag and flies the Indian tricolour flag. DSP Sankara Rao (Gummadi) summons Santhamma. They are siblings. Twenty years ago Sankara Rao had sent her out when she married Dharmarao against his wish. After the incident over the flag, Arjun is imprisoned.

With help from the DSP’s daughter Sarala (Jamuna) who is also his cousin and follower Vinayak (Ramana Reddy) Sathyadev rescues Arjun from a hospital where he is being treated. Dharmarao brings the grievously injured Sathyadev and Arjun home. However his second wife’s son Suresh (Kantharao) drives them to the DSP’s house instead of the doctor’s. Sarala manages to free them. Sathyadev and Arjun take shelter at the DSP’s house without his knowledge. DSP’s wife Parvathi (Hemalatha) realises that Arjun is their lost child. When an unnerved DSP tries to take them into custody, Sathyadev and Arjun escape. In the ensuing chase and shootout, Santhamma who comes in between receives the bullet injury and dies. A repentant DSP resigns his job. With India attaining independence, Sathyadev and Arjun are released from prison.

Cast and Crew: Jaggaiah considered Madhusudana Rao as one of the all time great movie directors. In his words, “his deep understanding of human emotions, his keen sense of social relations and values, his broad horizons of vision and imagination, his liberal and reasonable attitude to anything old or new, his quest for perfection and his uncommon capacity to go along with the picture goers while practically leading them, make him an outstanding and distinguished movie director of his era.” That explains why he chose VMR to direct a purposeful theme like, Padandi Munduku.

An example of Madhusudana Rao’s leadership quality and planning: In Tenali without any untoward incident, he shot a scene on thousands of people as freedom fighters facing the actors in the guise of British police charging on them with canes. It was a spectacular scene. Since there was no huge crane then, a high raise wooden platform ( manche) was built on which the camera was mounted for cinematographer J. Sathyanarayana and his operative cameraman Sukhdev to shoot the scene. The second unit camera work was done by Jagirdar. The movie was edited by Akkineni Sanjeevi. A major attraction was the showing of speeches by Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru and Nehru hoisting the national tricolour flag at Red Fort.

Sathyadev oscillated between non-violence and the youth’s anger to take to the weapon to achieve the goal. The versatile Jaggaiah showcased the variance with ease. Master Suresh was equally good. However the acting honours went to veterans G. Varalakshmi and Gummadi.

A battalion of popular actors – Nagaiah, S.V. Rangarao, C.S.R. Anjaneyulu, comedian Balakrishna, Peketi, Kamala Kumari (Jayanthi) and Rajasulochana appeared in guest roles. Wrestlers Ajith Singh and Sethi were also featured in the film.

Music composer S.P. Kodandapani brought Md. Rafi on board to sing the emotional climax song, manchiki kaalam theerinda… written by Jaggaiah. The other popular songs from the movie were – manasu manchidi…(lyric: Athreya, singers: Ghantasala, Susheela), the title song, padandi munduku…(Sri Sri; Ghantasala, Madhavapeddi Sathyam, A.P. Komala) and Innallu leni vegirapaatu ipudelara…(C. Narayana Reddy; S. Janaki).

Trivia: Writer P. Chengaiah had directed two films for D.L. Narayana – Sipayi koothuru with Sathyanarayana in the lead and Dongallo Dora,’ Akkineni Nageswara Rao’s 60th film. Jamuna starred in both.

Then a 19-year old teenager, (hero) Krishna made his first screen appearance in Padandi Munduku, as an Indian National Congress volunteer in a scene shot in Tenali. Interestingly, later both Jaggaiah and Krishna were elected to the Lok Sabha, Jaggaiah being the first movie actor in the country to achieve the feat.

It was the first Telugu movie to be screened at the Moscow International Film Festival in 1966. It was attended by V. Madhusudana Rao, Gummadi and Jamuna but Jaggaiah could not go because of other commitments. The film with Russian subtitles was well received and won appreciation from popular Russian film director Alexander Rou.

A Russian lady who was learning Telugu surprised Gummadi by saying in chaste Telugu, mee Telugu chithramunu choochi chaala anandinchitimi (we felt happy watching your Telugu movie).

Padandi Munduku was the first film to receive cash subsidy from Andhra Pradesh Government.

Filmed at Saradhi Studios, Hyderabad, Padandi Munduku was released on January 26, 1962. The movie did not fare well at the turnstile but won critical acclaim.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 1:16:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/Padandi-Munduku-1962/article16436541.ece

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