Blast from the past Friday Review

SIRI SAMPADALU (1962)

Girija,Gummadi, Savitri, Vasanthi, Santhakumari, ANR, Chadalavada in a scene from the film.  

HYDERABAD: The story for Siri Sampadalu, seems to have emerged from straight out of the life’s pages of its author. The main ingredient for the story was charity. In the movie, Jagapathi Naidu had inherited philanthropy from his father Raghupathi Naidu and in the process loses all his wealth. In real life the screen story’s writer Pinisetty Sri Ramamurthy’s father was reduced to penury when akin to Bhakta Ramadasu he spent all his money in building a temple. The only difference was that while Ramadasu used treasury money, Pinisetty’s father borrowed heavily for the purpose. Like the children of Jagapathi Naidu, Pinisetty too lost his mother at an early childhood.

With a penurious father who had also retired from service, Pinisetty had to discontinue studies and work as a tailor to fend for himself and his father. But he did not lose his interest in reading books and writing. From short stories to writing plays, he gradually emerged as a sought after playwright and a stage actor. It was time for him to shift from native Narsapuram to Palakol for better prospects. He founded Adarsa Natyamandali and staged plays all over including Madras, then the capital of South Indian cinema. After watching his play, ‘ Palle Paduchu’, B.N. Reddi invited him to join his company as a writer. Pinisetty learned the intricacies of screen writing from the thespian. However he debuted as a screen writer with B.A. Subbarao’s Raju-Peda (1954), and later, L.V. Prasad’s Ilavelupu firmly established him in the film field.

After the stupendous success of Venkateswara Mahatyam, veteran filmmaker P. Pullaiah planned a social drama for Padma Sree Pictures and commissioned Pinisetty to write the story. Taking a leaf out his life’s pages and adding a joint family to it, Pinisetty scripted Siri Sampadalu, with the message, how generosity beyond means can ruin it.

The Story: Jagapathi Naidu (Gummadi) inculpates his brother-in-law Chakradhar (A.V. Subbarao Jr.) for his father Raghupathi’s (Nagaiah) death. This creates a rift in the joint family and Chakradhar leaves for the city with his wife Parvathi (Santhakumari) and son Prasad. Years pass by. Now grownups Jagapathi’s three daughters, Padma (Savitri), Latha (Vasanthi) and Rama (Girija) pursue higher studies in the city. They meet their cousin Prasad (ANR) and aunt Parvathi (Santhakumari). Love kindles between Padma and Prasad. A furious Jagapathi brings his daughters back to Sitaramapuram. Jagapathi loses all his wealth in charity. Money lender Bhujangam (Rajanala) brings his house under auction. Provoked by Bhujangam, Jagapathi hits him and is sentenced to three months imprisonment. Prasad buys ‘Anandanilayam’ in auction.

Jagapathi’s accountant Garatayya (Ramana Reddy) steals his jewels and gives them to Bhujangam. Garatayya’s son Anand (Relangi) finds that out and informs Prasad. When Prasad meets Bhujangam for the jewels, Bhujangam darkens the room, hits him and throws him into the river. Jagapathi completes his sentence. Prasad in the guise of Athmaram receives him. Prasad calls everyone including Bhujangam to Anandanilayam. It is revealed that Bhujangam had hit Anand and not Prasad and Prasad had saved Anand from drowning. The culprits are thus exposed. Jagapathi regrets his hatred for his sister’s family. A repentant Bhujangam seeks pardon. Prasad marries Padma and Bhujangam’s son Madhu (Chalam) weds Latha.

Cast & Crew: Besides the story, Pinisetty also wrote befitting dialogues. Though Pullaiah had started his career as a director ( Harischandra: 1935) barely three years after the first Talkie was made in Telugu, he kept himself abreast with the changing trends in the industry. One reason he had tasted big success even during the 1960’s and later.

All the lead players were established actors, the frames may be different but the characters were not new to them. Though there were emotional scenes, they were never overbearing. Even a villain in the story, Bhujangam hesitates to pick up a row with Jagapathi fearing the respect he had commanded in the society. This is revealed when he says to Garatayya, ‘ naaku Jagapathiki thagaadaalu pettalani chusthunnava’ (are you trying to create feud between me and Jagapathi). However greed overtakes him leading the story to the climax. Critics made caustic comments on ANR sporting a small beard to disguise himself as Athmaram. As if to silence such carping critics a veteran filmmaker once said, ‘the audience wants their favourite hero to occupy most of the screen time. Even if he was camouflaged, they still want to identify him. So in a family drama, the suspense should not be between the actor and the audience but between the characters.’

Suryakantham played Ramana Reddy’s wife and Surabhi Balasaraswathi as Kondamma, her daughter-in-law. Dr. Prabhakar Reddy, B. Sivaramakrishnaiah made cameo appearances as a doctor and Kondamma’s father respectively. Chadalavada played Jagapathi's trusted servant Anjaiah.

Master Venu composed the super hit music. Besides a sterling performance, Santhakumari rendered the melodious song, chitti potti paapalu…(lyric: Athreya). Other hit songs were - Venugaanammu vinipinchene (Athreya; P. Susheela, Jikki, S. Janaki). yenduko siggenduko… (Sri Sri; Ghantasala, Susheela) and kondammo bangaarapu kondammo (Kosaraju; Pithapuram Nageswara Rao, Swarnalatha).

Trivia: Cinematographer Madhav Bulbule who had cranked the camera, was one of those early talkie era technicians from Maharashtra who had made Madras (now Chennai) their home and contributed richly to South Indian cinema. Madhav Bulbule’s famous works include Pullaiah’s Ardhangi, AVM’s Tamil, Telugu, Kannada classic, Bhukailas and Vijaya Productions Kannada super hits, Sathya Harischandra, and Maduve Madi Nodu.

Produced by V. Venkateswarlu, Siri Sampadalu was released on September 19, 1962 and was awarded the certificate of merit as the second best Telugu film in regional films category at the National film awards.


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