Blast from the past Friday Review

Bharya Bharthalu (1961)

Scenes from the Bharya Bharyalu  

Scouting for a story for his debut directorial, Prathyagathma chanced upon reading the review of a Tamil novel, ‘ Penn Manam’ in The Hindu. The story of a playboy falling in love with an upright woman who loathes him and the subsequent events that take place in their life appealed to him. After the novel was read out to him, Prathyagathma was fully convinced that with a few changes it can be developed into a good movie script. A medical practitioner by profession, Dr. K. Tripurasundari wrote the novel under the pseudonym Lakshmi. Producer A.V. Subbarao too liked the subject and bought its filming rights. Retaining its soul, Prathyagathma tweaked the novel so much and so well that it looked like a new story. One of the elements he had brought in, the homicide instead of forgery to implicate the hero in a crime made a great difference. When he narrated the story to his guru T. Prakash Rao and to L.V. Prasad both discouraged him from taking up such an anti-sentiment subject for his debut film that showed the hero in a poor light. Even ANR who was signed to play the lead expressed apprehensions about playing the role of a playboy.

A.V. Subbarao trusted the judgment of Dukkipati Madhusudana Rao. He sent Prathyagathma to narrate the story to Dukkipati. The Annapurna Pictures boss listened to the narrative and said, ‘Go ahead, you have a winner.’ That settled the matters. With ANR too now convinced, Prasad Art Pictures, Bharya Bharthalu, went on floors. Thus a popular Tamil novel found its way to the Telugu tinsel world even before the Tamil film industry woke up to its potential.

The Story: A philanderer, Anand falls in love with Sarada (Krishna Kumari) daughter of a lawyer’s clerk Sivakamaiah (Ramana Reddy) and manages to marry her even though she loathes him. As things are getting better between them, his ex-girl friend the play girl Hemalatha (Girija) reappears. She cons Anand to visit her. Anjaneyulu (Padmanabham) whom Hemalatha ‘married on paper,’ kills her for cheating on him. Anand is implicated in the murder. As Public Prosecutor Anand’s father Dharmarao (Gummadi) argues against him while Anand’s elder brother lawyer Ramanandam (Relangi) defends him. To elicit the truth from Anjaneyulu, Ramanandam, Sarada and Sivakamaiah’s father-in-law Kutumbaiah (Chadalavada) enact a ‘mask’ drama. Anjaneyulu confesses to the crime. Anand is absolved.

Cast & Crew: Prathyagathma’s forte was his screen writing. The screenplay he wrote for Bharya Bharthalu was considered one of the best even today. He was ably supported by the dialogue writers Sri Sri and Atluri Pitcheswara Rao. Atluri’s dialogues were at his best in this movie. After her marriage Krishna Kumari tells ANR, ‘ ee pellitho naa sareeram meeda adhikaram sampadincharu kaani naa hrudayam meeda kaadu. Kaani hrudayalatho meekempani meeku kaavalasindi sareeramega… ee sareeram meedi’(with this marriage you have acquired the right over my body but not on my heart. Anyway what do you do with hearts, all you need is the body, this body yours) so saying in anguish she thrusts herself towards him. As his past still haunts him though he is reformed now, in angst ANR responds that he will not touch her till she accepts him.

This scene was a fine example of Prathyagathma’s ability to conceive a delicate situation without a trace of vulgarity. The actors must also be complimented for their brilliant expressions caught equally brilliantly by cinematographer C. Nageswara Rao with slick editing from A. Sanjeevi.

It was Krishna Kumari’s first full length role with ANR after she played one of his two heroines in Pellikanuka. Relangi, Suryakantham, Chadalavada, Ramana Reddy and Sandhya (as his young wife) created ripples of laughter. Girija and Padmanabham who sported a Jerry Lewis crew cut showed the ability to portray different characters beyond their comic image.

Saluri Rajeswara Rao made great contribution with his music. The super hit songs include – Sri Sri’s lyrics, Joruga husharuga shikaru podama (Ghantasala), Yemani padedano ee vela (Susheela) and Madhuram Madhuram ee samayam (Ghantasala, Susheela), Kanakama chitti kanakama (Kosaraju; Madhavapeddi, Swarnalatha).

Trivia: The word Prathyagathma means ‘above the supreme being.’ He had directed a few Hindi films including Raja Aur Runk under the assumed name – K.P. Athma.

Bharya Bharthalu celebrated 100 day run and bagged the President’s silver medal as the best Telugu film at the National Film Awards. In a rare gesture, producer Dukkipati Madhusudana Rao felicitated producer A.V. Subbarao and his unit to celebrate the success of Bharya Bharthalu.

The movie was released on March 31, 1961.

Eight years later, after her marriage with Bangalore-based businessman Ajay Mohan Khaitan on March 16, 1969 Krishna Kumari entered Bangaluru to start a new life. She was pleasantly surprised to see Bharya Bharthalu running to 4th houseful week at Minerva Theatre in its re-run.

Interestingly, L.V. Prasad who discouraged Prathyagathma from taking up this story for his debut film bought its Tamil and Hindi remake rights. While he directed the Tamil movie, Iruvar Ullam (1963) with Sivaji Ganesan and B. Saroja Devi in the lead, with screenplay and dialogues by Mu. Karunanidhi, the other person to discourage, T. Prakash Rao, directed the Hindi version Hamrahi (1963) starring Rajendra Kumar and south star Jamuna. Both the versions ran for 25 weeks.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2022 12:03:23 AM |

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