BLAST FROM THE PAST Friday Review

Rojulu Maaraayi (1955)

MEMORABLE SONG ANR and Janaki in ‘Rojulu Maaraayi.’

MEMORABLE SONG ANR and Janaki in ‘Rojulu Maaraayi.’  

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Starring Akkineni Nageswara Rao, ‘Shavukaru’ Janaki, C.S.R. Anjaneyulu, Perumallu, Relangi Venkatramaiah, Ramana Reddy, Sitaram, Vallam Narasimha Rao, Ammaji, C. Hemalatha and Waheeda Rehman.

Sixteen years after making its path-breaking film, Rythubidda (1939), which highlighted the travails of the poor peasants under the zamindari rule, Saradhi Films came up with one more such tale Rojulu Maaraayi (1955) on the uprising of the deprived farmers against vested interests. It also advocated co-operative farming. C.V.R. Prasad, a contemporary of L.V. Prasad in Mumbai, joined the management of Saradhi Films and was the architect of this movie. He was credited as its producer and Saradhi boss Y. Ramakrishnaprasad as the presenter. C.V.R. also scripted the screenplay along with the story and dialogue writer Kondepudi Lakshminarayana and director Taapi Chanakya. Kondepudi was on the editorial board of ‘Navasakthi,’ a weekly published by the (undivided) Communist Party of India.

The Story: Sagaraiah, a villainous landlord, fleeces the farmers with the support of his aides ‘Karanam’ Sambaiah and rowdy Polaiah. Farmer Kotaiah is one such victim. His son Venu unites the farmers against Sagariah. Radha, an abandoned child brought up by Rathnam, an ex-serviceman, stands by Venu. In order to obstruct Venu’s co-operative farming efforts, the landlord tries in vain to breach the water channel. His plot is exposed and he is imprisoned along with his aide.

Cast & Crew: Taapi Chanakya, who started as an assistant director under B.A. Subbarao, debuted as a filmmaker with Saradhi’s Anthaa Manavaalle (1954). Chanakya made Rojulu Maaraayi a clean and neat film thanks to the support from veteran cinematographer Kamal Ghosh and editors Tilak and Akkineni Sanjeevi. The rural scenes shot in Dandimitta village are a feast to watch.

ANR as Venu gave an effective portrayal as the young peasant leader. ‘Shavukaru’ Janaki played the assertive woman Radha. Most of the drama centres around the bad guys — CSR, an old hand at playing such characters as Sagaraiah, and Ramana Reddy, the comic-villain, as Karanam Sambaiah. Relangi as Polaiah and Sitaram as Rathnam made an impact too. C. Hemalatha, who had earlier acted as Pothana’s wife in Bhaktha Pothana, played the strong-willed mother of Venu. Perumallu as Kotaiah dominated the acting honours as the upright and conservative father.

But it was one girl, fresh to cinema, with just a dance number that did not last more than three minutes, who stole the showand brought in repeated audiences to the theatres - Waheeda Rehman. And the song – ‘ Yeruvaaka saagaaro ranno chinnanna,’ written by Kosaraju Raghavaiah Chowdhary, tuned by Master Venu and rendered by Jikki -- still rings in the ears of discerning music lovers. In fact, the song found its way into the movie at the last minute when most of the shooting part was over. C.V.R. Prasad felt that a celebration song after the harvest scene would add colour to the black and white movie. Kosaraju remembered the song he had written for the Ongole-based producer Thottempudi Ramaiah’s Paleru, which was composed by Venu. The song was to be shot on Kamala Laxman. But the movie was shelved. Chanakya and Prasad liked the lyric and the tune. It was Vedantam Jagannatha Sarma who had suggested Waheeda’s name to the producers. Waheeda and her sister Shaheeda, daughters of Rehman Saheb, the then Municipal Commissioner of Rajahmundry, were at that time giving dance performances. Waheeda was signed on a remuneration of Rs.500 for acting in the song sequence, which later proved to be her big ticket to Hindi cinema and national fame. Actor-director-producer Guru Dutt, who was the chief guest at the 100th day celebrations of Rojulu Maaraayi in Hyderabad, was so impressed by her looks and performance in the movie that he introduced her to Hindi audiences in a cameo role in his home production CID and then promoted her as the heroine in Pyaasa.

Trivia: The tune for ‘ Yeruvaaka saagaaro ranno chinnanna’ was inspired by the folk song ‘ Ayyo Koyyoda…’ popularised by singer-lyricist Valluri Jagannatha Rao. It was first used in Sri Lakshmamma Katha (1950) for ‘ Ayyo pilloda cheetiki maatiki chittemmantav’ sung by Jikki. Tamil music director G. Ramanathan borrowed the ‘ Yeruvaka saagaaro…’ tune for ‘ Summa kidantha sothuku nashtam’ rendered by Jikki and P. Leela in Madurai Veeran. For the film’s Telugu dubbed version, Sahasaveerudu, Jikki and P. Susheela sang the song, ‘ Somarulaithe thindiki nashtam.’ Interestingly, Madurai Veeran was released on April 13, 1956, and three weeks later, Saradhi’s Kaalam Maaripochi, the Tamil version of Rojulu Maaraayi, starring Gemini Ganesh and Anjali Devi, was released. The Tamil audience were under the mistaken impression that ‘ Yerupooti povaye anne sinnanne’ shot on Waheeda Rehman had been lifted from Madurai Veeran!

Many versions:Yeruvaka saagaaro’ found its way to Bollywood too in 1960 through two legendary music directors. S.D. Burman took the tune for the lyric – ‘ Dekhne me bhola hai mera salona’ rendered by Lata Mangeshkar in Bombai ka Babu and Chitragupta for Pathang (a remake of Vauhini’s Peddamanushulu) for the song ‘ Rangrekha Dhadkhandi lathi tho hogi’ (Lata Mangeshkar).

Rojulu Maaraayi was the first Telugu film to celebrate 100th day function in Hyderabad. The then Deputy Chief Minister, K.V. Ranga Reddy, presided over the function held at Rajeswar theatre. It was on his advice that Y. Ramakrishnaprasad built his Saradhi Studios in Hyderabad where Maa Inti Mahalakshmi (1959), the first Telugu film shot entirely in Hyderabad, was produced by P. Gangadhara Rao, who was the still photographer for Rojulu Maaraayi.

Released on April 14, 1955, Rojulu Maaraayi celebrated a silver jubilee run.

(This is the 100th movie published in this series)

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