Jupiter Pictures, one of the top Tamil banners of the time, entered into a five film contract with matinee idol N.T. Ramarao and simultaneously remade their box office Tamil hit, Velaikari (1949) as Santhosham in Telugu and Naya Aadmi in Hindi. Velaikari was based on C.N. Annadurai’s (later day chief minister of Tamil Nadu) play staged by K.R. Ramaswamy’s troupe. Annadurai wrote the screen version too with K.R. Ramaswamy, V.N. Janaki (who for a short while became chief minister of Tamil Nadu after her husband MGR’s demise) and M.V. Rajamma in the lead. Interestingly Velaikari was also released in some Telugu provinces with the title ‘Dasi Kanya’ in Telugu in the posters.
Jupiter pictures partners M. Somasundaram a.k.a ‘Jupiter Somu’ and S.K. Habibullah launched Santhosham in the first week of September at their Neptune Studios, Adyar (It was later acquired by M.G. Ramachandran who renamed it as Sathya Studios. Presently it houses the Dr. MGR-Janaki College of Arts & Science for Women). C.P. Dixit who assisted L.V. Prasad for the Hindi version of Jupiter’s Tamil, Hindi bilingual Rani (1952) was signed to direct both Santhosham and Naya Aadmi . The cast for both the versions remained the same but for Anwar Hussain stepping in for Jaggaiah and comedian Gope replacing Relangi for Naya Aadmi.
Annadurai’s stage play revolved around class conflict and the main twist in the plot- the imposter, was inspired by the famous Bhawal Sanyasi case that shook British India in 1921. For the screen version, Velaikari ’s director A.S.A. Sami suggested to Annadurai to include a few elements from Alexander Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo to make the story more interesting. Samudrala Raghavacharya wrote the screenplay, dialogue and lyrics for the Telugu version.
The story: Unable to repay the money he has borrowed from zamindar Dayanidhi (R.Nagendra Rao) for his son Anand’s (N.T.Ramarao) higher studies, Sundaraiah (Vadlamani Viswanatham) commits suicide. A depressed Anand makes an aborted bid to kill the zamindar and on the same night he along with his friend Madan Mohan (Jaggaiah) stumbles upon the corpse of an England-returned rich young man who resembles Anand. On Mohan’s advice Anand takes his place. The dead man’s blind mother (Kakinada Rajarathnam) believes that Anand is her son and performs his marriage with Dayanidhi’s class-conscious daughter Sarasa (Jamuna). Dayanidhi objects to his son Murthy (Ramasarma) marrying their servant maid Amrutham (Anjali Devi) and tries to kill her by torching her hut. How Anand saves Amrutham, tames Sarasa and brings in a change of heart in Dayanidhi forms the rest of the story.
Cast & Crew: The audience enjoyed Samudrala’s dialogues. “ Paamu laanti maamagariki dega laanti alludu dorikaadu ” ( a snake-like father in law found a hawk-like son-in-law) is one such. Seasoned actors like NTR, Anjali Devi, R. Nagendra Rao and Relangi walked casually through their characters. Jaggaiah as the resourceful good natured vagabond scored over the rest of the actors. Jamuna as the rich spoilt brat did well. For Ramasarma it was like a promotion as he was cast opposite popular heroine Anjali Devi for the first time. Rajasulochana as Santha, the paramour of the fake swamiji Hariharadas (Podili Krishnamurthy) performed a lilting dance number – ‘ chinnari daanara ninnelu jaanara ...’ but the main attractions was Helen’s dance for the song – ‘ Rupayikasulone unnadi tamasha… ’ It was also her first film in Telugu.
Since Telugu language was a problem for the Bombay based director C.P. Dixit, T. Hanumantharao assisted him as dialogue director. Dixit later directed about a dozen movies apart from Naya Aadmi , in Hindi including Paras , Mausam, Fakira, Ghazab and Beta Ho Tho Aisa (1994).
Viswanathan- Ramamurthy composed the music which also contributed to Santhosham ’s success. The hit numbers include- ‘ Theeyani haayi ee reyi …’ (P. Susheela, G.K. Venkatesh) and ‘ Unnarunnarunnaru …’ (P. Susheela).
Trivia: It was first titled, Andarikosam but later changed to Santhosham . Jupiter Somu was the son of K.A. Muthuswamy Chettiar, a rice mill owner in Tiruppur. Habibullah was an accountant there. Common interest towards theatre brought Somu and Habibullah closer and they joined the then famous Tamil drama troupe, TKS Brothers. Inspired by Talkies, the duo soon formed Sri Shanmukhananda Talkies and made their first film, Menaka in 1935. Later they took over Jupiter Pictures and made many super hits in Tamil.
NTR signed a five film contract with Jupiter Pictures – Santhosham and Naya Aadmi followed by Umasundari (1956- directed by P. Pullaiah), Valmiki (1963 -C.S. Rao) and Marmayogi (1964- B.A. Subbarao).
For Velaikari C.R. Subburaman composed the music and Viswanathan-Ramamurthy worked as his assistants. For Santhosham Viswanathan and Ramamurthy composed the tunes while G.K. Venkatesh assisted them. When the film was remade in Kannada with Dr. Rajkumar in the lead as Malli Maduve (1963) G.K. Venkatesh composed the music. Santhosham was released on December 24, 1955 and Naya Aadmi a week later on January1, 1956. Both fared well.