Blast from the Past Friday Review

Rajamakutam (1960)

Raja Sulochana and N T Rama Rao in 'Raja Makutam' .  


Starring N.T. Ramarao, Rajasulochana, Kannamba, Gummadi, Padmanabham, Rajanala.

The wicked younger brother assassinating his elder brother and plotting to occupy the throne by eliminating the heir apparent, the prince that leads to loads of action sequences as the prince escapes the attempt on his life and the queen guiding him to avenge his father’s death makes an interesting script for a folk-action drama. The plot in its various forms is a familiar one, ever since William Shakespeare wrote ‘Hamlet’ and many filmmakers with an eye on the box office, adopted it to suit to their sensibilities. One such variant version was written by Mu. Karunanidhi (later day’s Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu) titled, ‘Pudhumai Pithan’(Tamil-1957) which was made as a movie by T.R. Ramanna with M.G. Ramachandran, B.S. Saroja and T. R. Rajakumari in the lead. It was a super hit.

During this phase, bosses of Vauhini Productions led by Brij Mohan Das were looking for a surefire box office script to offset the losses incurred after the dismal fare of Bangarupapa. Fresh from the success of Bhagyarekha which he had directed for an outside banner, B.N. Reddi wished to make a light banter movie for Vauhini’s next production and commissioned D.V. Narasaraju to write such script. But the partners insisted on a folklore subject as it was considered a safe bet. B.N. was in a dilemma, ‘to do or not to do’ as he was never comfortable with the genre that K.V. Reddi had perfected with such success. Finally he was forced to do a folklore film bowing to majority opinion. Narasaraju came up with a taut script. However he was disheartened when B.N., who abhorred fight sequences, asked him to tone down the action blocks which were the main draw for a folklore movie.

The artistic auteur gave the film the title, Rajamakutam (The King’s Crown).

The Story: Prachanda (Gummadi) the army commander of Gandhara, kills his elder brother, the king and also makes an unsuccessful attempt to eliminate the prince, Pratap (NTR) in order to place his son Bhajaranga (Padmanabham) on the throne. Pratap meets Pramila (Rajasulochana) belonging to a rebel group.

Believing his uncle Prachanda’s words, Pratap orders the execution of a few persons held responsible for his father’s murder and they include Pramila’s brother and rebel leader Soorasena (Rajanala)’s father. Pramila vows to kill Pratap not knowing the Paradesi she met and Pratap are one and the same. Meanwhile Pratap learns that Prachanda was responsible for his father’s death.

His mother (Kannamba) restrains him from taking revenge immediately and advices him to first win people’s confidence and set up an army to fight the powerful Prachanda.

The cloak and dagger drama follows.

Pratap acts as a madcap, disguises as black cobra, leads the rebel gang, kills Prachanda, ascends the throne and marries Pramila.

Cast & Crew: Technically, it was a well made movie with screenplay by B.N. Reddi, Palagummi Padmaraju and veteran Tamil writer B.S.

Ramaiah. Brilliant technicians like B.N. Konda Reddi (camera), A.K. Sekhar, Vali (art), Vasu-Mani (editors), A. Krishnan, K. Viswanath (sound recording) and Pasumarthi Krishnamurthy, Vedantam Jagannatha Sarma (choreography) worked for the movie.

B.N. signed proven actors for the lead characters. What went wrong then?

Unlike T.R. Ramanna who made a successful Tamil movie (Pudhumai Pithan) out of a similar subject, B.N. did not wear his heart on his sleeve.

By then both MGR and NTR had acquired mass hero images and audience expectations from their action dramas were very high. MGR did not have a queen mother to control his emotions, he acted at his whims and fancy, be it when he played the madcap act or wore disguises, and in high voltage action scenes.

At one point, when B.N. objected to the scene where NTR had to hang on to the chandelier and jump to the other side to take on the villain with a sword in one hand, NTR had to politely request him to stay outside till he completed the scene with stunt director Somu.

There was also inordinate delay in the production as B.N. simultaneously made a Tamil version (Rajamagudam) too. Adding to that stardom had crept in by then. Kannamba who was supposed to report for shoot at 2 pm after lunch break returned only at 4 pm. A strict disciplinary like B.N. had to contend with that.

Master Venu set the tunes for Devulapalli Krishna Sastry, Kosaraju and Balanthrapu Rajanikantharao (alias Nagaraju)’s lyrics. P. Leela’s renditions, ‘Sadiseyako gaali…’, ‘Yedanunnado ekkadunnado’ and the Leela, Ghantasala duet, ‘Ooredi peredi o chandamama’ were the most popular songs from the album.

Trivia: The Telugu version was released on February 24, 1960 and the Tamil movie a day after on 25th. It retained the lead actors NTR. Rajasulochana, Kannamba and for other major characters Tamil actors V.R. Rajagopalan, S.V. Sahasranamam and Balaji were signed. After ‘Rajamakutam’s release, to gauge public opinion, B.N. accompanied by Vauhini’s Vijayawada manager Kasinathuni Subrahmanyam (K. Viswanath’s father) went to a theatre in Eluru and sat in the bench class and heard an audience comment, ‘what happened to B.N. He is also making these kinds of films.’ On his return to Madras in anguish B.N. told his partners that whatever fame he had earned had gone with this one film.

Producer, distributor and an ardent fan of NTR, Kommineni Venkateswara Rao (Sri Lalitha Film Distributors, Guntur) re-released ‘Rajamakutam’ in 1996 with the huge 24 sheet posters, a talk of the town then.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 6:24:13 AM |

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