Krishna Jarasandha (1938)

Epic tale the marriage scene (above) M.V. Rajamma as Kalyani (below)  

When Raja Venkatarama Apparao Bahaddur popularly known as Mirzapuram Raja decided to enter the world of cinema, he chose to produce films from his native place Nuziveedu instead of Madras which by then was fast replacing Bombay, Kolhapur and Calcutta as the centre for Telugu movie production. He built a studio with semi-permanent floors on a vacant land on the outskirts of Vijayawada. At a time when social themes were making an impact, the Raja chose a mythological subject, the story of Jarasandha and signed ‘Sathavadhani' Veluri Sivarama Sastry, a renowned scholar to write the script.

Chitrapu Narasimha Rao who made his debut with P.V. Das's Seetha Kalyanam (1934) had by then directed three more mythology movies Sri Krishnaleelalu (1935), Sathi Tulasi (1936) and Mohini Rukmangada (1937). Mirzapuram Raja roped him in as the director. Gaggaiah starred in the last three films of Chitrapu Narasimha Rao and he was a natural choice to play Jarasandha. Kocharlakota Sathyanarayana was hailed as ‘Abhinava Rama' for his portrayal of Rama on stage. He was signed for Krishna's character.

The movie opens with King Brihadradha praying to sage Danda Kaushika to bless him with a child. The sage gave him a fruit that Brihadradha cuts into two pieces and gives to his two wives. They gave birth to two dead pieces of a child. Aghast, the King throws the pieces outside his fort. Demon Jara (played by Kanchi Narasimha Rao) finds them and joins the two pieces. The child breathes life and is named Jarasandha. He grows to become a despot emperor and develops hostility towards Lord Krishna. He had a son, Sahadeva (B. Brahmaiah) and a daughter Kalyani (M.V. Rajamma) both devotees of Lord Krishna. Jarasandha had two nephews – Durjaya (Kothuri Sathyanarayana) and Karthikeya (T. Ramakrishna Sastry). The later is a devotee of Krishna and the former as cruel as Jarasandha. Kalyani and Karthikeya were in love and this irks Jarasandha who wishes to perform her marriage with Durjaya. Unable to turn his son and daughter to follow the family tradition of vamachara , Jarasandha decides to wage a war against Krishna and Balarama (Jonnalagadda Seetharama Sastry). He loses the war and returns to his kingdom only to find that Karthikeya and Kalyani, with the help of Sahadeva, have set all the prisoners free. A furious Jarasandha jails Kalyani and Karthikeya. Kalyani prays for the intervention of Lord Krishna. He appears along with Bhimasena (Dasari Lakshmaiah Chowdhary) and Arjuna (Dittakavi Ramachandra Rao). Bhima vanquishes Jarasandha. The marriage of Karthikeya and Kalyani was performed in the presence of Lord Krishna and Pandavas.

As Krishna, Kocharlakota Sathyanarayana matched in histrionics with Vemuri Gaggaiah known for his high voltage performance and dialogue delivery. The find of the movie was M.V. Rajamma. The versatile Kannada actress-singer later became a multilingual actress of over 175 films in all the south Indian language. She still holds the Kannada drama record along with B.R. Pantulu for staging a social play, Samsara Nauka 7000 times. The writer-director of the play H.L.N. Simha later made it into a film in 1936 and this first Kannada social film was a huge hit paving the tinsel town entry for both B.R. Pantulu and Rajamma. She was also hailed as the first women film producer in Kannada with Radha Ramana (1943) in which Pantulu co-starred with her. For Telugu audience Rajamma became more familiar after the release of Yogi Vemana (1947).

The laudable feature of Krishna Jarasandha was its technical finesse. The war scenes between Krishna and Jarasandha and the climax fight in which whenever Bhimasena cuts Jarasandha into two, the pieces join and he come alive thrilled the audience, thanks to the trick photography work done by art director turned cameraman Telang who assisted the cinematographer D.B. Chavan, a fellow Maharashtrian. Despite this and fine performances, the film failed to click because of its slow pace. None of the 20 songs and 5 poems (written by Balijepalli and tuned by Gali Penchala Narasimha Rao) impressed.

Mirzapuram Raja produced one more film, a damp squib Mahananda directed by Dronamraju China Kameswara Rao with Addanki Sriramamurthy and Kannamba in the lead at the same studios. He then shifted base to Madras, bought a piece of land at Alwarpet constructed Jaya Studios (later expanded it and renamed it as Sobhanachala studios) and produced Bhoja Kalidasu (1940) directed by H.V. Babu with Kannamba and Addanki in the lead. It was a hit.

m.l. narasimhan