young turkAkkineni Nageswara Rao in `Mayalokam'

young turkAkkineni Nageswara Rao in `Mayalokam'  

In the first week of October 1945, media persons were in for a surprise when they received an invite from Gudavalli Ramabrahmam for viewing his film, Mayalokam at the Paragon Theatre on Wallajah Road, close to Mount Road, Madras. The surprise was because this veteran film-maker, who popularised the concept of press shows followed by lunch or dinner, always held such shows only at a studio theatre.

He seemed to be uncomfortable with showing this particular film, as he had shunned such a subject till then. His earlier movies were all based on contemporary social issues, never a folklore or mythology. He is reported to have meekly told the media persons assembled there that he had to make this film “to survive in the industry.” Having lost heavily in his earlier movies, he had to choose a folklore to offset his losses. Films based on such subjects were thriving at the box-office then. He selected a popular folklore ‘Kambhoja Raju Katha', asked Tripuraneni Gopichand to help him polish it and Daita Gopalam to write the dialogue and lyrics. And for an interesting reason, he titled his film, Mayalokam .

When Ramabrahmam was editing the magazine Prajamithra , Muddha Viswanatham, his sub-editor, one day gave him a book of his short-story collection titled, Mayalokam .Ramabrahmam told him then that the title was apt for a movie. He remembered it long thereafter and named his film as such.

The story: Sambaripura king, Kambhoja Raju (Govindarajula) has seven wives and six children from his first six wives. When his youngest wife Manikyamba (Kannamba) is pregnant, the Rajaguru (M.C. Raghavan) predicts that her son would be the next king. Upset at this, the eldest wife (‘Radio' Bhanumathi), who feels her son Navabhoja Raju (C.S.R.) should be the natural choice, plots with the other wives and poisons the mind of the king, who banishes Manikyamba from the kingdom.

Lord Siva (Vedantam Raghavaiah), in the guise of a tribal, takes her to a tribal colony in the forest, where Manikyamba delivers a boy, who grows into a handsome youth, Sarabandi Raju (ANR). The repentant Kambhoja becomes sick and his six sons set out to bring medicine to cure his illness. Sarabandi comes to the kingdom to reunite his parents. He too goes in search of the medicine for his father. With the help of Rathnagandhi (Santhakumari) and Yojanagandhi (M.V. Rajamma), whom he meets on way, he gets the potion that can cure his father. He also gets his six brothers freed from the captivity of the vicious Rangasani (S. Varalakshmi). Sarabandi marries Rathnagandhi and Yojanagandhi and brings them with him. The six wives realise their folly, Manikyamba returns to the palace and Sarabandi Raju is crowned the king.

Seasoned actors Dr. Govindarajula Subbarao, Kannamba, Santhakumari and M.V. Rajamma performed well. C.S.R and Lanka Sathyam provided the lighter banter. It was ANR's second film as a hero. On knowing that Ghantasala Balaramaiah was introducing a new lad in his mythology, Ramabrahmam visited his friend's office to have a look at the actor. He was said to be unimpressed, only because ANR did not greet him with folded hands as was customary. But that was not the only reason — ANR was younger that the two heroines he had already finalised to act opposite the character Sarabandi Raju. Mounting pressure from friends made him change his opinion and he never regretted his decision. . “In fact, he treated me like his son,” ANR has written in his book, Nenu Naa Darsakulu . During the shoot, he honed his dialogue delivery skills from Daita Gopalam.

Kamala Kotnis was signed to play Rangasani, but she opted out, perhaps not to be type caste (she had played a tribal girl in Chenchulakshmi ). S. Varalakshmi replaced her. For the role of one of the princes, Kannamba recommended Padmanabham, who in later years became a leading comedian and producer-director. P. Bhanumathi, popularly known as ‘Radio' Bhanumathi, was the first lady staff artiste of AIR, and occasionally played cameo roles in films. One of her popular radio plays was Anarkali , in which its writer Devulapalli Krishna Sastry ‘played' Salim.

Shot and recorded at Newtone Studios, Mayalokam had music by Galipenchala Narasimha Rao. The popular songs were Kannamba's rendition of Akshaya Linga Vibho and Santhakumari's Yevarandi Meerevarandi and Mohananga Raaraa besides Bezawada Rajarathnam's javali, Cheliya Manakelane ANR rendered a poem, Rama Chaalinka To make his folklore a magnum opus, Ramabrahmam erected a huge tribal colony set at the spacious Dunmore House near Poes Road (where TN Chief Minister Jayalalitha and actor Rajnikant reside today) and shot the song Aanandame Manakaanandame rendered by T.G. Kamala Devi and chorus on Vedantam Raghavaiah, the film's choreographer, and scores of junior artistes besides the lead actor ANR.

The rich production cost a lot. Fortunately, Ramabrahmam's racy narration coupled with good performances made Mayalokam a huge commercial hit. This was also his last film under Saradhi banner.

m. l. narasimham

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