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Vizag's contribution to films

Endowed with natural beauty and some of the best locations, Visakhapatnam has been the delight of filmmakers for a long time, writes B. MADHU GOPAL

PHOTOS: K.R. DEEPAK.

The front elevation of the oldest surviving film theatre in AP.

Telugu cinema has turned 75 years. But even before the journey of the industry began, a cinema hall was constructed in Visakhapatnam which was then a small town, and it continues to screen films even today! Any guess about the name of the theatre?

It's the Poorna Theatre. Started jointly by C. Pullayya and G.K. Manga Raju, it began as Sri Krishna Touring Talkies in 1927 and became a permanent theatre three years later and was re-christened `Poorna Talkies'. C. Pullayya switched over to film production and Mr. Manga Raju took over its reins. It also has the distinction of being the oldest surviving theatre in Andhra Pradesh.

Visakhapatnam city and district have a hoary past as far as screening and production of films are concerned. The building which houses the Telugu daily Eenadu at Seethammadhara was a cinema company once upon a time. Interestingly, years later the chairman of the Eenadu group Ramoji Rao set up Mayuri Distributors and produced several hit movies on the banner.

A good number of artistes from the region have made their mark in the field be it acting, singing or lyric writing.

Silent movies used to be screened by Jose Bioscope Company during 1915. Following the outbreak of plague in the town during 1917, the company sold its equipment to Dangeti Venkataratnam. After the disease subsided, Venkatratnam began screening films. Viewers used to sit on mats and watch the movies. They had to pay two annas (12 paise) for the first class, one anna and half-anna (3 paise) for the second and third classes respectively. The average collections per show was Rs.25 in those days.

Touring talkies were subsequently established. Soon after Poorna Talkies was built, Select Talkies was established near the Town Railway Station (old town area) and Universal Talkies was constructed at Soldierpeta. Garrison Theatre was constructed on the site on which Chitralaya stands today. Select, Universal and Garrison theatres have disappeared long ago.



STAR-STRUCK Megastar Chiranjeevi mobbed by fans during his visit to the city recently.

A good number of films have been shot in and around the city and district. "The first film which was shot in the city is `Kulagothralu' starring Akkineni Nageswara Rao and Krishna Kumari, which was released in 1962. Araku became popular as a film shooting location following the making of NTR' s `Driver Ramudu' during the 1980's," recalls S. Prasad, manager of Poorna Theatre.

The evergreen film `Maro Charitra' which was shot mostly in Visakhapatnam and Bheemuniptnam became a super hit. It was, perhaps, the only Telugu film till then to have screened to full houses in Bangalore for a whole year. Its hero Kamal Hasan had produced several films in Visakhapatnam after that. The Hindi version `Ek Dhuje Ke Liye', which was also a runaway hit, was shot entirely in same locales.

Tamil hero the late Sivaji Ganeshan was a regular visitor to the agency areas of the district during the 1960's. He had a fancy for hunting tigers.

Noted character actor late Raavu Gopala Rao was a native of Visakhapatnam. Another character actor and writer who made his mark was Gollapudi Maruthi Rao. Late J.V. Somayajulu, Sutthi Velu, Subhalekha Sudhakar, Mallikarjuna Rao, Dr. Thambu, Misro, Ganesh Patro and Kallu Chidambaram are among those from the city who have made it big in films.

The Theatre Arts Department of Andhra University has also contributed several artistes of repute to the film industry. "Shakshi Ranga Rao, writer Kasi Viswanadh, Attili Krishna Rao, Ganesh Patro, Misro, the late Krishna Chaitanya, Modukuri Johnson, Potti Prasad and Vizag Prasad," recalls the present Head of the Department P. Bobby Vardhan. Lyricist Jaladhi, who is remembered for the haunting melodies in `Pranam Karidu' and Poornima, heroine of the 1980's are among those who have settled in the city. L. Satyanand, who has contributed several `stars' to the film world, hails from the city. He has trained among others Pavan Kalyan, Mahesh Babu and child star Deepak. Lyricist Kulasekhar and hero Raja also hail from the city. Star producer D. Rama Naidu is constructing a studio on the Beach Road and recently the State Government has announced grandiose plans for the development of film industry in the district. Industry watchers feel that the day is not far off when the industry shifts to the city.

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