Nostalgic notes of ‘Sankarabharanam’
Every one who saw the classic ‘Sankarabharanam’ will remember its young hero. Today, that young man is a veteran Telugu actor. K.Pradeep caught up with him when he visited the city
Class act From hero to villain to character roles, Chandramohan has played all.
You could not have missed him in the path breaking ‘Sankarabharanam.’ The romantic hero who goes out of the way and even learnt music to win Sankara Sastry’s daughter’s hand in marriage. This role was made memorable by Chandramohan, who was incidentally the only ‘star’ in the film. ‘Sankarabharanam’ took Chandramohan beyond Telugu movies.
With Tamil legends
“Even today, I meet people in Chennai, where I have settled, who identify me only with this role. This is surprising because I have acted in some important roles in Tamil along with legendary stars like MGR (‘Naalai Namathe’) and Sivaji Ganesan (‘Andaman Kadhali’). Perhaps this shows the undying magic of Sankarabharanam,” says Chandramohan who was in the city on a visit to his Malayali son-in-law’s house.
Chandramohan’s link with Malayalam and Kerala began much before his daughter Madhavi married Nambi Namboodiri, both Ayurveda doctors. “So many song sequences were shot at locations in Kerala. For one such film, I remember Kamal Hassan was dance assistant. In fact, he was dance master Thankappan’s assistant and we worked together in many films. In Chennai, I used to stay close to Prem Nazir’s house. I used to visit him whenever he was there. Nazir was the only actor those days who drove a Mercedes Benz.”
Chandramohan also starred in the central role in the Malayalam film ‘Ananthasayanam’ (1972).
“I played a teenager (Unnikrishnan) who falls hopelessly in love with his teacher (Omana), played by Sheela. The theme was much ahead of the times. There were plans to remake this film in Telugu but it was shelved considering the storyline. I completed one schedule of another Malayalam film that had Thikkurissi, K. P. Ummer, Jayabharathi but this project did not take off after that.”
A household name in Andhra, mainstay of the Telugu film industry for over four decades, Chandramohan, 66, is the only senior male actor who is still active and much in demand. For producers, directors, script writers and the audience Chandramohan remains a sure bet.
“I have always been a producer’s actor. I try to understand what the director wants from me. I have never been fussy about my roles, trying to do full justice to each one of the 600-odd roles. And I never haggled over remuneration.” A graduate in Agriculture Science, Chandramohan chucked away a ‘secure’ government job to join films. “That was a dilemma. I never had any sort of formal training in acting except for the odd roles in college plays. There was a call for new faces for a film by the renowned film maker B. N. Reddy. I was picked up along with a group of youngsters. They did a screen test, asked me act and was finally selected. Fortunately the director of the agriculture department and Reddy were related. I got permission to take up the assignment, making my choice easy. In fact, I quit only after I had almost established myself in Telugu cinema.”
Chandramohan made his debut in the film ‘Rangula Rathnam’ (1966). It also saw the debut of many other future stars like Vanisree, and Rekha, who later made it big in Bollywood. That film was a huge hit, won a clutch of awards and Chandramohan was on his way up.
From romantic hero to villain, comedy to character roles, Chandramohan has done them all. The significant aspect of his career is that he has never allowed himself to be typecast. He was first choice hero for most of the super hit Telugu remakes of popular Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam films.
Among them his performance in the remakes of ‘Pathinaru Vayathiniley’ (Padaharella Vayasu) and ‘Mundanai Mudichu’ (Mudumullu) stand out.
“I did the lead role in almost all the Bhagayaraj films in Telugu. In the Telugu and Tamil remake of the Hindi hit ‘Seeta Aur Geeta’ I played the villain. One role that I cherish is in the Telugu remake of the Malayalam hit ‘Chitram.’ I played the role made memorable by Nedumudi Venu.”
Winner of six Nandi and two Filmfare awards Chandramohan has already completed four films this year, with a few more lined up. But one film that remains his favourite is the arty ‘Bangaru Pichika.’ (Golden Sparrow). “This film was directed by the famous cartoonist Bapu. Most of the film was shot outdoors, there was no dubbing, and every noise was recorded. Bapu insisted on natural acting with very little make up. The film won a lot of critical acclaim. This film remains close to my heart.”
HIT DEBUT Chandramohan, with Anjali Devi, in ‘Rangula Ratnam’
Chandramohan is often termed the lucky star for new heroines. Many are the heroines who have either made their film debut or had their first big hit starring with him. Many of those who have worked with him in their early career went on to become a big stars, like Rekha, Jayasudha, Jayaprada, Sridevi, Ramya Krishnan, Bhanupriya, Suhasini, Vijayashanti, Prabha and many others. Even today new faces insist on having their first shot taken with Chandramohan.
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