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Mullapudi leaves behind enduring legacy

The veteran writer-director left an indelible impression on generations of film-goers with his versatility



Mullapudi Venkata Ramana Photo: V. Raju

Destiny cleaved the inseparable writer-director duo of Mullapudi Venkataraman and Bapu with the former's death last week. Perhaps no one influenced Telugu cinema so deeply as the two with a string of films that evolved their own idiom and left an indelible impression on generations of film-goers.

Venkataramana, however, has carved a niche for himself with his ‘Budugu' that has become a household name and its lingo quite alive with ‘dekestingvadu, rendu jella sita, pakkinti lavupati pinnigaru, seegana pesunamba and private cheppadam' becoming a part of day to day life, just as certain expressions from the classic Mayabazar found their way into Telugu language. A prolific writer, originality, wit and humour have been Ramana's forte.

Ramana began his career as dialogue writer and later produced ‘Bangarupitchuka,' with Bapu as director. The duo went on to create several classics and took up varied themes of social relevance and came out with clean and classy entertainment. The black and white Sakshi is still remembered for its theme of rebellion in a humble way and it was screened at the Tashkent Film Festival. Budhhimantudu exposed the ills of village politicians and the tussle between generations on ‘temple' and ‘school.' ‘Amyamya' became a byword for bribe after the film.

The artist in Bapu and the creative writer in Ramana, well-versed with epics, brought out the best in them on to the celluloid. With Telugu films switching over to colour ‘Sampurna Ramayanam” gave an epic experience shot on the banks of the Godavari in all its grandeur to the audience with memorable songs and a towering performance by SV Ranga Rao as Ravana. Deviating from casting NTR known for his mythological roles, they cast Sobhanbabu as Rama, after Krishna in Budhhimantudu. The river Godavari, its eternal beauty and majesty have been captured in several films including the riverlogue “Andala Ramudu.” NTR- starrer Sri Ramanjaneya Yuddham also turned the popular mythological story into a riveting film with songs like “Sreekaramou Sriramanam…”

“Mutyala Muggu,” the modern day Ramayana, stunned the audience with its admirable mix of several fresh elements with photography, songs and more importantly, the Rao Gopalrao villainy in contrast to the Nagabhushanam mark till then popular. The ‘Contractor' is wickedly funny, speaks in Godavari accent and splits a married couple from a zamindari family. Its dialogues still remain fresh.

Perhaps only a Bapu and Ramana could venture making a lyrical film like Sitakalyanam that appears more like a moving painting on a wide canvas, much before graphics made special effects child's play.

The stunning visual beauty of its scenes including Gangavataranam drew accolades from film critics abroad making people here sit up and take a re-look.

The duo made films with all top heroes NTR, ANR, Krishna, Sobhanbabu, Krishnamraju and Chiranjeevi, among others.

When Rajendraprasad turned out to be new comedy hero everyone liked, they made “Pellipustakam,” with a reversal of the Missamma theme. Mr. Pellam batted for women empowerment and brought ‘tutti' into Telugu lexicon.

Much before he began his film career, Ramana was a journalist with Andhra Patrika Telugu daily. His film reviews drew a great deal of interest. He narrates his childhood, his stint as journalist in Andhra Patrika, how he and Bapu experienced music watching some great performances in his book ‘Koti Kommachhi,' the title of his autobiographical book that perhaps might need an explanation after a few decades.

He wrote short stories that have been critically acclaimed with memorable characters like Ananda Rao, Appa Rao and, Gopalam and Radha. His “Rajakiya Bhetala Pancha Vimsatika” is a hilarious read giving insight into politics at grass root level. His complete works have been brought out in eight volumes.

G.V. PRASADA SARMA

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