(Article contributed by Ratnakar Sadasyula)
The famous Telugu director Kamalakara Kameswara Rao was known as ‘Pouranika Chitra Brahma’ for his movies based on mythological epics, but was equally famous for social dramas like Gundamma Katha. Born in Machilipatnam, he was a student of Noble College there, and worked as a journalist for some time with Krishna Patrika. He was an Asst. Director to K.V.Reddy on Bhakta Pothana and Yogi Vemana. Here are some memorable movies directed by him.
1. Panduranga Mahatyam: The story of Pundalik, a debauched womanizer, who undergoes a transformation, and becomes a devout Bhakt of Panduranga. It has the memorable song, Jaya Krishna Mukanda Murari, showing the entire childhood story of Krishna in one song. One of NTR’s best performances ever, especially in the song Amma Ani Arichana, where he realizes the futility of his behavior, and how he mistreated his parents.
2. Mahakavi Kalidasu: One of ANR’s best performances in the title role, about the great poet. SV Ranga Rao plays Raja Bhoja. ‘Shyamala Dandakam’ by Ghantasala in this movie is memorable.
3. Pandava Vanavasam: Another great mythological epic, dealing with the Aranya Parva of the Pandavas, starts with the dice game, how they are cheated, and their exile in the forest. NTR plays Bheema, and his padyalu in the Dice game scene, are memorable to date. Savitri is equally memorable as Draupadi, especially when she asks “Nanodi Tannodena”, SV Ranga Rao, is as good as ever as Duryodhana, while Gummadi as Yudhistira, Balayya as Arjuna, Mikkilineni as Dusshasana, Prabhakar Reddy as Karna, offer good support.
4. Mahamantri Timmarasu: A brilliant historical epic, featuring top class performances by NTR as Sri Krishna Deva Raya, and Gummadi as his wise minister Timmarasu. It deals with the relationship between Krishna Deva Raya and Timmarasu, how differences are created between them by jealous rivals, their fallout. A must watch movie.
5. Gundamma Katha: While he was noted for his Pauranika movies, Kameswara Rao was equally good at social dramas, as seen by this movie.One of the very rare occasions, when a movie is named not after the heroes but the supporting character. Suryakantham in the title role is brilliant, as the shrew, who ill treats her step daughter Savitri, and Ramana Reddy offers equally good support as her cunning brother. NTR and ANR as the brothers who teach Gundamma a lesson, are first rate as ever. Memorable movie by Vijaya, the dialogues by D.V.Narasaraju are full of sparkling wit.
6. Narthanasala: Another epic based on the Mahabharata, this time on the Virata Parvam, when the Pandavas spent time in incongito. This can be considered a sequel to Pandava Vanavasam. Once again Savitri shines in the role of Draupadi, while SV Ranga Rao makes a memorable Keechaka. NTR is brilliant in the roles of Arjuna and Brihannala, esp the scene, where he takes Uttara Kumara( played by Relangi) into battle. The scene where Keechaka is killed by Bheema is brilliantly shot. Mikkilineni as Yudhistara, Mukkamala as Virata Raju, Dhulipala as Duryodhana, Kantha Rao as Krishna all offer good support. SVR won the Best Actor award at Jakarta for his performance as Keechaka, while CNN-IBN has rated this among the 100 great movies of Indian cinema.
7. Bala Bharatam: He explored the Mahabharata once again, this time the Pandavas childhood, and their rivalry with the Kauravas. It deals with the early phase of the epic. has two great songs “Narayana Nee leela” detailing birth of Pandavas; “Manavude Mahaneeyudu” is another one. S.V.Ranga Rao as Bhishma, Anjali Devi as Kunti, Dhulipala as Shakuni put in some great performances.
8. Krishnavataram: Very ambitious epic, that showcases the entire life of Krishna right from his birth to Kurukshetra, as well as the episodes of Samanthaka Mani, Kuchela, Sisupala. NTR once again shines as Lord Krishna, while a huge support cast of Ramakrishna( Arjuna), Satyanarayana( Duryodhana), Devika( Rukmini), Kanchana( Satyabhama), Mikkilineni( Dharmaraju), Mukkamala( Kamsa).
9. Kurukshetram: His last really good movie, he directed a number of mythological epics after this, but none were really up to the great standards of his early movies. This was released in competition with NTR’s Daana Veera Sura Karna, and featured a huge starcast of Krishna(Arjuna), Sobhan Babu(Krishna), Balayya(Dharmaraju), Gummadi(Bheeshma), Krishnamraju( Karna). Satyanarayana( Duryodhana) in vital roles. The battle scenes were shot well, and this was one of the costliest movies of its time.
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