Radhika Rajamani in Hyderabad
The 1950s and 1960s was a glorious time for Telugu cinema and saw the rule of the two titans NT Rama Rao (NTR) and Akkineni Nageswara Rao (ANR) besides others like S V Ranga Rao, Gummadi, Jaggaiah, Relangi, Savitri, Jamuna and so on.
Here's an alphabetical take on the best in Telugu cinema from the 1930s till today:
A for Ardhangi (1955)
Director: P Pullaiah
Cast: Savitri, ANR, Gummadi, Shantakumari
Based on the Bengali novel Swayamsiddha by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya, this tale, set against a zamindari backdrop featured an excellent performance by Savitri, who plays the role of Padma who is forced to marry a timid, illiterate man addicted to opium (fed by his stepmother) and later transforms him completely.
While taking up this challenge, she had to contend with a scheming mother-in-law and brother-in-law. The film is remembered for Savitri's brilliant performance.
B for Bangaru Papa (1954)
Director: B N Reddy
Cast: S V Ranga Rao, Krishnakumari, Jaggaiah
This was a touching tale about human relationships. It was also set in a zamindari milieu with S V Ranga Rao as the zamindar. Good lyrics by Devullapalli Krishna Sastri and melodious music by Adhepalli Rama Rao were other highlights of the film.
Bangaru Papa won the Silver Medal at the National Awards for this film.
C for Chivaraku Migiledi (1960)
Director: Ramineedu Gutha
Cast: Savitri, Balaiah, Kanta Rao
Savitri reached the pinnacle of her career with this film. Chivaraku Migiledi is the remake of the Bengali film Deep Jwele Jai starring Suchitra Sen and directed by Asit Sen in 1959.
It's the story of a nurse in a psychiatric hospital who offers emotional support to patients suffering from mental trauma. She is part of the therapy the hospital adopts to treat these patients but has to often disentangle herself from emotional attachments to the patients.
Savitri's performance was heart-wrenching in Chivaraku Migiledi (What's left at the end). It's not surprising she got a National Award for best actress for the film. The same story was made in Hindi in 1969 as Khamoshi with Waheeda Rehman in the central role.
D for Devadasu (1953)
Director: Vedantham Raghavaiah
Cast: ANR, Savitri, S V Ranga Rao, Lalitha
Based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya's novella Devdas, this Telugu version had ANR in the lead giving an outstanding performance. Savitri (as Paro) and Lalitha (as Chandramukhi) supported ANR well.
The songs in this film like Jagame Maayaa, Palleku Podam .. Paarunu Chuddaam Chalo Chalo, and Kudi Edamaithe sung soulfully by Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao and set to music by C R Subburaman, are remembered to this day.
E for Ee Charitra Ae Siratho (1982)
Director: Vejella Satyanarayana
Cast: Ranganath, Sai Chand
This film focused on the social problems of the times like unemployment, general uncertainties, and youth-related issues.
G for Gundamma Katha (1962)
Director: K Kameswara Rao
Cast: S V Ranga Rao, NTR, ANR, Savitri, Jamuna, Suryakantham
This film, with an ensemble cast of all the stellar performers of those times, was a good family drama and an unforgettable film.
Each of the actors got into the skin of his or her character so well and delivered great performances.
Yet again, the songs of Ghantasala were huge hits.
H for Happy Days (2007)
Director: Sekhar Kammula
Cast: Tamannaah Bhatai, Varun Sandesh, Rahul, Sonia, Nikhil, Gayatri, Vamsi, Monali
Happy Days took the viewer on a nostalgic trip to the good old days of college. Sekhar Kammula chose rank newcomers for his cast (barring Tamannah) and adroitly wrote a script with perfect characterisation and filled it with incidents, episodes, relationships, emotions from life in a college, and delivered a hit.
Another youngster, Mickey J Meyer, scored mellifluous music in sync with the subject.
I for Iddaru Mitrulu (1961)
Director: Adurthi Subba Rao
Cast: ANR, Gummadi, Rajasulochana, Sarada, G Varalakshmi
ANR was seen in a double role in this film, a first time for a Telugu hero. Although Iddaru Mitrulu was loosely based on the Bengali film Tasher Ghar, it was totally re-written.
Sarada plays the sister of ANR and this was her first big role. Iddaru Mitrulu has good music by S Rajeshwara Rao, particularly the song Paadavela Raadhika.
J for Jyothi (1976)
Director: K Raghavendra Rao
Cast: Jayasudha, Murali Mohan, Gummadi
Jayasudha gave a fine performance as a cancer patient for which she won a Nandi award for best actress. It's the story of a teenage girl who marries an older man and her reasons for doing so.
Jyothi is a significant film in Jayasudha's career.
K for Khaidi (1983)
Director: A Kodandarami Reddy
Cast: Chiranjeevi, Madhavi, Sumalatha, Rao Gopala Rao
This was the first big hit that propelled Chiranjeevi to the top league in the industry and gave him his first taste of stardom.
This film had everything--action, romance, emotions-- and was a trendsetter of sorts.
Chiranjeevi gave a riveting performance as Suryam in this revenge drama where he is falsely accused of killing his father and sister by the village landlord played by Rao Gopal Rao.
L for Lava Kusa (1963)
Director: C Pullaiah and C S Rao
Cast: NTR, Anjali Devi, Chittor V Nagaiah, Master Nagaraju, Master Subrahmanyam
This film is based on the Uttara Kanda of the Ramayana. It had 37 songs and padyams and the music was composed by Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao.
It was a blockbuster and was in the making for five years. While C Pullaiah began it in 1958, his son C S Rao took over and completed it.
M for Malleswari (1951)
Director: B N Reddy
Cast: NTR, Bhanumathi
Malleswariis one of the classical gems of Telugu cinema, with amazing performances by the lead pair and sonorous music by S Rajeshwara Rao.
The 15 songs in the film are still remembered by people today as is the love story between Nagaraju (NTR) and Malliswari (Bhanumathi).
M for Mossagallaku Mosagadu (1971)
Director: KSR Das
Cast: Ghattamaneni Krishna, Vijayanirmala, Gummadi
Krishna took great pains for this first cowboy film to be made in India under the Padmalaya Studios banner. It was inspired by the Hollywood films The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, Mackenna's Gold, and For A Few Dollars More.
The movie was shot in Rajasthan. It was a big-budget, trendsetting film.
N for Nartanasala (1963)
Director: K Kameswara Rao
Cast: Savitri, NTR, S V Ranga Rao
Based on the Virata Parva of the Mahabharata, this film won the Second Best Feature Film Award at the National Awards.
Well-known Carnatic vocalist Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna sang a song in the film.
S V Ranga Rao's performance as Keechaka fetched him an award at the Jakarta International Film Festival.
Nartanasala is considered a classic.
O for O Manishi Tirigi Choodu (1976)
Director: Dasari Narayana Rao
Cast: Murali Mohan, Mohan Babu
The subject of the film is bonded labour and the reign of the landlords.
P for Pushpaka Vimana (1987)
Director: Singeetham Srinivasa Rao
Cast: Kamal Hassan, Amala, Tinnu Anand
This was a silent film, which was made in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and later also in Hindi. The film was hilarious yet had an underlying pathos about it.
The reinventing of the silent film genre worked and the film shot in colour did very well at the box office.
R for Raithu Bidda (1939)
Director: Gudavalli Ramabrahmam
Cast: Bellary Raghava, Gidugu Venkata Seethapati Rao, Tanguturi Suryakumari, S Varalakshmi, Vedantam Raghavaiah, P Suri Babu
The film is a critique of the zamindari system and was banned by the British who still ruled over the sub-continent then.
As was the practice in those days, two of the cast members sang the songs in the film.
S for Shankarabharanam (1980)
Director: K Vishwanath
Cast: J V Somayajulu, Manju Bhargavi
This masterpiece was a big hit at the box office and critically acclaimed.
It won four National awards and five Nandi awards as well as the Prize of the Public at the Besancon Film Festival in France in 1981.
Weaving classical music and dance together K Vishwanath strung a touching tale. Great music by K V Mahadevan with some wonderful singing by S P Balasubrahmanyam and Vani Jayaram was a major plus point of the movie. The classical songs moved many and made it one of the most memorable of films.
T for Tagore (2003)
Director: V V Vinayak
Cast: Chiranjeevi, Jyothika, Shriya Saran, Prakash Raj
A remake of the Tamil film Ramana directed by A R Murugadoss, Tagore was an entertaining film with a message. The hero Chiranjeevi leads a crusade against corruption.
The film marked 25 years of Chiranjeevi's career in films. It was a big hit and raked in the moolah.
U for Undamma Bottu Pedata (1968)
Director: K Vishwanath
Cast: Ghattamaneni Krishna, Jamuna
A musical, it had good lyrics by Devulllapalli Krishna Sastry and melodious music by K V Mahadevan.
It was about a woman who inculcates responsibility, discipline, and sense into family members she who are irresponsible and lazy (barring her husband) and how she sacrifices her life for them.
V for Vedam (2010)
Director: Krish (Radhakrishna) Jagarlamudi
Cast: Allu Arjun, Manoj Manchu, Anushka Shetty, Manoj Bajpai, Saranya
Vedam stars Allu Arjun, Manchu Manoj and Anushka Shetty and takes its inspiration from a true-life story.
Krish strung together five stories of five different individuals. It was a contemporary tale written and filmed well.
Keeravani's music along with meaningful lyrics and his background score enhanced the film greatly.
Some fine performances added depth and intensity and moved the audience a great deal. Krish's effort was outstanding.
Y for Yamagola (1977)
Director: Tatineni Rama Rao
Cast: NTR, Jayaprada, Kaikala Satyanarayana
This was a humorous and very entertaining film. The scenes between Kaikala Satyanarayana, who portrayed Yama, and NTR, are hilarious. It did extremely well at the box office.