Banner: Vijaya Krishna movies
Presented by: Superstar Krishna
Music: Ramesh Naidu.
Cast: Superstar, Vijayanirmala, Jayanti, Satyanarayana, Prabhakar Reddy, Gummadi, Jaggayya, Sridhar, Pandaribaayi and others.
Long time ago, I read an article which mentioned how rapidly the concept of ‘speed dating‘ is catching up in some of our mega cities like Bombay. Unable to find a soul mate, some “guppies” are apparently leveraging websites like Bombayspeed8.com to find one. Most of these believers in instant gratification, I am sure, will, now consider Devadas a looser and as someone who failed to get a grip on his life. But, there are still a significant number of people who will consider him a hero albeit with a ‘tragic flaw‘.
Regardless of how he is perceived, no one will have any qualms in admitting Sharath Chandra’s Bengali novel Devadas as a magnum opus on unrequited love. ANR, Dilip Kumar and other stalwarts of Indian Cinema brilliantly portrayed this fictional character in the screen adaptation of this novel in their respective languages and thus benefitted a lot in the early stages of their careers. But Superstar Krishna is probably the only actor in the Indian cinema, who drew in lot of flak for making this movie.
A calculated risk:
1974 was a special year for Krishna for two reasons: 1.With ASR, he joined the select club of people to act in 100 films and 2.his riveting portrayal of the legendary ASR earned him both critical acclaim and commercial success. He was very well entrenched in the Industry as most of his action flicks went well with the masses. But Krishna, like all actors, tried to get out of the image trap and consciously acted in several soft movies like “Manushulu, Mattibommalu”, “Radhamma Pelli”, “Gowri”,” Deergasumangali”etc. Unfortunately, none of these clicked at the box-office.
They say desperate times call for desperate actions. With the desperation looming large, Superstar Krishna decided to remake the classic film Devadas on a larger canvass in the same year. Critics apparently scorned at the thought the moment the news became public and his well-wishers tried to convince him to reevaluate the idea. But their efforts went in vain as Krishna was determined to gamble with his image. During the same time, his wife and actress Vijayanirmala, who directed the hit film “Meena” (1973), wanted her 100th movie (as an actress) to be something special and she was also equally enticed by the idea of remaking of a classic.
Devadas (Krishna) and Parvathy (Vijaya Nirmala) are child hood friends, who become soul mates during the course of time. But Devadas’s inability to act against the wishes of his parents separates the two lovers forever and Parvathy marries another Zamindar (Gummadi). Devastated by this, Devadas becomes a chronic alcoholic and befriends a beautiful courtesan Chandramukhi (Jayanti). But even her unflinching adulation does not give him solace and he sets out to meet Parvathy for one last time. The story ends with Devadas dyeing just few yards away from Parvathy’s house.
Why it failed:
When arch-rival Pepsi Cola was cutting into its market share, Coca-cola tampered with its taste and launched a sweeter version of its Classic Coke to attract new consumers. But this enraged the fans of the original Coke and they protested massively before its headquarters in Atlanta. Surprisingly, several people interviewed after blind tastes, apparently liked the taste but they still protested as they did not want the ‘most successful product in history” to change.
This is a very relevant analogy to analyze this film in hindsight. A controlled performance from Krishna in the title role, good direction by Vijayanirmala, stellar cast, melodious music by Ramesh Naidu- “Jeevitham Yeemiti,Veluthuru Cheekati“,”Meghaalaloona theelaali“, “Porigintidoragaariki pogaruekkuva“,”Idhi nisheedha samayam” and philosophical dialogues make this a good film perse. Still there were no takers for this movie as audience were strongly associated with association ANR’s version. For most of them ANR was Devadas and Devadas was ANR. Moreover, ANR was also infuriated by Krishna’s attempt and he released his movie all over the state with brand new prints around the same time. While the newer version was getting terminated from theaters in its first four to five weeks, the older version set the cash registers ringing. Simply put, it is one risk that did not give any returns to Krishna. It is an experiment that failed. Superstar Krishna mentioned in many interviews that he was devastated by this failure.
What happened next?
- ANR and Krishna reconciled their differences and ANR acted in “HemaHeemilu”, which was produced on Vijaya Krishna Pictures in 1979
- Dasari Naryana Rao made “Devadasu Malli Puttadu”. This movie was a bold attempt by Dasari as it dealt with the aged Parvati (Savitri) uniting Chandramukhi (Vanisri) and Devadasu (ANR) when they are re-born
- Krishna went on to become the Superstar of Telugu Cinema
Image courtesy : Idlebrain.com