An evergreen classic Devadasu starring Akkineni Nageshwara Rao, one of the greatest actors Telugu Cinema ever witnessed was released exactly sixty years ago on 26th June 1953. Though many films come and go in the eternal space of Telugu Cinema, only certain films make a greater impact on the viewer and remain to be most memorable - Devadasu is one such amazing film.
The first name which comes to any Telugu person’s mind when Devadasu word is uttered is Akkineni Nageshwara Rao. As long as the word Cinema exists, Devadasu character will remain intact in the hearts of Telugu Film Audience. This film is viewed with admiration by not only the older generation of the 50s but also the younger audience, and the evolving audience of the present era.
Inception of the Story:
Sharath Chandra Chattopadhyaya is the author of a novel named Devadas. He had a friend in real life who failed in love terribly and in turn, destroyed his life in the name of excess drinking. When he saw his friend in such terrible condition, there was no limit for Sharath Chandra’s agony. That was how on one fortunate midnight, the story of Devadas was penned by Sharath Chandra. Those days, the region of Bengal was filled with youth who were addicted to drinking and spoiling their bright future. Even this was one of the reasons why Sharath Chandra wanted to write the story of his friend in the form of a novel. True to the honesty in the story, the novel Devadas influenced numerous readers of that age. Naturally, the novel was taken as a movie adaptation in many languages and by various film makers. But it is Akkineni Nageshwara Rao who comes to thought whenever the story is remembered.
Devadasu as a story is quite simple to put in words. It is a failed love story of an affluent individual Devadas, who spoils his life and his health for the sake of his lost childhood love Parvathi (Savitri). Coming to the female lead of the film Parvathi, the first dialogue which comes to every Telugu person’s mind is “Nee Paadala Chenthana naakintha chotu ivvu devuda”. This one line is enough to say how much Parvathi loves Devadasu. Right from her childhood days, she always dreamt of marriage, bonding, life and even death with him. When Devadasu leaves his town and his fond memories with Parvathi during his childhood, she grows up with the thoughts and memories of Devadasu in her heart. Devadasu returns to his town after studying and eagerly waits to meet his love Parvathi. They love each other deeply and dream of bright new life which they would start together. But as fate would see it, Devadasu‘s father disagrees for the alliance because of the financial status of Parvathi’s family. He even insults Parvathi’s father who comes to Devadasu’s house to speak about the alliance. Feeling humiliated, Parvathi’s father fixes her another alliance and this prods Parvathi to take a daring step to come out of her house and meet her lover Devadasu. Getting shocked to see Parvathi take such a bold step, Devadasu tells her clearly that he cannot marry her against his father’s wish. It is when Parvathi pleads Devadasu in every way possible and renders the line "Nee Paadala Chenthana naakintha chotu ivvu devuda”. But Devadasu, apparently not thinking about what he is going to lose - doesn’t agree to what she says and sends her back home.
It takes lot of confidence and guts for a woman to leave her house and parents behind on a midnight and say to her lover that she would want to live with him. This one action alone will say the enormous love Parvathi has for Devadasu. In fact, if Devadasu himself showed the equal amount of courage Parvathi did, their life would have been very fruitful. It is a bitter truth that one cannot know the value of a person, or a possession until he/she loses it. Parvathi even touches Devadasu’s feet pleading him to accept her, but Devadasu hits her back in rejection. It is a typical human psychology where we miss out a fortune which comes searching for us all the way home, by overlooking it. When the fortune leaves, going in its next journey, we start realizing the value of it and start wailing for it. That is why, this particular scene has so much of importance for the plot of the film.
Exactly the same situation happens to Devadasu in the film. Parvathi moves on with her life and gets married to a rich old man, who even has children. She understands the reality in front of her and becomes stronger mentally and continues her life in balance. But Devadasu ruins his life in thoughts of Parvathi and getting addicted to drinking. It is when he happens to meet Chandramukhi, a prostitute whom he despises of initially. He feels she lives a life of lesser cadre and when she looks after him during the last days, he understands the value of her. Devadasu leaves the world in vain, by spoiling his health in drinking and getting mentally more dejected, and Parvathi is left shocked - with the tremendous grief she has in her heart, and yet living her life.
The film’s soundtrack comprises of 11 songs, composed by C.R.Subbaraman and the lyrics were penned by Senior Samudrala. The songs are evergreen and unforgettable even after sixty years of their making.
- The film production of Devadasu in Telugu, starring Akkineni Nageshwara Rao and Savitri from the banner Vinodha Pictures began on 21st November 1951 in Revathy Studios, Madras at precisely 8PM.
- Devadasu was the first film to be made, after Revathy Studios was established.
- Another noted film Balanagamma also began its filming on the same day Devadasu started, in the same studio.
- During the inaugural puja for Devadasu film, the novelist’s Sharath Chandra’s photo was also kept.
- Devadasu was made in a duration of 19 months, with a production cost of 3 Lakhs.
- Initially Sowcar Janaki was selected for the role of female lead Parvathi. But due to some reasons she was replaced by Savitri - who just acted in a small role in a film named Shantha till then. It was a huge challenge for the film’s team to choose Savitri who doesn’t have much prior experience like Sowcar Janaki did by then. But Savitri excelled in the role of Parvathi so much that even Sowcar Janaki appreciated her work after the film was made.
- When ANR was casted as the lead Devadasu in the film, the film’s team had to face lot of criticism from the film industry. Many critics felt that ANR may not be suitable for a love story, as till then he was acting more in folklore and mythological films. But ANR took the film as a challenge, and understood his character so well and literally lived in the role of Devadasu.
- ANR’s acting was as realistic as a drunkard in the film that, he used to receive fan mail from various people advising him not to drink so much in real life. It is interesting to note that ANR didn’t even drink once for the role he played!
- The producer D.L.Narayana was warned by many of his well-wishers about making this film. But being a determined person, he took the initiative of single handedly producing the film and making it a visually beautiful Epic.
- The film ran successfully in Madhurai’s Chintamani theatre for a duration of 60 weeks - thereby making a record. It was played in Hyderabad’s Sudarshan 70MM theatre for 200 days, and the theatre management organized a felicitation for the team.
- The Tamil version of the same film was released in September of the same year and this Epic film became highly successful in both the languages .It is interesting to note that on the same day Telugu version Devadasu was released, the Hindi version of Devadas starring Saigal in the lead role was released in competitive spirit. However, the Hindi film’s influence was minimal on the Telugu version and it undoubtedly added to more success of the latter.
- Superstar Krishna acted as Devadasu later in the 70s taking as a challenge but the film could not reach the heights which ANRs version did. The story of Devadasu inspired Dasari Narayana Rao, to write a sequel to the film “Devadasu Malli Puttadu “which had ANR in the lead again. The story features Devadasu taking rebirth in the era of 70s and so does Parvathi and Chandramukhi!