Mala Pilla - A revolutionary start to Telugu Cinema
By iQlik Movies - 25 June.2014 - 10:13 AM
Gudavalli Ramabrahmam- A visionary who utilized the powerful medium of cinema not just to entertain but to think and act. 75 years ago, when many religious practices and issues prevailed in the society, Gudavalli Ramabrahmam took the first step and influenced the audiences with his powerful and thought provoking cinema Malapilla. It was the first social reform movie in the history of Telugu cinema, which focussed on untouchability.
Those were the days of Telugu cinema when only mythological subjects were well received and acknowledged. It was a huge risk for any filmmaker to attempt a film beyond the mythological genre. It was even more risky to make a film solely based on an extremely sensitive issue like untouchability, which was a deep-rooted practice in the country back then. Gundavalli Ramabrahmam who took such a huge risk of experimenting with a sensitive genre used to run a stationery store named ‘Friends and Co.’ prior to filmmaking. During that time, he got In touch with Senior Samudrala and they both became friends in no time. He founded a theatre play group and named it as ‘Bharatamuni Brundam’ and also worked as a freelance writer in ‘Swarajya’ newspaper, in which he wrote articles on plays and arts. Due to losses in the stationery business, he shifted to Madras where he worked for a newspaper ‘Samadarsini’ and simultaneously for ‘Whale Pictures’ as publicity advisor. Later, in Kolhapur he worked as a production designer for films like Draupadi Vastrapaharanam, kanakataara. With that experience he started ‘Saradhi Films’ in 1936 with the support of Challapalli Raja ( Yarlagadda Siva Ramakrishna Prasad) and soon ventured into direction with Malapilla.
The movie takes place in a village called Kalyanapuram. Influenced by Gandhiji’s Harijanoddharana movement, Ramabhaiamma and few others start the same movement in the village. Reforms for Harijans like entry to temple etc cause disturbances in the village. The brahmin community along with the temple’s main Priest Sundara Rama Sastri condemn the reform of letting Harijans into the temple. During this time, Sundara Rama Sastri’s son Nagaraju and a harijan girl called Shanpa Latha fall in love with each other. But the conditions turn worse when the Harijan community protest against the elite and withdraw from their daily labor. This causes a lot of trouble to the elite community. Meanwhile, Sudara Rama Sastri becomes aware of his son’s love story and rages at his son. In a helpless condition both Nagaraju and Shampa Latha elope to Calcutta. There Nagaraju settles down with a decent job and teaches his wife to read and write. In the meantime, in Kalyanapuram takes place a major fire accident in which Sundara Rama Sastri’s wife gets stuck. A group of dalits rescue her and this leads to a change of perception for Sastri. He repents and regrets his brutal behavior and opens the temple’s doors to the dalits. This again leads to chaos in the village as he faces opposition from his own community. Police interfere in the matter, which finally leads to a peaceful settlement of the issue. Nagaraju and Shampa Latha return to the village and he finally ties the knot with his father Sastri’s total acceptance.
People behind the screen:
This movie is based on a novel ‘Malapillalu’, written by the famous writer Chalam. While Tapi Dharma Rao gave the scenario, Chalam wrote the dialogues. Basava Raju Apparaju and Tapi Dharma Rao penned down the songs. The songs were a revolution and very popular at that time, which were composed by Bhimavarapu Narasimha Raon, Govindarajula Subba Rao , Kanchanamala , Gali Venkateswara Rao acted in the main roles in the movie, which created a sensation with its thought provoking message. It influenced the Maharaja of Tiruvankur, who opened temple gates to Harijans in his province. Many Harijans married people they loved though they were out of their caste and community. The celluloid revolutionary Gudavalli Ramabrahmam made Malapilla reflect the social taboo of untouchability in the society, which was a great success of those times. It was produced with a budget of Rs. 1,10,000/- with a duration of 175 minutes and was shot in 40 days. Release date: 25-9-1938 .