Like Sundarakanda in the epic of Ramayanam, Virata Parvam in Mahabharatham is also an interesting tale of the 13th year of exile of the mighty Pandavas, spent at the court of the King Virata. Without revealing their true identities, the Pandavas along with wife Draupadi spent a year’s time in Virata’s kingdom, which holds a great significance in the epic Mahabharata. It is believed that reading Virata Parvam would bring rainfall. Given the interesting twists and turns in this epic story, Virata Parvam inspired several Tollywood filmmakers to make it as a film.
To begin with, It was directed by D. G. Gune and produced under the banner Venkata Narayana Talkies. The film had famous theatre actor Madhavapeddi Venkataramayya in the role of Keechaka, and Surabhi Kamalabhai as Draupadi. It was released the next year in 1937 on the festival of Sankranthi. The then famous actor-singer Saigal appreciated Surabhi Kamalabhai for her performance in the film.
Later, in 1963, it was for the second time that the same subject was adapted as a film. It was the blockbuster Nartanasala, directed by Kamalakara Rameshwar Rao with a great star cast of NTR, SVR and Savithri. The songs in the film composed by the music director Susarla Dakshina Murthy are evergreen classics. The film was screened at the Jakarta Film Festival, where SVR received the award for best actor for his role of Keechaka in the film. NTR received critical acclaim for his dual portrayal of Arjuna and Bruhannala. Talking about the highlights of this film, one can’t miss Relangi’s hilarious performance as Uttara Kumara. As a whole, Narthanasala is one of the biggest milestones in Telugu Cinema.
To remake a classic is a risk. There are a few examples of successful remakes, but Srimad Virataparvam is not one of them. NTR remade Narthanasala as Srimad Virataparvam under his own direction, with Kondaveeti Venkata Kavi as dialogue writer and Susarla Dakshina Murthy as music director. NTR appeared in 5 different roles in the film. As Arjuna, Bruhannala, Sri Krishna, Keechaka and Dhuryodhana. In the year 1979 on May 28, on the occasion of NTR’s birthday the film got released and failed miserably at the box office.
Later in 2004, the time when historical and mythological subjects were the last choices of the filmmakers, Nandamuri Balakrishna decided to remake Narsthanasala. The shooting started in Ramoji Film City, with Balakrishna as Arjuna/Bruhannala and Srihari as Bheema. Actress Soundarya also signed the project for the role of Draupadi. Unfortunately, Soundarya’s life tragically ended in a plane crash. Later Balakrishna also got his leg fractured. As a result, the movie got postponed several times and was finally called off.