America Alludu, one of K Vasu’s best films

America Alludu


Dr. Raju (Suman), a noted doctor in Chicago, marries his maradalu Radha (Bhanupriya), a village-bred girl. When they come to the USA after their marriage, Radha is initially unable to adjust to the new lifestyle of the West and irks Raju frequently with her mistakes arising due to innocence and ignorance. Due to her mistake, one of Raju’s patients at the hospital dies, and an upset Raju abandons Radha. Radha does not want to go India as an abandoned wife, and decides to continue to stay in the USA. How she gets on her feet and takes care of her child and eventually wins Raju’s heart is said in heart-warming fashion.

Producer Dr. Ramesh Vemuri on the film:

Basically, I am from Vijayawada, and my grandfather and father were associated with films even before I was born. My father Vemuri Gopalakrishna was a distributor, who distributed films like Samsaaram, Puttillu, Vaali-Sugreeva, etc. in the name of Janata Pictures. My grandfather also made films under Gokula Krishna Films banner, such as Parivarthana and Palletooru with NTR. When we lost money in films like Puttillu and Vaali-Sugreeva, my father stopped film business and moved on to other businesses. I came to the USA in 1974 and eventually settled down. Being ardent movie buffs like many others, we joined the Chicago Movie Club. The government had just announced a subsidy to movies made by new producers in the USA, and we thought of giving it a shot. We then contacted Jandhyala gaaru to do a film for us and even paid him an advance, but he was too busy then and did not have a visa to the USA either.

Thus, I contacted my close family friend K. Vasu to do the film for me. He had just come to the USA for a trip and thus had a valid visa already, and he readily agreed to do the film too. We approached our good friend Velcheru Narayana Rao gaaru for the story. Initially, the story was about four friends who come from diverse backgrounds and start working in the USA. We even shot some scenes with Suman and other actors in the USA accordingly. The story goes like the three guys (other than Suman) marrying – one marries an American girl, another marries the girl he loved, and so on – and Suman sees their lifestyle. After shooting for two days, we felt that such a story wouldn’t suit our style and changed the story. Suman was just an upcoming star at that time and we paid one lakh rupees as his remuneration for the film, and the female lead Bhanupriya was paid around Rs. 35,000 as the remuneration.


Most of the shooting was done in our house as well as some friends’ houses. We shot for 15 days in the USA and for 10 days in India. The costliest sequence of the was its climax, for which we bought about 60 cars though we only used three cars for the chase. In order to be prepared for accidents, we had a backup of 20 similar cars for each one, painting them all similarly and so on, and had taken a million-dollar insurance for the chase sequence. Apart from these, we had not paid anything for locations or permissions, thanks to the government’s cooperation too. We released the film on our own, except for the Godavari area. The film ran for 100 days in 10 centers.

Dr. Kavuri Chowdary on the film:

[Vemuri] Ramesh and I were good friends since the time we attended the Kakatiya Medical College in India. Thus, I was involved in the film from the very beginning stages. We in fact started working on the film about two years before the film actual shooting started. Like Ramesh said, we started out with a story but later sat with Dr. Velcheru Narayana Rao gaaru and developed the story, added more elements to it to attract the masses, and so on. Jandhyala gaaru was our original choice for the director, but his visiting visa was rejected on the grounds that he was going there to make a movie (for which he needed an H1 visa) Ramesh knew K. Vasu since his childhood as a close family friend and we roped him in thus. Jandhyala gaaru asked Dr. Tambu to help us with the shoot as he was not able to come to the USA, and thus Dr. Tambu became an Associate Director. Our basic idea was to bring the artistes to the USA and shoot the complete film here rather than going to India and making one. That was a time when nearly every artiste would be involved in more than one film’s shoot simultaneously, and thus shooting here in the USA would help wrap the shoot on our terms more conveniently with all artistes being handy. When Jandhyala gaaru was our choice, the lead pair was different, but a change in the story led to changing our artistes too.

Chicago Telugu Association was then raising funds to construct a building, which later emerged as an idea to build a Balaji temple instead. Legendary NTR was in the USA at that time for his bypass surgery and so the Association invited NTR for the foundation-stone laying. NTR’s son-in-law Dr. Daggubati Venkateswara Rao was also an alumnus of Kakatiya Medical College and Ramesh was a close friend of his. K. Vasu also knew NTR very well, and so we invited NTR to clap for the muhurtam shot and he gladly accepted.

The song nee venTE nEnunTaa… was inspired by Laura Branigan’s popular number “Self Control”. We took the tune, Ramesh arranged for local talent to play the orchestra, and we rented a recording studio in Chicago to record the song. Once the tune was ready, local singers took a week for practice and we recorded the song in sixteen tracks. To our dismay, we realized after the song was sent to Madras that Dolby technology wasn’t available in India at that time and thus the song could not be decoded there, and so we had to get it back here to convert it into two tracks and we then sent it back. That was thus the first time for a Telugu film song to be recorded in sixteen tracks.

Though we couldn’t retain all the richness, we can still be glad that it was the first Telugu song to be recorded in the USA. We used the (Provena) Saint Joseph Hospital in Elgin for our shoot. All the cast and crew stayed in houses belonging to Ramesh and other friends; while Suman and Bhanupriya got individual rooms, everyone else had to adjust on bunker beds laid in the basements! Ramesh’s wife used to get up at 5 a.m. to prepare breakfast and get everything ready for everyone, and by 8 a.m. we used to get ready for the shooting. Ramesh rented an RV (recreational van) for the shooting, which served our purpose as makeup van and traveling vehicle also. I only helped while shooting in Chicago and the surrounds.

Director K. Vasu on the film:

The idea of the film was to tell the greatness of Indians in USA through the story of an Indian and his wife. I went to USA for a trip and my friend Vemuri Ramesh asked me to do a film for him. Of course, I was excited to do it, as that’d be the first time for a Telugu film to be shot in the USA! Our ‘anna gaaru’ (NTR) was in USA for his bypass surgery then and came to Chicago for another event. Since the film’s producers were from Chicago, I contacted NTR gaaru and requested him to give his blessings for the film. I knew him from my childhood, and I also directed him in Saradaa Ramudu. So he readily agreed to be present for the muhurtam shot in the first week of August 1984, which was shot on Suman and Bhanupriya with NTR gaaru sounding the clap-board.

The house with a swimming pool in the premises belonged to an American friend of Ramesh. He gladly gave us the house for shooting. We mostly shot in Ramesh’s house or his friends’ houses. While most shooting happened in and around Chicago, Elgin and the surroundings, but we also went to Los Angeles, Washington, and Buffalo for some scenes. The village schedule in India was shot in Kovur near Madras. The song and scenes were shot in a week’s time towards the end of our shooting schedule, in the month of March. ….Actually, this was the first time a Telugu song was recorded in the USA. It was also the first time that an NRI wrote a Telugu film song (tEne vennela…) and that it was even composed and sung by NRIs for a Telugu film for the first time! There’s another first too – this was the first time graphics were used for a song in a Telugu film (in nee venTE nEnunTaa…) All the other songs were recorded in Chakravarthy’s permanent recording theater in the Vijaya (Vijaya Productions Studio) compound; Chakravarthy was extremely busy at that time.

Kim wasn’t our original choice for the role; she stepped in by someone’s suggestion when the original artiste didn’t show up in the last minute. Though Kim had just broke up with her boyfriend and was coping with that, she acted as professionally as expected, without any issues on the sets! …Rallapalli was supposed to do the role of America Apparao, but as he didn’t even have a passport and because that role had some scenes to be shot in the USA, I did that role as a last minute thing. I knew Suryakantham gaaru from my childhood too, and so I chose her for the elderly role. She used to call me fondly as “manavaDaa!”. She is a wonderful artist to work with, really! …Saikumar dubbed for Suman as he was the regular choice for Suman and Rajashekar then, and Saritha dubbed for Bhanupriya. Dr. Tambu (whose son is Chakrti Toleti, the kid in Saagara Sangamam that directed Kamal Hasan-Venkatesh starrer Eenadu recently) helped us a lot with the shooting in the USA, while also playing a role in the film. However, Jayabhaskar had to dub for Dr. Tambu’s role as the latter got busier after returning to India. In order for dubbing the American voices, we approached the employees of the U.S. Consulate in Madras, and they readily agreed to it without even taking any compensation/remuneration!

We had very less crew with us: cameraman M.V. Raghu had one assistant with him, Suman had an assistant and makeup man, Bhanupriya had her mother and a makeup man, and that’s all the “crew” we had! We carried our own luggage – cameras, bags and all the stuff – from place to place, and everyone chipped in. Even Suman helped without any star tantrums. …I can never forget the generosity showered by Americans back then! A part of the O’Hare Airport in Chicago was closed down to let us shoot uninterruptively. Though they initially sanctioned a permission for one hour, they extended by three hours without any hassles! Even the airport’s parking lot was reserved for us for free, so that it’d be near to the shooting location! Even when canning the climax at Elgin, the whole road was blocked one full day, though insurance is all that we paid for! The guy who was sent into flames in the action sequence was also the fightmaster for that scene; he was a retired fightmaster for Hollywood films.

We stayed in the USA for nearly all of August, though the shooting took only 15 days really! Seeking permissions to shoot took most of our time, though. While coming from Los Angeles, our flight tickets were with Bhanupriya, whose car was stuck in traffic and she was not able to make it to the airport on time. Thus, a whole day got messed up in getting connecting flights and we had to skip shooting for two days! Suman and Bhanupriya were extremely busy artistes then, and we only had 15 days of call-sheets for each of them. As the permissions took longer than expected, they cooperated with the film unit and stayed for longer. However, due to that, their call-sheets for other films got messed up and we had to wait for six months before we could get more call-sheets to complete our shoot! In fact, due to all this, the song naa vaalujaDa kRshNavENi… had to be shot in AVM Studio in India, though the story demanded shooting it in USA. Even for the climax fight, we originally planned it in the USA, but the fighter who practised well before the shoot hit really hard on Suman’s face during the shoot!

Though Suman is a fighter too, we didn’t anticipate such ‘accidents’ and we had to ensure that Suman should be safe for our shooting and other shootings and thus stalled the shooting then. Later, we completed that shoot in India with a similar-looking foreigner that we found in Madras. We trimmed his hair and shot the scene in ICRISAT premises. They let us shoot the fight only until 11 a.m. and so we had to start early and completed everything by 10.30 a.m. …The film’s shooting was completed by the end of March, and we released the film on June 6, 1985 after the post-production work. Actually, a distributor came forward when we announced the film and paid us an advance too, but by the time we completed the shooting, he was in deep financial troubles and requested us to give him the rights for only one area for the amount he already paid us. Thus, we gave him the Godavari districts area and released the film on producers’ own expense directly in all other areas. The film ran for 100 days in ten centers and made good profits, even with less publicity in those days!

Cameraman M.V.Raghu on the film:

I went to USA for the first time for this film, along with an assistant. We shot some scenes in studios at Hollywood too. Back then, shooting in Disneyland and Hollywood wasn’t allowed, and when we approached them for permissions, they said it’d take a long time to get the permission also informed that a foreign/regional film like ours might not even get permitted! They said that all they could do was to get us last row seats in the tour bus, so that we could conceal our filming cameras under dark cloth and do the shoot. Video cameras of those days were nearly as big as the film cameras, and so it worked! My assistant and I took seats in two corners of the last row and exchanged camera as we shot the shark scene or other scenes. We followed suit in Disneyland too in a similar manner. …After the shooting in Hollywood and in Disneyland in Los Angeles area, we planned to go to Hoover Dam but [the director] Vasu was tired and asked us to go ahead and shoot the song without him. When we hired the helicopter, the captain got to know that we were film makers and helped us shoot some scenes. The problem was that we did not have proper space to keep the camera stand and so we had to keep the camera in the window and shoot according to our own judgment.

We cannot even shoot a second time, and it is all purely judgmental shots, but they came out very well at the end! Even those scenes in Grand Canyon were shot in no man’s land, where only tribals were allowed! The captain nevertheless flew us there and we shot the song sequence on Suman and Bhanupriya. The place belonged to native Indian tribes (Red Indians), and rumor had it that any object dropped in the place would be tracked to the original owners by the tribals! My assistant dropped the camera reel box by accident, and that was when we came to know of the rumor. We indeed went back and got the box to avoid taking chances (laughs)! …A helicopter had just crashed in the area a couple of days before our shoot, and the captain was cautious enough to let us know of it only on our return journey!

While shooting in Washington, D.C. area, around the Lincoln Memorial, a cop approached us and asked us to show the necessary permit for film shooting. We didn’t have any, and we requested repeatedly, only to be warned that we could be arrested if we continue our shooting! We thus resorted to using only the still camera to take some still photographs, which I later cut and joined into the song sequence in such a way that no one could make out any difference! We also planned to shoot in the Lord Venkateswara Temple at Pittsburgh, but we didn’t have time to go there, as the dates of the lead artistes were already over and we were in a real hurry to complete the shooting. …The song shot on Kim was done on a black screen and we gave it to professionals in the USA who helped us with the special effects and sent it back to Madras.

Dialogue Writer Satyanand on the film:

I went to the USA in 1983 for the first time with director K. Raghavendra Rao gaaru and some other friends. At that time, we spent some time with Vemuri Ramesh at his place. A few months after our return, Vemuri informed that they were planning to make a film with Jandhyala on the lines of a village girl getting married to a guy settled in the USA. (Though jandhyala didn’t direct this film for Vemuri Ramesh, he had that idea in his mind and later developed it as Padamati Sandhyaragam). When that didn’t work out, Vemuri got the basic story from Velcheru Narayana Rao gaaru and asked me to write dialogues for the film. As I was in the USA just recently then, my memories of the place were still fresh and I thus used them as and when required in various scenes. While shooting, of course, some of those had to be changed as per our convenience, while I stayed in India – I was unable to go to the USA again as I was too busy with films at that time. As Dr. Tambu and Velcheru gaaru were also there at that time in USA, they looked over any changes that were deemed necessary.


Mutyala Padmasri, who served in TANA executive board for some time, did a small role in the film and is credited as “Padma” in the titles.

Two sons of Dr. Jampala Chowdary, a prominent literary-sociopolitical personality among NRI Telugus, played minor roles as Suman’s son in the film. While the younger one was a toddler then and was not credited in the titles, the elder one’s name appears in the titles as “Vemana Ompala”. (The titles designer got confused with similar looking Telugu letters “ja” and vowel “o” and thus spelt it wrong.)
Koneru Lakshman Rao of Buffalo (New York), Suserla Vishwantham and Vidya of Elegin (llinois), Jakkampudi Subbarayudu of Washington, (D.C.), etc. hosted the artistes and crew when the shooting was going on in their respective cities.

Article by: Sri Atluri



Related Stories