Bhakta Kannappa (1976), a classic in Krishnam Raju’s career!


Arjuna (Krishnam Raju) is reborn as Thinnadu, an atheist, in his next birth. Thinnadu is brought up by a tribal lord (M. Prabhakar Reddy) whose daughter Neela (Vanisree) loves Thinna. But Mallanna (Sridhar) also loves her. Thinna wins Mallanna in the duel fight and wins Neela. But, being an atheist, he disagrees to bow in front of the village goddess and takes Neela, and leaves the village. How Thinna became a devotee of Lord Siva, and what happens next is interesting and forms the rest of the story.


About the film:

The film was completely shot outdoors like Pattiseema, Gutala, and Buttayagudem, mainly in and around the forest of Buttayapalem. The shooting was started in November 1975 and the movie was released in May 1976. Initially, the film’s director was V. Madhusudana Rao who earlier directed Gopikrishna Films’ Krishnaveni (1974). Being a communist, V. Madhusudhana Rao liked the Kannada hit film Bedara Kannappa of Rajkumar, which was later dubbed into Telugu and was also a huge hit. The film has issues of societal inequalities between rich and poor and the dialogues thus are majorly communist. Bheemeswara Rao wrote the screenplay for that film. A couple of songs were also recorded for the film under the music direction of Adinarayana Rao. But, due to some reasons, the film director opted out of the project.

Mutyaala muggu was a hit that year. So, Jayakrishna, the personal makeup man of Krishnam Raju, along with Suryanarayana Raju, approached the Bapu-Ramana duo for the film. Ramana gaaru did not like the script and suggested several changes, and the producers agreed with the modifications.

Two songs that were recorded earlier didn’t fit into the new script. And there was a communication gap between Bapu and Adinarayana Rao, and so the latter opted out of the project. Satyam who was assisting Adinarayana Rao stepped into the modified project. All the songs were done in madhyamaavati raaga. This is the only film for which Satyam worked with Bapu and Ramana. Krishnam Raju who liked Gemini’s Chandralekha longed to keep a similar drums song in his film. To accommodate that, Ramana gaaru made subtle and suitable changes to the script. The film is also a major plus point for the singer Ramakrishna who sang huge hit songs like “enniyallO”, “kanDa gelichindi”, and “aakaSam dinchaalaa..” in the movie.

M.V. Raghu joined the team at the last minute. Bapu gaaru spotted M.V. Raghu and asked him to join the team. Noted Cameraman S. Gopal Reddy assisted V.S.R. Swamy in the film while Sharat and M.V. Raghu are assistants to him. The song “enniyallO enniyallO..” appears to be shot on a full moon night was shot in the middle of the day! This song won many laurels to V.S.R. Swamy.

The artwork is typical of the Bapu style and gives an authentic look to the film. Dialogues by Mullapudi give life to the characters and make one feel them as real-life characters. The hero says “kanTi guri kanDa guri unnavaaDini, naaku eduru lEdu”. What happens when he realizes the truth is the main plot of the film. The story in the books is very small; making it into a two plus hours film without losing grip is not an easy task.

Vanisree used to tease Krishnam Raju in the shooting. She used to call him turraaju. She worked with the unit earlier too for the film Krishnaveni (1974), which won her a very good name. This is the first time she worked with Bapu-Ramana. The film gave Sarathi much-needed recognition. Sarathi, who worked in more than 50 films before then, shot to fame with this film. His dialogue kOkopaa (kOyapillaki kotta paaTalu) was a good hit among the masses. Jayamalini has a good dance number Siva Siva ananElaraa… Sridhar, who worked earlier with Bapu in “Mutyaala Muggu”, got a good role as Mallanna and he did complete justice to the role. P.S. Varalakshmi in the role of Parvathi looked very glamorous. Rao Gopal Rao, who got a lot of fame with “Mutyala Muggu”, did a wonderful job again as the temple priest in the film.

The film had some financial problems towards the end of the shooting, and Ramana gaaru adjusted one lakh rupees to complete the film, which was repaid after six days after the film’s release. This was the first film to be processed in Prasad Film Labs in Madras. (The second film that was processed there was “Sirisirimuvva”.)

Everyone wondered when Bapu agreed to do the film as Bapu usually makes films related to Lord Rama, and this film is related to Lord Shiva. But the results of the film gave answers to them. The film was a huge hit and ran for 100 days in all big centers. This established the Gopikrishna banner that later made more hits like “Mana oori pandavulu”, “Amaradeepam”, etc.

Written by Sri Atluri



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