Stars who immortalised protagonists of novels
Adapting literature into films has been a tremendous trend from the time cinema has been invented. Stories, novels, and dramas have been taken from regional and also international languages and were made into successful films.
Shakespeare's drama like 'King Lear' has been adapted to the Telugu milieu and was made as 'Gunasundari Katha'. Another drama 'Taming of the Shrew' is the evergreen successful movie 'Gundamma Katha', which still holds a major viewership even today.
The 'prahasanam' (witty skit) 'Apoorva Brahmacharya Prahasanam' by Kandukuri Veeresalingam has been the source of two bumper hit films 'Missamma' (NTR and Savitri) and 'Pelli Pustakam'. NTR as Gireesam in the film 'Kanyasulkam' is based on the drama by the doyen of Telugu literature Gurajada.
The first heroes of the novels popularly known as 'navalaanayakudu' in Telugu are from Saratchandra's Bengali novels like 'Devdas' and 'Bada Didi'. The roles of Devdas in the film 'Devadasu' and 'Surendranath' in 'Batasari' (adaption of 'Bada Didi') were donned by Akkineni Nageswara Rao, who continued to play many such heroes from novels in his hey days.
Telugu film 'Devadasu' stands world's best even today and is rated as the best 'Devdas' film in the industry, in spite of being made many times in other Indian languages.
Until the late 80s and early 90s, adapting literary heroes as film heroes had been a trend in Telugu films. Many movies in the 60s are based on either Bengali or Telugu novels. The film 'Doctor Chakravarthy' (1964) is based on the novel 'Chakrabhramanam' by Koduri Kousalyadevi. When adapted into a film the importance was given to the hero and was named so.
Readers-turned-viewers applauded the movie and visualised ANR as Doctor Chakravarthy. 'Premanagar', a super hit film in which ANR plays the role of Kalyan made it an evergreen classic. Producer D Ramanaidu said whenever he had a financial crisis, he released this film and made money.
Later, in the early 70s, ANR was the only one who played portrayed the roles of heroes in films, which are from novels. He played the lead roles from novels of Yaddhanapudi Sulochanarani such as 'Athma Gauravam', 'Jai Jawan', 'Athmeeyulu', 'Vichitra Bandham', 'Bangaru Kalalu', and 'Secretary'. His role as Rajasekharam in 'Secretary' made him an icon of romance and heroism.
Next, in this line comes Krishna and Sobhan Babu. Actress, director Vijaya Nirmala has made some good number of films based on famous Telugu novels. 'Meena' is an all-time hit in which Krishna plays the male lead and Vijaya Nirmala is the female lead. Although the novel is named after the heroine; the hero is the heart-winning man in the film. This movie was remade recently by Trivikram as 'A Aa' starring Nithin and Samantha, which was also a hit.
Sobhan Babu, who was the heartthrob of many women in the 70s to almost late 90s is also the hero, who played many lead roles from books. His roles as Bharath in 'Eetharam Manishi', Vijay in 'Jeevana Tharangalu', Krishna in 'Radha Krishna', Chandu in 'Girijaakalyanam', still makes him an evergreen book hero, which were created by Yaddhanapudi Sulochanarani.
The characteristics of heroes penned by eminent Telugu writers have been given flesh and blood by our cine heroes. This not only made the heroes real but also earned applause and fame to the actors. The most famous novel of Viswanadha Satyanarayana 'Ekaveera' (1955) was made into a film with the same name starring NTR and Kantha Rao as Kuttan and Sethupathi from the novel, who made these book heroes immortal on the celluloid.
In the 80s it was the trend of novels of the famous writer Yandamuri Veerendranath. His novels 'Abhilasha', 'Challenge', 'Rakshasudu' not only garnered accolades but also gave us another hero Chiranjeevi. Chiranjeevi playing the role of Chiranjeevi in 'Abhilasha', Gandhi in 'Challenge' made him a successful reel hero.
His film 'Chantabbai' is also an adaptation of a novel by Adi Vishnu. Rajendra Prasad starrer in 'Aha Naa-Pellanta!' is an adaptation of the book 'Satyam Gari Illu' by Adi Vishnu. Krishnam Raju's 'Agnipoolu' is based on the novel by the same name and it was penned by Sulochanarani. Murali Mohan as Ravi in 'Premalekhalu' made the characters of these heroes popular, from the world of literary fiction to the celluloid world of lights, camera, and action. The novel of Rachakonda Viswanadha Sastry 'Rathaalu Rambabu', was also made into a film starring Ranganath as Rambabu.
There was this healthy practice of adapting good and popular novels into films until the late 90s. But from the last two decades it's seen that the stories of the films are not based on any literature. Now the stories are cooked up as per the image of the heroes and the story is not from any sumptuous good literature.
Are the directors reluctant to choose from literature or there is no such worthy literature coming up in Telugu? This is a lingering question, which has no answer to date. On this World Book Day gliding down the memory lane, we could just remember the novel heroes from literature adapted to the silver screen.
Playing the novel heroes has earned the actor fame and popularity. The senior heroes too played the novel heroes without hesitation. They have given life to the heroes from literature. Let's hope for this golden age to come back, where good literature is made into good films once again.