Cinema is a unique form of art. It is a combination of narrative, acting, art, cinematography, and music. The director is like the captain of a ship where there are seven different crews from seven different nations, and he has to ensure that they all work in harmony, while weathering the storm of expectations and perceptions.
Amidst the chaos of working with all these departments, the director has also got to stamp his authority and vision over the project. If there is one director who was successful in stamping his identity over the aesthetics of Telugu cinema, it is Raghavendra Rao.
Just the name – K Raghavendra Rao, BA – flashing across the screen meant a gigantic blockbuster. For no one had nailed the knack of churning out blockbusters like Raghavendra Rao did. Son of director K.S. Prakash Rao, the then young Raghavendra Rao quickly rose to greater heights than his father in the realm of commercial Telugu cinema.
Raghavendra Rao has a knack of narrating complex stories in a simple, lucid manner that could be understood by one and all. Another aspect of his film was that he chose to work with all the biggest stars of the time. From NTR, ANR, Krishna, Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna, to Venkatesh – Raghavendra Rao gave the Telugu film industry some of its biggest hits. His earlier ventures included Adavi Ramudu, Padaharella Vayasu, Agni Parvatham, which proved his ability, while the best was yet to come.
Gharana Mogudu was the first film in Telugu cinema to net revenues of over 10 crores. While the rest of the industry was grappling with revenge sagas, Raghavendra Rao took a huge risk with the devotional movie Annamayya, resulting in yet another mega-blockbuster. Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari, Allari Priyudu and Pelli Sandadi were other films that went on retain their place as the most iconic films of the time.
Within the industry, his grasp over other aspects of film making, like cinematography, choreography and editing are the stuff of legend. While shooting the film, it is said that Raghavendra Rao knew exactly what he wanted to show on screen. And he would sit with the editor and explain his requirements in the most lucid manner.
Considered as the ‘guru’ by contemporary filmmakers like SS Rajamouli and Marthand K. Venkatesh, Raghavendra Rao is mostly remembered for the way he shot his heroines. His songs, that carry his stamp of creativity, can be recognized just from a single frame.
In a way, Raghavendra Rao shaped the fantasies of the state. His dream sequences, with heroines prancing about in the rain, with psychedelic elements like flying duppatas, naughty pigeons, milk, water and honey trickling down the waist of the heroine, created a new grammar of erotica. He brought to screen heroines (who were earlier considered homely or bubbly) in an avatar that the audiences had never seen them in.
In an age when technology was still stagnant, Raghavendra Rao proved that it is not gigantic budgets and sets that matter, but a unique vision that the director nurtures. Using props like a necklace, or a pigeon, Raghavendra Rao brought to life the innate fantasies of millions of people. And yet, amidst all of this, not once did he resort to vulgar obscenity.
After he stopped making movies, like a true patron, Raghavendra Rao hosts the wildly popular TV show – Soundarya Lahiri, where he passes on the knowledge that he has acquired over the years to the new generation. Watching his show makes you realize what a visionary the man truly was!
It is without surprise that SS Rajamouli, who is undoubtedly the largest filmmaker today, considers him as a guru. In fact, through the heroism of Rajamouli’s films, it is the sensibility of Raghavendra Rao that shines out.
K. Raghavendra Rao, BA.
Just the name is enough!