wiki:Shri Venkateswara Mahatyam

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Shri Venkateswara Mahatyam

aka Balaji 1960 204’ b&w Telugu d P. Pullaiah pc Padmasri Pics. sc/co-lyr Acharya Athreya co-lyr Malladi Ramakrishna Sastry, Arudra, Narasa Reddy c P.L. Rai m Pendyala Nageshwara Rao lp N.T. Rama Rao, Savitri, S. Varalakshmi, Gummadi Venkateshwara Rao, Chittor V. Nagaiah, Shantakumari, Suribabu, S. Janaki, Sandhya, Ghantasala Venkateshwara Rao, Rajanala Nageshwara Rao, Relangi Venkatramaiah

Pullaiah’s remake of his 1939 biographical of the Tirupati temple deity is a milestone in NTR’s acting career. Balaji (NTR) descends to earth following a celestial problem caused by Narada. On earth, as a common man who is nevertheless recognised by all the ‘good folk’ as a god, he falls for Padmavati (Savitri). In the end, as two earthly women, the ‘heavenly’ Lakshmi and Padmavati, battle over him, he turns into a statue. The film then turns into a documentary on the Tirupati temple, before the populist ending restores the god to his true devotees as against the Brahmin clergy. In spite of the shift from celestial grandeur to semi- documentary earthliness, the film seeks to induce a childish religiosity, e.g. in the sequence where Balaji is fed milk by a cow, the udder and his mouth being framed, in close- up, by a rock. The film’s marketing suggested that viewing the film was a substitute for visiting India’s richest shrine, and papier maché replicas of the icon were placed outside movie theatres soliciting donations in the name of the god. Apparently the temple authorities later sued the film’s producers. According to Rama Rao’s biographer S. Venkatnarayan (1983), the star’s politicisation stems from this period when thousands of pilgrims from Tirupati also visited his Madras house. NTR later produced and directed another Venkateshwara version, Shri Tirupati Venkateshwara Kalyanam (1979).

Film