K .Raghavendra Rao’s magnum opus, Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari entered its 30th year on May 9th, 2019. It is interesting how this social fantasy was carved out with its finesse and commercial elements which made it a an enduring classic. Raghavendra Rao is a master of staging emotions with the correct amalgamation of commercial elements in his movies. His movies were noted for their opulent sets, taut screenplays and popular music.The way he combined these elements with commercial stars made each film of his a veritable cocktail of mainstream Telugu Cinema.
Raghavendra Rao’s Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari was a great hit which remained as a milestone in the career of both Megastar Chiranjeevi and the late Sridevi. The story how this blockbuster movie got shape is a fairy tale itself, as narrated by the movie’s screenplay writer and veteran novelist, Yandamoori Veerendranath.
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C. Ashwini Dutt of Vyjayanthi Movies approached Yandamoori Veerendranth to write a story on the lines of the N.T.Rama Rao classic, Jagadekaveeruni Katha (1961,) a folklore where the hero wins the hearts of four celestial damsels and makes them his wives. Yandamoori tweaked the story to one damsel, named her Indraja and then symbolically created a hero who is a commoner, a tourist guide in the Visakhapatnam area who looks after four young orphans. Sridevi and Chiranjeevi were selected to play the roles in the movie of the damsel and the commoner.
The movie has withstood a lot of obstacles in the form of screenplay hickups and dialogue paucities. Veteran screen writer-director, Jandhyala was hired to write the dialogues with chaste Telugu for the damsel role and colloquial language for the guide. After the dialogues were okayed, there came another hindrance in the form of who would be the villain, in the story, Amrish Puri who starred in a Telugu film Kondaveeti Donga (1990,)was selected for the villain who practiced witchcraft and wanted to acquire the fabled ring worn by the damsel (Sridevi.)
The movie completed shooting and was released, but had to face the biggest obstacle of nature itself. Whole Coastal belt of Andhra was down asunder with heavy rains and the theatres were empty, a rarity for a movie which boasted of powerful star power of Chiranjeevi and Sridevi. The first weekend, from May 9th, 1990 when the movie released was dull with people stranded in their homes, rearranging their senses after nature’s fury.
Suddenly the floodgates opened in the last week of May and the movie became a cult classic, with the soulful music score of Ilaiyaraja and the dialogues by Jandhyala. Capped by K. Raghavendra Rao’s genius framing, the movie raked in the moolah as any previous Chiranjeevi film did.
The rest is, as they is history.