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Superstar Krishna: His arrival with Thene Manasulu signalled the dawn of a new era in Telugu cinema

We take you through the story behind Krishna’s on-screen debut helmed by Adurti Subba Rao

Superstar Krishna: His arrival with Thene Manasulu signalled the dawn of a new era in Telugu cinema
Krishna
  • Srivathsan Nadadhur

Last Updated: 05.20 AM, Nov 16, 2022

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The 1960s in Telugu cinema had both NTR and ANR consolidating their stardom in the industry. They weren’t only at their best with their craft but also effortlessly drew crowds to theatres, with a minimum of 4-8 releases a year planned across festivals. Haranath and Sobhan Babu were also growing in stature though it was still a phase where filmmakers weren’t easily receptive to new talent. Director Adurti Subba Rao, after a huge success like Mooga Manasulu, took the biggest gamble of his career to launch four new actors into the industry for his next, Thene Manasulu.

Aspirant actors from Andhra Pradesh, Madras, Delhi, Rangoon, Singapore, Bombay enthusiastically sent their portfolios to the makers, who received as many as 5000 applications across two weeks. There was immense curiosity within industry circles about Adurti’s attempt. Everyone from Adurti to his fond associate K Viswanath to cinematographer Selvaraj to writers Athreya, Ramana and editor Krishna took stock of this deluge of applications, narrowed down the list to 40 and wrote back to the applicants. Krishnam Raju, Krishna, Jayalalitha, Hema Malini, Rammohan, Sukanya and Sandhya Rani made it to this list.

Tene Manasulu poster
Tene Manasulu poster

To finalise the four new leads for Thene Manasulu, a screen test was held at Arunachalam Studio. If selected, the actors would be informed about it through a letter. One of them was Krishna, a B.Sc degree holder, who was already married and a father to a son (Ramesh Babu), returned to his hometown Burripalem with high hopes. Adurti didn’t take much time to finalise the female leads Sukanya and Sandhya Rani. While Krishna and Rammohan were his choices for the leading men, many around him weren’t in favour of the decision. Eventually, the filmmaker trusted his gut and asked them to reach Madras at the earliest.

Krishna, leaving his family behind, headed to Madras and never had to look back later. The producer Sundaram signed him for two projects at one go - Thene Manasulu and Kanne Manasulu. He was to be offered a princely sum of Rs 2000 and Rs 3000 for both films. ANR and Savitri graced the muhurtam (launch event) and blessed the newcomers. Before the shoot, the actors had to undergo workshops and were taken to picnics, where they practised dialogues by the beachside. Diction was of immense priority for Adurti, who also cautioned them not to be carried away by the fame that comes with cinema. These experiences firmly shaped the work ethic of Krishna.

Heeralal, the choreographer, helped Krishna with the dance lessons. While the rehearsals were held in Chennai, Thene Mansulu, whose shoot commenced in June 1964, was primarily shot in Hyderabad, Mysore and Ooty. Though the project was initially planned as a black and white film and a few reels were shown to the distributors as well, the makers took a call to shoot it afresh as a colour film soon. There was pressure to remove Krishna from the film owing to concerns expressed by buyers, though Adurti was adamant about his decision. The light-hearted entertainer, Thene Manasulu, ultimately hit screens on March 31, 1965, and was a resounding success.

Thene Manasulu was extensively promoted across Andhra Pradesh with the entire cast in attendance and enjoyed a 100-day run in theatres. ANR, P Pullaiah and Anjali Devi attended the 100-day celebrations, presenting mementoes to the team. The film signalled the beginning of a new era and gave hope to several industry aspirants - it was okay to chase the big-screen dream and it was equally possible to accomplish it. Athreya, Dasaradhi wrote the lyrics for the film which had a fabulous album by KV Mahadevan with hits like Nee Eduta Nenu Vaareduta Neevu, Divi Nundi Bhuviki, to name a few.

Though Rammohan, whose looks were initially compared to Dev Anand, couldn’t consolidate on this start, Krishna built his career smartly over the years despite facing stiff competition from NTR, ANR, Sobhan Babu, Krishnam Raju at the box office. He reunited with Adurti a few years later for Mayadari Malligadu and Gajula Kishtayya as well. Krishna had his limitations as a performer but he compensated for that with his risque, bold choices beyond the staple fares and ensured livelihood for many through his productions. With his passing away, Telugu cinema has lost yet another jewel in its crown.

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