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Down memory lane

What was it like? ANR goes back in time recollecting his role as Devdas in one of the earliest films.

EVEN AS a young actor, Akkineni Nageswara Rao won critical acclaim in the film Devadasu. Directed by the Kuchipudi exponent turned filmmaker Vedantam Raghavaiah, with screenplay by Samudrala Raghavacharya, released in1953, Devadasu (with music by C.R. Subburaman) gave ANR an image that is etched in every filmgoer's memory. No wonder then that on the first day of the `Devdas Film Fest', the screening of this classic starring ANR had a hall packed beyond capacity.

What is it about Devdas that attracts attention? What kind of love does Sarat Chandra's Devdas signify? ANR shared his views about his encounter with Devdas - the character, and about the film.

"Samudrala Raghavacharya - the eminent writer - used to like me; he blessed me in my early career. I was not an educated man. Since I was an upcoming actor, he wanted me to see the psychological bent of characters sketched by Bankim Chandra, Saratchandra, and Ashapurna Devi - great writers from Bengal. He presented me 123 books - written by these writers. Many Bengali stories written by Sarat, were translated by Chakrapani of Vijaya Productions. And it is through these translated stories that I was first introduced to the character of Devdas. I liked the character. Of course I never imagined I was one day going to play him. Many doubted if I could carry the weight of such a character. I could relate to Devdas, in a way. However, I liked Batasari (based on Sarat's Badi Didi) the most, as a character. Characters like Batasari and Devdas are not too explicit. They preserve their inner feelings - to be enjoyed in solitude. I am also a man like that. In Batasari, the hero and heroine do not sing duets with each other. But while dying, they see each other for five shots. Expression of love with gratitude is what Batasari signified. There was `liking' - which is altogether different from love. Just the way we define love for god. There is purity in that love - but where there is sex; there is a little selfishness in it from both the ends. That is the ultimate target. `Devdas' has its own set of commercial gimmicks. There was opportunity for songs, poetry, words, and acting after drinking. I had to work hard, since I was not fully equipped."

"Our society was constricted at that time. It was a feudal system. Devdas did not want to hurt feelings of his parents. These days automatically a man would come out with the girl he loves. Devdas being an introvert could not even express himself. He could not express himself even to his lover. He realised his love only after losing her.

That is the finest point of the story. He did not know he loved her that much. He realised his mistake only after she left him to marry another."

Love, according to ANR means "dedicating oneself like a devotee to god. It is no longer possible to see that kind of love. Now women would say, why should Devdas suffer that way? Today intense love turns to intense hate the very next moment." Speaking about the challenging scenes in Devdas, "Every scene was difficult. Drunkenness was new to me. I had to learn through observing people in society. I liked the scene where Paro comes to meet him in the night asking him to marry her; and where she comes to reform him and take him along with her. He says no. Both were important scenes.

R. UMA MAHESHWARI

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