There are very few films which stay in the commercial ambit yet question very pertinent questions over theology and its practicality in the day-to-day life. Bapu directed “Buddimanthudu (1969)” falls in that rare category. The story of this film penned by Mullapudi Venkataramana asks important questions about our own belief system with regards to religion.
The story of the film starts with Madhavacharyulu (ANR), the temple priest of the village who is widely respected and is seen as a man who converses with Lord Krishna (Shoban babu) himself. He is of the variety of persons who follows God blindly and his unwavering faith in God and the temple trustee, Seshayya (Nagabhushanam) is never accepted by his younger brother, Gopi (ANR in a dual role), who is an atheist. He is the sort of a man who believes in his own luck and work rather than depending on some unknown force called, GOD.
Gopi turns as a thorn in the flesh of Seshayya who deprives the temple and the local school of its funds and rightful farm produce. Seshayya’s acts are often countered by Gopi who thereby invites his brother’s wrath. Added to these Gopi falls in love with Radha (Vijaya Nirmala) who is a close relative of Seshayya. Unable to bear with Gopi, Madhava expels him from his house and divides the ancestral property.
Gopi manages to convince the inspecting school official (Gummadi) to give authority to run school in his home and starts real education in his village. Seshayya tries to bring disrepute to Gopi and his brother by hiding the jewels of temple deity and passing the blame on Gopi. When search is going in Gopi’s home, a treasure which belongs to Madhavayya’s ancestors is found. While Madhavayya insists that the treasure should be bestowed to the temple, Gopi contests saying that the treasure should be used to develop the school. What happens next is the crux of the film.
Beneath this wonderfully woven story lies the real struggles of the characters. While Madhavayya is totally besotted with God, Gopi is angry over his brother’s madness with God. He believes that a person should put his own efforts and do it for himself. Without any human effort, it is futile to blame on GOD, seems to be the essence of this Buddhimanthudu.
The duo of Bapu-Ramana should be complimented for the effort they have put in to weave intellectual magic with in the commercial gambit and make it relevant for the day. Also the way they have created the character of Seshayya shows us the realities of the day when the temples and the village schools were run by “BIG men” of those villages. They were nothing but vehicles of their own loot. And that aspect came in a telling yet comical way through the characters of Seshayya and his assistant Lingaiah.
The performances of the cast deserve kudos as all the actors did justice for their roles. ANR gives ample proof of his acting abilities when he brings about the different shades of his two characters. Though he is an atheist in real life, ANR brought in great believability to his role of Madhavayya with great aplomb. Nagabhushanam excels as the evil Seshayya and his prancing around his women workers gives us a glimpse over the versatility of the man. Allu Ramalingaiah as Lingaiah adds humor and strength to the story and finally Shoban Babu as Lord Krishna looks divine enough to fall in love.
Over all, Buddhimanthudu is a classic case of commerce mixing with art and society to a great effect. Purchase the DVD and preserve it as it showcases the evolution of the country as well.