What is the prime motto of any film or film-maker? Is it to entertain or entertain propogating proper values? Is Cinema a Art or just Commerce? This is a raging question which divides the Film Industry into two halves. This question did not arise just these days as even in the early days of Cinema, the film makers and producers were always in a fix over the path to be taken by Cinema in moulding ethics and values. Legendary personalities were divided over their values. One among those legends who took the way of Cinema as art and strove hard to mix values in his films than commerce was B N Reddy.
Born in Kotta Palli in Pulivendula Taluk of Kadapa District on November 16, 1908, Bommireddy Narasimha Reddy, made his debut as an artist through a stage play in his school. He became interested in Theatre after watching “Pratapa Rudriyam”, a stage play marvelously enacted by Govindarajula Subba Rao and inspired by the play he joined “Andhra Nataka Sabha”.
After passing out from school, on a business trip, he went to Calcutta and stayed in Shanti Niketan for some time in 1925 before he went to Burma and saw some stage plays and opera. On his father’s wish he studied Chartered Accountancy and worked as an apprentice in Shastri & Co in Madras.
B N Reddy became a Congress member and actively participated in the Khadi Movement and other political activities. During the same time he was introduced to H M Reddy and Narla Venkateswara Rao and was attracted towards Film Industry.
He partnered with H M Reddy under Rohini Pictures for a few movies before ethical differences cropped up between him and H M Reddy and this led to the break away group of B N Reddy and K V Reddy and Mula Narayana Swamy and others and the formation of Vauhini Pictures.
Vauhini Pictures was formed with the stalwarts like K V Reddy, Ramnath, Nagaiah, A K Shekar and others looking after the technical departments and Mula Narayana Swamy and B N Reddy looking after the production affairs. The core group of Vauhini pledged that they will be party to quality movies which are produced with ethics and not compromising on moral values for the sake of commerce. Like wise they have started the first production of Vauhini, “Vandemataram” in the year 1939 with the story by B N Reddy and Nagaiah as the Music Director and also the lead actor of the movie and it was the first movie as a Producer and Director for B N Reddy. Later on Vauhini grew to be a Production House which was known for its quality films and ethical values. B N Reddy as the brain behind the growth of Vauhini in the various capacities of Director and Producer.
During the shooting of “Bhaktha Potana”, the expenses increased and Mula Narayana Swamy proposed to create Vauhini Production by limiting Vauhini Pictures to distribution and was agreed. “Swarga Seema” was the first production of Vauhini Productions and with the profits of the film Vauhini Studio was constructed. B N Reddy was the Producer and Director for most of the Vauhini productions but some of the movies were directed by K V Reddy too.
Like C Pullaiah epic “Lava Kusa”, B N Reddy is best remembered for his magnum opus “Malliswari” with N T R and Bhanumati in the lead roles. The movie was so acclaimed that the Heads of the State called for a special screening of the movie in New Delhi and then praised B N Reddy for making a movie which can be called a Watershed in the history of Indian Cinema.
B N Reddy took special care in selecting the themes for his movies and he was considered a Mad Perfectionist. He used to give importance to each and every aspect of film making and never compromised on the quality aspect. This is best illustrated when he bought a necklace costing Rs 2000, a huge amount in those days, for the movie “Pooja Phalam”, though he was not the Producer for the movie. He insisted that he did not like the necklace which was purchased by the Producer and it will not fit in the scene. This incident best illustrates how penchant he was for authenticity of his film. He never bothered on the Commercial successes of his films. In the process he saw some failures as well but he remained unperturbed and continued to make quality movies. The last movie he directed and produced was “Bangaru Panjaram” in the year 1969 which was also Vauhini’s last movie.
In recognition to the contribution he made to the Telugu Cinema, Government of India awarded him with “Padma Bhushan” in the year 1974 and with Dada Saheb Phalke Award in the year 1975. He was the first awardee of Dada Saheb Phalke award from Telugu Cinema. He also worked a Legislative Council member for Andhra Pradesh. He deceased on 8th November 1977.
“Movies have to be purposeful and contain a message. Cinema has to convey something, if not it is unnecessary to make a movie. I believe that a Producer should feel responsible to the society”, is his oft quoted statement. Sadly, even today there are very few takers for his statement as Commerce is dominating the artistic aspect of Film Making. B N Reddy shall remain as a great exponent of Cinematic Art. He speaks of his art through his films.