The couple made ANR a star and a mass star with their folklore subject, “Keelu Gurram.” The legend of ANR started with that film. Even NTR started his career with “Mana Desam” in their production and grew to be the greatest actor known to Telugu cinema. The respected veteran actress of the day, Anjali Devi was the vamp in their movie “Keelu Gurram” and also catapulted her to stardom. These legends are remembered but the creator of that epic is hardly remembered even as a name forget the lingering image of his which is not available anywhere.
Mirzapuram Raja was from Nuziveedu in Krishna District and was born into a royal family. He came into film industry by establishing Jaya Films Studio in the year 1938. The first movie to come out of the Studio was “Krishna-Jarasandha” in the direction of C Narasimha Rao.
He got married to C Krishna Veni who acted as a heroine in his production “Bhoja-Kalidasu” in the year 1940. Later on C Krishna Veni took over the management of Studio and was actively involved in the production matters while Mirzapuram Raja used to supervise the direction for their movies. Krishna Veni later on refused to work for outside banners. In the year 1940 itself, Jaya Films Studio was renamed as Shobanachala Studios and functioned by that name for quite a while till it became Venus Studio.
Mirzapuram Raja was a person who took on challenges and took care to remain a winner. He started a production by name “Lakshmamma” in the year 1950. There was another film which was under production with the same story and similar title called “Sri Lakshmamma Katha” which was being produced by Ghantasala Balaramaiah. Mirzapuram Raja, wanting to release his production first than the other took a gamble of using 3 directors for various portions of the movie. Chitrapu Narayana Murthy, P Pullaiah and Gopi Chand were the 3 directors who directed the movie. The movie was a success story saluting the judgment and confidence of Mirzapuram Raja in his Directors and business acumen.
He later on became a director by directing “Keelu Gurram” with A N R as the Hero. This movie made a star out of A N R and later on he became a legendary figure in Telugu cinema. “Keelu Gurram” was not a normal folklore movie. It did indulge in sorcery through the character of Anjali Devi, but countered it in the form of science with the invention of Keelu Gurram. The movie might be the first sci-fi thriller too, for its indulgence in science. The movie also battles the greed of man with the goodness of human race. The movie was a huge success and was dubbed into Tamil as “Mayakkudirai”, also achieving box office success.
He was a man who believed in tradition and honored age old cultures. Those times he felt there was a need to preserve the tradition and culture of the country which made him enter the film industry. The daily activities of his Studio had to begin with the customary rendition of devotional song “Vatapi Ganapatim Bhaje” by the orchestra troupe of the Studio.
He used to be a generous man and he paid his lead artistes and all others handsomely. The main actors of his Studio were said to pocket a sum of Rs. 400 per month in those days.
Mirzapuram Raja met with his demise in 1971 during the production of his Kannada film “Bhaktha Kumbhara” with Raj Kumar as the Hero. The Royal who created magestic movies and treated his audience and workers as Royals may have died, but his legacy continues through his work.