There was a period before the independence when the era of silent movie ended and cinema learnt to speak a language during which the film makers of the time believed in bringing mythological stories onto the celluloid. But Gudavalli Ramabrahmam defied that trend and opted to utilise the powerful medium of cinema for a social cause and took the cine world and society by storm by creating a social masterpiece in the form of “Mala Pilla”. With one stroke, Gudavalli achieved the impossible of tackling a serious social issue with his film and made it acceptable to the masses as well. “Mala Pilla” produced and directed by himself in the year 1938 brought in a kind of revolution and made other film makers think of making social movies with relevant themes. In short Gudavalli brought revolution through screen.
Born on 24th June 1902 in Nandamuru in Krishna District, Rama Brahmam completed his Inter education in the year 1918 at National College in Bandar. He got married to Saradamba, daughter of Koganti Nagaiah of Indupalli, in the year 1920. He grew to become a nationalist with patriotic fervor in his ideology.
He believed that Journalism is the best way to propagate his ideology and thoughts and ran the news tabloid “Sama Darsini”, and later on “Praja Mitra”. He used to have good contributions from with the great thinkers and social activists of his day like Gopi Chand, Tapi Dharma Rao, Samudrala Raghavacharya, and Narla for his news tabloid.
Due to his passion and liking towards Theatre, he used to review plays regularly in the tabloid “Swarajya”. All his reviews were frank and fearless.
He used to visit the Vel Pictures Studio frequently and from there on developed interest on film industry. He believed that Movies were the best way to propagate his ideology to reach the common man who cannot read and write, and then decided to learn more about techniques of film making. He worked as a production executive for the film “Kanakatara”, thereby introducing Samudrala Raghavacharya to the film industry.
Later on he worked as a Production Manager for a couple of films and decided to start his own Production Company, “Sarathy Films Private Limited”, with the help of his friends. Yarlagadda Siva Rama Prasad (Challapalli Raja) acted as the Chairman and Tummala Sita Brahmam, Lingam Satyanarayana acted as the Directors while Gudavalli Rama Brahmam was the Managing Director for the Company.
“Mala Pilla” was made in the year 1938 and it had an explosive theme for those times, an orthodox Brahmin marrying a Harijan girl, the story of which was given by legendary revolutionary writer Chalam and dialogues by Tapi Dharma Rao. The movie was a pioneer of sorts for its usage of diction which was contemporary. The movie released on 25th September 1938 in 12 centers and became a huge success. Some sections of the society demanded a ban on the film but they were pacified by Ramabrahmam.
Buoyed with the success of “Mala Pilla”, Ramabrahmam proceeded to produce and direct “Rythu Bidda” in 1939 which exposed the Zamindari system. This movie received rave reviews but the feudal lords were so annoyed that they forced the Government of Madras to ban the film, which they duly did and “Rythu Bidda” remains the only Telugu movie to have been banned by the Government.
The controversy over “Rythu Bidda” implied financial constraints for Ramabrahmam but he recovered by producing other movies like “Illalu” in 1940, “Apavadu” in 1941, “Patni” in 1942. He produced “Panthulamma” in 1943 which exposed the murky world of Municipal Corporation. Again he produced “Mayalokam” in 1945.
In 1945, he was elected as the President of South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce Later he started his dream project “Palnati Yudham”. During the production of this movie he fell seriously ill and had to delegate the directorial responsibilities to L V Prasad. The movie was released in the year 1947 but Gudavalli Ramabrahmam, the champion of masses and the pioneer of social cinema in Telugu, took his last breath on 1st October 1946 itself.
The celluloid revolutionary Gudavalli Ramabrahmam may have died before breathing the airs of an independent India, but the social taboos and issues still remain and his inspirational movies still remain as relevant to this day as they were in his times.