PART - 1

 

MARRIAGE

 

In May 1942, Just as he entered his 20th year, Rama Rao married Basava Rama Taraka, daughter of his mother`s brother. He got married and failed in his inter examination, not once but twice. His friends used to tease him, saying "Vivaham Vidya Nashanam", the fellow got married and failed in his examinations.

During the two years he did odd jobs, like wholesale tobacco business to supplement the family income. Mean While his friends heckling became too much to bear. He became angry and he became serious. He was determined to pass the exam. He worked day and night and eventually pass the intermediate examination with admission to the Andhra Christian college in Guntur for a Bachelor of Arts Course in 1945.

Rama Rao continued to stay in Vijayawada even after joining college in Guntur. He would have his meal and leave home at 7.30 in the morning and take a train for Guntur. After attending classes, he would return home again by train by 7.30 in the evening, He always carried his lunch to College.

 

MAKING OF AN ARTIST

 

Became a noted Telugu actor. Both became great friends. Both took active part in stageing Play in the college till they passed out in 1947. In 1946, at the annual conference of Andhra Nataka Kala Parishad held in Vijayawada, Rama Rao, Jaggaiah and Mallikamba, a radio artist, staged a play called ‘ Chesina Papam’ The committed sin, written by the Kopparapu Subba Rao and bagged the first prize for the best play.

Rama Rao, Jaggaiah and their friends continued their dramatic activities in vijayawada after they finished college. After leaving college, Jaggaiah took a teacher’s job in a school in Duggirala, his native place. Every evening, he used to go to Vijayawada, nearly 20 Km. Away, by train to work for the amatenr drama group, National Art theatre, and return to his village the next morning.
 
The first offer to join films came Rama Rao’s way while he was still in college .C.Pullaiah, the famous Telugu film director, heard about Rama Rao’s acting abilities through a friend who happened to see him on the stage in a couple of plays, and came down from madras with offer of a role in ‘Keelu Gurram’ (The Magic Horse), the film he was planning to make shortly.

But N.T. Rama Rao rejected that offer politely. He didn’t want to disturb his studies and join films at that point of time, because he was keen to getting his degree. Pulliah wasn’t the one who would give up easily. He then went to his father. But Laxmaiah, left the decision to his son. N.T. Rama Rao told Pulliah "See, Iam more determined now than ever to pursue my studies". If my father has put the burden of the decision on me, I must at least make him feel happy that I am behavires as a responsible man. Letme get my degree first. Once I finish my studies, I can come down to Madras to try my luck in films. But most certainly not now.

L.V.Prasad, who has already established himself as a director in the Telugu film industry, happened to be in Vijayawada that night. Prasad was on a talent-scouting mission of Andhra. He was in search of new faces to introduce in a film called Srimati he was planning to direct for Sarathi Studios.

A well wosher caught hold of Rama Rao around 11 in the night and took him to Prasad. Prasad, who was busy watching a film in a hall, had a good look at him. He asked him to come to Madras .

The third class Vijayawada-Madras train fare was Rs. 8 in those days. Staying in a modest lodge in Madras cost Rs. 4 a day. But Rama Rao didn’t see why he should ask his already over-burdened father to form out even those few rupees.

Prasad gave him his first cine test at the Shobhanachala (now Venus) Studio on May 21, 1947. The test lasted an hour and a half on the sets of Drohi, a film then under production. The test over, Prasad told Rama Rao to go back, the result would be communicated later. The young man was not sure how he fared in the test. Uncertain of what was in store for him, he boarded the Calcutta Mail to return to Vijayawada where he now had a wife and a little son.

Armed with a BA degree in economics, Rama Rao was eager to take up a job. His parents did their duty by him by educating him. It was now his turn to support them as well as his young wife and son. He had already become conscious of his physique. He began to do exercises and eat ground maze instead of rice to maintain a strong and muscular body.

He kept trying for all kinds of jobs. He applied for a sub-inspector’s job but failed to get it. Later he applied for a job as a King’s Commissioned Officer (KCO) and was one of the two selected from the state. He was asked to proceed to Dehradun for an interview. But his father was not enthusiastic about his son joining the military service because nobody in the family went to the military so far. Rama Rao didn’t go for the interview.

Meanwhile, a letter arrived from Prasad. The film for which Rama Rao was tested was being put off for the time being, said the letter. But the director was making another film called Mana Desam (Our Country). There was a small but crucial role in it. The role would be his if he wished. He was welcome to go to Madras if he wanted to do the role.

This came as a disappointment. He was not interested in a bit role and there was no question of going to Madras for it. He put the letter aside without sending a reply.

Rama Rao now sat for the Madras Service Commission examination for a sub-registrar’s job. Out of the 1100 candidates who took the test, seven were selected. Rama Rao was one of them. He was pleased that at least now he could earn his living. Everybody he knew said it was o good job. He took up the job in Guntur. The salary was Rs. 120 per month. With allowances, the total worked out to Rs 190. In October 1947, barely two months after Independence, this wasn’t exactly a princely sum. But for a man who badly needed a job to support his parents, wife and child, it wasn’t something to be scoffed at.

 

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