From a rice grower to number one filmmaker
Daggubati Ramanaidu has reached heights like no other film producer. Not only did the prolific filmmaker make it to the Guinness Book of World Records when he completed 101 films, his repertoire of 135 films includes films in more Indian languages than any other producer.
Along the way, Ramanaidu has also introduced several heroes, including his son Venkatesh, heroines (Vanisri, Tabu, Karisma Kapoor, Khushboo, Katrina Kaif, etc), directors and music directors.
He has worked with almost all the superstars of Indian cinema, including the late N T Rama Rao, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, Jamuna, Sivaji Ganesan, Rajesh Khanna, Hema Malini, Rekha, Kamal Haasan, Rajnikanth, Chiranjeevi, Jeetendra, Sridevi, Jayaprada, Anil Kapoor and Kajol -- to name a few.
The prolific filmmaker is also a philanthropist, an ex-member of Parliament (1999-2004), and an occasional actor. The last film where he did a substantial role was the Telugu film Hope which won a National Award.
He has now added another feather to his cap with a Dadasaheb Phalke award for his contribution to Indian cinema. The award includes a Swarna Kamal, a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh and a shawl.
In the midst of all the felicitations, the 74-year-old filmmaker took time out to share his journey from a village in Andhra Pradesh to India's highest honour in cinema with rediff.com's Radhika Rajamani.
Image: Daggubati Ramanaidu
On the Dadasaheb Phalke Award
I am very happy to receive the Dadasaheb Phalke Award; it is for life. It is prestigious and special. Only five people from Andhra Pradesh have got this award. I have got it 20 years after Nageswara Raogaaru (a Telugu honorific) got it in 1990. I was in Araku (near Visakhapatnam), busy with my next Telugu film Alasyam Amrutham, when my people told me about the news being aired on television.
I spoke to my sons and the elder one, Suresh, told me he had been receiving phone calls and that I should come down to Hyderabad. I distributed sweets among my staff and left Araku to catch the 7.20 pm flight from Vizag to Hyderabad.
Image: A scene from Hope
I was born in Karamchedu, (Andhra Pradesh's Prakasam district). At the age of 9, I donated land to Vinobha Bhave for his Bhoodan movement. If I had not given my father's land, I would have given my mother's. I grew up to become an agriculturist, who had a rice mill and a transport business.
Meanwhile, my father partnered with a relative in the production of an ANR (Akkineni Nageswara Rao) and Savitri starrer, Nammina Bantu. For the film, ANR drove a cart with our bullocks. I was active in the shoot, so ANR asked me to join films. I refused. But I was not happy with the rice business.
In 1962, I closed down the business, went to Chennai and stayed in my uncle's house. I thought of doing business in bricks. Since the red soil in Aminjikarai (in central Chennai) was not conducive for bricks, I contemplated getting into real estate. Then my uncle took me to Andhra Club, which was visited by all the Telugu artistes/directors. That set my entry into films.
I began with Anuragam directed by Ramineedu in 1963. I established Suresh Productions and produced Ramudu Bheemudu, starring the late NTR and Jamuna under this banner the next year.
Image: Suresh Babu (son), Ramanaidu and wife, Lakshmi (daughter), Venkatesh (son)
Films since 1963
I made many other films like Pratigna Palana (Kantha Rao, Rajasree), Sri Krishna Tulabharam (NTR and Jamuna), Sthree Janma (NTR, Krishna Kumari), Papa Kosam (Jaggaiah, Devika), Bommalu Cheppina Katha (Kantha Rao, Vijayanirmala), Sepoy Chinnaiah (ANR, KR Vijaya), Drohi (Jaggaiah, Vanisri) before Prema Nagar (ANR, Vanisri) in 1971. It was a blockbuster, and I produced the remakes in Tamil (Vasantha Maligai, starring Sivaji Ganesan and Vanisri) and Hindi (Prem Nagar, starring Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini). As it was made in three languages, I came to be known all over India.
Then I thought of making films in other languages too. Suresh Productions has produced films in 13 languages (including English). My Bengali film Asukh, directed by Rituparno Ghosh, won an award too. My films in other Indian languages include Dharma Devtha (Oriya); Maina Mor Duniya (Assamese); Maduve Agona Baa and Thavarumane Udugore (Kannada); Namma Kuzhaindagal, Tirumangalyam,Madhurageetham, Kuzhaindaikaga and Deiva Piravi (Tamil); Ashwaroodhan (Malayalam); Mazi Aai (Marathi) and Shiva (Bhojpuri). My well-known Hindi films include Dildar, Tohfa, Anari, Rakhwala, Taqdeerwala, Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain, Aaghaaz to name a few. I am starting my Punjabi film shortly.
I have also introduced 11 heroines, four heroes, 23 directors and four music directors so far.
Image: Ramanaidu with Kamal Haasan
From the beginning, right from my village days, I had the desire to be at the top. I wanted to be number one in agriculture, get more paddy than others... So when I came into films, I wanted to be the number one here too.
I don't think of doing harm to anyone. I am sincere in my work. I get totally involved in production. For me, production is a business. Business is business; one should not mix pleasure in making movies. Also, there should be no personal interference in casting. One should cast actors according to the role.
A producer must have control over the script and should plan properly. He must know the next day's shooting schedules. Even today, after the day's shoot, I go through the day's accounts, expenditure, etc, including how many people (technicians and others) are there on the sets.
One has to be alert. I know no other business but filmmaking now. There is bound to be success and failure; one must tackle both.
Image: Ramanaidu on the sets
Working with stars
Image: Akkineni Nageswara Rao, Naga Chaitanya, Ramanaidu and Krishna
Beyond producing films
When I was in Madras, I used to use Nagi Reddy's Vahini Studios. I even jointly produced with his sons. I started Ramanaidu Studios on a site given by the Andhra Pradesh government. I wanted a place where the producer could come in with a script and go out with the first copy of the film. So, I set up recording theatres, dubbing theatres, colour and black and white labs -- everything required for filmmaking. I am also setting up a studio in Vizag. I have also entered distribution with Suresh Movies Film Distributors.
We come from films, so one must do something for films. I started a film school first, followed by an acting school at Ramanaidu Studios, as I wanted to create young directors and artists.
Image: Director K Raghavendra Rao, Ramanaidu and director Dasari Narayana Rao
Stint as an MP
I got married in 1958. I am very happy to be with my family; they are my priority. I feel the house is a temple and the wife a devata (goddess). I am very fortunate that I have two sons, one daughter and eight grandchildren.
Suresh is into production, while Venkatesh is a hero. My grandsons Naga Chaitanya and Rana are also into films. I am happy that the whole family is into films.
Advice to upcoming producers
Be sincere to your work and plan properly.
Image: Ramanaidu with wife and grandchildren