A picture is worth a thousand words and therefore Cinema is primarily a visual medium... or so the argument goes. It is seemingly a sound one. That which cannot be explained at length in a flurry of words, would make perfect sense if all the talk is replaced by a single picture. If such is the case, as the age of the cinema grew, from the era of the silent motion pictures to the fully advanced modern era, where even the faintest of sounds far away from the action on the screen is picked up, recorded and mixed into the main track, it is indeed ironical that the importance of sound, and particularly words, grew on the contrary, much to chagrin of the purists, who vehemently stand by "a picture is worth a thousand words". Sometimes, a picture could not bear the entire weight of the emotion along and needs the words to share the burden. The instant reaction to a picture is purely cerebral and is a two step process, meaning, the mind has to translate the image into words and then relay the reaction back, while the reaction to a spoken word is instinctive. Parvati, on learning that Devadas is the one who is on the death-bed at the village square, screams out and rushes towards the entrance of the house, calling out his name, before she is stopped at the door step, where she mumbles his name one more time, for one last time, and stays still. Without those last words uttered by Parvati, the entire scene rings hollow and unsatisfying. A silent rush towards the entrance door does not translate the yearning that Parvati has, to catch one last glimpse of the dying Devadas as effectively as the rushing towards it screaming his name. Each scream conveys the desire, despair, hope and hopelessness, all eat the same time. There is something that is organic with the reaction to the spoken word in the visual medium - the effect is immediate.
In the Indian fora, however much the motion picture has moved away from the stage plays, the theatricality of it, the dramatic effects, the histrionics, the dialogue-oriented and dialogue-based performances that resonate in the movie haven't moved that far from their original roots. It is very natural in such cases that people, who moved into the movie limelight after spending sufficient time behind the silk curtains and the cotton wings on the stage floor, seem to understand the movie medium in a better way. Till the 70s when theater was still a force to be reckoned with in the telugu field, quite a few filmmakers, directors and writers, have made their marks on the real forum, where the reaction of the audience is felt in as unadulterated form as possible. Aatreya, Dasari, Balachander, Yandamuri and many such renowned, made a successful transition to the bigger medium by retaining the same discerning ear for a sharp dialogue, a crisp eye to transition into the next setup seamlessly, and a natural editing ability of the material while still on paper, and many such stage traits carrying them over into the film medium and applying them to a fair degree of success there. The subject in question was one such product of stage plays. He brought along his bag of tricks from the theater and honed them on the silver screen. As a small illustration, pick any frame out of his movies (the ones he directed) and observe how the actors are positioned in the frame. An acquired trait carried over from the stage, they are positioned to exploit/enhance the depth of the frame instead of using the standard two dimensional setup. Though he started off his career with serious and semi-serious topics, churning out commercial pot-boilers along the process, he will be best remembered as one who resurrected the art of healthy comedy in telugu movies, for which he was aptly titled "hAsya brahma" - Jandhyala.
What is the role of the writer in the current telugu movies? Narrate a "line" and get it approved by the producer, find a director willing to take up his cause and attach the project to a commercially viable hero, start changing his original "line" to the tastes (read whims) of the producer, director, and importantly, the hero, thread the line into a bunch of scenes, usually 70 in number, turn it over the director collect his payment and fade into oblivion. He is as much disposable and replacable in today's (telugu movie) world as any worthless prop(erty item) on the set. There was once a period when writers enjoyed the total confidence of the producer, placed on a pedestal on par with the director, as was as much indispensable to the movie as its hero, and Jandhyala belong to that era. His ability to write a regular commercial blockbuster matched his artistic leanings towards soft cinema. His wit in spicing up the script with rib-tickling comedic moments matched his talent in penning sentimental situations.
At the top of his game as a writer, who commanded the time and the ear of the of top stars for his narrations, he got himself out of the commercial rut to direct soft, meaningful and artistic pieces like "mudda mandAram", "nAlugu sthambAlATa", "Ananda bhairavi" and such. With the right ear for the prose word, great ear for the lyrical word, good eye for the visuals, and an artistic taste for music, Jandhyala became the first write joined the extremely exclusive band of writers who have successfully transitioned as directors (He shares the honors with Dasari alone in that category). Let's start the journey into Jandhyala's word by sampling his varied body of work a little
"eeshTu kOshTu mAshTAru tankishTamaina ati kashTamaina
barishTaru test first lO paasainanduku tana pakkinTi
vaaDini feast kani pilichi, chiken rOshTu taeshTunu
beshTu beshTu anukunToo sushToo gaa laaginchi braev
mannaaTTa" - vaeTagADu
"pASchaatya nAgarikata penu tuphAnu lO repa repa lADu
tunna sat saampradaaya sangeeta jyOtini kaapu
kaayADaniki tana renDu chaetulu aDDu peTTina aa mahA
maneeshiki Sirasu vanchi pAdAbhivandanam chaestunnAnu"
If the famous quote often attributed to Atraeya ("Atraeya raasi praekshakulni, raayaka nirmAtalni aeDipistaaDu") could be changed a little for Jandhyala , it would read something along the lines of "jandhyAla hAsyam tO hAsya priyulni, Ardrata tO andarinee aeDispistADu"
Continued in part 2
Srinivas Kanchibhotla how you liked the article.