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Celeb of the Week - Sri Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu

There is a general perception that Dada Saheb Falke is the father of Indian Cinema as he produced the first film in India, 'Raja Harischandra' in 1910. But it was Sri Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu who laid foundation stone for Indian Cinema by producing a film on 1909.

Venkaiah's father worked as a subedar in Indian Army, Machilipatnam. Venkaiah is the second son. He used to excel in the fields of drawing and sculpturing. He was a great devotee of Lord Venkateswara.

At the age of 18, Venkaiah reached Madras (Chennai) and rented a small house to set up an art center. He started off with drawing and carving sculptures. Slowly he learnt photography and started experimenting. He happened to come accross a news article on 'Chrono Megaphone'. When we project a flim using Chrono Mega phone, it produces relevant sounds. Venkaiah ordered for that equipment from John Dickinson and Company.

Chronomegaphone costed him around Rs 30,000/-. Heeding to the advice by his wife, he mortgaged his photo studio to lend money. His gave his first show with that equipment at Victoria Hall. He exhibited 12 short films of 400 feet length each. Under the Panama, Sound Recorded Double Disk, Swing Song-18" disk, Sea Serpent - 18" disk, Fireman Song - 18" disk, Micado - 18" disk are few of them. Venkiah did not get encouraging collections during his first exhibition. That dis not dampen Venkaiah's spirits. He distributed palmplet to create the awareness in public.

In 1910 Venkaiah established a tent house called Esplanade in Madras to exhibit his films. Later he toured extensively in Bangalore and Vijayawada to exhibit his films using the tent house concept. Though he did not gain financially in those tours, he could just break-even. He used to get lot of artistic satisfaction and sense of achievement as people started thronging to his tent house and apreciate his work. He went to Srilanka and exhibited his films in Burma, Rangoon and Peg.

In 1912, he constructed 'Gaiety Talkies' in Mount Road. This was the first cinema hall of Chennai. He exhibited films like 'Million Dollar Mystery', 'Mysteries of Meera' and 'Clutching Hand'. He went on for a cinema hall construction spree. He constructed Crown Theater in Mint Street and Globe Theater in Parasuwakkam. He exhibited prestigious films like 'Broken Coin' and 'Great Bard'.

In 1919, he started a production company called 'Star of East Films'. He started a film studio called 'Glass Studio'. He used have shortage of electric supply in his studio and generators were not available at that time. Hence he used shoot films using broad day light.

In 1921, Venkaiah's son Prakash produced films like 'Gajendra Moksham', 'Mathsyavatharam', 'Nandanaar', and 'Bhishma Pratigna'. During that time Indian women did not show willingness to act in films. Venkaiah used to cast Anglo-Indian women in his films. Though 'Bhisma Pratigna' is supposed to be the first Telugu feature film, history says that Venkaiah produced a film called 'kannagi' which did not see the day of light due to some technical problems. Venkaiah is the pioneer of Trick Shots, Studio and Labs in south India.

Venkaiah was there in business till 1929. As he had to pay for enormous amount of interest to the money lenders, he was forced to sell off his properties. Sri Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu, who pioneered and introduced the technology of Cinema in South India, died on 15th March 1941 with abject poverty. AP State Government honored him by incorporating 'Raghupathi Venkaiah Award'.

Disclaimer: The above information is compiled from an article written by Sri Namala Visweswara Rao

Celeb of Last week: N T Rama Rao

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