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Remembering a legend: Bhanumathi Ramakrishna

The unsung hero of Telugu Cinema

Paluvayi Bhanumathi Ramakrishna, fondly known as Bhanumathi ammagaru, is the Telugu industries first major star actress. She was living proof of the heights a woman could achieve in a male dominated society and industry. A multi-talented person, she was given the epithet ‘Ashtavadhani’ or one who is skilled in eight different professions. In her career, she took on various roles which included that of an actor, director, writer, singer, music director, producer, editor and even a studio owner. She was also highly proficient in philosophy and astrology.

Bhanumathi ammagaru was a pillar of Telugu cinema. Having made her debut long before either ANR or NTR entered the profession, she outstrips them in experience. A strong willed and committed individual she let nothing ever stand in the way of her will. Her persona was so overwhelming that she even made veterans of acting like NTR, MGR and Sivaji Ganesan fear her. Language was never a barrier and she was very well known in both the Tamil and Telugu industries.

Many spectacular celluloid spectacles later she started her own production house along with her husband. By then she was already the seasoned actress having essayed lead roles in ‘Chakrapani’, ‘Laila Majnu’, ‘Malliswari’, ‘Batasari’ and ‘Anthasthulu’. She even helmed exemplary films such as ‘Chandirani’. Her dexterity and skill in handling multiple responsibilities earned her the epithet ‘Nadippukku Illakanam’ from CN annadurai. This loosely translates to ‘Grammar of Acting’.

Singing her own songs, directing her own films, producing her own movies, she was the symbol from which future actresses could inspiration from. At a time when women lived in a very restricted and constrained society, Bhanumathi Ramakrishna achieved an equal and sometimes even greater standing than her male peers. She is a great source of inspiration for one and all. On her birthday, let us take a moment and remember her and some of her more stellar performances.

A timeless classic, this movie was the very first Telugu film that was screened at international film festivals. The tragic love story of a simple woman, forcibly inducted into the queen’s in-palace entourage staff. The movie tells a story of love and hope and finally redemption.

This was Bhanumathi Ramakrishna’s first directorial project. She essays a double role of twins separated at birth. The film explores the lives of these two girls and how they are finally united.

Palnati Yuddham
A classic historical tale of warring feuds also saw a stellar performance from Bhanumathi Ramakrishna in her role as Nagamma.

Bamma Maata Bangaru Baata
The very familiar character of the Grandma is one we encountered for certain during our childhood. Bhanumathi Ramakrishna’s performance as the iron-willed Grandma was what pulled the movie through.

Bhanumathi Ramakrishna’s portrayal of Basavapunnamma, the egoistic leader of the rival faction was a special performance. The highly arrogant and stubborn woman will always live on in the memory of the Telugu audience. 

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