HYDERABAD: Veteran actor Jamuna, who acted in over 200 films in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Hindi, died after a brief illness, at her residence here on Friday. She was 86. She is survived by a son and a daughter. The yesteryear heartthrob and a consummate actress, finds a respectable place among the leading heroines of the mid-20th century. She walked the celluloid firmament tall along with Savitri and Showcar Janaki.
In fact, Jamuna was a class apart, when it came to donning mischievous and naughty characters. No one knows whether Satyabhama existed or not but the name makes one think of only Jamuna for the grace and fluidity with which she portrayed the role.
The three leading women of the Telugu film industry featured in films that had author-backed roles that sent a powerful message to society, upholding values. They always breathed life into the characters offered to them. Perhaps this is the reason they lasted as leading actresses for decades.Jamuna, who is fondly known as Vendithera Satyabhama, acted in 198 films, 145 in Telugu, 20 in Tamil, 10 in Hindi, and seven in Kannada.She was born as Jana Bai in 1936 to a Kannadiga father and a Telugu mother in Hampi.
Jamuna’s father, who had a business selling turmeric and tobacco, moved the family to Duggirala in Guntur district where she grew up, acting in plays and learning music from her mother, till she was offered a role by Dr Garikapati Raja Rao. She acted in his film Puttilu in 1952.
Jamuna’s career has been intertwined with that of Savitri. Their first meeting was when Savitri stayed at Jamuna’s house while performing in Duggirala. Then on, Savitri and Jamuna would go on to act in many films, including classics like Gundamma Katha (1962) and Missamma (1955) which have gained cult status.These movies often presented an interesting juxtaposition of these two heroines, with Savitri playing the older, orderly, dutiful older woman and Jamuna playing her younger, modernised, shrewish counterpart.
Jamuna also had a successful collaboration at the movies with NT Rama Rao and Akkineni Nageswara Rao, acting opposite them in movies like Appu Chesi Pappu Koodu (1959), Tenali Ramakrishna (1956), Poola Rangadu (1967), Donga Ramudu (1955) and Dorikithe Dongalu(1965), to name a few. Jamuna had also prominently featured in many mythological movies of that time including Bhookailas (1958) and Sri Krishna Tulabharam (1965).
Jamuna’s pairing with NTR and ANR came with its own set of controversies, with the actors even going so far as to declare publicly in 1958 that they will not act with Jamuna ever.Speaking on this “ban” a few years ago in a Telugu talk show, ‘Open Heart with RK’, Jamuna noted, “Male ego is there in every profession. This profession is no different. Heroes think the world revolves around them, but the truth is that heroes amount to nothing without heroines. Even the oldest hero needs a young, hot woman to star opposite him. My ban was a result of that male ego.”
The “ban” lasted for a little over three years, and was “lifted” at the behest of producer Chakrapani of Vijaya Vauhini Studios for the sake of Gundamma Katha. In addition to working with big names like NTR and Savitri, Jamuna also acted opposite relative newcomer Harinath in films like Letha Manasulu (1966), Maa Inti Kodalu (1972) and Challani Needa (1968), which helped Harinath’s career immensely.
Jamuna was a feminist of her days as she never compromised when there was a threat to her dignity. She always emphasised on the value of speaking up against injustice . Jamuna also dabbled in politics. She joined the Congress in the 1980s and was elected to the Lok Sabha fromRajahmundry constituency.
Daughter lights the pyre
The last rites of Jamuna were performed by her daughter Sravanthi at Maha Prasthanam at Jubilee Hills on Friday