HYDERABAD: Talking about his entry into films, one evening several years ago, Gummadi Venkateswara Rao, popularly known as Gummadi, fondly remembered how the legendary stage artiste Madhavapeddi Venktramaiah had predicted that he (Gummadi) would do better on the screen than on the stage.
``Prior to my film career I was managing a radio shop in Tenali. Several popular literary, theatre and film personalities used to visit my shop in the evening when we used to have a chitchat. Notable among the visitors were famous producer-writer Chakrapani of the Nagi Reddy-Chakrapani duo and Venkatramaiah. Once I had the privilege of acting on the stage play along with Venkatramaiah garu. Noticing that I was not able to act with the usual degree of histrionic finesse and spoke in a mellowed voice, Venkatramaiah suggested later that I try in films as that medium suited me the best.
When Chakrapani garu came to my shop during one of his visits, one of his friends who accompanied him told him that I was interested in acting in films. The legendary filmmaker, in his characteristic style, then told me to mind my business. After sometime, Venktramaiah Garu gave me a letter of recommendation to Chakrapani garu. Armed with the letter I went to Madras and met Chakrapani garu. Without making any promise, he merely said he would call me at an appropriate time. later, he called me and offered me a very minor role in the blockbuster, Missamma.
Though the role was brief I was paid a princely sum of Rs 500, which I can never forget.’’ Gummadi also recalled his first make-up still. He rushed inside his house and came back with a black-and-white portrait taken by the then well-known still photographer, Jaihind Satyam. ``For the photo shot NT Rama Rao not only applied tilak on my forehead before make up but also lent his coat to me. It was unfortunate that several years later he misunderstood me thanks to rumour-mongers in the industry.’’ Gummadi, a consummate artiste himself, held his contemporary SV Ranga Rao in high esteem.
“When SVR died I rushed to his residence and wept like a child as I experienced a deep void with his death. It was both challenge and fun acting with SVR and it was indeed a healthy professional competition but not rivalry.’’ Turning nostalgic about the bonhomie that existed in the Telugu film industry of that era, Gummadi recollected the day when Chittoor V Nagaiah was given, for the first time in the annals of south Indian film industry, the Padma Sri award. ``Personalities from the entire South Indian film industry flocked to Nagaiah’s house to greet him. We all used to address him as Naanna garu (father). Naannagaru simply said that the Government of India wanted to give the Padma award to the South Indian film industry and wanted to give it to an old man who represented the entire industry. Hence he was chosen. Saying so, Naannagaru had dedicated the award to each and every person in the industry,’’ recollected Gummadi who was himself the personification of humility and gratitude.