South Indian movie lovers are today remembering Veteran actor P. Bhanumathi’s birth day. A three-time national award winner, she acted in over 100 Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi films, besides directing nearly a dozen films in Tamil and Telugu. Born on September 7, 1925 at Doddavaram village near Ongole in Andhra Pradesh in a family of musicians and litterateurs, she received her training in classical music from her father Bommaraju Venkata Subbiah. She started her film career in “Varavikrayam” in Telugu in 1939. Her maiden Tamil film was “Rajamukthi” (1948) with M.K. Thygaraja Bagavathar. She went on to perform along with top artistes of her era, prominent among whom were Sivaji Ganesan and M.G. Ramachandran. Her notable performances included “Appoorva Sagotharargal” (1949) “Rathnakumar” (1949), “Malaikallan” (1954), “Rangoon Radha” (1956), “Alibabavum Narpathu Thirudargalum” (1956) and “Madurai Veeran” (1956). Her last film in Tamil was “Chembaruthi,” which was released about 20 years ago.
A versatile personality, she was known for her skills in music and script writing. A humorist, her quick wit was a big draw. In 1953, under the banner of Bharani Pictures, the film, “Chandi Rani,” which was produced and directed by her, was released simultaneously in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. She also wrote the script for this film. In August 1943, she married P.S. Ramakrishna Rao, editor, producer and director of Tamil and Telugu films.
Bhanumathi is an undisputed pride of Indian Cinema and for Telugu people as well. It is indeed a rare quality to see a person imbibed with so many talents. Take Acting, Singing, Writing, Composing, Direction- Bhanumathi excelled in every above mentioned field with masterful perfection. Being a person who entered into film industry out of extreme admiration for Art, Bhanumathi chose Love over fame and money. She considered marrying the person she loved to be more of importance than anything else. To top it all, she found the importance of living like a simple housewife after her marriage. She gave up on her glittery acting career for this reason. But with the insistence of prominent director B.N.Reddy, encouragement of great writer Samudrala Senior, and another great supporting friend Mudhigonda Lingamurthy, Bhanumathi restarted her second innings with ‘Swarga Seema’ and flourished in her acting career- which is altogether another story. In order to know more about her journey, one needs to know the story of this legendary actress.
Bhanumathi’s father always dreamed of making her a great classical singer. She learnt music from her father and by age 13, Bhanumathi could earn a great name as a singer. It was when suddenly a film acting opportunity welcomed her. She happened to act in Varavikrayam (1939) directed by prominent Chittajallu Pullaiah which was filmed in Calcutta. After this debut, Bhanumathi got offers to act in ‘Maalathi Maadhavam’, ‘Dharma Patni’ and ‘Krishna Prema’. During the filming of Krishna Prema, Bhanumathi fell in love with one of the assistant directors of the film, P.Ramakrishna. Their love took the path of matrimony and Bhanumathi wanted to give up acting career after her marriage and settle down as a housewife. However, her life took an unexpected turn after this. With the insistence of B.N.Reddy, she happened to act in ‘Swarga Seema’ thereby beginning a second innings as an actress. It is interesting to know Ghantasala, the evergreen playback singer sang his first song for this film. Producers queued in for Bhanumathi after the success of Swarga Seema, flocking her with offers. Later, Bhanumathi acted opposite Sr.NTR in B.N.Reddy’s Malleeshwari which redefined the standards of filmmaking in Telugu Cinema. She was acting in many successful movies simultaneously for Telugu and Tamil film industries. Right then, Bhanumathi along with her husband established a production house Bharani Pictures, named after their son. Bharani Pictures made many successful films such as Laila Majnu, Vipranarayana, Baatasari, and Chakrapani. ANR often termed Bharani Pictures as his family production house. Bhanumathi not only excelled as an actress but also as a successful director. She debuted as a director with Chandirani and the Bhanumathi-Ramakrishna couple established a studio as well, after the tremendous success of their production house.
She acted in challenging roles such as Anuraagam, Antasthulu, Palnaati Yuddham and so on. After crossing the glamorous phase, Bhanumathi chose to act in matured characters suiting her growing age such as Mattilo Manikyam, Antha Mana Manchike, Mangamma Gari Manavadu, Peddarikam and Baamma Maata Bangaru Baata. Bhanumathi’s book ‘Attagari Kadhalu’ was greatly received by the Telugu Literature fraternity and earned her the prestigious Sahitya Academy Award. Her ‘Naalo Nenu’ which used to be published in Vijayachitra earned accolades and awards. The Indian Government honored the phenomenal personality Bhanumathi with Padmasri and Padmabhushan titles. Bhanumathi set such a standard among the Telugu Audience that, the people hope she would be reborn and break her own records! The name Bhanumathi would be remembered forever- as long as Indian Cinema exists.