They were our little ‘great’ women. In the times when no lady would deign to embrace the silver screen as a career choice, these women broke all the prejudices, battled various judgments for the love of cinema. They ruled Tollywood when men had the primary domination over proceedings in every department. In short, they went head to head with their leading men to make their own identity.
Presenting the Five Great Actresses who set standards of sorts in the acting department. The current Telugu film scenario now has only (shall we say mostly?) dubbed voices and migrated heroines landing from Mumbai and other parts of the country to take over the space. Needless to say, our great actresses of the golden era have never been replaced with anyone better, ever after.
1. Anjali Devi
She had that ‘mother’ identity in Tollywood. Starting out as an actress with coy looks and dainty walk, Anjali Devi went on to give some of her best performances in the films for over four decades. Anjali Devi starred with the likes of NTR and ANR, and her journey with the co stars transcended to an emotional one. The actors built great bonding in real life, of that of respect. She portrayed her characters with dignity, grace and charm. Anjali Devi was never afraid to play her age, especially in a competitive market where her peers feared the very same. She also produced some of her own movies and TV series later in life before bidding a silent goodbye in 2014.
2. Bhanumathi Ramakrishna
There are absolutely no words left to describe her. Bhanumathi was a powerhouse of talent. She was not just an actress. Bhanumathi was well known for her singing, composing, directing, producing and song writing skills. In the era where women were majorly confined and closed, Bhanumathi proved that being fiercely independent and oneself was very much possible. Her attitude and magnetic personality showed out every time she delivered a crucial dialogue or showered heavy emotions from inside her characters. One versatile woman, Bhanumathi was also awarded with the highest civilian honorary, Padma Bhushan.
3. Savithri Kommareddy
Of course, no introduction needed, not much to be explained. Savithri remains to be untouched and known as the most gifted actress of the Telugu film industry. Called as ‘Maha Nati’ (great actress), Savithri ruled the silver screen as the most in demand actress in Tollywood for nearly three decades. She was paired with almost all the top heroes of Telugu and Tamil and always proved to be a great combination with all of them. Some of the famous co stars with whom Savithri dazzled were NTR, ANR and Sivaji Ganesan. Although her life was often tormented with personal issues under the media glare, she did not stop. She married Tamil heart throb Gemini Ganesan before sinking into despair, loneliness and alcohol abuse.
When there was too much seriousness in the plot, she was brought in to add zing, chirpiness and glamour. Actress Jamuna received her due recognition post introduced by none other than Savithri into films. She showcased various emotions with effortless ease. Jamuna starred along with top league heroes and proved to be a guaranteed bet at the box office, despite having stiff contenders who were her seniors. Some of her amazing acting skills were seen in films like Mooga Manasulu, where she underplayed her role and still gained visibility, despite sharing the screen with Savithri.
5. B Saroja Devi
Well, she is not technically of Telugu origin but she made her mark in Tollywood even before the dubbing and Mumbai migration process began in Telugu. B Saroja Devi had her roots in Kannada, and proved to be a refreshing face with pleasant persona who performed explicitly even in Telugu films. Referred to fondly as ‘Kannada’s Parrot’ and ‘Abhinaya Saraswathi’ (Goddess Saraswathi of Performance), B Saroja played great roles in family dramas like Pelli Kanuka, where she was made to star with other actresses like Savithri and Krishna Kumari. She also played a remarkable role of Subhadra in the famous NTR ANR blockbuster, Sri Krishnarjuna Yuddham.
These effervescent women carried talent, power, charm, beauty, grace and independence in equal measures. Everytime we watch their films, we are reminded of what the word ‘ Telugu’ feels and looks like. Perhaps it would be great for the present actresses to revisit some of their performances every once in a while. Because the best will always remain the best. Nothing more, nothing less.