Tenali Ramakrishna (film)

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Tenali Ramakrishna
Tenali Ramakrishna (1956).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byB. S. Ranga
Produced byB. S. Ranga
Written bySamudrala Raghavacharya
Screenplay byB. S. Ranga
Based onTenali Ramakrishna
by Ch. Venkataramaiah
StarringAkkineni Nageswara Rao
N. T. Rama Rao
Chittor V. Nagaiah
Bhanumathi Ramakrishna
Music byViswanathan–Ramamoorthy
CinematographyB. S. Ranga
B. N. Haridas
Edited byP. G. Mohan
Vikram Productions
Release date
  • 12 January 1956 (1956-01-12)
Running time
169 minutes

Tenali Ramakrishna is a 1956 Telugu, historical, biographical film, based on the life of the 15th century poet of the same name, produced and directed by B. S. Ranga under the Vikram Productions banner. It stars Akkineni Nageswara Rao, N. T. Rama Rao, Bhanumathi Ramakrishna in the lead roles and music composed by Viswanathan–Ramamoorthy. The film was adapted from the stage play based on Tenali Ramakrishna, written by Ch. Venkataramaiah. The film was remade as the Tamil movie Tenali Raman (1956), where Sivaji Ganesan played the title role; both the movies are made simultaneously by same banner and director and some of the scenes and artists are same in both versions. Both versions were commercially successful. Tenali Ramakrishna was remade in Kannada as Hasyaratna Ramakrishna by Ranga; however, that version was a commercial failure. The Telugu version has garnered the All India Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film.


The Deccan Sultans of Berar, Ahmednagar, Bidar, Bijapur, and Golconda who were the splinters from the erstwhile Bahmani Sultans now unite with the common purpose of the defeat of Krishnadeva Raya and the conquest of the prosperous Vijayanagaram. They send their stooge Kanakaraj to assassinate Krishnadeva Raya, but Kanakaraj fails in his mission and is put to death.

They then planned on the courtesan Krishna Saani. She enters Vijayanagaram, and with her acclaimed dancing skills, manages to elicit the notice of the King, a great connoisseur of arts and beauty. She then plays her cards cleverly and besotted by her intelligent repartees and smoldering sensuousness, the susceptible King is soon a puppet in her hands.

Orders are given that anyone who enters their private chamber would be beheaded and the King spends with time with Krishna Saani for months. Reports reach the ministers that the Sultans are planning to take advantage of the King’s inaccessibility and launch a combined attack on Vijayanagaram. Worried at the state of affairs, Tenali Ramakrishna braves the prohibitory order and enters Krishnasani’s abode dressed as a woman, but all his appeals to the King seem to fall on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, Queen Tirumalamba falls seriously sick and the King finally comes out of his daze. Once the King is at his wife’s bedside, Tenali Ramakrishna manages to gain entry into Krishnasani’s house again, this time under the guise of an omniscient saint who assures her that he would bring the King back to her. He catches her red-handed with her gang of spies, and signals to the hidden soldiers to surround her. Realized that the game is up, Krishna Saani prefers a dignified death. Shocked to see her stab herself, Timmarusu remonstrates with her that she has acted in haste, for the King would have certainly forgiven her.


Male actors
Female actors



After the success of his first production venture Maa Gopi (1954), B. S. Ranga wished to produce and direct a historical film based on the life of the 14th century Telugu poet and scholar Tenali Ramakrishna, who was one of the Ashtadiggajas (a collective title given to the eight Telugu poets in the court of Krishnadevaraya, which literally translates to eight great elephants).[1] He planned it as a multilingual film to be filmed simultaneously in Telugu, Tamil and Kannada languages with a slightly altered cast.[2] Ranga collaborated with Samudrala Raghavacharya, Kannadasan and Murugadasa on the basic script for all the versions.[2] They decided to adapt Ch. Venkataramaiah's Kannada-language stage play Tenali Ramakrishna into a film, instead of following the script of H. M. Reddy's 1941 Telugu directorial of the same name.[1] Ranga titled the film as Tenali Raman in Tamil, while Tenali Ramakrishna was chosen for the remaining two versions.[2]

Venkataramaiah's play was comical in nature, and focused plainly on the life and times of Ramakrishna. Fearing that it would fail to translate on-screen effectively, Raghavacharya and Kannadasan decided to incorporate political elements during the rule of Krishnadevaraya.[3] While Raghavacharya focused on the administrative aspects of Krishnadevaraya, Kannadasan opted to "humanise" the king by writing scenes related to his personal life and preferences.[3] Tenali Ramakrishna was filmed in and around Revathy Studios at Madras, as the floors of Ranga's production company Vikram Studios were still under construction excluding the recording and projection theatres.[4] V. S. Rangachari was the film's associate director; Ranga took his assistance in directing the Telugu version.[1]

Cast and crew[edit]

Ranga cast Akkineni Nageswara Rao to play Ramakrishna in Telugu, with Sivaji Ganesan and Rajkumar replacing him in the Tamil and Kannada versions.[2] N. T. Rama Rao and Chittoor V. Nagaiah were signed to play Krishnadevaraya and his minister Timmarusu.[4] Mukkamala played the role of Tatacharya, the kingdom's royal priest,[4] and was replaced by M. N. Nambiar and Balkrishna in the Tamil and Kannada versions.[2]

Ranga approached Bhanumathi Ramakrishna to play Krishnasani. Initially disinterested, Bhanumathi accepted the offer keeping in view Ranga's association as a cinematographer for films produced by the former's production company Bharani Pictures.[4] Tenali Ramakrishna is the only film in which Bhanumathi shared screen with both Rama Rao and Nageswara Rao.[3][4] Vangara Venkata Subbaiah, Sandhya, Raavu Balasaraswathi, Jamuna and Master Venkateshwar were cast in key supporting roles, and Mikkilineni Radhakrishna Murthy made a brief appearance as Ramakrishna's relative Kanakaraju.[1]

Viswanathan–Ramamoorthy were signed to compose the soundtrack and background score for all the three versions.[2] Ranga's brother-in-law B. N. Haridas worked as the cinematographer.[4] However, Ranga was credited as the film's director of photography along with Haridas.[5] P. G. Mohan edited the film.[5] Vali and Ganga were the art directors, and V. K. Srinivasan was the film's production manager.[5] Chopra and Gopalakrishnan choreographed the dance sequences.[5]


Viswanathan–Ramamoorthy composed the soundtrack and background score, with Raghavacharya penning the lyrics for the songs and poems.[5] Ghantasala, Madhavapeddi Satyam, P. Leela, P. Susheela, Balasaraswathi and A. P. Komala were the playback singers for the soundtrack.[5] Bhanumathi provided vocals as the playback singer for the songs featuring her.[4] The song "Chesedi Yemito" was composed using the Sindhu Bhairavi raga.[1] "Neevega Raja Neevega" and "Jhan Jhan Kankanamulu" are based on the Shanmukhapriya and Shuddha Saveri ragas.[1] The song "Chandana Charchita", an ashtapadi adapted from Gita Govinda written by the Sanskrit poet Jayadeva, was composed using Mohanam raga.[1] When Ghantasala refused to take money for the 14 poems he sang, Ranga went to his home and gave his wife Savithri Ghantasala hundred rupees for each poem.[4] Ramakoti, who played a washer man in the film, sang the song "Akathayipilla Mooka".[4]

The soundtrack, marketed by HMV Records, was released on 1 December 1956. The songs received positive reviews from the critics after the film's release. In its review dated 27 January 1956, Swatantra wrote: "The songs help the film greatly, with all the singers performing very well, though the ones sung by Bhanumathi could have been much better[sic]".[6] The reviewer also found the background score "generally effective", and "exceptional" at times.[6] Zameen Raithu, in its review dated 10 February 1956, praised Raghavacharya for adapting Jayadeva's ashtapadi and other complicated poems and not "compromising" for the understanding of common audience. However, the reviewer was critical of the grammatical and pronunciation errors made by the singers and actors in the film.[7] The songs "Theerani Naa Korikale", "Chandana Charchita", "Jhan Jhan Kankanamulu" and "Gandupilli Menumarachi" gained popularity post release.[4]

Track listing

All lyrics written by Samudrala Raghavacharya.

1."Chesedi Yemito"Ghantasala3:43
2."Chandana Charchitha"P. Susheela3:32
3."Tenali Ramakrishna (Padyam)"Ghantasala, Madhavapeddi Satyam18:00
4."Theerani Naa Korika"Bhanumathi Ramakrishna2:42
5."Jagamula Dayanele (Part 1)"P. Leela2:06
6."Ee Kaanthalu (Padyam)"Ghantasala0:30
7."Tharuna Sasanka (Padyam)"A. P. Komala, Ghantasala3:25
8."Ichchakaalu Neeku (with Dialogues)"P. Leela, Madhavapeddi Satyam3:53
9."Jhan Jhan Kankanamulu"Raavu Balasaraswathi3:34
10."Kannulu Ninde"Bhanumathi Ramakrishna3:13
11."Jagamula Dayanele (Part 2)"P. Leela1:25
12."Neevega Raja Neevega"Bhanumathi Ramakrishna2:27
13."Hareram Gandupilli Menumarachi"Ghantasala, Chittor V. Nagaiah2:28
14."Aakathayipilla Mooka"Ramakoti1:26
15."Tenali Ramakrishna (Dialogues - Part 1)"Ghantasala, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, Jamuna, N. T. Rama Rao19:12
16."Tenali Ramakrishna (Dialogues - Part 2)"Ghantasala, Madhavapeddi Satyam, N. T. Rama Rao, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, Mukkamala, Vangara Venkata Subbaiah16:58
Total length:1:28:34

Release and reception[edit]

Tenali Ramakrishna was released on 12 January 1956,[8] with a with an approximate total length of 18,292 feet (5,575 m) in 20 reels, with a running time of 169 minutes.[9] Navayuga films distributed the film in Vijayawada, Guntakal, and Madras areas.[8] The Nizam area distribution rights were acquired by All India Corporation Limited.[a][8] Due to technical issues, the film had a delayed theatrical release on 13 and 14 January 1956 in 13 centres across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.[11] Tenali Raman was released on 3 February 1956.[4] Both versions were commercially successful, and Tenali Ramakrishna won the President's Silver medal for the Best Feature Film in Telugu and the All India Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film at the 4th National Film Awards.[1][3][4]

The film received mixed reviews from the critics.[1][3] Swatantra, in its review dated 27 January 1956, wrote, "The film is paced evenly until the end... Raghavacharya's writing is one of the biggest strengths of the film."[6] The reviewer praised Nageswara Rao's performance and dialogue delivery, but was critical of Rama Rao and Bhanumathi, noting that the latter was very "ill at ease" playing Krishnasani which was "surprising" given that the role was in her comfort zone.[6] Zameen Raithu gave a negative review, writing that the film was "disappointing" and criticised the climax as the film's "weakest link[sic]".[7] In their review dated 10 February 1956, Zameen Raithu wrote, "Ranga has a great vision which cannot be ignored, and an eye for subtle and innuendo-free comedy. Raghavacharya's writing and screenplay are praiseworthy."[7] The reviewer added that characterisations were ill-developed, with Rama Rao and Nageswara Rao "salvaging the film to an extent", though Bhanumathi "struggled in portraying the grey shades with authenticity[sic]".[7]

The film was also criticised for being historically inaccurate. Swatantra pointed out that Ramakrishna is given the credit of solving the problem of distributing 17 disputed elephants among three brothers, though it was actually done by Timmarusu.[6] Zameen Raithu was very critical about portraying Ramakrishna as a staunch Sri Vaishnavite, while he was a Telugu Shaivite Brahmin with the alternate name Ramalinga.[7] The reviewer added that Ramakrishna, a 6000 Niyogi Brahmin by birth, being shown with a clean shaven face is not in line with the film's period backdrop as Niyogis always sported a moustache in the 14th century.[7]


Tenali Ramakrishna was remade by Ranga into Kannada again in 1982 as Hasyaratna Ramakrishna starring Anant Nag and Srinath in the lead roles as Ramakrishna and Krishnadevaraya. However, unlike the original, the remake was a commercial failure.[4] Critics noted that Ramakrishna dominating Krishnadevaraya throughout the film was not accepted by the audience, which apparently resulted in the failure.[3]


  1. ^ For film trade purpose, the Nizam region includes the three districts of Gulbarga, Bidar, and Raichur in Karnataka and seven districts in the Marathwada region including Aurangabad, Latur, Nanded, Parbhani, Beed, Jalna and Osmanabad apart from the state of Telangana.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "రంగా మలచిన రమ‌ణీయ దశ్య‌కావ్యం 'తెనాలి రామకృష్ణ'" [Ranga's memorable work on Celluloid 'Tenali Ramakrishna']. Sithara (in Telugu). 18 June 2018. Archived from the original on 25 March 2019. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Rajadhyaksha, Ashish; Willemen, Paul (1998) [1994]. Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema (PDF). Oxford University Press. p. 348. ISBN 0-19-563579-5.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "తెనాలి రామ‌కృష్ణ‌" [Tenali Ramakrishna]. Prajasakti. 3 February 2018. Archived from the original on 25 March 2019. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Narasimham, M. L. (14 November 2014). "Tenali Ramakrishna (1956)". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 25 March 2019. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f తెనాలి రామకృష్ణ [Tenali Ramakrishna] (songbook) (in Telugu). Vikram Produtions. 1956.
  6. ^ a b c d e "'తెనాలి రామకృష్ణ': సమీక్ష" ['Tenali Ramakrishna': Review]. Swatantra (in Telugu). 27 January 1956. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "చిత్రసమీక్ష: 'తెనాలి రామకృష్ణ'" [Film Review: 'Tenali Ramakrishna']. Zameen Raithu (in Telugu). 10 February 1956. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  8. ^ a b c "'Tenali Ramakrishna' Theatrical release poster". Visalaandhra (in Telugu). 12 January 1956. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  9. ^ Tenali Ramakrishna (1956). YouTube. Volga Videos. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  10. ^ "Nizam territory will remain indispensable for Tollywood". The Times of India. 31 July 2013. Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  11. ^ "'Tenali Ramakrishna' theatrical release advertisement". Andhra Patrika (in Telugu). 11 January 1956. Retrieved 25 March 2019.

External links[edit]