Singeetam Srinivasa Rao

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Singeetam Srinivasa Rao
Born (1931-09-21) 21 September 1931 (age 91) [1]
NationalityIndian
Alma materUniversity of Madras
Occupations
  • Film director
  • screenwriter
  • producer
  • composer
  • actor
AwardsNational Film Awards
Nandi Awards
Filmfare Awards South
Karnataka State Film Awards

Singeetam Srinivasa Rao (born 21 September 1931),[1] commonly known as Singeetam,[2][3] is an Indian film director, screenwriter, producer, composer, and actor. He is widely regarded as one of the most versatile directors of India.[4][5] He is credited with having revolutionised the South Indian cinema with experimental films.[3][5] He has directed about sixty films in Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, and English languages across multiple genres.[5][6][4] He has garnered two National Film Awards, five Nandi Awards, three Karnataka State Film Awards, and three Filmfare Awards South. In 2011, Rao was honored with Life Achievement Award from the Film Federation of India.[7]

Singeetam worked as an assistant to noted director K. V. Reddy from 1955 to 1968 in films like Mayabazar (1957), Jagadeka Veeruni Katha (1961).[8][2][9] He made his directorial debut with the Telugu film Neethi Nijayithi (1972). He then directed social problem films like Dikkatra Parvathi (1974), which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil,[2][10] and Tharam Marindi (1977), which won Nandi Award for Best Feature Film.[11]

He went on to direct notable films like Panthulamma (1978), Mayuri (1985), Anand (1986), Pushpaka Vimana (1987), Aditya 369 (1991), Brundavanam (1992), Magalir Mattum (1994), Bhairava Dweepam (1994), Madam (1994), and Son of Aladdin (2003). Mayuri won a record 14 Nandi Awards,[12][13] and the dialogue-less film, Pushpaka Vimana received the National Film Award for Best Popular Film.[14][15] Aditya 369 and Bhairava Dweepam are considered landmark films in science fiction and fantasy genres respectively in Telugu cinema.[3][16][17][18]

He is particularly noted for his collaboration with two actors — Dr. Rajkumar and Kamal Haasan — which resulted in commercially successful and critically acclaimed films. With Kamal Haasan, he collaborated on Sommokadidhi Sokokadidihi (1979), Raja Paarvai / Amavasya Chandrudu (1981), Pushpaka Vimana (1987), Apoorva Sagodharargal (1990) and Michael Madana Kama Rajan (1990) among others.[2][19] With Rajkumar, he directed films like Haalu Jenu (1982),[20] Chalisuva Modagalu (1982), Eradu Nakshatragalu (1983), and Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma (1986).[21][22]

Early life[edit]

Singeetam Srinivasa Rao was born on 21 September 1931 into a Telugu-speaking family in Udayagiri of Nellore district in present-day Andhra Pradesh. His father Ramachandra Rao was a headmaster and his mother Sakunthala Bai was a violinist.[2] As a school student, he showed glimpses of talent both in plays and music. He graduated with a Physics Degree from Presidency College, Chennai.[23][9] In college, he honed his skills in plays such as Windows under Harindranath Chattopadhyay.[2]

Career[edit]

Early career[edit]

After graduation his ambition was to get into films. As his attempts to meet the director K. V. Reddy failed, he took up the job of a teacher in Sullurupeta.[2] But he continued writing and wrote two experimental award-winning plays Bhrama and Anthyaghattam. He also wrote Chitrarjuna, a musical play adopted from Tagore's Chitra - Prince of the Dark Chamber. It was translated into English by Scottish dramatist Tom Buchan for an American television channel. He also worked as a journalist at the time writing for Telugu Swatantra.[2][9]

Telugu cinema[edit]

He continued his efforts to meet his favourite director K. V. Reddy and in 1954 he was finally able to meet him. K. V. Reddy gave him a copy of The Monkey's Paw and asked him to write a script based on it. Srinivasa Rao wrote the script along with dialogues in three months. K. V. Reddy was impressed and took him as an apprentice.[2] He later graduated as an associate director under K. V. Reddy and worked with him for all his films from Donga Ramudu (1955) until Uma Chandi Gowri Sankarula Katha (1968) including Mayabazar (1957), Jagadeka Veeruni Katha (1961), Sri Krishnarjuna Yuddham (1963).[8]

In 1972, Srinivasa Rao ventured into film direction with Neethi Nijayithi, an offbeat Telugu film. The film won critical acclaim but was not commercially successful.[2] He then directed the social problem film Tharam Marindi (1977) which won the Nandi Award for Best Feature Film.[11]

He made other successful Telugu films like Zamindaru gari Ammayi (1975), America Ammayi (1976), Panthulamma (1978), Sommokadidhi Sokokadidhi (1979), Mayuri (1985), Aditya 369 (1991), Brundavanam (1992), Bhairava Dweepam (1994), Madam (1994). Mayuri won a record 14 Nandi Awards including the Nandi Award for Best Feature Film.[12][13] Srinivasa Rao won the Nandi Award for Best Screenplay Writer for Brundavanam and the Nandi Award for Best Director for Bhairava Dweepam. Aditya 369 and Bhairava Dweepam are considered classic films in science fiction and fantasy genres respectively in Telugu cinema.[3][16][17][18]

Srinivasa Rao collaborated with Balakrishna in three films — the science fiction film Aditya 369, fantasy film Bhairava Dweepam, and the mythological film Sri Krishnarjuna Vijayam (1996).[24][25] He worked with Rajendra Prasad in two films — Brundavanam and Madam. Both were commercially successful.

He made over half of his films in Telugu. He directed nearly 30 Telugu films across genres. His most recent film was Welcome Obama (2013). The story deals with commercial surrogacy in India where women are used as surrogates by foreigners and tells the story of one such surrogate mother who bears a foreigner's child.[1]

He is also roped in as a mentor for the upcoming Telugu science fiction film Project K. Made at an estimated budget of ₹500 crore, it is one of the most expensive Indian films ever made. Srinivasa Rao gave his inputs and opinion on the film's script as a part of the mentorship.[26]

Kannada cinema[edit]

Srinivasa Rao was the executive director of the 1970 Kannada movie Samskara directed by Pattabhirama Reddy. It won the President's gold medal for National Film Award for Best Feature Film.[4] Singeetam made his Kannada directorial debut with the 1982 blockbuster Haalu Jenu starring Rajkumar. He went on to direct six more Kannada blockbusters with Rajkumar - Chalisuva Modagalu (1982), Eradu Nakshatragalu (1983), Shravana Banthu (1984), Jwaalamukhi (1985), Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma (1986) and Devatha Manushya (1988). Two of these were based on novels. He was selected to direct the historical Amoghavarsha Nrupathunga which was supposed to be Rajkumar's 200th movie but eventually dropped.[27] However, he subsequently went on to direct Devatha Manushya (1988) which happened to be Rajkumar's 200th film.

His other non-Rajkumar Kannada directorials include Anand (1986) and Chiranjeevi Sudhakara (1988) apart from Ksheera Sagara (1992), Tuvvi Tuvvi Tuvvi (1999) and Make-up (2002) in the latter part of his career. He co-wrote the screenplay for two Kannada movies produced by Rajkumar's banner that were not directed by him - Shruthi Seridaaga (1987) and Samyuktha (1988). He was also the script-writer of Belliyappa Bangarappa (1992). A disciple of legendary composer S. Rajeswara Rao, he has composed music for two Kannada films - Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma and Samyuktha.[28]

Most of the films he directed in Kannada were produced by Parvathamma Rajkumar and all were critically and commercially successful. Of the seven films Srinivasa Rao directed with Rajkumar in lead roles, four movies were remade in Telugu. Singeetam's association with Rajkumar was a rare one where he not only directed cult classics and landmark movies but also co-wrote screenplay and composed music for movies produced by the actor even though they were not directed by him. This stands as a testimony for the faith Rajkumar had in the abilities of Rao and the admiration Srinivasa had for Rajkumar.[29] In 1988, when Rajkumar announced his desire to temporarily retire from acting, Singeetam decided to concentrate on Tamil movies where he mostly had Kamal Haasan in the lead roles.[30]

The Kannada Film Journalists Association has honoured Srinivasa Rao with a Special Biography. Srinivasa Rao received three Karnataka State Film Awards — two for Best Screenplay and one for Best movie.[4]

Lyricist and composer[edit]

He composed lyrics for films like Bhairava Dweepam (1994) and soundtracks for a few Kannada films. He edited many magazines in Telugu such as Bharati, and scripted plays like Brahma, Antya Ghattam, and Chitrārjuna. Chitrārjuna was also translated into English, and was telecasted in American Television.[31] A disciple of legendary composer S. Rajeswara Rao, he has also composed music for two Kannada movies of matinee idol Rajkumar's banner - Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma (which was directed by him) and Samyuktha - (which was not directed by him).[32]

Innovative cinema[edit]

Srinivasa Rao (right) at IFFI 2015

The 1984 Telugu biographical dance film, Mayuri, which won the National Film Award – Special Mention (Feature Film), was premiered at the 1985 International Film Festival of India, has also received several state Awards, including the State Nandi Award for Best Feature Film, and Filmfare Award South for Best Direction.[33] The film was later remade into Hindi as Naache Mayuri.

In 1988, he co-produced, scripted and directed the first Indian dialogue-less film, Pushpaka Vimana which received special mention at Shanghai Film Festival.[34][35] When he was working with Rajkumar, Srinivasa Rao was introduced to Rajkumar's relative, actor Shringar Nagaraj who decided to co-produce Pushpaka Vimana.[36] The film was listed among CNN-IBN's 'Hundred greatest Indian films of all time'.[37]

The comedy-drama blockbuster Apoorva Sagodharargal (1989) was one of the enduring works on dwarfism in popular media.[38][39] The film won the Filmfare Award for Best Film – Tamil, and was premiered at the International Film Festival of India. The Telugu crossover films like America Ammayi (1976), and America Abbayi (1987) were box office hits. The 1990 action comedy, Michael Madana Kama Rajan - a movie about quadruplets[40] - became an instant hit at the box office.

The Telugu science fiction film Aditya 369 was one of the highest grossing Telugu films of 1991, grossing 9 crore at the box office.[41] A sequel, entitled Aditya 999, was delayed indefinitely in July 2016.[42] Another science fiction in Tamil, Chinna Vathiyar was also an instant hit. The 1994, folklore Bhairava Dweepam garnered the state Nandi Award for Best Direction.

The 2003 animation film, Son of Aladdin, had 1100 shots and 125 characters.[43] The film won Special Mention in the Competition section at the 2003 International Children’s Film Festival Hyderabad,[44][45][46] and subsequently premiered at the 37th International Film Festival of India.[47] The 2008 animation film Ghatothkach received special mention at the Grand Finale - Children's Film Festival 2014 of the 44th International Film Festival of India.[48]

Upcoming projects[edit]

Srinivasa Rao plans to make a sequel to Aditya 369 in the future.[3] He also expressed his wish to direct a pre-recorded experimental film — a musical in which he wants to use pre-recorded sequences and dialogues while shooting. He also wants to make a documentary on the making of Apoorva Sagodhararkal. He also wants to write a book on the making of Pushpaka Vimana, and his autobiography in the form of a screenplay.[6]

Collaborators[edit]

Srinivasa Rao is particularly noted for his collaboration with two actors - Dr. Rajkumar and Kamal Haasan - which resulted in commercially successful and critically acclaimed movies. With Kamal Haasan he made films such as Pushpaka Vimana (1987), Apoorva Sagodharargal (1990) and Michael Madana Kama Rajan (1991) among others,[19] He also directed Kamal Haasan in his 100th film Raja Paarvai / Amavasya Chandrudu (1981).[49]

He directed Rajkumar in seven Kannada films in the 1980s.[21] Notable among them are Haalu Jenu (1982),[20] Chalisuva Modagalu (1982), Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma (1986),[22] and Rajkumar's 200th film Devatha Manushya (1988). He was also the first person to direct Dr. Rajkumar and all his three sons.[50] He directed Shiva Rajkumar and Raghavendra Rajkumar in their debut movies, Anand (1986) and Chiranjeevi Sudhakara (1988) respectively.[21][51] He had also directed Puneeth Rajkumar as a child artiste in Eradu Nakshatragalu in which he played dual role.[52] Most of his Kannada films were produced by Parvathamma Rajkumar whose ability to judge what would work with the audience and whose story-picking knack he believed in.[53] He was the only director to have worked with her on at least one film in each of the seven years during 1982 to 1988.[54]

Srinivasa Rao also collaborated with Balakrishna in three films — the science fiction film Aditya 369 (1991), fantasy film Bhairava Dweepam (1994), and the mythological film Sri Krishnarjuna Vijayam (1996).[24][25] Aditya 369 and Bhairava Dweepam are considered landmark films in science fiction and fantasy genres respectively in Telugu cinema.[3][16][17][18] He directed Rajendra Prasad in two films — Brundavanam (1992) and Madam (1994). Both were commercially successful.

Kannada actor Shivaram has been a part of all seven movies of Srinivasa Rao starring Rajkumar. B. C. Gowrishankar, a regular cameraman for Rajkumar movies, was selected as the cinematographer for Srinivasa Rao's later movies - Pushpaka Vimana [55] and Michael Madana Kama Rajan.[56] Another regular technician of Rajkumar movies - art director Peketi Ranga - was also selected as the art director for Srinivasa Rao's Michael Madana Kama Rajan.[57]

Influences[edit]

His favourite litterateurs are Vemana, Mark Twain, and P. G. Wodehouse.[58] He feels no one has expressed the truths of everyday life better than Vemana. He was introduced to Mark Twain by an American missionary when he was eight. He considers Robin Hood to be his favourite hero of fiction.[58]

Accolades[edit]

In 2010, Srinivasa Rao headed the Jury of the Indian Panorama at the 8th Chennai International Film Festival.[59] In 2011, Srinivasa Rao received the Life Achievement Award from the Film Federation of India at the 4th Global Film Festival.[60] Srinivasa Rao was also the Guest of honor alongside Barrie Osbourne at the Media and Entertainment Business Conclave 2012 hosted by FICCI and FFI.[61][62] In 2012, Srinivasa Rao served as one of the selection committee members for the Sundance Institute's screenwriters lab.[63]

19th Chennai International Film Festival
  • Life Time Achievement Award (2021)
Film Federation of India
  • Life Time Achievement Award (2011)
National Film Awards
Nandi Awards[64]
Karnataka State Film Awards
Filmfare Awards South

Filmography[edit]

Year Film Language Director Producer Writer Notes
1972 Neeti-Nijayiti Telugu Yes Directorial debut in Telugu cinema
1974 Dikkatra Parvathi Tamil Yes Yes Yes Directorial debut in Tamil cinema
National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil
Filmfare Award for Best Film - Tamil
1975 Zamindaru gari Ammayi Telugu Yes
1976 Oka Deepam Veligindhi Telugu Yes
1976 America Ammayi Telugu Yes Yes Yes
1977 Tharam Marindi Telugu Yes Yes Yes Nandi Award For Best Feature Film
1977 Andame Anandam Telugu Yes Yes Yes
1977 Panthulamma Telugu Yes Yes Yes Also actor
1977 Niraparayum Nilavilakkum Malayalam Yes Directorial debut in Malayalam cinema.
1978 Raamachilaka Telugu Yes Remake of Annakili
1978 Gammathu Goodacharulu Telugu Yes
1979 Sommokadidhi Sokokadidhi Telugu Yes Yes Starring Kamal Haasan
1979 Mangala Thoranalu Telugu Yes
1980 Triloka Sundari Telugu Yes
1980 Gandara Golam Telugu Yes
1980 Pilla Zamindar Telugu Yes Yes
1981 Raja Paarvai
Amavasya Chandrudu
Tamil
Telugu
Yes Starring Kamal Haasan
1981 Jegantalu Telugu Yes
1982 Thrilok Sundhari Hindi Yes
1982 Haalu Jenu Kannada Yes Yes Yes Directorial debut in Kannada
Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film
Starring Rajkumar
1982 Chalisuva Modagalu Kannada Yes Yes Starring Rajkumar
1983 Eradu Nakshatragalu Kannada Yes Yes Starring Rajkumar and Puneeth Rajkumar
1983 Raju Rani Jackie Telugu Yes Yes
1984 Shravana Banthu Kannada Yes Starring Rajkumar
1984 Vasantha Geetam Telugu Yes Yes
1984 Sangeeta Samrat Telugu Yes
1984 Mayuri Telugu Yes Yes Nandi Award for Best Feature Film
Filmfare Award South For Best Direction
Nandi Award for Best Screenplay
1985 Jwaalamukhi Kannada Yes Yes Starring Rajkumar
1986 Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma Kannada Yes Karnataka State Film Award for Best Screenplay
Also Music director
Starring Rajkumar
1986 Anand Kannada Yes Yes Karnataka State Film Award for Best Screenplay
Starring Shiva Rajkumar in his debut
1986 Naache Mayuri Hindi Yes
1987 America Abbayi Telugu Yes Yes
1987 Shruthi Seridaaga Kannada Yes Co-screenplay writer
Starring Rajkumar
1987 Pushpaka Vimana Silent Yes Yes Yes National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment
Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada
Starring Kamal Haasan
1988 Devatha Manushya Kannada Yes Starring Rajkumar ( his 200th movie)
1988 Chiranjeevi Sudhakara Kannada Yes Starring Raghavendra Rajkumar in his debut
1988 Samyuktha Kannada Yes Co-Screenplay writer and Music Director
Starring Shiva Rajkumar
1989 Apoorva Sagodharargal Tamil Yes Starring Kamal Haasan
1990 Michael Madana Kama Rajan Tamil Yes Starring Kamal Haasan
1991 Aditya 369 Telugu Yes Yes Starring Nandamuri Balakrishna
1992 Ksheera Sagara Kannada Yes Yes Starring Kumar Bangarappa
1992 Belliyappa Bangarappa Kannada Yes Starring Kumar Bangarappa
1992 Brundavanam Telugu Yes Nandi Award for Best Screenplay
1993 Phool Hindi Yes Yes
1994 Madam Telugu Yes Yes
1994 Magalir Mattum Tamil Yes
1994 Bhairava Dweepam Telugu Yes Yes Nandi Award for Best Director
Nandi Award for Best Feature Film
Also Lyric writer for Virisinadhi Vasantha Gaanam
Starring Nandamuri Balakrishna
1995 Chinna Vathiyar Tamil Yes
1996 Sri Krishnarjuna Vijayam Telugu Yes Yes Starring Nandamuri Balakrishna
1998 Raja Hamsa Telugu Yes Yes
1998 Kaathala Kaathala Tamil Yes Starring Kamal Haasan
1999 Tuvvi Tuvvi Tuvvi Kannada Yes Starring Raghavendra Rajkumar
2001 Little John English
Hindi
Tamil
Yes Yes
2001 Akasa Veedhilo Telugu Yes Yes
2002 Make-up Kannada Yes Starring Jaggesh
2003 Vijayam Telugu Yes
2003 Son of Aladdin English Yes Yes Special Mention in the Competition section at the 2003 International Children's Film Festival
2005 Mumbai Xpress Hindi
Tamil
Yes Starring Kamal Haasan
2008 Ghatothkach Hindi Yes Yes Animation Film
2010 Varudu Telugu Actor
2013 Chinni Chinni Aasa Telugu Actor
2013 Welcome Obama Telugu Yes Yes Remake of Marathi movie Mala Aai Vhhaychy!
2015 Kanche Telugu Actor
2022 Pratibimbalu Telugu Yes The film was shot in 1982, but released in 2022

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