He had directed very few films for outside banners. To be exact, P.S. Ramakrishna Rao had made only four films for other producers. He took up such jobs when the big boss of Bharani Pictures, his actress wife Bhanumathi Ramakrishna was busy with acting assignments in Telugu and Tamil movies or when he could not get a suitable subject to start a film under his home banner. Of the four films, three were consecutive hits which include Athmabandhvu that he had directed for Sri Saradhi Studios, Hyderabad.
It was a remake of the Telugu-born Tamil director A. Bhimsingh’s super hit film,Padikkatha Medhai (1960) based on a story by noted Bengali litterateur Asha Purna Devi. Adept at dealing with emotional family dramas, Bhimsingh, also a film editor and a screen writer of repute, made a dozen films in this genre in Tamil starting with the letter ‘Pa’ and all of them featured Sivaji Ganesan in the lead.
Ramakrishna Athmabandhuvulargely followed Bhimsingh’s screenplay while directing Athmabandhuvuand his dialogue writer Samudrala Junior also drew inspiration from K.S. Gopalakrishnan’s Tamil dialogues.
The Story: Orphaned as an infant, Rangadu (played by NTR) is brought up by his distant relative Rao Bahadur Chandrasekharam (S.V. Rangarao) and his compassionate wife Parvathi (Kannamba). Chandrasekharam heads a large family of three sons ( Vallam Narasimha Rao, Edida Nageswara Rao and Padmanabham), two daughters, the widowed Mangalamba (Suryakantham) and Geetha (Girija), two daughters-in-law (Mohana and Meenakumari), their young children and Mangalamba’s son Mohan (Rajbabu). Parvathi promises her childhood friend (Prabhavathi) that she will take her daughter Lakshmi (Savitri) as her third daughter-in-law but ends up giving her in marriage to Rangadu when her third son who is in love with Janaki (Sarada) refuses to marry her. Life suddenly takes a cruel turn for Chandrasekharam when he loses all his wealth in share market. His daughter’s marriage is called off, his sons attitude change and he is forced to send Rangadu and Lakshmi out. He dies heartbroken. Rangadu with the help of Kotaiah (Relangi) finds a job in a factory owned by Rajarao (A.V. Subbarao Jr.) whose son (Haranath) is to have married Geetha. How Rangadu sets right the turmoil in the family and reunites them forms the rest of the story.
Cast and Crew: He was like Hanuman to Rama and Sita. His life revolved around his uncle Chandrasekharam and aunt Parvathi.
He was so attached to them that he even slapped his wife when she suggested moving out of the house unable to bear the insults heaped on her and her husband by the other members of the family. As Rangadu, who was totally devoted to the family NTR played the emotions to the hilt more so during the later parts of the film though at times seemingly an overdose of melodrama. But then his character was designed in such a way that Ranga thinks and acts with his heart rather than with his mind.
In conventional cinematic terms he was the hero of the movie but its real hero was S.V. Rangarao who was brilliant as Chandrasekharam. In a highly dramatic scene when he had to ask Rangadu to leave the house, the way SVR displayed the agony and the helplessness through controlled emotions is a text lesson in itself. Matching performance came from the veteran Kannamba as his solicitous wife Parvathi. The two reprised their characters from Padkikkatha Medhai. Such was her imposing persona that the fans of either NTR or Sivaji Ganesan both top stars, did not mind, in fact enjoyed when Kannamba pinched their ears and sent them to their rooms to the waiting brides on their first night of marriage. Savitri gave a neat portrayal as Lakshmi, the understanding wife of Rangadu, a role that ‘Sowcar’ Janaki played in the Tamil film. Relangi was at his usual best as Kotaiah. Surabhi Balasaraswati played his supportive wife, Anjamma.
K.V. Mahadevan was retained to compose the music. Since the Tamil songs were a proven hit, Mahadevan used the same tunes for which C. Narayana Reddy, Samudrala Senior, Kosaraju and Sri Sri wrote the lyrics. The big hit numbers were – ‘Anaganaga Oka Raju…’ (Ghantasala, Susheela), ‘Chaduvuraani vaadavani digulu chendaku…’ (Susheela), ‘Dakkenule naaku nee sogasu’ (P.B. Srinivos, Jamunarani) and ‘Cheeregatti singaarinchi…’ (Ghantasala).
Trivia: NTR’s taking of a road roller on his chest in the body builders’ competition scene drew much cheer.
Kuchibhotla Sivaramakrishnaiah who had played the role of a retired army officer in Athmabandhuvuwas in real life a doctor and served as a Captain in the Assam Regiment during the Second World War.
Sound Recording was done by P. Krishnamraju, whose son is the famed filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma.
Athmabandhuvu was released on December 14, 1962 and turned a big hit. However, its Kannada version, Bala Bandhana (1971) directed by Peketi Sivaram with Rajkumar and Jayanthi in the lead failed at the turnstile. The reason attributed was that the audience felt Sampath could not match the performance of S.V.Rangarao.