Bapu is an Indian film director, known for his works in Telugu cinema. He is a music artist, painter, illustrator, cartoonist, and designer. In 2013, he was awarded the Padma Shri, for his contribution to Indian art and cinema. He breathed his last on August 31, 2014.
Early life and background
Bapu was born on December 15, 1933, in Narsapur, West Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh, India in a Niyogi family to Sattiraju Venugopala Rao and Surya Kantham. He has worked as a political cartoonist for the newspaper Andhra Patrika in 1945. He holds B.Com (1953) and BL (1955) from University of Madras.
Bapu introduced a painting style of simple bright colors. His unique style consisted of economy of strokes, freehand drawing and a lack of background clutter.
His paintings focus on Hindu mythological characters, and he has painted the Hindu epic Ramayana as a pictorial story. His character portrayals, such as Shiva, Bhima, Duryodhana, look distinctly male with wide chests, large jaws and large biceps; while Krishna and Rama are more feminine in build. Bapu has also introduced a new style of cursive writing in Telugu. The font is his own handwriting and reflects the same simplicity as his art.
Bapu's paintings also decorated the cover pages of many magazines in India and Abroad. Telugu Naadi Magazine published from USA for Telugu audience have published Bapu's great paintings. Bapu also later served on their advisory board to guide and have an outstanding content for the magazine that catered to Telugu people.
The most notable achievement in Bapu's movie making is his success in capturing the nativity of the Telugu people and translating it into visuals. His movies center on realistic family issues and relationships, however his recurring theme is magic realism, with vignettes of mythological characters aiding in the narration.
Most of his movies have a female protagonist; a breakaway style from the formulaic movies that relegate female lead characters to song and dance numbers. His penchant for preserving the Telugu nativity in his movies can be seen in the choice of artists, especially the dusky female leads and weak villains.
Association with Ramana
Baapuramaneeyum,the film-director-writer duo,Mullapudi Venkata Ramana on the right Bapu met Mullapudi Venkataramana in 1942 in P.S. High School, Madras. They studied there in standards V and VI and then continued schooling at Kesari High School.Ramana’s first short story 'Amma Maata Vinakapothe' was published in 1945 in 'Bala', a children's magazine published by Radio Annayya (Nyayapathi Raghava Rao),he was 14 then. Bapu illustrated the story. That was the beginning of their career as a writer-producer-illustrator-filmmaker duo”.
Started as an illustrator-story writer team and then turning into a film-director-writer duo, they have contributed immensely to the enrichment of Telugu cultural ethos through literature and cinema. When one mentions Bapu, then one is bound to mention Ramana's name too and vice versa. The most notable achievement in his movie making is his success in capturing the nativity of Telugu people and translating it great on-screen visuals. When ever the renowned duo of Bapu and Ramana come together for a project, viewers expect a spectacular visual of nativity with an equally enthralling storyline.
Their mythological ventures like Sampoorna Ramayanam, Ramanjaneya Yuddham and Seeta Kalyanam have been the milestones of Telugu cinema, while historical films like Thyagayya, Bhakta Kannappa and Srinatha kavisarvabhouma have been hugely successful. Bapu-Ramana combination has created movie magic on the large screen with some of the path breaking films in Telugu cinema and are ever remembered for films like Radha kalyanam, Velugu needalu, Bharyabharthalu, Bhogimanta, Mutyala muggu, Sakshi, Mr. Pellam, Pelli pustakam and Manavoori Pandavulu which popularised actors of those days like Krishna, Krishnam Raju, Chiranjeevi and Ravu Gopalarao.
He has won two National Film Awards, 3 Filmfare Awards, six state Nandi Awards, In 1996, He has appeared in the Doordarshan Documentary Eminent Cartoonists of India. He gained international recognition through his art works viz., Bapu Bomma, The Navarasas, and the Indian Dances etc., which were held at the National Film Theatre, London, in 1978 and at the innumerable Telugu Conferences in the United States. He has worked as a graphic artist for J Walter Thomson, Efficient Publicities and F. D. Stewarts, Chennai.
He was a delegate at the seminar in Bangalore on Children’s Books sponsored by UNESCO in 1964. The same year, he gave demonstrations for the training course programme on book illustrations and cover designs sponsored by UNESCO in Chennai. In 1960's he has served as art Consultant for Ford Foundation sponsored The Southern Language Book Trust. He has designed and illustrated several books for leading publishers in South India out of which, five received Government Awards. He has also done the same for innumerable works drawn from the puranas and folklore. He was also introduced Bollywood hindi great actor Anil Kapoor in 1980 Debut films like Vamsa Vruksham & Hum Paanch.He has also directed 12 Bollywood films.
He has directed Bollywood films like Hum Paanch, Seeta Swayamvar, Anokha Bhakt, Bezubaan, Woh Saat Din, Pyari Behna, Mohobbat, Mera Dharam, Diljala and Prem Pratigya. He has also directed a Tamil film Neeti Devan Mayagugiran. Bapu's directorial venture saakshi was showcased at Tashkent film festival in 1968. Seeta Kalyanam was screened at the BFI London Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, San Reno and Denver International Film Festivals in 1978, and is part of the course at the British Film Institute. Tyagayya (1981 film) was showcased at the Indian Panorama of International Film Festival of India in 1982 Bapu's 2011 film Sri Rama Rajyam had a special screening at International Film Festival of India on November 28, 2011.
Bapu had suffered heart stroke many times through out his career. He was admitted into a hospital at chennai in mid August 2014. He experienced a severe heart stroke on August 31, 2014 following which he passed away on the same day after battling with acute illness.