America Ammaayi (1976) - Retrospective

Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - 22:30


Sridhar ... Mohan
Ranganath ... Anand
Anne Chaymotty (Devayani)... Neena aka Meena
Deepa ... Sudha
Gummadi Venkateshwara Rao
Kantha Rao ... Sudha Father
Pandaree bayi ... Janaki (Mohan's Mother)
Ramaprabha ... Shelly
Girija ... Kantamma
Rajababu ... Gantayya
Sarathbabu... Raju
Other Cast: Arja Janardhana Rao, K.K. Sarma, Chalapathi Rao, Girija Rani, Vijayabala

Story: A.P. Nagarajan
Dialogues: Gollapudi Maruthi Rao
Lyrics: 'Padma Bhushan' Devilapalli Krishna Sastry, C. Narayana Reddy, Arudra, Mailavarapu Gopi
Playback: S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, G. Anand, Ramesh, P. Susheela, S. Janaki, Vasantha, Vani Jayaram
Camera: Balu Mahendra
Dances: Vempati China Satyam, Tara, Raju-Seshu
Art: Kaladhar
Editing: Subbayya
Music: G. Anand
Assistant Music Directors: L. Vaidhyanadhan, Philip, Ilayaraja
Producer: 'Navata' Krishnaram Raju
Screenplay, Direction: Singeetam Srinivasa Rao


# Song Lyrics Singers
1 aame tOTi maaTundi, pedavi daaTi raanandi Mailavarapu Gopi S. P. Balasubrahmanyam
2 jilibili siggula chilukanu chErenu gorinka Arudra S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Vani Jayaram
3 Tell Me, tell me, tell me do you love me love me! Arudra S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, S. Janaki
4 paaDanaa tenugu paaTa paravaSanai, mee eduTa Devulapalli Krishna Sastry P. Susheela
5 oka vENuvu vinipinchenu anuraaga geetika Mailavarapu Gopi G. Anand
6 Darling-U, lingU liTukU! Arudra Ramesh, Vasantha
7 aananda taanDavamaaDe, SivuDu Dr.C.Narayana Reddy P.Susheela


Mohan (Sridhar) comes back to India from USA after his studies. While coming back, he comes with the his American wife Neena (Anne Chaymotty a.k.a Devayani), and his father who cannot digest the fact asks both of them to leave the house. Meanwhile, Mohan's younger brother Anand (Ranganath) loves Sudha (Deepa) and marries her without informing his parents. Neena loves Indian culture and adopts it while Sudha loves western culture and goes for it. Will Sudha continue to embrace the western culture? Or will Neena go back to the culture she came from?

Sree Nidimpalli Krishnam Raju was managing his business at Amalapuram, when his friends brought him to the filmdom. When T. Chalapathi Rao and his friends started the film Manchi Manishi in 1964, the film had to be stalled because of financial issues. The director of the film, K. Pratyagatma who was also a friend of Krishnam Raju, asked Krishnam Raju to pitch in to help the film move on. 'Navata' Krishnam Raju invested some money in the project and thus marked his debut. However, he doesn't get credited in the titles for the film. He continued investing in films randomly for several years; it wasn't until 1975 that he established his own banner 'Navata Arts' and became popular from then on as 'Navata' Krishnam Raju. Zamindar Gaari Ammaayi was the first film produced on the banner, with Ranganath in the lead and the then-budding Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao as the director. Ten days after the shoot, S.V. Ranga Rao expired and thus the film had to be reshot with Gummadi replacing him. The film went on to become a 100-day runner in some centers. (mrOgindi veeNa padE padE hRdayaala lOna... was one of the hit songs of the film.)

About America Ammaayi and other lead cast:
When Singeetham watched the Tamil flick Melnaattu Marmagal, he felt that the film can be a decent Telugu with some changes, given the fact that the film was only an average fare in Tamil. He proposed to direct the story when producer Satyanarayana approached him, but the producer was not impressed very much with the theme. (He later produced Sommokadidi-Sokokadidi with Singeetham Srinivasa Rao as the director, on Sree Subrahmanyeswara banner.) At about the same time, 'Navata' Krishnam Raju also saw the Tamil film and wanted to remake it in Telugu, bought the remake rights, and started story discussion sessions with Singeetham as the director! Singeetham and Gollapudi together watched the original film again and made several changes to the Telugu version and readied the screenplay.

Sridhar was chosen as the hero and Ranganath was chosen as the other hero. (The Tamil original had Shivakumar - Tamil hero Surya's father - in Sridhar's role and Kamal Hasan in Ranganath's role.) Kamal Hasan's heroine in the film was the dancer Vani Ganapathy (who Kamal Hasan married later and divorced). Deepa, who acted in just one Malayalam flick by then, was chosen for the role in the Telugu version. The American girl who acted in the Tamil flick had to leave the country due to visa expiration and thus the Telugu version needed another foreign girl. They approached a French woman who came to India to learn dance, but she imposed a condition that she wants to do her arangetram (first public performance) in the famous Nataraja Swami Temple of Chidambaram. They agreed, trained her through Vempati Chinna Satyam, and shot the song aanandataanDavamaaDe... in the temple for over a week, and a few scenes were shot in Madras for two days. All of a sudden, the dancer was absent for the shoot, and the crew gathered that even her visa expired and she left the country! This led the unit to a state of depression as the "10-day reshoot" phenomenon is repeating after Zamindar Gaari Ammaayi. At such a time, Enugula Sitarama Rao, a government employee in the Department of Foreign Relations, suggested Devayani, who lived in the same street as him. Both Singeetham and Krishnam Raju saw Devayani's arangetram and approached her. However, she did not readily accept the role, but they both somehow convinced her and started the shooting.

"I was from France, Deepa was from Kerala, cameraman Balu Mahendra was from Tamilnadu, and the rest of the cast was mostly from Andhra Pradesh, and thus it was a multicultural mix of people in the film's unit. It was a bit tough for Deepa and me because it was our debut film, but we managed. I had to learn some Sanskrit to understand the lyrics for dance and thus pronouncing Telugu wasn't very tough, which was why the lip synchronization came out well for the song paaDanaa telugu paaTa... picturized on me. It was my fortune to be able to learn the Kuchipudi dance form from a great guru like Vempati Chinna Satyam gaaru. Also, the dance for aanandataanDavamaaDe... was composed by Sree Satyanarayana gaaruand his then-assistant Smt. Shoba Naidu gaaru, which is a memorable experience too", said Devayani, speaking of her experiences while working on the film. She was more interested in classical dance performances than films, and thus she never acted in any other film though she was approached for several films, including those of Kamal Hasan, Girish Karnad, and renowned Malayalam director Ramu Karyat. (Born in Paris as Anne Chaymotty, she chose to give herself the name "Devayani" when she learnt the name of the consort of Lord Subrahmanya. Part of the reason was that the name had the letters 'Y' and 'I', which were the first and last letters in the name of Yamini Krishnamurthi, an idol for Anne. - Ed.)

Ranganath on America Ammaayi:
America Ammaayi was my fifth film and it was also the second film for the Navata Arts banner. My first film for them was Zamindar Gaari Ammaayi, which was my third film. Navata Krishnam Raju gaaruis a really nice person and has a taste for good music. Navata Arts office was a frequent pit-stop for me, for story discussions and for anything really, and that had been the office I went the most while I did lead roles. I cannot forget films that I did on their banner: Zamindar Gaari AmmaayiAmerica AmmaayiAndame AanandamPanthulammaIntiti Ramayanam were all not just big hits, but were also big musical hits in my career! After Zamindar Gaari Ammaayi, Krisham Raju gaaru offered me the film America Ammaayi and told that the film had two heroes and that the main hero would be Sridhar. In those times, we were never really concerned about things like number of heroes, footage per hero, and other trivial things. We only thought about the banner/producer, the director and were more concerned to note if we had scenes where we could show our acting prowess. When I met the director Singeetam Srinivasa Rao gaaru, he said that my character doesn't have any makeup and that I'd have three songs with a newcomer Unni Meri a.k.a Deepa.

...It was Deepa's first film and she tried very hard for learn Telugu. She used to ask me "EmanDii... mee baaDaa banDalu gaaru baagunnaaraa?" for "mee bharyabiDDalu baagunnaaraa?" (Laughs). Though we did super hit films like Andame Aanandam and Panthulamma, we lost touch eventually. I know she was into politics for sometime but I don't know her whereabouts later. I asked someone from the Malayalam film industry recently too, but no one seems to know. I hope she is doing good, wherever she is. ...One more thing is that there is no choreographer for the song aame tOTi maaTundi... Singeetamgaaru and I together composed the dance moves and shot that song without any choreographer.

Before we went to the shoot, I heard all the songs and I liked oka vENuvu vinipinchenu anuraaga geetika... so much that I asked them if they can have just that song for me even at the cost of three songs they wanted to shoot on me. They said that song wouldn't suit my character, and I miss that song even today - I liked it a lot! I had memorable songs in Panthulamma and Intinti Ramayanam in my later career, and I had good songs in America Ammaayi also, but I missed oka vENuvu... that could have been a memorable hit. The film's unit was a wonderful combination: A French lady (playing as an American lady in the film), a Malayali girl as my heroine, a Tamilian Balu Mahendra as the cameraman, and the rest of the cast and crew including producer , director and rest of the cast and crew were Telugu - it was a different scenario altogether for me. Singeetam Srinivasa Rao gaaru never liked overacting and was also very cautious about presenting the characters. A little over what was needed and he used to say "anta akkarlEdu!", a little less and he would say, "konchem ekkuva..." and only when I did perfectly did he say "idi chaalu." That's how he used to "measure" acting and tell how much was required for that shot! I thus learned a lot from him.

Working with Anne was wonderful! Though we did not have many scenes together, I saw her dedication towards acting and hard work to reach perfection. I am glad that she was conferred the 'Padma Shri'/

About America Ammaayi songs:
'Navata' Krishnam Raju used to spend most of his time at Rani Book House (whose owner, Atluri Piccheswara Rao, was a writer who also penned the dialogues for films such as BharyabhartaluChivaraku Migiledi). It was the meeting spot for many film writers every evening, and it was here that he met Mylavarapu Gopi who wrote the hit song oka vENuvu... in this film.

Anand has sung for Pandanti Kaapuram by this time but as a chorus singer; America Ammaayi is his first film as a solo singer. Speaking of the offer, he recollected, "In those times, there was a festive mood in events at Chandramohan's place with several film personalities attending the events. I was just going around studios and trying my luck then. I happened to sing at one such event, when my friend Medisetty Apparao took me there. One person stood still listening to my song, and he's none other than 'Navata' Krishnam Raju gaaru. He asked me to come by his office the next day and I went. He introduced me to G.K. Venkatesh gaaru who was already there, and the music director asked me to sing. I sang a couple of songs and he assured me that he'd surely give me an opportunity to sing for films. I was then asked to meet Devulapalli gaaru regularly, to check with him about the progress on a lyric (paaDanaa telugu paaTa...). Thus, I was fortunate enough to meet the legendary poet on a daily basis and interact with him. Later, he liked my rendition and wrote a recommendation letter to K.V. Mahadevan gaaru, who gave me an opportunity to sing dooraana dooranaa taaraadeepam... in the film Bangaarakka. ...Speaking ofAmerica Ammaayi, I was actually apprehensive till the end if my song would be there in the film. It's because S.P.B. & P. Susheela already sang nearly all songs in the film, and Ramesh & Vasantha sang one song (Darling-U lingU liTukU..., picturized on Rajababu & Ramaprabha). At such a time, Venkatesh gaaru gave me the tune for oka vENuvu... and asked me to practice it. While all others were of the "racy" kind (according to those times), this was the only slow tune and I wasn't sure if this would even be noticed. Venkatesh gaaru noticed this hesitation I had, took me home one day and played one of Mehudi Hassan's ghazals and explained the significance of such a slow music. I was happy to sing the song then, and after recording the song, it was appreciated by several but nearly everyone said it'd have been better if Balu gaaru sang it instead! I sank, and asked Venkatesh gaaru one day if my song would make it into the film, and he responded positively and sent all recorded songs to the audio company right away. Thus, my first song saw the light of the day!

A point to note here is that Ranganath was so in love with this song that he wanted it to be picturized on him, and was even ready to forego all the three songs that were planned to be shot on him. However, the director denied the hero's request saying that the song wouldn't suit his character! "I had memorable songs in Panthulamma and Intinti Ramayanam in my later career, and I had good songs in America Ammaayi also, but I missed oka vENuvu... that could have been a memorable hit", reminisces Ranganath. America Ammaayi is also an integral part of Anand's personal life! "Maybe because my first film was titled America Ammaayi, my son stays in the USA now and recently became the father of a baby-girl. We have our own America Ammaayi at home now (smiles). Sujatha gaaru, a classical music (vocal) profession who performed in Madras back then, dubbed for Devayani in the film. 'Navata' Krishnam Raju attended her performance where she rendered a song that was originally sung by Usha Uthup and felt that Sujatha gaari voice suits Devayani. She only dubbed for this one film. Interestingly, I got married to her later! This debut film of mine has thus been an important turning point in my personal life too!" shares Anand. (Deepa's voice was dubbed by Durga, whose daughter is also a leading dubbing artiste today.)

Trivia on America Ammaayi:

  • This is the fifth film for Ranganath, after ChandanaChaduvu-SamskaaramZamindar Gaari Ammaayi, and Oka Deepam Veligindi. This is also the fifth film for Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao as director, after Neethi- NijaayithiDikkatra Parvathi (Kannada), Zamindar Gaari Ammaayi, and Oka Deepam Veligindi.
  • The makers wanted to use Sree Damerla's RamaRao's oil paintings when the titles are shown and were wondering how they could seek permission to use the paintings. Artist-director Bapu gaaruapproached the artist and sought permission on behalf of the film-makers and thus Bapu gaaru was specially thanked in the titles.
  • The originally planned budget was 8 lakh rupees. However, due to reshoot after 10 days, the budget exceed by about 2 lakh rupees. The film was wrapped in about 45 days, shooting in Chidambaram, Ooty, and (in and around) Madras. Ranganath's remuneration was Rs. 10,000/-, Sridhar's and Devayani's remuneration was Rs. 15,000/- each, and Deepa was given Rs. 5,000/- as her remuneration. Balu Mahendra, who handled the camera department, was paid as much as the lead hero!
  • L. Vaidyanathan assisted G.K. Venkatesh in the music department, as the Music Conductor. He later provided background score for over 150 films including Pushpaka Vimanam and Gunasekhar-M.S.Reddy's Ramayanam, and even the famous TV serial R.K. Narayan's Malgudi Days. Ilayaraja was a Composing Assistant to G.K. Venkatesh back then. (It's interesting to note that later in his life, G.K. Venkatesh worked as an assistant to Ilayaraja.)
  • Sarath Babu was initially in two minds about acting in this film, as the villain's role he was offered did not have much footage. G. Anand, who was his roommate then, convinced Sarath Babu that he should definitely act in this film. Sarath Babu wasn't married to Rama Prabha by then, but they got married after this film was released. While the film's dubbing work was going on, director K. Balachander watched the scene involving Sarath Babu, Ranganath, and Deepa and was instantly impressed by Sarath Babu's performance and asked 'Navata' Krisham Raju's son Acchibabu about him. They showed all the scenes in which Sarath Babu was seen in the film, and Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao introduced Sarath Babu to Balachander in a film function later. Balachander asked Sarath Babu if the latter could speak Tamil, and when Sarath Babu responded in affirmative, Balachander offered him a Tamil film. Interestingly, Sarath Babu was surely in the cast in the next 20 films directed by K. Balachander, and was even introduced into Kannada films by the veteran director!

Where is the team of America Ammaayi today?
Producer 'Navata' Krishnam Raju and hero Sridhar have passed away. Ranganath, who turned a character artiste with the film Guvvala Janta, is active as a film and TV artiste. Sarath Babu & Ramaprabha are divorced for a long time now; Ramaprabha is busy in TV and films too, and it is the same with Sarath Babu too, who started getting busier in films again with Magadheera last year and is currently acting in Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada films. At the time of this writing, singer G. Anand is in the USA visiting his son, and is conducting stage programmes through "Swara Madhuri" organization. Deepa is probably in Kerala but her whereabouts are not known to anyone even in the Malayalam film industry and/or politics where she was once active. The French woman Anne Chaymotty a.k.a. Devayani was conferred the prestigious PadmaSree Award last year for her contribution to Bharata Natyam. Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao turned an actor with the recently released Allu Arjun starrer Varudu, and is now involved in story discussions for his upcoming directorial venture. He has been actively making films such as Mumbai Express with Kamal Hasan in the lead and the internationally acclaimed animation film Ghatotkach. 'Navata' Krishnam Raju's son Acchibabu is settled in Hyderabad; he's the producer for S.P.B.'s much-popular TV competition series Paaduthaa Theeyagaa.

Acknowledgments: Sree Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao, Sree Acchibabu, Sree Ranganath, Sree G. Anand, Sree Sarath Babu, and Ms. Devayani
- By Sri Atluri