Padmabushan Dagguabati Ramanaidu - Ramanaidu Film School

Padma Bhushan
Daggubati Ramanaidu

Founder of Suresh Productions &
Ramanaidu Film School

The veteran film producer Padmabushan Daggubati Ramanaidu was born in Karamchedu, Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh, on June 6, 1936. He belonged to a family that owned a rice mill and a transport business.  After his graduation from Presidency College, Madras he closed his family transport business and moved to Chennai in 1962 looking for better prospects. By chance, when he met some important people of the Telugu industry his life took a big turn.  The very next year he became a financial partner in the Bhanumathi-Gummudi feature Anuragam (1963) that however did not do well.

Padmabushan Daggubati Ramanaidu
  • Undeterred by this failure but armed with what he had learnt in the process he set up Suresh Productions, in the name of his elder son Suresh Babu. The NTR feature Ramudu Bheemudu directed by Tapi Chanakya that emerged as a result became a runaway hit setting a new trend for dual-role social films across India. Significantly, its outstanding impact led to a tie-up between Ramanaidu and B. Nagi Reddy of Vijaya Vauhini. Together they floated a new production house named Vijaya-Suresh Combines to produce films. In the process, Ramanaidu  gained more experience among other things how to run a studio. Breaking out of the partnership later, he continued to make films under his principal banner but fortunes began to fluctuate. At one point he almost reached a dead end and decided to head back to his home town. It is at this moment, in 1971, that the idea of adapting Koduri Kausaliya Devi’s Telugu novel Prema Nagar materialised as if to make good all that he had lost.  Directed and co-written by K. Prakash Rao, this Nageswara Rao-Vanisree feature with its cinematic title Prem Nagar turned out to be a phenomenal hit. Its remakes by Suresh Productions in Tamil as Vasantha Maligai (1972) featuring Sivaji Ganesan and Vanisree, and in Hindi as Prem Nagar (1974) featuring Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini produced equally astounding results.

  • Ever since the formation of Andhra Pradesh as a separate State in 1953, there was pressure from the Telugu intelligentsia and successive Congress governments in the region to shift the Telugu film industry from Chennai to Hyderabad. This proposal nevertheless suffered from two crucial bottlenecks. First, as many creative artistes, technicians and wage-earners of Telugu cinema also worked for other language films, they were hesitant to shift base from Chennai. Second, well-established production outfits were equally reluctant to move lock, stock and barrel out of Chennai owing to the cost involved and the fear that if they set up units in Hyderabad they would have to constantly transport artistes and technicians from Chennai.

  • Once N.T.R’s Telugu Desam government assumed power in 1983, the operation was galvanised with a series of schemes that offered various incentives to those who were willing to take the plunge. It was in this context that Ramanaidu laid the foundation stone of his studio in Hyderabad in 1989. His move to Hyderabad had a decisive impact on the rest of the Telugu film industry and the exodus from Chennai began in all earnest.

  • Ramanaidu is remembered today not for those edifices that stand in his name in Film Nagar, but for how he fostered filmmaking in the region and elsewhere by going beyond his immediate concerns. By 1986, when he had launched the successful star-career of his younger son, Venkatesh Babu, Kaliyuga Pandavalu, Ramanaidu could have concentrated solely in promoting the career of Venkatesh after that. Instead, facing success and failure with equanimity, he threw open his gates for a range of aspiring actors and directors. In the process, Suresh Productions launched the careers of twenty two directors such as B. Gopal, Jantha C. Pajanji, Muppaleni Shiva, Boyapati Srinu, Tirupathi Swamy and Uday Shankar and four music directors. Actors such as Srikanth, Aryan Rajesh, Harish, Allari Naresh, Tabu, Kushboo, Divya Bharathi, Karishma Kapoor found their stardom through films produced by Ramanaidu. It is of equal significance that he never screened out directors according to a predetermined business or ideological bias. Otherwise, a maverick left-wing film-maker like R. Narayna Murthy would not have found support from time to time at Suresh Productions. Moreover, as and when he became a Telugu Desam Member of Parliament, Ramanaidu used his power and influence as a member of the committee in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to ensure the well being of the whole industry. In appreciation of his valuable contribution to the growth of the regional film industry, the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce not only named a building in its premises in his honour but in commemoration of his memory unveiled a statue of him in 2018.

  • It is thereby more than evident that Ramanaidu was animated by a larger vision than the safety and security of his own enterprise. He did not entertain a serious division between art and commerce when it came to producing films. Otherwise, Suresh Productions would not have made Rituparno Ghosh’s National Award winner Asukh (1999) and Hari Villu (2003) of writer-director B. Narsing Rao of Daasi (1988) fame. It is because he could thus connect with and foster a large contingent of talent across the country that Ramanaidu won a time-honoured place in the Guinness World Records for the largest number of films made by a single producer when he touched the score of 125 films a couple of decades ago and by the time his sojourn ended he was just one short of 150 films, in a cinematic career spanning 50 years. 
  • Not being a narrow regionalist, he cherished another dream: to make a film in every language of the nation. Apart from Telugu, Tamil and Hindi, he equally succeeded in making films in Bengali, Oriya, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bhojpuri, Marathi and Assamese. In recognition of his contribution to the region if the Venkateshwara University, Tirupati, conferred an honorary doctorate on him then for his contribution to the entire film industry in India he was awarded the prestigious life time achievement Dada Saheb Phalke Award in 2009. Three years later, in 2012, the Government of India conferred on him the third highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan for his contribution to both the industry and the larger world.

  • His generosity in that sense did not stop with providing sustained support to the welfare of the film industry but went further by way of setting up the philanthropist institution, Ramanaidu Charitable Trust, to provide help and sustenance to the needy. He created medical clinics, shelters for the homeless and the aged, provided financial aid and when he could to schools, colleges, polytechnic institutes, sports centres and cultural centres across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. To this day, this charitable trust  among other things continues to support families of the deceased brave men and women in the Armed Forces and Police Services.  

  • Towards the last phase of his life, in order to give something back to the industry and the region that had given him all his success and fame; he founded the Ramanaidu Film School in 2008, the first of its kind in Hyderabad, with state-of-the-art facilities.