Tollywood’s divine favourites


-T Venkatesh

Telugu movie buffs can identify at least half-a-dozen temples at the very first glimpse of them in a scene from a movie. This shows the role temples play in Tollywood movies. The temples that are most frequently sought after for Telugu movie shootings are located in and around the Telugu states.

Andhra’s Sentimental Temple

Located on a small hillock surrounded by the Godavari, the Pattiseema temple attracts the tourists and film units and also gives a divine feel to the devotees. Film shootings are a regular feature at the temple which is situated on an island in Godavari river. Even in the present days of fast track roads and bridges, one has to take a boat to reach the island and walk in the sandy stretch for at least a kilometre to reach the temple. When the Godavari is in spate, the water touches the temple steps. Constructed during the Chola period, the temple is an abode for both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Every year at least two to three film shoots take place in the temple and during those times, along with the film crew, people in large numbers gather to watch the shoot. For some film units, shooting at least a couple of scenes here is a sentiment. ‘Megha Sandesam,’ ‘Bhakta Kannappa,’ ‘Tholikodi Koosindi,’ ‘Janaki Ramudu,’ ‘Aayanaki Iddaru’ and ‘Ninne Premista’ are a few films to name that were shot at the temple. This temple can be seen in most of director Vamsy’s movies because of his love for Godavari river.

‘Cinema Gudi’

Over four hundred Telugu movies and a few Tamil and Hindi films have been shot here, in the Sri Seetha Ramachandra Swamy Temple in Ammapalli. For there is a sentiment among the Tollywood fraternity that a movie with even one scene shot here at this temple, will surely have a successful run at the box office and for a hundred days at the least. And, if there was one movie that would immediately bring to mind this beautiful temple it is the 2001 blockbuster ‘Murari’. For long it was popular as ‘Cinema Gudi’ due to Tollywood’s tryst with the temple. Sr. NTR’s ‘Srimad Virat Pothuluri Veerabrahmend Swamy Charitra’ was the first film to be shot at this place. A few scenes from movies like ‘Teenmaar’, ‘Veera’, ‘Eega’, ‘Mr. Perfect’ and ‘Poola Rangadu’ have been shot in this ancient temple. A part of the temple’s outer structure was damaged during a Telugu film shooting where an exploding car in a fight sequence crashed on the left side of gali gopuram. Since then, the temple has been out of bounds for film shootings.

Located 31 km from Hyderabad and 12 km from the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) at Shamshabad, is the centuries-old Ammapalli temple which is spread over 250 crores. It is said to have been built by Chalukyas of Vengi sometime between the 7th and 12th centuries and it is believed that Lord Rama stopped to rest here during his journey to Dandakaranya forest. The 80 feet unique ‘gali gopuram’ with beautiful carvings, an age-old step well spread over an acre of land with a walkway around it and the decorative walls with sculptural representations is a treat to the eye. The 12th-century idols of Kodandarama, Sita and Lakshmana and also the ‘makarathoranam’ over the idols here are carved out of a single stone. Interestingly, the idol of Hanuman, usually seen next to Rama, is not seen in the innermost sanctuary here. Instead, it is at the base of the ‘dhwaja stambha’ (flag pole) facing Rama. According to the priest, the temple dates back to a time when Rama hadn’t yet met Hanuman and this probably explains the placement of the idol.

Temple at Ramoji Film City

The enchanting Sanghi temple is located in Sanghi Nagar, 35 kms from Hyderabad city. It is situated in a hillock called as Paramananda Giri, as one enters a huge Maha Dwaram or gateway welcomes the visitors. The Raja Gopuram can be seen from several kilometers away which is very tall. A little further away, a long flight of steps leads to the entrance of the temple complex. The majestic temple complex hosts all important Hindu God idols and there are three Gopurams seen at the foot of the hillock which are so tall and seen as if entering into the heavens. In this famous temple situated inside the Ramoji Film City the Presiding Deity Lord Venkateshwara inside the sanctum sanctorum is 9 feet tall and is same as the one at Tirumala. To the right is the abode of Goddess Padmavathi, the consort of Lord Venkateswara. Close to the shrine of Lord Venkateshwara, is the temple of Lord SriRama, the symbol of man’s conquest over evil. Accompanying the Lord are his faithful consort Sita, devoted brother Lakshmana and fervent devotee Hanuman, who is seated at the feet of the Lord with folded hands. The temples of Lord Vijayganapathi, Lord Shiva, Goddess Durga and Lord Karthikeya are located next to the Sri Rama temple. The Navagraha deities are the only ones that are in an open temple. There is also a Pavitra Vanam or a Holy Garden in the temple complex where special leaves and flowers are grown for performing poojas. Telugu movies ‘Bommana Brothers Chandana Sisters’, ‘Mirapakaay’, ‘Chinnadana Nee Kosam’ and ‘Evandoi Srivaru’ were shot here.

Other mentionables

Temples are often seen in Telugu movies and there are many temple locations in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh which are used for film shootings. The 1000 pillar temple located in Warangal, Telangana is often seen in Telugu movies. It is famous for its Chalukya style architecture and the sculptures made by the Kakatiyas. The richly carved pillars and the huge black basalt single stone carved Nandi attract tourists and filmmakers. The temple can be seen in movies like ‘Varsham’ and ‘Rudramadevi’. The local temples in Hyderabad like Film Nagar Daiva Sannidhanam, Jubilee Hills Balaji temple and Manikonda Shivalayam can be frequently seen in Telugu movies. The pooja ceremony of many movies take place in the aforementioned temples.

The Yaganti cave near the famous Sri Yaganti Uma Maheswara Temple was depicted as a Kerala cave temple in ‘Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada’ movie. Lord Shiva is manifested as Arthanareeshwara in this 5th century temple. It is located in the Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh, approximately 75 km from the city of Kurnool. The devotees believe that the Nandi idol in front of the temple is continuously increasing its size. A feature of this temple is its Pushkarini, a small pond of water on the temple premises. Water flows into this Pushkarini from the bottom of hill through the mouth of Nandi idol. No one knows how the water reaches the pond all year round and this temple architecture in terms of its sculpture shows the skills of ancient Viswakarma Sthapathis. Another temple in the West Godavari district named Goshpada Kshetram can be frequently seen in Tollywood movies. It is situated in Kovvur in the banks of river Godavari and is famous for its Teerthayatra. It can be seen in films like ‘Kathi Kantha Rao’, ‘Andala Ramudu’ and ‘Shatmanam Bhavati’.