Gunasekhar’s directorial Ramayanam, which marked the debut of Jr NTR as a child lead artist, was released on this day, 25 years ago, in 1996. With the film clocking its 25th anniversary, Jr NTR has also completed 25 years in the Telugu film industry. Before Ramayanam, Jr NTR featured as a child artist in Brahmarshi Vishwamitra, which was released in 1991.
Gunasekhar’s Ramayanam, popularly known as Bala Ramayanam, was lauded by critics. The film went on to receive the National Film Award for Best Children’s Film and two Nandi Awards.
Gunasekhar shot the entire film with child actors. He trained all the child actors himself. At times, it was a headache for the director and producer of the film to control all the child actors.
Jr NTR essayed the role of Lord Ram in the film, while the role of Sita was played by the classical dancer Smitha Madhav. Smitha Madhav won the Nandi award for the Best child actress.
The film featured more than 3000 child actors. What’s even more special is that these children were in the age group of 10 to 12 years. These children were chosen from 25–30 schools in and around Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
Director Gunasekhar worked very hard to make this film. The film was produced by M. S. Reddy. Bala Ramayanam, upon release, raked in Rs 5 crores in shares.
For the Shiva’s arrow-breaking sequence, Gunasekhar prepared a bow made of teak. Though Jr NTR’s role in the film was critically acclaimed, he often indulged in mischief on the sets of the film. While filming the scenes with the monkey army at Annapurna Studios, Jr NTR was seen pulling the tails of other child artists dressed in the costume of monkeys.
Gunasekhar scolded Jr NTR, who did not want to shoot and always insisted on going home. While shooting a sequence in the forest, children were shivering without shirts because of the cold weather. Even then, Jr NTR was spotted troubling other children by shooting arrows at them.
Gunasekhar has directed several hit films like Manoharam, Okkadu and Rudhramadevi since Ramayanam, while Jr NTR has several hit films like RRR, Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava, Jai Lava Kusa, and Temper under his belt.