Director Muthyala Subbaiah swam against the tide and came up with a novel plot for his first film that was rejected by the audiencesIn 1978, Muthyala Subbaiah was working as a co-director for the film Ramudu Rangadu. Ponnathota Raghuram, the production manager for the film told Subbaiah, “It’s been a long time since I’ve entered the industry. I’m now thinking of becoming a producer.” Subbaiah then narrated a story which he had prepared. It was that of an 8-year-old boy who marries an 18 year-old girl and the consequences. Raghuram was impressed and said, “This is the kind of off-beat film that will create an impact. Let’s go ahead.”Subbaiah wanted Balakrishna and Vanisri for the lead roles but owing to budget constraints decided to do the film with newcomers. The producer approached a Dharmavaram-based financier Achappa for funds who after listening to the script agreed to come on board as co-producer provided the film was made with reputed names to make it a safe project. Subbaiah felt if he couldn’t get Balakrishna and Vanisri then it was better to go ahead with newcomers. A compromise was eked out and they finally decided on Madhavi and Rajendra Prasad (This was his second film) for the lead roles. Newcomers Appalacharya and Satyam were selected as the writer and music composer for the movie titled Moodu Mulla Bandham. The story goes this way: On the day of wedding, the groom passes away and everyone including the girl’s step-mother starts cursing her and calling her an ill-fated person. Watching this, an eight-year-old feels sorry for her and ties the Mangalasutram on her neck to spare her from further rebuke. Later, the young boy after growing up falls in love with another woman.The shooting of the film was completed within 20 days in and around Rajahmundry. The movie was screened for the Censor Board who deliberated on it for three hours after watching it causing anxiety to the makers. Finally, they were called in and told, “How dare you make a film like this? How can an 8-year-old marry an eighteen-year old? This film should be banned! Child marriage is against the law. We should not encourage it in films.” Subbaiah argued that only the boy was a minor and not the girl. Finally, after great difficulty, they managed to get a clearance from the Board. Industry people who watched the preview were shocked as well. There was divided talk with the film being labeled as ‘experimental’ and ‘anti-sentiment’. ‘Moodu Mulla Bandham’ released in October, 1980 and the movie was rejected outright by the audience. The novelty of the plot just didn’t find favor with them. Subbaiah came to the conclusion that it was a movie way ahead of its time. While the theme of the film was lambasted, Subbaiah earned praise for his filmmaking. The film ran in theatres for only 3-4 weeks. Subbaiah was deeply disappointed at his failure to make a film that could connect with the viewer. Subsequently, although he was approached by a couple of producers to make a film for them, he politely declined. By now, he was a father of three and had to worry about his livelihood as well. After a year spent in reflection, he went back to the role of a co-director. His assistant director Vijaya Bhaskar got an opportunity to direct a film Idi Pellantara starring Chiranjeevi and Radhika. Putting aside his ego, Subbaiah worked as co-director to his own protégé for that movie for the sake of his family. He worked for many other films as co-director for various other directors and collaborated with director T Krishna for all the latter’s films.Finally, producer Harikrishna who made the films Vande Mataram and Devalayam decided to turn the novel ‘Vennela Metlu’ written by Mynampati Bhaskar into a film. He approached Subbaiah to direct the film who acquiesced. Rajasekhar and Vijayashanti played the lead in the film titled Arunakiranam which released in 1986 and was a box-office hit. There was no looking back for Subbaiah who went on to direct nearly 50 films including Hitler and Annayya with Chiranjeevi, Pavitra Bandham and Pelli Chesukundam with Venkatesh and Inspector Pratap, Pavitra Prema and Krishna Babu with Nandamuri Balakrishna. Normally, first-time directors go in for a safe genre with commercial appeal as an adverse result could prove to be disastrous to their career. Subbaiah however chose to buck the trend and go in for a unique concept which ended up as a failure. Although disheartened by the result, he was practical enough to put aside his ego and work under his own assistant as his family was beginning to feel the financial pressure. Also, after Moodu Mulla Bandham failed, there were producers who offered him a film on the condition that he change his name so that people wouldn’t identify him with his first film. Subbaiah refused point blank saying it would be an insult to his parents who named him. He wryly remarked to them that success comes from work and not from a ‘name’. While the public never got to know about Subbaiah after his first film, the industry sat up and took notice because Subbaiah had proved himself not only as a technician but also as a man with guts who could swim against the tide and stick to his conviction. This quality ensured his success later as a prominent director who would go on to win four Nandi Awards. It is success that creates an identity for a person but in Subbaiah’s case, it was a failure.