Winner of several national and State awards, his films included Veera Pandiya Kattabomman, which had won the Afro- Asian Film Festival Award, Kappalotiya Thamizhan and Karnan.
A futuristic thinker, he had made the first-ever techni colour film in the country in Tamil (Veera Pandiya Kattabomman) and the first colour film in Kannada was Shri Krishna Deva Rayalu.
Banthalu had been closely associated with veterans like N T Ramarao, Nageshwara Rao through his Telugu films Gaali Gopura, Gaali Medalu, Pillalu Thechina Challani Rajyam, School Master etc.
His films with Sivaji Ganesan - Veera Pandiya Kattabomman, Kappalotiya Thamizhan, Karnan, Sabash Meena, Bale Pandiya — worked magic at the box-office.
Banthulu had rendered blockbusters with MGR. Films like Aayarathil Oruvan, Rahasiya Police 115, Thedi Vandha Mappillai and Madurai Meetiya Sundara Pandian were a few of them.
Some of his achievements included the introduction of former Tamilnadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha to the silver screen in the Kannada film Chinnada Gombe and later in MGR’s Aayarathil Oruvan.
He had also introduced artistes like Bharathi, who was acclaimed director of Puttana Kannagal’s film School Master. Many of his films had been remade in many languages.
Says Sampath Kumar, a film historian: ‘He (Banthulu) was the only director in the South, who had felt deeply about the independence movement in the South and had made films in these languages about freedom- fighters.
In the era of MGR and Sivaji, Banthulu had successfully worked with both of them at regular intervals. He was an intense film-maker and his films had a purpose and message’.
Says veteran actor Sivakumar: ‘Banthulu, though born a Telugu, had done more to highlight Tamil freedom-fighters than any other Tamilian until now.
Even after the demise of Banthulu on 8 October, 1974, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi previewed the film Kappalotiya Thamizhan and was so deeply moved that she granted entertainment tax exemption for the film.
Director P Vasu says: ‘At a time when Tamil audience was watching films like Ten Commandments and marvelled at its grandeur came Banthulu.
His films were grand and visually amazing. With limited equipment and cameras available, he was there to create magic on screen’.
‘He had done what the likes of James Cameroon and Spielberg were doing now. The climax of Karnan is a pointer to it’. For die-hard fans of Sivaji Ganesan, Banthulu was almost a demi-God.
‘We hailed him for giving Sivaji the varied role in films like Kapalotiya Thamizhan, Veerapandiya Kattabomman and Karnan. All his films with him were classics’.
‘At a time when his centenary year is celebrated in a grand manner in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, it is a pity that nothing is done to honour his achievements in Tamilnadu. We should not forget our legends, say his fans in chorus
Banthulu has produced and directed 57 films in all South Indian languages (under the banner of Padmini Pictures). Before coming into film industry, he worked as a teacher. He made his directional debut with Thangamalai Ragasyam (1957), which he himself had produced.
Veera Pandiya Kattabomman, Kappalotiya Thamizhan, Karnan, Sabash Meena, Bale Pandiya, Aayarathil Oruvan, Rahasiya Police 115, Thedi Vandha Mappillai.