A team of five Telugu film talents decided to make five straight movies in a row together. Chiranjeevi, a fast-rising star, A. Kodanda Rami Reddy, a creative and commercial director, KS Rama Rao, a producer with high production values, Yandamoori Veerendranath and G. Satya Murthy, script and dialogue writers. Their first movie together was Abhilasha, a super hit flick. They decided to make their second movie together based on Yandamoori's successful serial in the magazine Jyothi 'Dabbu to the power of Dabbu'.
'Challenge' was the title chosen by the avid readers of Jyothi in a fun contest held by the makers (a trend that is still on today but through SMS polls like Omkara). Sainath wrote the screenplay for the movie, while Ilayaraja was the obvious choice to compose some quirky tunes for this captivating storyline.
The movie starts with the famous 'mother sentiment', where Gandhi's mother passes away and Gandhi doesn't have a penny to spare for the funeral. He earns some by displaying his wit; then when he lands an interview with millionaire Raja Ram Mohan Rao, he argues with him stating that earning money is easy. Rao challenges him to earn 50 lakhs in 5 years, and if he succeeds, he will give his daughter's hand in marriage to him. A beggar-woman gives Gandhi 10 paisa, and with this petty investment and tactic, he starts his money-making journey.
Meanwhile, Rao's daughter Harika and his well-wisher Lakshmi are both in love with him. He makes a defeated businessman start a paper mill enduring many hurdles. Finally he wins the challenge, with someone returning 500 rupees that were short of the 50 lakhs. Gandhi wins Harika's heart along with getting her father's approval. Swayam Krushi hit bulls-eye at the box-office, and Challenge went on to be another feather in the director-actor combination's cap.
The conflict itself is interesting and age-old. The unemployed youth versus the stinking rich and arrogant man. One argues that making money is not the be-all and end-all of man's existence, while the latter obviously disagrees. It is not an improbable or impossible task, and the youth takes the challenge up sportingly. Aptly named Gandhi, Chiranjeevi's character has a captivating personality that engaged the viewers from the word go.
Apart from Rao Gopala Rao's typical character, Gollapudi Maruthi Rao's character is another highlight for the movie where he ends each sentence with 'Of India' which we still hear today (used again by Vadivelu in Prema Desam/Premikudu). The dialogues and constant repartee between characters is Challenge's lifeline, and for that Kodanda Rami Reddy gave Sainath a diamond ring in appreciation of his good work.
Clever screenplay, smart repartee and a good dose of sentiment worked for Challenge. Suhasini and Vijaya Shanthi also played a part in the movie's success, without negating the importance of the female leads, they were used perfectly. An interesting plot interweaved with entertainment ensured a smooth 100 days for Challenge.