Friday, August 15, 2014

Patriotism in Cinema

The Birth of Indian Cinema ( both in the North and the South) is itself a Story of Patriotism.

 Dadasaheb Phalke watched a film produced Overseas on the Life of Christ. He wanted “Indian” stories to be told and made the first Indian feature film – Raja Harischandra. When Bal Gangadhar Tilak heard of the difficulties faced by Phalke he offered to help him and introduced Phalke to several business men in Bombay – Phalke then started his Hindustan Film Company refusing the offer of these Businessmen as their motive was only Profit from their Investment.. Much like Tilak inspiring V.O.Chidambaram to start a shipping company. Nataraja Mudaliar too wanted to make Indian movies and started his Indian Film Company in 1917 and started making films in the South of India.

From the early years Film makers included both directly and indirectly themes,songs, dialogues and even characters to inspire the Indian public to fight for freedom. D.N.Sampat , the owner of Kohinoor Studios found that he had a resemblance to Gandhi and so acted in his film Bhaktha Vidurar in 1921. The film was initially banned and later allowed in parts of India where it ran to house fuil shows. In 1935 V.Shantharam made a film called Mahatma – the hero bore a resemblance to Gandhiji and the British had him change the title to Dharmathma.

The connection between the freedom struggle and Fine Arts was brought about in the south by the S.Sathyamurthy. He was not just an Advocate and ardent patriot but also a dramatist. He used to be part of Pammal Sammanda Mudaliar’s Suguna Vilasa Sabha. He brought K.B.Sundarambal , M.K.Thyagaraja Bhagavathar and many others into the freedom movement and even made them switch over to Khadi.

One of the earliest to make films in support of the Freedom movement and the policies of Gandhi was K.Subrahmanyam. In 1936 he made Balayogini a film that attacked the Caste system. He , being a Brahmin was excommunicated. He next made “Sevasadan ( 1938) based on a Munshi  Premchand’s novel. This dealt with Prostitutes and the emancipation of women and the status of women in India. His next film in 1939 was Thayagabhoomi. This was clearly echoing Gandhi’s call for Freedom. This is the story of Sahmbhu Sastry a Temple priest played by Papanasam Sivan and his Daughter Savithri/Uma Devi played by S.D.Subbulakshmi. The film starts with the temple priest sheltering Daliths inside the Temple when Floods hit the Village for which the Priest is sent out.

 The second part of the film is about his daughters ill treatment at the hands of her husband and how she fights back. She is inspired by the call to freedom and joins the struggle. In open court she states that she does not want to live with her cruel husband and is even willing to pay him alimony ( Jeevanamsam). This was totally revolutionary for that era. The films script was serialized in Ananda Vikatan and S.S.Vasan distributed the film. The film was released in Gaiety and the British Government decided to ban the film. Vasan opened the doors of gaiety and allowed  everyone to see the film. The crowds thronged at the Theater and prevented the Police from serving the Ban order. This resulted in lathi charge and even firing. The film used many stock shots of National Leaders and Congress workers marching and protesting. The song “Desa sevai seyya vareer” written by Kalki and sung by D.K.Pattammal was so inspiring that it was sung by many even after the Film was banned.

When H.M.Reddy made the first Tamil Talkie “Kalidas” it had songs penned by Madurai Bhaskara Das which was sung by T.P.Rajalakshmi – the song was “ Raattinamaam Gandhi Kai baana maam”. In Valli Thirumanam made in 1935 , Valli played again by T.P.Rajalakshmi while protecting the fields shouts at the birds asking the “White storks ( Vellai Kokku) to gop away forever. In the same film Lord Muruga in the disguise of a bangle seller asks Valli to buy “swadeshi Valayal”.  The songs of Mahakavi Bharathi were used by T.K.Shanmugam and his brothers for their play “Desa Bhakthi” as well as in the films Menaka and Nava Yuvan.  In January 1947 the song Aaduvome palli paaduvomey was used by A V Meiyappan for his film Naam Iruvar again sung by D.K.Pattammal. B.N.Reddy , B.Nagi Reddy and G.Ramabrahmam made several Nationalistic and socially responsible films in Telugu like Vandematharam , Ryathu Bidda , Grihalakshmi. The famous Telugu playback singer Ghantasala was one of those who went to Jail for the Quit India movement in 1942 – so too the Phalke award winning Cameraman V.K.Murthy.

Sivaji Ganesan was one of those actors who has played a string of roles that inspired Patriotism. His Veerapaandiya Kattabomman and Kappalottiya Thamizhan are still viewed as classics.  He has also played Bhagath Singh , Kodi Kaaththa Kumaran and Mahakavi Bharathi. In the film Raththa Thilakam patriotism is brought out as it is set on the Indo China War. Lata Mangeshkar sang the song Ae mere watan ke logon – oh people of my country -  in the presence of Nehru and the song brought Tears to Panditji’s eyes. Both in the China war and the later Pakistani wars Film actors went to the Border to  encourage our Soldiers. The story of the Maruthu Pandi Brothers was told in the film Sivagangai Seemai. Later film makers too used the Independnace struggle in many of their films. “Kaala Paani” by Priyadarshan , Indian by Shankar , 1942 a Love Story and Lagaan  in Hindi, Alluri Seetharama Raju in Telugu , M.S.Sathyu’s  Kanneeswara Rama in Kannada and I.V.Sasi’s “1921” in Malayalam to name a few.
Many many films were made on the lives of those who fought for our Country's Freedom. Nethaji Subhash Chandra Bose , Bhagath Singh , Veer Savarkar to name just a few. It is indeed ironical that it required a Brit like Sir Richard Attenborough to make an international film on the father of the Nation - Mahatma Gandhi.

Patriotism later became the central theme as films began to focus on the menace of Terrorism. The scene where Arvind Swami rushes to save the National Flag in Roja by Mani Ratnam always inspires us every time we watch it . Actors Arjun in Tamil and Manoj Kumar in Hindi have made a number of films with the love for our country as the core theme. Who can forget Mehboob’s Mother India ? Kamalhassan's Vishwaroopam  , Kuruthi Punal , Hey Ram and Indian are also great examples of Patriotic films.

The list of Films and film makers who impacted the freedom struggle and later the Patriotic spirit is endless and I have but touched on a few of them. 

Many may not know that our National Anthem “Jana Gana Mana” had already featured in a Bimal Roy Movie – Udhayar Paathe in Bengali (1944) and its Hindi version Humraahi (1945). This is proof enough of the contribution Cinema has made to the Freedom movement. 

Mera Bhaarath Mahaan . Engal Bhaaratha Desam endru thol kottuvom.


Bimal Roy's Hum Rahi


Sivaji in Kappalottiya Thamizhan

Telugu Malli Pelli


K.Subrahmanyam , S.D.Subbulakshmi and Baby Saroja with M.S
Sivaji, Karunanidhi and Sakthi Krishnaswamy,who wrote Kattabomman - after a play.


A scene from Thyagabhoomi - SDS , Baby Saroja and Papanasam Sivan

Jai Hind.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

M.N.Nambiar - remembering him on his 95th Birthday

I wrote a piece on him in The Hindu in November 2010. This is the unedited version of the article.The snaps are courtesy his family. The Photograph with Kalaignar , MGR and MY FATHER was taken during the Nadodi Mannan 100th day Celebrations where my father was the Chief Guest. The Colour Photograph with me is from the Serial "Oviyam" made by G.N.Dhinesh Kumar in 1996 and is the only serial Nambiar acted in. I had the honour of playing his son.

MK speaks. Dad and MGR together
With MNN in Oviyam

He has acted in more films with Sivaji than MGR

The Classic VILLAIN. 

M.N.Nambiar - The Good , The Bad and the Holy.

About 20 Kms from Coorg is the Village Cherupazhasi whose chieftain was part of the Pazhasi Raja family. A descendant of this family was destined to achieve fame in the film industry. He was Manjeri Narayanan Nambiar. M N Nambiar was born on 7th of march 1919 to Kelu Nambiar and Lakshmi. His father passed away when he was a little boy and the family wealth was all gone. Nambiar went away to Ooty to live with his brother. At the Ooty Municipal High School he studied up to the 3rd Form (present 8th Standard.) .
In 1934 , the famous dramatist, “Nawab” Rajamanickam was performing in Ooty. His brother’s business ran into problems and the family could no longer afford to educate him. Nambiar used to watch the plays and admired the discipline of the boys in the troupe – getting up early and performing Suryanamaskar, exercise , pooja and when an opportunity came up he joined Nawab’s troupe. The Drama Company travelled to Salem and Mysore. Nambiar started helping out in the Kitchen and graduated to assisting in the Pooja Room but he was not asked to act. Finally  he was given the role of a lady Judge in a play –“Nachchu Poigai” written by Kovai Ayyamuthu. Nambiar was all ready to go on stage  but the British Government , banned the Play.
In 1935 , their Play “Ramadasu” was to be filmed in Maharashtra and Nambiar went with the troupe. He played the role of a Comic with T.K.Sampangi. The pair was called Akkanna – Madanna. He was paid Rs. 40 for this. He spent half the amount in buying a harmonium, which is still there in his house. In a years’ time the chief Comedian of the troupe K.Sarangapani left and Nambiar took his place and became a huge hit with the audience. Even today “Nawab” Rajamanickam’s picture adorns a prominent place in the Pooja room of Nambiar’s House.
Whenever I worked with Nambiar he used to keep us in stitches  with his comic remarks as the cast sat down to play cards during the breaks in Film shooting .  Some were said with such a dead pan face that it would have been the envy of Buster Keaton. Suddenly his normal face will transform to the Villain with his trade mark scowl, arched eye brows and imperious look – if you looked around you will find some fans coming ti to see him. After  they left he will look normal and smile. I asked him why he did this and his characteristic reply was – Avanga indha Nambiar a thaan parka varanga – they have come only to see this ( the Villain) Nambiar and smile….
 In 1937 he shot for the film “Inbasagaran” which was never released as the film was burnt in a fire. Nambiar made steady progress and then joined the “Sakthi Nadaga Sabha” . In 1944  he essayed the role of the “Rajaguru” in the Play – Kaviyin Kanavu  written by S.D.Sundaram to such perfection that his reputation as a villain , was well established. Nambiar soon signed up with Jupiter Films as a Studio Artiste and played a comedian in the film “Vidyapathi “ – 1946. He married Rukmani the same year.
 This was followed by A.S.A.Sami’s  “Rajakumari” - 1947 , which featured his friend M.G.Ramachandran, acting for the first time as the hero. Nambiar then played the lead male role (along with S.V.Subbiah)  in the film Kanjan – 1947. Then followed Abhimanyu, Mohini and Velaikkari. The 1950 Modern Theatre Production “Dhigambara Samiyar” was a high point in his career as he donned 12 roles. This was written by Vaduvur Doraiswamy Iyengar and directed by T.R.Sundaram. Nambiar the Villain was well and truly established.
MGR who was elder to him by 4 years considered Nambiar his senior in the Profession. Their friendship which dates back to the early Jupiter Films days is well known. In fact Director Pa. Neelakantan once asked Nambiar as to why he never stood up when MGR entered the set ( everybody did) – Nambiar’s answer was – “He is my friend , why should I stand up when a friend walks in ?”. Pa neelakantan went and reported the conversation to MGR who asked him “Why do you go and ask him all this? “. MGR was the best man ( Mappillai Thozhan) in Nambiar’s wedding and carried nambiar’s first born Sukumaran on his shoulders up the Palani Hills for the boy’s Annaprashanam in 1948.  
Nambiar steadily rose and became the Industry’s “Bad” man , his roles in Enga veettu Pillay , Aayiraththil Oruvan, Kuditirundha Kovil, Raman Ethanai Ramanadi, Padagotti, Then Nilavu, His Dual role of a Good man and bad man in Rahasiya Police 115, the suave and sophisticated Villain in Annayin Aanai readily come to mind. During this time he also essayed Character roles like in films like  Pasa malar  . We must remember that Nambiar had stiff competition from the likes of P.S.Veerappa, S.A.Ashokan, R.S.Manohar and a host of others and yet managed to retain his place.
His role as the  100 year old man in Sridhar’s Nenjam Marappadhillai is a classic. When shooting the scene where he chases the lead pair in a horse drawn carriage , the wheel of the carriage suddenly came off , the driver panicked but Nambiar asked him to drive on and as the carriage over turns jumped out, took aim and shot. This was not a planned stunt but an accident that Nambiar, the consummate professional used to the film’s advantage. Nambiar with his years of Physical training in the Drama troupe ( he practiced Yoga and played badminton in a court built in his house) , regular classes in Sword fighting and the other Indian Martial arts was fully equipped to handle the rigours of getting bashed up by the hero.
Nambiar was a very loving family man and all through his career he spent six weeks with his family in Ooty for the summer. He would refuse any assignment that called him away during this time. In a few exceptional cases he asked the producer to shoot his scenes in Ooty. He abstained from Alcohol, Tobacco and led a disciplined life. In fact he always chastised us for slouching in a chair and asked us to sit erect with our back straight. I had the privilege of acting with him in what was probably his only Television serial – Oviyam , where he played a Zamindar , my father.
Baghyaraj in his film Thooral Ninnu Pochchu ( 1982) paid his respects to a practice that Nambiar always followed. In the title shot – An old man will mix the rice and take the first handful to feed his wife. Nambiar always gave the first mouthful of food to his wife and in her absence in Sabarimala to his sons. All through his professional life he only ate food prepared by his wife – who accompanied him everywhere. Even the water he drank was specially double boiled by her. He held on to this practice till his final film “Sudesi” in 2006 with Vijayakanth.
Nambiar first went to Sabari Mala , with his Guru Nawab Rajamanickam in 1942 and thereafter made more than 55 pilgrimages. One can say he was to a large extent Instrumental in popularizing the Temple , as he was the “Guru Swamy” for many popular film stars, Industrialists and so on.  His group was close to 200 strong. There was perfect equality and discipline as both the rich and poor were treated alike. This earned him the sobriquet – Swami.

After a career spanning 71 years of acting in films , probably a record he passed away on the 19th of November 2008 and will be remembered for being the Good man , who was Bad on screen and Holy in real life.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sivaji in 3 D - Delightful , Dazzling and Divine.

I happened to get a chance to view some parts of the film Sivaji ( The Boss) recently converted to 3 D and boy what an experience it was !!!

If I say that I was totally blown away , it is not an exaggeration. I have always been a bit doubtful of this technology and the results it produced and I must confess that I have revised my opinion in toto. Kudos to the Team at Prasad , they have done an absolutely splendid job. Every frame is so "alive" and I felt that Superstar as well as the others looked even better than they did in the film - so beautifully Cinematographed by K.V.Ananad. Shankar's larger than life canvas and his taste for the opulent is truly shining in this version. The sets that were breathtaking in the original are absolutely "Jaw Dropping" - another Kudos  , this time to Thotta Tharani. We can safely expect that AVM will be doing its utmost to ensure that we can view this in all our favourite Cinema Halls/Multiplexes and of course they are the masters of Publicity , so we will all be well warned of the arrival.

I was talking to one of the Producers who told me that this was a project in which 400 people have been working for more than a year - WHO SAYS THAT THE FILM WORLD CANNOT KEEP A SECRET ?

Not a word of this came out till a few days ago. They have gone one step better than the earlier conversion attempts. They have gone for "dual" image , which requires Two Projectors and the Server in the Theater to handle both , this has contributed to the sparklingly crystal clear 3 D images.

I have always been a fan of the "Superstar" and when the Titles come on and each of the letters S U P E R etc starts to jump out at you , I am sure the Theater will Thunder - Summa Kettala Adhurudhu Illa ???? I am given to understand that Superstar watched a few parts and was totally impressed with the quality of the work and has given his Thumbs up.

Like the rest of Tamil Cinema Fans , I am looking forward to the release which I understand is not very far Rajini fans can rejoice that their "Thalaivar" is going to come "live" and boy are we in for a Roller Coaster ride.......To me it was like watching a "brand new" Rajini film - this 3 D has made such a difference.
When he tosses the coin almost comes and hits you in the eye.....this is no toss of a coin, it is a sure blockbuster. The 3 D's I saw can simply be described as Dazzlingly Delightful and a Divine experience.

What makes me prouder is that all this hi tech conversion work was done here in NAMMA CHENNAI - 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sandow M M A Chinnappa Devar

I wrote an article for the HINDU Metroplus (25th July 2012) on Chinnappa Devar and Rajesh Khanna. THE FULL , UN EDITED Version is this.......

“If Aradhana had flopped will you ask me to reduce my salary ? , No , Devar Ji , I will do the film in the salary we spoke , you even made full payment even before we started and showed your faith in me “ was “Superstar” Rajesh Khanna’s reply to Sandow M.M.A.Chinnappa Devar  recalled R.Thyagarajan the son in law of Devar. The picture Haathi Mere Saathi came about in early 1969 as Devar , who was making a few small budget films without his usual “superstar” MGR , wanted to make a big film . MGR was busy with his political activity and could not accommodate dates. Director Sridhar, his neighbor and close friend suggested to Devar  to make a Hindi Film.

Devar had earlier made a film “Deiva Cheyal” – the protagonist was a middle aged man who is helped by an elephant. This was reworked making the protagonist young and the first half had romance and action while the second half had its fair share of sentiment. Devar went to Bombay and narrated the script to Sanjiv Kumar , who immediately said that he may not be suitable for the first half of the film and suggested the name of a rising star – Rajesh Khanna. Upon hearing the script Rajesh who was shooting Aradhana immediately agreed and recommended two young boys to assist Devar in the script – Salim -Javed. Aradhana was a super hit and Rajesh Khanna’s salary had quadrupled , this prompted Devar to go back to Bombay and ask him if he wanted more money. Devar is said to have made the classic remark in his characteristic broken English to Rajesh Khanna as he handed over the entire amount – “Rate you – Date me” – meaning I have paid what you asked , now give me the dates that I want.

The shooting commenced in Vauhini Studios in early 1970 and the outdoor portion was shot in Ooty. The film was Directed by M.A.Thirumugam , Devar’s younger brother , a competent Director/Editor. They released the film in 26 Theatres in Delhi and its suburbs. The competition was “Maryada” with Raj Kumar and Rajesh Khanna. The results of the first few days was not encouraging and Devar was disappointed. Rajesh Khanna rang him up and told him not to lose hope and to come to Delhi via a few towns . By the time the group from Madras reached Delhi , the film had become a box office hit. Rajesh Khanna sent Devar a Telegram that said “Your and Our Lord Muruga has not let us down”. Rajesh Khanna and Shakthi Samantha formed a company called Sakthi Raj films , bought and released the film in Bombay  where too , like the rest of India the film was a top grosser.

Devar had booked Shankar Jaikishen to do the Music for Haathi Mere Saathi. Director Sridhar adviced him to approach Laxmikanth Pyarelal as they were more suited to Devar’s quick style of functioning. When he approached they said they were too busy. During the meeting he recalled the mention of a “Party” and when he enquired he was told it was the first birthday of Laxmikanth ‘s child. He quickly went to Jewellery shop and purchased several Gold coins and uninvited went to the party. No one knew who the Dhoti clad simple man was , when he proceeded to shower the child with Gold.  Mrs.Laxmikanth enquired and told her husband  “You compose Music for all those who come home and drink at your expense and refuse the Man who showers our Child with Gold “? Needless to say the stratagem worked and the song “Chal Chal Chal mere Haathi” reverberated all across India – Composed by Laxmikanth Pyarelal.  Mr.A.V.M.Saravanan recalls that Devar made it a practice to pay all money in 10 Rs notes – the logic was – “ it will appear as if I am giving a lot of money. “                                                         

Marudur Marudachalamurthy Ayyavoo Chinnappa Devar was born on the 28th of June 1915. His father was an agriculturist. Devar stopped with his 5th Standard and started to work. He was told that unless he had a good physique he could not enter the film world. To that end he proceeded to master the various forms of fighting and also improve his physique. He and his brother first acted in the 1940 film “Thilottama” , actually it was a fight sequence where only their Shadows were filmed fighting. Devar earned the title “Sandow” because of his well developed Body and skills in the Martial Arts.

He had started playing various small roles in the films shot in Coimbatore and in 1947 while acting in the film “Rajakumari” a deep and abiding friendship developed with the hero MGR. As a hero MGR too recommended Devar in all the films he worked. This went on till the mid 1950s when Devar started a Production company in Partnership with A.P.Nagarajan and two others. The film just about broke even and they all parted ways. Devar then asked his friend MGR , who readily agreed and they made “Thaikkupin Thaaram” in 1956. The film was a success and Devar was launched as a film maker. He had a policy of Muhurat shoot on a New Moon day ( Amavasya) and the picture will be released by the 3rd Amavasya. MGR had become busy with his own production “Nadodi Mannan” and Devar was forced to make a few small pictures. 
Then in 1960 he started to record the music for his film “Thaai Sollai Thattadhe” where he cast Ashokan as the hero. When the recording was over he felt a hand pressing him on his shoulder , he turned and it was MGR . He heard the songs recorded and then asked for the story to be narrated. MGR then asked Devar to come to his house where in front of MGR’s mother’s picture he made a promise that he will adhere to all of Devar’s conditions and in return Devar should make films only with him. This “agreement” led to Devar making 16 films with him , the last being Nalla Neram in 1972 , the Tamil remake of “Haathi Mere Saathi”.

Devar had a penchant for using Animals in his films from Snakes to Goats to Elephants he used them. The elephants for Haathi Mere saathi were taken from the Great Oriental Circus and he housed them in a  2 ½ acre plot of land on Arcot Road. This used to belong to M G R and later to Venus Pictures. Later The Kothandapani Audio Studio was built by the singer S.P.Balasubramaniam on part of this plot.

“Devar was an ardent devotee of Lord Muruga . He used to donate 1 out of 5 Rs Profit to a Murugan Temple .The road to Marudamalai , The Prakhaaram at Thiruchendur and the main Hall in Vadapalani Temple are all his contribution. While Shooting if he wanted the Sun he will shout at the heavens and ask his Murugan to send the Sun out , for him everything was Murugan “recalls Film Producer A.V.M.Saravanan. Director SP.Muthuraman recalls visiting his set in Vauhini Studios when they were shooting the film “Muruhan Adimai”. They had lined up a complex shot of a Peacock , a Bird that just cannot be trained , flying through a series of Doors and reaching the idol of Lord Muruga in the sanctum sanctorum. Everyone was wondering if this would ever happen when Devar stood up Prayed to Lord Muruga and said – You make it happen , I don’t care ….and asked for the Cameras to roll and the peacock to be released. The peacock flew beautifully through the four or five doors and landed at the feet of the Idol . all of us were totally amazes not just at this but at the implicit faith Devar had in God.

In his later years with MGR getting more and more into active politics , Devar started to make films in the Socio –mythological Genre. They were films set in modern times with the Central  theme that faith and belief in God will solve one’s problems. When The Paramacharya of Kanchi heard about Devar and the films promoting theism like “Thunaivan” , he sent word to Devar  wanting to meet him. Devar was hesitant as he was shooting with MGR. When MGR heard about this he told Devar to immediately go and seek the blessings of the Sage and that he will personally supervise the Shooting of the next few days. Devar and his family rushed to Kalavai where the Paramacharya was camping. He blessed Devar and told him not to worry as Lord Muruga was the watchman in his house and the sage added “if possible put in a good word about me to him”. Devar broke down on hearing this from the Paramacharya .

When The Paramacharya of Kanchi heard about Devar and the films promoting theism like “Thunaivan” , he sent word to Devar  through Mr.Lakshmana Iyer of Ananda Pictures wanting to meet him. Devar was hesitant as he was shooting with MGR. When MGR heard about this he told Devar to immediately go and seek the blessings of the Sage and that he will personally supervise the Shooting of the next few days. Devar and his family rushed to Kalavai where the Paramacharya was camping. He blessed Devar and told him not to worry as Lord Muruga was the watchman in his house and the sage added “if possible put in a good word about me to him”. Devar broke down on hearing this from the Paramacharya .

One day after performing the Kandha Sashti Pooja in Thiruchendur, Devar told those around him that he has been doing this for 12 Years and the next year they will all have to carry on the tradition. Those around him were taken aback and pooh poohed these remarks. Devar used to say that he will pass away on a “sashti” ( 6th day of the Moon) when the Star was Vishaka , considered to be very auspicious for Muruga , in fact he used to say if it were any other date he will go up and beat Muruga. As he desired he passed away on the 8 th of September 1978 – It was Vishaka and it was a Sashti.

He became what he was because of a “Superstar” – MGR , achieved National fame because of another Superstar – Rajesh Khanna. His Production house and family was given much timely help by the current “Superstar” Rajinikanth says his son in law. After Devar’s demise Rajesh Khanna and Rajinikanth did a Hindi film together for them in 1985 – Bewafai. The Sandow had not one but 3 superstars who loved and cherished him.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Roja Muthiah Research Library

When I visited RMRL on Monday , a beaming Mr.Sundar,their Director , asked me to accompany him to see their latest acquisition....IRENE , before you think that it is either a Top Model or a new variety of Orchids , let me explain.

IRENE stands for Image Reconstruct Erase Noise Etc. It is a turntable ( a record Player) with a camera instead of the Stylus. A high definition Camera captures images of the Grooves on a record and converts it into a Sound file. Records that a are to sensitive or damaged or even broken can be "read" and thereafter Listened to in this.

Other than the Library of Congress in the United States, RMRL is the only place to have this equipment. They hope to create an archive of our "Sound" history. Good luck to them.

MANY PEOPLE HAVE DONATED THEIR OLD 78 RPM RECORDS TO THE LIBRARY....said Sundar , when I went ( to donate some of my Grandfather's old Tamil Books). I think the best way for us to get a digital disc of all this music lying in our attic is to "donate" it to RMRL. They in turn will give you a Digital Copy.You get to listen to that "old" S G Kittappa or Saigal and also ensure that this heritage is preserved well for posterity.....

My entire collection of old Tamil Drama and Cinema Handbills (bit notice) was given to them to microfilm and load in their database for use by researchers. So too some of the Letters of my maternal great grandfather Rt Hon V.S.Srinivasa Sastri. I am not just talking but have walked the Talk.

My appeal to all of you is to take the trouble this "summer" , climb up the Attic - (Paran) and pull out those old shellac plates....Bring it over to RMRL and get to listen to the Music. For those of you who do not know about RMRL , it is in Tharamani. Just Google it......

                         Sundar on the Left with IRENE and the Sound Engineer managing "her"
The Image of the Groove as seen on Irene

 I extract below a piece from The University of Chicago's web site.That explains the objectives of RMRL.

The Roja Muthiah Research Library (RMRL) project was initiated to preserve, catalog, and expand the collection of Roja Muthiah, who during his lifetime amassed one of the world's finest private libraries of Tamil publications. The University of Chicago Library spearheaded a global effort, which resulted in the founding of the Roja Muthiah Research Library to house the collection in 1996. The RMRL provides research materials and facilities for students of Tamil studies in a variety of fields spanning the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. 
The Library's notable strengths are its holdings in classical and modern literature, literary criticism, medicine, cinema and the related culture of printed works (such as song books), folklore, material by and about women, religion and philosophy, and numerous publications of historical value. The collection is comprised of more than 100,000 volumes of books, journals, and newspapers. In addition there are rich holdings of oleolithographs from Ravi Varma's workshop, nearly 30,000 journal abstracts and indexes, an enormous collection of clippings, drama notices, wedding invitations, business and family correspondence, and palm leaf manuscripts. Most of the publications date from the later half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century.

The Hindu too wrote a nice piece on this "new arrival" -

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Orange Cap - Purple Cap

The Orange and Purple Cap Calculations

I have been wondering about the way these caps are being awarded. Needless to say that they are given to some really great Batsmen and Bowlers , not some , all of them.....but did they get it for the "right" reason ?? That is what I ask....the mere accumulation of Runs and Wickets cannot be the sole reason to be honored with a cap that bestows on you the title of the "best".
I for one believe that an innings of 35 scored at a strike rate of 200 is more valuable than a 60 scored at a run a ball - unless the Team required someone to stand and stem the rot.....even stemming the rot cannot Win you the match in this format - you can pace your innings the way Chris Gayle did in one match slow and steady and then the floodgates opened taking his strike rate above 150.
The collecting of wickets with total disregard to the economy rate and the bowling of dot balls during the "death" overs as the sole factor for the Purple cap cannot be fair in the overall scheme of things. Just as the Powers that be got a "team" of technical experts to arrive at a formula called "Duckworth-Lewis" , they should get some mechanism worked out. In the ICC rankings , What you get after winning against Bangladesh is totally different than what you get when you beat England or Australia. This is something that also needs to be worked out.
As a start I would prefer if the Runs scored is multiplied by the Strike Rate ( not as 165 or 189 but as 1.65 or 1.89) and points awarded. The Highest Points gets the Cap. I am sure a methodology that takes into account economy rate/dot balls bowled and wickets taken will also be possible.
Can we get to see the Most Valuable and Successful Batsman and Bowler wearing the Cap.....

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Kumudam 25th April 2012 - A.V.Raman/V.P.Raman

Today's Kumudam (25/4/2012) carried a piece on a rare snap taken during a function held in 1968. I had Blogged about it earlier in September 2009. The link is given below. Please do read.

A.P.Nagarajan - The Myth Master

As the heroine playing sthreepart

Shooting Agathiyar with seerkazhi and lakshmi
with NTR during Sampoorna Ra,mayanam 1958
APN the Director....

I wrote an article in the Hindu on Shri A.P.Nagarajan , noted film Director/Producer. It was published on Sunday 15th April in the Cinema Plus section , here it is , un edited with a lot more Photographs.

The Master of Mythlogy

The recent release and success of “Karnan” has prompted a lot of interest in the revival of some of the old mythological classics. The early years of both Silent and talkie Cinema was surfeit with Myths and Legends as the subject , slowly by the late 50s the “social” subject had almost fully taken over , the fact that the Dravidian parties and its Leaders contributed a lot to this cannot be denied. The one person who brought the “Mythological” back to celluloid was A.P.Nagarajan.

His son C.N.Paramasivan , an NRI businessman , says that the film Karnan and the warm response given to it has prompted to him to restore and present his father’s films like Thiruvilayadal , Saraswathi Sabatham , Thiruvarutchelvar and Thillana Mohanambal. As they are all films that have been seen many times by people on Television the restoration has to make both a visible and an audible difference to the Theater audience. We need to offer them something more than just viewing a good quality print. Some of the others like Kandhan Karunai , Karaikal Ammaiyaar , Thirumalai Deivam and Sri Krishna Leela too will be considered if the restoration costs reduce says Paramasivan.

Akkammapettai Paramasivan Nagarajan was born on the 24th of February 1928 and christened as Kuppuswamy . His family were very wealthy landowners , almost Zamindars with thousands of acres . His father Paramasiva Gounder died when Nagarajan was a young boy , his mother Lakshmi Ammal followed her husband within a few months . His maternal grandmother Manicka Ammal took charge of the young boy and brought him up. She was afraid that he may not be cared well for by the Family. After a while she took him to a Drama Company and she did not inform them of the boy’s antecedents , later he shifted to Avvai T.K.Shanmugam’s Drama Cpmpany . As there were many Kuppuswamis his name was changed to Nagarajan. Nagarajan learnt his basics of the Dramatic Arts and even went on to play the “lead” in the Play “Gumasthavin Penn”. He was a remarkable actor , who brought to life all the roles he donned. His early “sthreepart” roles being very popular with the audience. He worked with the “Madurai Jayarama Sangeetha Boys Company “ as well as Sakthi Nadaga Sabha along with Sivaji ganesan and Kaka Radhakrishnan.

Nagarajan went on to grow in the world of Tamil Drama and started his own drama company the “Pazhani Kadiravan Nadaga Sabha” and in 1949 married Rani Ammal. He wrote and acted in several plays , when one of his plays “Nalvar” was made into a Movie . Nagarajan wrote the screenplay for his own Story and acted as the Hero in this Film. His film career had begun in 1953 both as a hero and as a writer. In an interview to a magazine he mentioned his father’s name as well as his ancestral village Akkammapettai. Some of his family members read this article and came down to meet him and he was re united with his family after almost 20 Years. Actor Sivakumar reminisced that the entire cast and crew of Thirumalai Thenkumari were hosted by the proud family of Nagarajan at the ancestral home.

He also acted in many movies for Producer M.A.Venu formerly of Modern Theatres like Mangalyam , Nalla Thangal , Pennarasi , wrote for Town Bus and by 1956 decided to focus on his writing. He wrote “ Naan Petra Selvam” , Makkalai Petra Maharasi , in the latter he introduced the “Kongu “ Tamil accent for the hero. The first of his many Mythologicals - Sampoorna Ramayanam ( 1958) was a big success and Rajaji , who had little regard for cinema watched this film and praised Sivaji Ganesan’s performance as Bharatha. He then started to Produce in Partnership with the actor V.K.Ramaswamy Nalla Idaththu Sammandham (1958) , Thayai Pol Pillai, Noolai pol selai (1959) , Paavai Vilakku and made his Directorial Debut with Vadivukku Valaigaappu (1962) . He launched his own Production Company with Navarathri and then went on to make his mark in the field of Mythologicals as well.

In 1965 , a year after Karnan , Thiruvilayadal hit the screens and set Box office records everywhere. This was followed by Saraswathi Sabatham , Kandhan Karunai , Thiruvarutchelvar , Thirumal Perumai , Agasthiyar , Thirumalai Deivam , Karaikaal Ammayaar and Sri Krishna Leela. He made Thillana Mohanambal and Raja Raja Chozhan , both of which too deserve to be restored. His son plans to re release some of the classics next year when Indian Cinema celebrates its century and his father’s 60 th year of entering Cinema.

A.P.Nagarajan passed away in 1977. A self taught man whose life was as much of an epic as were his Movies.

Nagesh On Thiruvilayadal

In his autobiography Nagesh wrote – “ Everyone kept telling me that I had done a superb Job and at times even stole the scene from the hero , so I was extremely scared that it may not see the light of day as the Director was as it is struggling to trim the film’s length. One day as I was in the recording Theatre Sivaji walked in and wanted to see the “Dharumi” piece. He did not notice me in the dark sound engineers room. He watched it once and then wanted to see it again – by this time I was sure that my scene , especially the solo lamenting, will be axed. To my astonishment , Sivaji turned and said – Do not remove a single foot from this episode as well as the episode with T.S.Balaiah , we can cut anything else. These will be the highlight of the film. This is my opinion but as the Director you have the final say. Whatever Dubbing additions have to be done , get that fellow (Nagesh) and lock him up in the Studio and don’t let him run away till he completes it to your satisfaction. He has done outstanding work. That was his generosity to his fellow actors “ .

How prophetic , for these two turned out to be all time classic performances and the backbone for the film’s success.

The Achievement of KARNAN

· When first released it was the first of the mythology series that made a comeback in the 1960s. It was an answer to the “rationalistic” dialogues that started catching up in the early 50s and totally drowned the Mythology genre. A trendsetter even then.

· In its re release Karnan became the First Tamil Old classic to be fully digitally restored.

· The first to be re released in 72 Centers all across tamil nadu

· The first to be re released in 10 Screens in Chennai City

· The first re release to celebrate 25 days in 30 centers , 5 in Chennai and 4 in Madurai.

Despite the Examination season and the IPL it is still showing a healthy collection with many shows sporting the House Full sign. On the day of the first Chennai Super Kings Match while many a Theater went a begging, Sathyam saw an almost full house.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Is this India ? If we want, we can

This is an image of a standard Seva Kendra.

My wife Padma and I had to go to the Passport Office to get her Passport renewed. I was so totally taken aback at the experience.

For a start there was no need to get a form and sit and patiently fill it up, go for Passport photographs etc. All this was done On line , from the comfort of our home. A receipt acknowleding the same was also Printable and Printed.

Then the appointment - a fixed time appointment is given and we go across to any of the three Passport seva kendras - we opted for the one at Nelson Manickam Road , just behind Ampa Plaza. There are two more, one each at Tambaram and Saligramam.

What a sight welcomed us !!!! A superbly appointed , neat Office with Smiling Staff who went out of the way to find out what our problem/need was. I found out that they were all employees of TCS and that TCS has been given the Front Office Management. We were there on Wednesday 15th of February. We entered the process at 12.01 PM and went through 3 Stages. A , B and C. The latter two being manned by Government employees who were again helpful and courteous.
In the first section they checked the documents , took a passport sized snap , Finger prints and off we went to the next section. A notice board kept blinking our token number and the counter to which we had to go next.

Then to C and we were through with a small exit counter where they gave a form and asked for our feedback. It took a grand total of 35 Minutes.

Just about an Hour ago the passport came by speed post. we had applied for the Tatkal scheme, I am told re issue of Passports takes a week only in the normal course and Tatkal is 3 days.
A classic case of Privatizing the front end without loss of Control and Security. The most important factor being the Cost is still the same Rs 1000 for re issue and an additional for a Tatkal that we needlessly asked for.

I am proud of my India.

A clear case that if we want , WE CAN.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

STAR COUPLES....My article in Metroplus on 25th January

I wrote an article for the Hindu Metroplus dated 25th January.....It was edited from a slightly bigger article , more general and with a fuller world is the total version , for those interested in reading what came in the Hindu - here is that link too -


Marriages are made in Heaven is an oft repeated phrase. With Valentine’s Day round the corner “love is in the air”. Many marriages have stood the test of time and tribulations but more often than not The marriage of a couple from Tinsel Town has always been viewed at with doubts about its longevity. Indian Cinema too has had its fair share of break ups. This problem becomes more acute when both are from The Film Industry. The formula for leading men in those days was to Marry a quiet, simple Homemaker and for the leading lady it was to marry a successful businessman preferably from overseas. What was almost an essential was for the Lady to quit her Profession. I must add that many a film marriage has been quite successful and both have scaled heights of professional excellence.

One of the greatest honours a person can get is when he or she is featured on a Postage Stamp. It is quite a rare occurrence for a Husband and wife to be featured together on a Stamp – Pierre and Madame Curie were on several Stamps , one of the earliest being the French Issue in 1938.

Recently Monaco honoured Baba Amte’s son Dr.Prakash Amte and his wife Dr.Mandakini Amte with a Postage stamp. The Comedienne Lucille Ball and her actor, singer husband Desi Arnaz too feature in a Stamp.

During Royal Weddings , the couple is often featured in Stamps issued to commemorate the occasion. Even the latest wedding of Prince Harry was featured in Stamps issued by UK, New Zealand, Gibraltar. Actress Grace Kelly when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco was also one such.

It has always been a practice till recently by all recognised Philatelic Countries , not to issue Stamps for people who are still alive – Royalty and Heads of State apart. Dictators like Idi Amin had their way , either it was their head on a Stamp or the official’s on the Block.

Since Independence, India has issued around 2700 Stamps and The Father of the Nation and Kasturba Gandhi have been honoured on Stamps both Individually and together. In fact Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most featured people on Stamps by the largest number of Countries. The Couple adorn both a Stamp and a Postcard.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamala Nehru too have been issued with Individual Stamps. His daughter Indira and grandsons Sanjay and Rajiv too have been featured on Stamps.

Durgabhai Deshmukh, Freedom Fighter and Social Reformer and her husband C.D.Deshmukh , the first Indian Governor of Reserve Bank of India , have also been featured in Stamps. She was a member of the Constituent assembly while he went on to become the Finance Minister of the Country from 1950 to 1956.

The three other couples so honoured are related to the Film Industry and the world of Arts.

Devika Rani , the famous actress and her Husband Svetoslav Roerich were both honoured with Stamps. He was a famous Painter. His father Nicholas Roerich too has been honoured with a Postage Stamp making it a unique family – Philatelically speaking as well.

Gemini Ganesh and Savithri have received this great honour. In a career spanning 50 Years Gemini had acted in more than 200 films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and even Hindi. He was affectionately called the King of Romance ( Kadhal Mannan). In her 30 plus years of acting Savithri acted in more than 300 Films. She has also Directed a few Films and was known for her portrayal of tragic roles.

The multi talented Singer, actor Kishore Kumar and his wife Madhubala have both been featured on Stamps.

The one on screen couple that shook India in the 50s was Raj Kapoor and Nargis Dutt. They too have been honoured. In Nargis’s case the stamp shows the logo of the Spastics Society of India, an Institution for which she was the first Patron. Sunil Dutt sending a letter using the Stamp honouring his wife Nargis is truly poignant . Sunil Dutt specifically forbade any such move to honour him and so collectors like me lost a golden opportunity.

From International Cinema we have The Star Couple of Lord Lawrence Olivier and Vivian Leigh joining the ranks while the entire Barrymore family feature in a stamp of the United States. Lionel, Ethel and John , the grandfather of Hollywood actress Drew Barrymore. Alfred and Lynn Fontane , the famous actor couple too have been featured in a Stamp.

With almost half the Indian couples honoured for Professional and Social excellence by a Postage Stamp hailing from the Film Industry , It must lay to rest the adage that “Filmi” marriages do not result in a fair deal for both. All of them truly had the Stamp of a great Couple.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.