Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Leadership STYLE of Superstar Rajini.

Walking with him in RFC

Director P Vasu explains a scene

With our Guru KB sir - and many colleagues

Kuselan scene

Getting a memento for compering Chandramukhi 200th day function

RAJINI’S   LEADERSHIP  “STYLE”

Think of “Superstar” Rajinikanth and immediately his “style” comes to mind , be it smoking a cigarette, chewing gum, tossing a coin or just delivering a “punch” dialogue. He has developed a unique “method” that even acting Coaches like Stanislavsky or Lee Strasberg would not have thought of. Everything he says or does on screen is watched in awe by millions and that is what makes him a “superstar” – the uncrowned “Pasha” of Indian Cinema – yes , Indian and not Tamil. At an award fuction Shahrukh Khan asked him – “when will I become the Basha ?”  Rajini calmly replied – “wait, your day will come”. Years ago an email did the rounds where his “punch” dialogues were interpreted as “Management tips”. This was even brought out as a book ( by my friend P.C.Bala of Matrix.) . The problem with all this is that the Dialogues were not his own words, but those of a “writer” or a Director – just that, his delivery immortalized those words –

I have had the pleasure and the privilege of interacting with him both socially and professionally and found that he adopts many practices that are excellent for any “Leader” to adopt. I will add that it is something that every human being should adopt.  I have here mentioned just five lessons – you can call them Panja Thanthra …..

Lesson 1.

It was December 1994 and one night I sat down to watch the film “Raghavendra” on Video , by the time I finished it was around 2 AM. I must add that I had not watched the film earlier. The film made a deep impact on me and I went into the “Pooja “ room to sit and meditate , when I opened my eyes I realized that there was no picture of Raghavendra Swamy in my Pooja. A thought came to me like a flash – “Get the Picture from the person responsible for this experience”. I was just a few years old in the Industry ( my first film was Idhayam im 1991)  and wondered how to contact Rajini. Fortuitously my house is opposite the Studio of Dr. S.V.Ramanan , a good friend of Rajini , in fact his son in law Ravi Raghavendar is Mrs.Latha Rajinikanth’s brother.

 I approached Dr. S.V.Ramanan with this story and he promised to help. Within a few weeks I was invited for a “Pongal” dinner at Dr.Ramanan’s and around midnight The Superstar landed up. He joined us in the celebrations as his film “Basha” had released earlier that day to a thunderous welcome by both fans and critics. Rajini was in a very happy frame of mind. The evening went on and I did a little bit of my M.R.Radha mimicry which Rajini enjoyed. Dr.Ramanan called me aside and told the Superstar that I have a request. I narrated the incident and he listened politely and said “I will do something Mohan”. As soon as the Pongal holidays were over I got a call from his office when I was dubbing in the Kavithalaya Studios for a serial and they wanted to know if I would be available at my residence. I told them that I would be at home after lunch. An autorickshaw ( private) pulled up and a young man dressed in spotless white got down with a neatly wrapped parcel. He said his name was Jayaram ( he later joined Vijay as his personal touch up) from Rajini Sir’s office and that he had a Parcel for me from Rajini Sir.

I thanked him and also asked him to convey my thanks to the Superstar. I opened the parcel and it was a beautifully framed picture of Raghavendra Swamy with a note that said “Love, Rajini”. He had made a promise late at night to someone who was and is some 10 rungs lower than him in the hierarchy and yet remembered the promise. I was taken aback by this gesture of his and to this day the picture adorns my Pooja Room.

The lesson – Promise what you can Deliver and Deliver what you Promise.

Lesson 2

Years later we were shooting for Kuselan at the Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad. Every evening Rajini wanted all of us , his colleagues, to take a brisk walk from the location which was a good 3 or 4 Kms away to the Hotel. When some people expressed that they did not bring their walking shoes, he immediately had it bought and given to them. On days when his portions were over  by lunch time , he would go to his room and come back to the location to join the group in walking. He never missed a single day’s walk. He is a tremendously fast walker and many found it tough to keep pace with him so he would walk ahead a few minutes walk back ( actually walk back ie walk in reverse – he said it develops a different set of Muscles ) and join us thus getting his exercise and still not “deserting” the rest. He would regale us with anecdotes and stories but not once will a word that is harsh or critical come out of his mouth even for humour.

Lesson – Set an example with impactful action , ensure your “Team” is well equipped and even though you may be far ahead of your Team do not leave them behind but walk hand in hand and take every last person across the finishing post.

Lesson 3

During the shoot of Kuselan in Ramoji Film City Hyderabad. As we sat waiting for a shot he will join the rest of the group and not sit in the air-conditioned comfort of his caravan. In fact even when his shot was due only around 11 he will come at 9 , with make up. When the Director asked him to relax , he said , what will I do , staring at the 4 walls , at least here I have my friends and we can sit and chat. In fact he would barely speak , but allow all to speak, intently listening to what each and everyone had to say. Any time he had a doubt or clarification he would ask and when he spoke it will be obvious that he has listened to what everyone had to say. It was also clear that when someone started to praise him or eulogise him he did not welcome it and would quickly change the topic.

Lesson – LISTEN to what people have to say. Don’t Listen to just reply to them but to understand them.

Lesson 4

Once we were both sitting and waiting for our shot . Each time someone came, he would stand up and wish them – with both hands folded in a Namaskaram and sit down. As I was sitting with him I too was forced to stand up every time and sit down.

I asked him how he was able to patiently do this as I had counted him getting up and sitting down at least 15-20 times in an hour. His answer was “Is it not Respect (mariyadhai) ? they are coming all the way to wish me ,  anyway it is good exercise ..if you do it then this ( pointing to my large belly ) will not be there” – Then came his characteristic laugh. On a serious note he asked me “ Have you visited Saravanan Sir ( AVM) in his Office ? Such a big man , he will always stand up and receive you . I learnt this from him.”

I have also noticed that he always makes it a point to walk up to your Car and see you off whenever you visit his house. Again a practice he seems to have picked up from Mr.Saravanan. This has happened to me whenever I visited him.

Here allow me to digress – This was in April 1993 – the preview of the film Kalaignan. It was my 2nd or 3rd film and I had not yet turned a professional actor. I had a small role in it as a Psychiatrist. After the preview Sivaji Sir , came out and got into his car , I went to see him off , he called me and asked me – Did I not see you in the film ? I nodded. He went on – “ You are a well educated boy from a highly respectable family , If you are planning to take this up as a career , let me give you one piece of advice – If you give my profession Respect – it will give you lifelong Respect” (Nee en thozhilukku mariyaadhai kuduththa adhu unakku ennaikkum mariyadhai kudukkum).

See how great minds think alike !!!

Lesson – Only when you give Respect will you get Respect.

Lesson 5

One day many of us were waiting , Mr.K.Balachander, our Guru too had come there. The group had Prabhu , Vijayakumar , Nizhalgal Ravi , Madan Bob , Manobala to name a few. Rajini asked us if any of us had a nice “Punch” dialogue as he was supposed to say a line. Many people suggested lines but none impressed him. 
I often use in my Corporate Training sessions a speech by him on “Sankhya Yoga and Director Shankar”  - in it he said – If you retain everything you eat in your body your health will get spoilt, If you retain everything you earn ,  your life will get spoilt”. I reminded him of this line in private and he was very excited, quickly called the Director Mr P.Vasu , who immediately approved it. He asked me to repeat it again and the Assistant Director to note it down. 
After completing the shot , he came back to join the group which had grown to about 30 of us and profusely praised and Thanked me for the “Punch” line. He repeated the line for the benefit of all and said - Nalla Illa ? Mohan Ram Sonnaaru , I immediately pointed out that it was his line and not my original to which he replied  "so what , you are the person who reminded me of it and it is to your credit that these lines are now in the film" . In an assembly of colleagues and Directors to give me such  credit and praise was truly magnanimous of him.

Lesson – Thank people and praise them this will get you their eternal loyalty. Be generous in your praise and miserly in your criticism.

Many Happy Returns Dear “Pasha” – your every action is a lesson and inspiration for many of us. May your leadership “style” enhance the quality of life of many more like me.


In case you are wondering about the last paragraph. This was written by me for the Hindu – they brought out a Rajinikanth special supplement on 12/12/2012 which was sold seperately. 

This is the un edited “full version” , to which I have even added some material and elaborated a bit. 

There are many more things that we can learn from people like the Superstar and I am fortunate to have had the pleasure of his friendship and interactions. I can narrate more incidents , actually lessons , but that is for another day, another blog.

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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY - THEODORE BASKERAN'S - MESSAGE BEARERS AND GAUTAM KAUL'S CINEMA AND THE INDIAN FREEDOM STRUGGLE. 

Bimal Roy's Hum Rahi
D.N.Sampat

H.M.Reddy
D

Sivaji in Kappalottiya Thamizhan

Telugu Malli Pelli

S.Sathyamurthy

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

T.P.Rajalakshmi

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 off.......so 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 up.....it 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.......


THE SANDOW AND THE SUPERSTARS
“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" -http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/article3405580.ece

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.
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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.