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Updated: November 11, 2011 20:20 IST

The story of a pioneer

Shruthi Mathews
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STAR MAKER K. Subrahmanyam.
STAR MAKER K. Subrahmanyam.

A documentary on director K. Subrahmanyam gives a glimpse of his life, work and philosophy

“He Swam Against the Colonial Current” — a documentary about the life and works of acclaimed Tamil film director K. Subrahmanyam, premiered at the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce (SIFCC) recently.

Commissioned by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust, the film was made by Krishnaswamy Associates, who have made several biographical films on notable personalities (including “Bridging the Generations” — a documentary on India's former President R. Venkataraman) and also run the non-profit Krishna TV.

The controversy

Directed by Subrahmanyam's son S. Krishnaswamy, the documentary charts the trajectory of Subrahmanyam's career in the industry, focussing on the feature films produced between 1934 and 1957. Portraying Subrahmanyam as a pioneer of film techniques and a ‘star maker' who discovered and established famous names in the industry, the documentary also explores in detail the controversy that surrounded Subrahmanyam's most renowned film “Thyaga Bhoomi” (The Land of Sacrifice) made in 1939.

Showing extended clips from the film, the documentary highlights the yearnings for national freedom embedded within “Thyaga Bhoomi” that led to it being the only Indian film to be banned by the colonial government — a gesture indicative of its potential to rouse patriotism amongst audiences.

A mixture of humorous anecdotes and analyses of Subrahmanyam's role in the struggle against the ‘colonial current', Krishnaswamy's documentary provides a glimpse of the life, work and philosophy of a director, who is depicted as being more than just a director of films — a leader, a fighter for freedom, and in Krishnaswamy's words, a father.

A homage

As a homage to Subrahmanyam, who was the first president and one of the founders of the SIFCC, the documentary will be the last film to be screened at their preview theatre, which is to be demolished shortly to make way for the construction of a new, larger premises. “It is most appropriate that the film should be screened in this venue first,” said Krishnaswamy. The film will be broadcast on Doordharshan and will also be available on DVD shortly.

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