Unsung veteran of Tamil cinema

September 23, 2010 06:20 pm | Updated September 25, 2010 09:24 pm IST

M.D. Parthasarathy conducting music

M.D. Parthasarathy conducting music

Trained Carnatic musician… film music composer and singer… stage and screen actor… the owner of such credentials was M.D. Parthasarathy whose birth centenary is being celebrated tomorrow, September 25 (he was born on September 21, 1910), by his family, friends and others.

Parthasarathy, who hailed from an orthodox Mandyam Iyengar clan of the old princely Mysore state was born in Mysore and his father M.D. Narayana Iyengar was a Prosecuting Inspector of the Madras Presidency Police Department. School and college education were pursued in Madanapalle, Chennai and Mysore. In 1930, he went to Chidambaram joining the Annamalai University where he studied classical Carnatic music and obtained Sangeetha Bhushanam Diploma. Marriage also took place in the same year.

His acting career

While in Madras, he began to act in plays and was an active member of Suguna Vilas Sabha. T.C. Vadivelu Naicker, noted Tamil film writer and director, now forgotten, helped him to enter SVS.

Parthasarathy took his bow in Tamil cinema in ‘Sakkubai' (1934, written by Vadivelu Naicker). Then came ‘Srinivasa Kalyanam' (1934, produced and directed by A. Narayanan at his Srinivasa Cinetone, the first studio in Madras to have sound recording facilities.)

His acting career forged ahead when he played Hanuman in the veteran R. Padmanabhan's hit ‘Garuda Garvabhangham' (1936) in which his role attracted much attention. ‘Sethu Bandhanam' (1937) again by Padmanabhan in which he repeated the same role also proved a hit. Another film ‘Dharmapuri Rahasiyam' (aka ‘Rajadrohi, and ‘Traitor' in English) in which he played a double role created sensation in those days for its content. The prints were taken in sepia tint and announced as ‘Trucolor.' (Some historians have gone on record that this was the first colour film to be made in India, which is not right!)

When S.S. Vasan established Gemini Studios, Parthasarathy joined him and began to make waves as music composer along with the brilliant and also sadly neglected multilingual music composer Saluru Rajeswara Rao. The two combined to create many memorable hits of the Gemini Studios productions. Parthasarathy composed songs in the Carnatic mode while Rajeswara Rao gave the songs a Hindustani and western lilt.

When Vasan rented the studio for the first film, (for Dindugal Amritham Talkies) ‘Madanakamarajan,' Parthasarathy and Rajeswara Rao were the music composers. When problems arose between the twenty partners (!) of DAT Vasan took over the production with B.N. Rao as director learning the ropes with hands-on training. The popular song, ‘Premaaa… Premaaa…nee…' rendered by the noted Carnatic musician V.V. Sadagopan (the hero) was one of the many composed by Parthasarathy. ‘Madanakamarajan' (1941) was a box office success.

Parthasarathy composed music for the films of the Gemini Studios along with Rajeswara Rao between 1941 and 1953. The list is long but mention must be made of some films, which include, ‘Nandanar' (1942 with M.M. Dhandapani Desikar in the title role, the song ‘Kanaksabhai…. was his composition), ‘Dasi Aparanji' (1943, ‘Aasai kollaathavar aan pillaiyo…' voice Kothamangalam Seenu), Kannamma En Kaathali (1945, the song ‘Bangala Katirukken Paaru…' (voice M.S. Sundari Bai, lyrics Kothamangalam Subbu).

‘Chandralekha' the Vasan-Gemini Studios magnum opus (1948, ‘Aathoram kodikaalam…' was sung by him… he also lent his voice for ‘Pottai' Krishnamurthi in the famous ‘Naattiya kuthirai…' song, and the ‘horse's voice was also his!).

In ‘Apoorva Sahotharargal' (1949) the famous song, ‘Laddu laddu mittai venumaa…' rendered scintillatingly by P Bhanumathi, there were male voices in different languages addressing her, which were all Parthasarathy's! Such was his command of languages.

‘Chakradhari' (1948, directed by K.S. Gopalakrishnan) was a big hit mainly due to its music and the excellent performance of Chittoor V. Nagaiah in the title role.

Parthasarathy composed music in classical style and many songs became popular like, ‘Unakkum enakkum….' ‘…kaakkai siraginiley…' ‘Salangai kulunga vaa…'… and the song and dance sequence in the village fair for which songs of different styles of music were composed by Parthasarathy. He also played the role of the blind beggar singing, ‘Hare Vittalaa...'

For Gemini's super-hit ‘Avvaiyar' (1953) music was composed by Parthasarathy. By mid-1950s, problems arose in Gemini Studios for many reasons, which resulted in Parthasarathy leaving his ‘alma mater' after an uninterrupted innings of more than a decade…

To keep himself occupied he began to act in his plays of the renowned Egmore Dramatic Society, and later moved to Bangalore in 1958 when he joined All India Radio producing light music which he continued until his early demise in August 1963 due to cancer.

Indeed, it is a matter of deep regret that a person of such talent, skill and achievement did not get the recognition he richly deserved.


Tomorrow’s event will take place at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 6 p.m.

Randor Guy is presiding over the function. Veteran stage and cinema artist V.S. Raghavan will unveil the portrait of M.D. Parthasarathy. M.S. Viswanathan will release the DVD, ‘Melodies of MDP.’ Muktha V. Srinivasan will release the souvenir, “MDP, the Multi Dimensional Personality.”

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