A brief history of Nadigar Sangam

Film director K. Subrahmanyam, who had helped Sri. Sathyamurthy start the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce, was approached by a few actors like R. M. Somasundaram, T. N. Sivathanu, N. N. Kannappa and Sattampillai Venkatraman to create a representative organisation. And it was finally in August 1952, that they launched one called the Junior Actors Association ( Thunai Nadigar Sangam ). MGR expressed his desire to join this group and insisted that there should be no difference amongst actors on the basis of seniority, and hence, it came to be called Nadigar Sangam. As films of all the four southern languages were shot in Madras during that period, it was later renamed Thenn Indhiya Nadigar Sangam or South Indian Artistes Association. On November 15, 1952, it was registered as a society (not as a labour union) with rules and bylaws in place. K. Subrahmanyam and MGR donated money to help run this association, and began recruiting members. Sivaji had completed only one film during this time. It is interesting to note the serial numbers of popular actors who registered as members of the Sangam. The first member on its rolls, as of 1955, was N. N. Kannappa, and the next was M. R. Santhanam. The latter is known for roles like the father of Sivaji in Sabash Meena and the minister in Veerapandiya Kattabomman . He later turned producer and made classics like Pasamalar .

His sons, Santhana Barathi and R. S. Sivaji are also both actors/directors. The first woman member was S. D. Subbalakshmi (No. 8). While MGR was No. 25, his brother Chakrapani was No. 61. Other senior members of the Sangam are M. N. Rajam (No. 56), V. N. Janaki (No. 95), S. S. Rajendran (No. 96), Sivaji (No. 109), T. S. Balaiah (No. 123), M. K. Radha (No. 122), Avvai T. K. Shanmugam (No. 129), Veena Vidwan S. Balachander (No. 176), K. B. Sundarambal (No. 179), M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar (No. 192), Gemini Ganesan (No. 218), T. R. Rajakumari (No. 337), P. Kannamba (No. 338), A. Nageswara Rao (No. 342) and M. R. Radha (No. 281), who contributed to the fund-raising efforts of the Sangam by staging plays. N. T. Rama Rao (Telugu), Prem Nazir (Malayalam) and Rajkumar (Kannada) also became the members of the association.In November 1955, a magazine, Nadigan Kural (The Voice of the Artiste) was started by MGR; he was its first editor. In that he wrote: “An association for the unity of artistes, a magazine to carry the united voice, a library to improve the knowledge of all actors, a place to socialise, improve health by sports, exchange views and a stage for actors—these are our dreams for the future.”

The founder-president was T. V. Sundaram, while the vice-presidents were MGR, S. D. Subbalakshmi, S. D. Sundaram and K. Vembu. The secretaries were T. N. Sivathanu and R. M. Somasundaram, while R. S. Manohar was the treasurer. When a sizeable number of members had joined the association, a grand function was organised in July 1953. In February 1954, the first elections were held. The railway concession that was offered to drama artistes was then revived by the Sangam. One of the biggest achievements though was the introduction of bus services to the Kodambakkam studios. The bus, 12B (Santhome to Kodambakkam) was started on October 10, 1955. Another grand fund-raiser (for cyclone relief) was organised in December 1955; it was presided over by Governor Sri Prakasa. At the event, plays and light music performances were organised.

V. Nagaiah was elected president in 1956, and it was during his time that the land in Bazullah Road, T. Nagar, was purchased with financial assistance from many actors. NSK took over the next year, and the foundation stone for the first building was laid. There was an open-air stage and a green room (which doubled up as the office during the day). After NSK’s demise, MGR took over. For the first time, a woman, Anjali Devi, was elected President in 1959. She was followed by R. Nagendra Rao. The reins shifted to MGR again for a few years before S. S. Rajendran took over in 1963 (until 1966). In 1964, the building work was completed and inaugurated. In 1967, M. V. Swaminathan took over as president, and was followed by K. R. Ramaswamy, who continued till 1971. Sivaji then took over from him in 1971. That year, the Sangam, by availing a bank loan, made plans to build a closed-door auditorium. In October 1973, the foundation stone for the auditorium was laid, and work was completed in 1979, with the auditorium being inaugurated by MGR, who was then the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. After Sivaji’s term, it was S. S. Rajendran who again became President. He was then followed by Radha Ravi, Vijayakanth, Sarathkumar and now, as we all know, Nasser.

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2022 1:59:07 pm |