Man with the Midas touch

(From Left) Amitabh Bachchan, MGR and SR. Photo: Special Arrangement  

He gave a struggling Amitabh Bachchan his first big break in Hindi films with ‘Bombay to Goa.’ And strangely, the megastar is also in his last movie, ‘Zamaanat,’ which is yet to be released. S. Raamanathan, noted director and producer, suddenly passed away recently. He was 83.

A shocked Bachchan wrote in his blog, “Words fail me in expressing my grief. He had been meeting me regularly, on matters relating to his film, on hold for years, ‘Zamaanat’ …he just passed away quietly sitting in his chair listening to music in the afternoon … so many moments and memories of him and his association gone. ..My prayers...”

S. Raamanathan (SR) was a multi-faceted man. He had played many roles in real life. Editor (of Chitra Vani, a Kannada film monthly), amateur boxer and wrestler and became involved in theatre before moving to cinema. Versatile, he could also speak six languages.

Born on February 13, 1929, in a reputed agricultural family, he took part in the Quit India Movement in 1942.

SR completed his B.A. degree at St. Joseph`s College, Bangalore, and was its general secretary as well as the Kannada Sangha secretary. He had the opportunity to invite Sir C.V. Raman, to deliver the valedictory speech.

Experiments in theatre

He did his stint as editor and later, along with his friends, he started a drama unit called Chitra Artistes. He tried out many experiments on stage such as dissolves and flashback effects. He played the protagonist in the historical play, ‘Vigada Vikrama Raya,’ by the famous Kannada writer G.P. Raja Ratnam.

In 1954, SR entered the Kannada film industry as assistant director under veteran K.R.S.Sastry for the film, ‘Maha Kavi Kalidasa,’ for a salary of Rs.125. He also worked in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi movies as associate director. Handpicked by A.V.M. Studios, he directed the legendary Dr. Rajkumar, in the award-winning and successful ‘Hrudaya Sangama.’

He produced ‘Gejje Pooje,’ based on a famous novel on devadasis, which also received two national awards and six regional awards from the Government of Karnataka. He produced ‘Upasane’ which got six awards from the Karnataka Government. Both of which are considered, till date, as milestones in the Kannada film industry.

He directed ‘Iru Duruvam’ with Sivaji Ganesan and Padmini, ‘Pattathu Rani’ with Gemini Ganesan, Bhanumathi and Kalpana. He produced ‘Madras to Pondicherry’ a hilarious comedy and ‘Dharma Durai’ with Rajinikanth, which was a super hit.

SR worked as associate director in many successful Hindi movies as well, featuring stars such as Dilip Kumar (in ‘Aadmi’, ‘Gopi’), Sunil Dutt (‘Main Chup Rahenge’, ‘Khandan’, ‘Meherban’), Meena Kumari, Nutan, Ashok Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Vinod Khanna, Vinod Mehra, Jeetendra, Shatrughan Sinha and Rishi Kapoor to name a few. Not to mention the Big B, who was offered ‘Zanjeer’ after the famous witers Salim-Javed saw ‘Bombay to Goa’ more than five times.

SR had also directed and produced films such as ‘Mahaan’ with Amitabh Bachchan and ‘Geraftaar’ with Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. He then produced ‘Gangaa Jamunaa Saraswathi’ with Amitabh Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborthy, Meenakshi Seshadri and Jaya Prada, which was helmed by the late Manmohan Desai.

He had also worked with many music directors such as Naushad, R.D. Burman, Ravi, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Madan Mohan, Shankar-Jaikishan, Ravindra Jain, Bappi Lahiri, Ilaiyaraaja and many more.

In his success list was another noteworthy film that he had directed, ‘Devata’ with Sanjeev Kumar, Shabana Azmi and Danny Denzongpa. It ran for 29 weeks and won critical appreciation from the press and public.

The noted camera men who had worked with him included Fardoon Irani of ‘Mother India’ Jal Mistry, Baba Saab and Vincent.

Apart from his professional life, he devoted time to social service and gave a portion of his earnings to religious work. He worked for the cause of the differently-abled and orphans by providing them with school books.

He had been visiting Sabarimala for over 37 years and encouraged personalities including Lawrence D. Souza, Prayag Raj (film directors), Aadesh Srivatsav (music director) and Bachchan to do the same.

While on location shooting, SR would have five production assistants and several apprentices waiting on him. Yet he and his brother S. Shivram (popular comedian, whose career covered four decades in the Kannada film industry), thought nothing of serving food to Ayyappa devotees.

This writer recalls an incident when he and SR were involved in ‘Pettai Thullal’ at Erumely outside Wabar Samy Temple. An Ayyappa devotee bumped into SR, who fell and fractured his elbow. After getting it checked and treated, SR continued with the 48 km ‘Periya Paathai,’ in spite of the concern shown by fellow devotees.

All Ayyappa devotees in our group used to sleep on the rough, cemented floor and queue up to use the toilets. In 1980 his son, Subheesh, 10 years old at that time, accompanied us on the pilgrimage. SR told him that as ‘kanni swamy,’ he should help the senior swamys.

Amitabh Bachchan used to attend the Ayyappa poojas performed at SR’s house with his family. When Subheesh, called him up to tell him the sad news, an emotional silence followed before Amitabh could speak. Death had broken the unique bond they shared.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 1:28:49 PM |

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