Tamil Nadu

A literary magazine that gave equal importance to cinema

The name Manikodi conjures up an era when the Tamil literary world witnessed outstanding short stories and writers. The literary magazine that survived for just six years from its launch on September 17, 1933, had also accorded equal importance to cinema, and a new monograph sheds light on the subject.

“It was a time when people were attracted to cinema in a big way. The magazine, then a weekly, had decided to publish film advertisements to ensure its existence. Compared to Ananda Vikatan, Manikodi had published more film advertisements,” said writer Kadarkarai Matthavilasa Angatham, the author of the book Manikodi Cinema.

Though it was inevitable for a literary magazine to allot adequate space for cinema reviews to make itself relevant, in the case of Manikodi, some of its writers nurtured the dream for a role in the film world. Languishing in poverty, Pudumaipithan, a trailblazer in Tamil short story writing, went to Pune with the hope of becoming a rich man. “But he only got tuberculosis and was left without money to even buy medicine. His letters to his wife Kamala reveal his life,” Kadarkarai said.

However, P.S. Ramaiah, who became the editor of the magazine, made a successful entry into the film world and directed films. He also wrote a book, Cinema, based on his experiences in the film world. “His success in the film world is explained by the presence of bigwigs in the committee constituted to celebrate his 60th birthday. A.V. Meyyappa Chettiar was the president of the committee and the members included S.S. Vasan, Kothamangalam Subbu, Gemini Ganesan, K.S. Gopalakrishnan, J.P. Chandrababu and Pandaribhai,” said Kadarkarai.

When Mehaboob Khan, the well-known Hindi film producer, wanted to make Aan in Tamil, he had commissioned Ramaiah for the project and gave him a whopping ₹60,000. S.S. Vasan had given Ramaiah an advance of ₹10,000 and Kadarkarai has collected the details from the souvenir published on the occasion of the birth centenary of Vasan.

All aspects

Kadarkarai has written in detail about the reviews published in Manikodi and in the process offers information on every aspect of films including actors, directors and production companies. For instance, he has quoted from the review of the movie Saint Thiyagarja by critic Sanjayan: “Barring the appearance of a bicycle in the movie, the period of saint Thiyagaraja should belong to the age as claimed by the film makers.” In 1939, a conference in Chennai witnessed a heated argument. While Murugadasa, who directed films like Nandanar, made a strong case for making films that would inculcate “healthy taste” in audiences, another director, Y.V. Rao, lamented that “ideal film” would not result in box office collections. An age-old argument indeed.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 1:16:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/a-literary-magazine-that-gave-equal-importance-to-cinema/article37890877.ece

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