Pioneer filmmaker


THAMIZH PADAVULAGIN THANTHAI- DIRECTOR K. SUBRAMANYAM: Valampuri Somanathan; Alliance Publishers, 244, Ramakrishna Mutt Road, Mylapore, Chennai-600004. Rs. 125.

AN INTERESTING, well written life story of the sadly neglected and underrated Indian film pioneer Krishnaswamy Subramanyam (1904-71), whose birth centenary was recently celebrated by his large talented family. This book brought out on the occasion is written by noted Tamil filmmaker, producer, screenwriter, scholar and poet, and a leading figure in the world of South Indian cinema of yesteryears, Valampuri Somanathan.

The author recreates in depth and detail, the life and times of the lawyer-turned-filmmaker from his childhood, through his innings as lawyer and his entry into the world of cinema, silent at first, and later, talking Tamil in 1931. He has also gone into the making of the three immortal classics created by K. Subramanyam, "Bala Yogini" (1937) "Seva Sadanam" (1938, which introduced MS to movies) and the most famous classic of them all, "Thyaga Bhoomi"(1939).

Though Subramanyam made movies in Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and even Sinhala, his reputation rests mainly on the three Tamil film classics which he made during late 1930s.

The writer brings out the warm, friendly and kind-hearted great human being behind the filmmaker, and also traces his multifaceted activities, as a human activist, social reformist and a friend of the needy, oppressed and depressed.

The author's writing in his characteristic style of Tamil adds to the value of the book. However, the captions and details of some of the stills like title of the movie and year of production are factually wrong striking a jarring note. Considering that this publication was specially brought out to mark the birth centenary of the celebrated filmmaker, mistakes of this kind should have been avoided.

The author comments as "obiter dicta" about the disastrous marriage of the late comedian and singing star, J.P. Chandrababu to Sheila, mentioned to be an Anglo-Indian, which she is not. She is the granddaughter of another sadly neglected pioneer of South Indian cinema, Samikannu Vincent, who brought movies to Madras with his tent shows in 1909 and built the first cinema "Variety Hall" in Coimbatore. She now lives in Paris, happily married to a French doctor. However, these minor errors do not detract from the merits of the book.

This reviewer cannot resist expressing the feeling that a book of this nature should have been published in English too to reach a wider audience. During the birth centenary celebrations announcements were made about such a book, but one wonders whatever happened to it. Perhaps it is not too late even now to have one written. K. Subramanyam certainly deserves it.


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