Remembering Ramnoth

ENTERPRISING: Ramnoth (left) and A.K.Shekar.

ENTERPRISING: Ramnoth (left) and A.K.Shekar.  


Ramnoth's innovative ways made for stunning sequences. A tribute, 50 years after his demise.

A day in 1939 at Newtone Studio, Madras. A song recording, which was scheduled, had to be put off. The song, to be sung by a boy from a noted Telugu theatre family, could not be recorded because he lost his voice due to `mike-fright!' The director, who was making his debut, was understandably shattered. His scriptwriter and intimate associate came up with a suggestion that was rather stunning for that time. He said that the background music could be recorded without the singing and later someone else could sing it and both the tracks could be merged to produce the song! The idea seemed incredible but left with no option the director gave him the go-ahead. The results were excellent, and the song became a hit!

Talented technician

The brilliant technician who suggested the method that was used for the first time in South Indian cinema was K. Ramnoth. The recordist was A.K.Sekhar. The director, who later became the icon of Telugu Cinema, was B. N. Reddi, and the film was `Vande Matharam' (1939), a classic.In `Dasi Aparanji' (1944), a Gemini production, the opening shot is of a temple's interior and ceiling at a very low angle, where the presiding deity is a devadasi, Aparanji. Now, none knew where this temple that legends spoke about was. So how was it visualised? Years later, A.K.Shekar, who led the Gemini Studios Art Department, said, "The miniature was made big enough for a small-made man like me to lie down inside and take the shots!... " Ramnoth was a genius, a one-man institution, cinematographer, film-editor, screenwriter, director and producer, and more!


Born in Pujapura, Trivandrum in 1912, Ramnoth came to Madras after getting his B.A. degree. He joined the Kodak Company as an apprentice. He used to write articles on photography and sent one to Sound and Shadow magazine run by Muthuswami Iyer (`Murugadasa') and A.K.Sekhar. It led to his joining the magazine. Thus was born the famous trio, `Murugadasa, Ramnoth and Sekhar'. One morning in 1933 a letter from Kolhapur, a princely state then, arrived at the magazine office. It was from filmmaker V.Shantaram, Partner, Prabhat Films. He sought help from them to make `Seetha Kalyanam'(1933) in Tamil. Of the trio, only Ramnoth was involved with `Seetha Kalyanam' as its assistant director. Baburao Pendharkar was the director.Ramnoth's name appeared in the film credits as `K.Ramanathan.' Soon after, the trio was in charge of the technical side of Vel Pictures Studio then situated at the Pitapuram Raja's bungalow on Eldams Road in Teynampet. Here they made Tamil and Telugu films such as `Markandeya' and `Paduka Pattabishekham.' In `Bhakthi' (1938) Ramnoth created film history with a scene that stunned moviegoers. It showed a torrent of paddy raining on the parched, famine-stricken land! Audiences cheered wildly and many burnt camphor as an offering to the gods! Some marvelled at how the scene was done! Ramnoth shot the scene with miniatures. It was the first time miniature photography was used in Tamil cinema.During 1942, the Second World War put a stop to film production as all the studios in the city shut down temporarily. Ramnoth and Sekhar bade goodbye to BN and joined Gemini Studios. Soon Ramnoth took over as Controller of Productions. He worked as producer on films such as `Kannamma En Kaathali' and `Miss Malini.' Ramnoth and Sekhar left Gemini in 1947-1948 and joined Jupiter Pictures and then left Jupiter Pictures for Pakshiraja Films, Coimbatore. Not many are aware that M.G. Ramachandran engaged Ramnoth at first to direct `Nadodi Mannan' but he could not work on that movie. He was MGR's favourite director after the successful Jupiter production `Marmayogi' which launched MGR on his meteoric rise to superstardom. He also made films for T.R.Sundaram and Modern Theaters such as `Sugam Engey' and `Kathanayaki.'Ramnoth's move to make his own film `Viduthalai,' which was an adaptation of John Galsworthy's ``First and the Last," proved to be a disaster. landing him in deep financial and emotional crisis. Problems connected with this film were largely responsible for his early demise at the age of 44 in 1956. It is 50 years since his premature demise, but his classic movies such as `Marmayogi' and `Ezhai Padum Paadu' shall live on forever.

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