Filmy Ripples – N.S.Krishnan, the Legend

By P.V. Gopalakrishnan

It is generally said, however, a pathos scene is difficult to naturally enact, it is even more difficult to be successful as a comedian as timing & body language have to contribute to its success. Pure, vulgar-free comedy that stands out is a real tough job and all were not cut to deliver that.

In the very early talkie films, there was nothing like a separate comedian. It was only later, as part of the evolutionary process of cinema, comedians came into being in Indian films to provide a relief from the main story line, which, often, was heavy with emotions.

The early cinema (we are talking about pre-Nagesh period) had a bunch of good comedians such as T.S.Dorairaj, Kali N Rathinam, T.R.Ramachandran,

Sarangapani, ‘Friend’ Ramasami, A.Karunanidhi, Kakka Radhakrishnan, ‘Kuladeivam’ Rajagopal, A.Rama Rao, Chandrababu, Thangavelu, Muthulakshmi, T.A.Mathuram, & M.Saroja.

But the Monarch of the Tamil film comedians, undoubtedly, was N.S.Krishnan (NSK).

Tamil cine goers laughed their guts out at NSK’s thought provoking jokes. NSK has often been compared to the legendary comedian, Charlie Chaplin. But, while Chaplin scored with his slapstick comedy and body language, NSK relied more on his verbal humour, one-liners and subtle messages to the audience. His comedy, which also had its share of puns, was always wholesome at its best with no double entendre or misogyny involved.

As we cannot justifiably cover all the stalwart comedians who tickled our funny bones in a single Article, we hereby restrict our current write up to the Monarch of them all – N.S.Krishnan.

N.S.Krishnan was born as Nagerkovil Sudalamuthu Krishnan in 1908 in a poor family. His childhood years were spent selling snacks in a theatre in his hometown & working as a ball picker in a Tennis Club. His lack of formal education was amply made up by his native genius & curiosity.

Later, in his formative years he joined the celebrated drama company run by TKS Brothers. He was also proficient in a rural art form known as ‘Villu Paattu’.

Later he formed his own touring theatre group and traversed the length and breadth of erstwhile Madras Presidency with his plays, which always drew packed houses.

NSK’s entry into the celluloid world was through S.S.Vasan produced and Ellis Dungan directed film ‘Sathi Leelavathy’, where he was introduced as a comedian. Though this was his debut film, his second movie ‘Menaka’ got released before ‘Sathi Leelavathy’ could hit the screen. However ‘Menaka’ was adjudged the best movie of the year in 1935.

Menaka

An Advertisement of the Film MENAKA in the magazine ANANDHA VIKATAN DEEPAVALI MALAR 1935  PC: From the archives of TCRC

It was during the shooting of ‘Vasantha Sena’ (1936), directed by Raja Sandow, NSK ‘met’ co-star T. A. Mathuram and both fell in love. Their marriage was held in a simple manner, while the shooting schedule moved to Pune, with Raja Sandow presiding over the ‘wedding’. The couple got the honor of being the first real-life couple acting as couple of reel life too, between 1936 and 1957, when they did a whopping 122 films, as a pair!

Vasanthasena

An Advertisement of the Film VASANTHA SENA in the magazine ANANDHA VIKATAN DEEPAVALI MALAR 1936  PC: From the archives of TCRC

N S Krishnan, who popularly goes by his popular title, ‘Kalaivanar’, rose from humble beginnings as a ‘villu paatu’ artiste who became a master in the art of repartee. In tandem with his wife TA Mathuram, he regaled audiences, often stealing the spotlight from the lead stars. NSK was known to pen his comedy tracks himself and always ensured that he was never repetitive.  Noted lyricist Udumalai Narayana Kavi usually wrote the lyrics for Krishnan.

Untitled

In the early timeframe of his career, he worked with comedians like TS Durairaj, Pulimootai Ramaswamy, CS Pandian and Kali M Rathinam and later worked in most of the films of MK Thiagaraja Bhagavathar as Hero. Krishnan was also a gifted singer and his numbers in ‘Sivakavi’, ‘Raja Rani’ and ‘Manamagal’ became immensely popular.

He also produced the hit film ‘Nallathambi’, directed by C.N Annadurai. He directed films such as  ‘Panam’ and ‘Manamagal’ penned by Karunanidhi. SS Vasan’s magnum opus ‘Chandralekha’ too featured Krishnan in comedy tracks. There was a time in Tamil cinema when no film was complete without NSK!

He also shared screen space in many films of the leading heroes, MGR and Sivaji Ganesan, and despite the presence of these Titans always stood out with his comedy.

NSK went on to work as unparalleled comedian in as many as 150 films, MGR starred ‘Raja Desingu’ being the last one, released after his death.

On 8 November 1944, Lakshmikanthan the gossip columnist & Editor of ‘Indu Nesan’ was knifed by some unknown persons in Purasawalkam and was admitted to the General Hospital, Madras as an outpatient. But the next day, Lakshmikanthan was murdered mysteriously while still in the hospital. The police arrested eight persons as accused for the murder including M.K.Tyagaraja Bhagavathar and NSK. This came as a rude shock to their fans and the cine world.

After thirty long months of jail term they were acquitted for want of proof by the London Privy Council, thanks to the eminent lawyer V. L. Ethiraj who argued for them at Privy Council at London. (The same illustrious lawyer founded Ethiraj College for women).

Though N.S.Krishnan did manage to pick up the threads of his life again as an actor post his release from prison, things were not quite the same & he was financially drained and his fortunes plummeted rapidly.

When Krishnan was first sentenced to jail, Mathuram took a break from her acting career. Later she came out her self-imposed exile to generate revenues for financing her husband’s appeal to the Privy Council.

When NSK was in prison, T. A. Mathuram started a drama troupe called N. S. K Nataka Sabha, which staged plays written by and starring S.V.Sahasranamam. ‘Paithiyakaran’ (1947) was one of those plays. Later Mathuram converted the troupe into a film production company and made a film based on the play. While the film, being directed by Krishnan-Panju Duo,  was in production, Krishnan was acquitted released from prison. A new role was written for him in the film. NSK made fun of his stint in prison through the song jailukku poi vantha in which he described in prison life, his fellow inmates and the types of prisoners he met. MGR played a supporting role in the film.

In 1947, after his release from the prison, Nataraja Educational Society, Triplicane awarded him the title of ‘Kalaivanar’ to NSK through the ‘Father of Stage’, Pammal.K.Sambanda Mudaliyar. He is, to-date, known by this Title even without his name!

‘Manamagal’ (1951), produced & directed by NSK, saw the debut of Padmini as a lead actress. In this movie, A.Bhimsingh, who later became a big Director, was an Assistant Director to NSK. He also generously gifted his own expensive car to Baliah for his stellar performance in Manamagal.

MSV-TKR duo was formed as Music Directors by NSK for his Film ‘Panam’ (1952).

In his times, NSK was instrumental in bringing a number of leading Tamil stage and film personalities to the fore; he was also a Gandhian, patriot and philanthropist who became an active member of the Dravidian Movement. On the assassination of Gandhi, NSK raised a Memorial for the Father of the Nation at his own expense in the Municipal Park his hometown.

NSK was one of the founding fathers of South Indian Actors Association. He is reported to have even gifted his own land for its premises.

NSK passed away at his 49 on 30th August 1957, after bringing a lot of joy and cheer to his audience through his film roles.

Some of his well known films included Sathi Leelavathi, Ambikapathi, Madurai Veeran, Kala Megham, Uthama Puthiran, Sakunthalai, Arya Mala, Mangamma Sabatham, Harischandira, Haridas, Pavalakodi, Paithiyakkaran, Chandrakantha,  Chandralekha, NallaThambi, Managaiyarkkarasi, Rathnakumar, Vana Sundari, Panam, Amara Kavi, Kaveri, Dr. Savithri, Mudhal Thethi, Rangin Radha, Raja Rani, Manamagal & Raja Desingu.

Chandrakantha

An Advertisement of the Film CHANDRAKANTHA in the magazine ANANDHA VIKATAN DEEPAVALI MALAR 1936  PC: From the archives of TCRC

In his personal life, he had three wives, Nagammai, T.A.Mathuram & T.A.Vembammal (T.A.Mathuram’s sister).

 

NSK Interview

Stills from a short Interview of NSK in the magazine KALKI DEEPAVALI MALAR 1942 PC: From the archives of TCRC

The Tamil Nadu Government dedicated the Children’s Theatre on Wallaja Road, Madras as a memorial building in 1979, named it ‘Kalaivanar Kalai Arangam’  in his honour . His revered public statue adorns a major junction in T.Nagar in Chennai.

If NSK were to be alive today he would have been 108 years old!

 

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Filmy Ripples – Mahakavi Bharathiyar’s works in Tamil Film Music

By P.V. Gopalakrishnan

The Great Poet Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathiyar lived his times in utter poverty & died unsung in his times. When one reads his poems the reader is sure to experience goose bumps! Such a spirited Poet that he was, his untimely death in 1921 at a very young age of thirty nine, drew only a handful of mourners in his funeral procession!

He is, perhaps, the first ever Poet to have has the honour of being named a ‘National Poet’, that too posthumously! This happened in 1949 after our Indian Independence.

Sequel to the death of Bharathi, his widow Chellammal along with Bharathi’s two daughters, Thangammal & Sakunthala, compelled by their utter poverty, were constrained to relinquish the rights over Bharathi’s works by selling them to AVM for a sum of Rupees Nine thousand five hundred (then a princely sum). AVM have used many of the Bharathi poems in their Tamil films, which became very widely popular.

However, over a process that lasted over five years from 1944 to 1949, the then Government of Madras nationalized the works of Bharathi in 1949, through the offices of four Chief Ministers. Prior to that though there were many notable voices that strongly demanded such nationalization of Bharath’s works, it was during the term of Omandur Ramasamy Reddiyar as Chief Minister it materialized finally. However, it was only by 1955, the works of Bharathi reached public domain when the then Finance Minister C. Subramaniam announced the decision of allowing all to publish Bharathi’s works.

However, unintentional of the Great Poet Bharathi, some of his beautiful poems later turned into film songs, set to mellifluous music compositions by noted Music Directors & rendered by top Artistes in various time frames.

The most recent songs that captured our attention was in the Tamil Film ‘Bharathi’ (2000), wherein Sayaji Shinde portrayed Bharathi. This biographical film on Bharathi had the lilting music of Isai Gnani ILayaraja & delivered few of his poems.

But, going back in time travel, very many films have had Bharathiyar written songs used in various filmy sequences. It all started with AVM who pioneered the way to copiously use Bharathi songs in his films (as he held recording rights for the songs) such as Naam Iruvar (1947), Vedhala Ulagam (1948) & Vazhkkai (1949), all in the amazing music compositions of Sudarsanam. In fact even today, these songs are known in these very tunes that Sudarsanam composed them in.

Naam Iruvar

An advertisement of the Film Naam Iruvar from the magazine PESUM PADAM July 1946 PC: From the archives of TCRC

In ‘Kappalottiya Thamizhan’ some of Bharathiyar’s compositions were featured, in various voices.

To my knowledge, nearly forty songs have been featured in Tamil films, in various situations, which I have enlisted below.  However, there could be few more in addition to my list.

Alphabetically, Song Film Year Music Director Sung By
Aaduvome Palli Naam Iruvar 1947 R.Sudarsanam D.K.Pattammal
Bharatha samudayam Vazkkai 1949 Sudarsanam D.K.Pattammal
Chinna kuzhandaigal pol Kappal ottiya Thamizhan 1961 G.Ramanathan P.Suseela
Chinnanchiru kiliye Manamagal 1951 C.R.Subbaraman MLV, V.N.Sundaram
Cooli Miga ketpar Nalla Thangai 1955 G.Ramanathan G.Ramanathan
Engirundo vanthan Padikkatha Medhai 1960 K.V.Mahadevan Sirgazhi Govindarajan
Enru thaniyum intha Kappal ottiya Thamizhan 1961 G.Ramanathan Tiruchi Loganathan
Kaani nilam vendum Andaman Kathali 1952 Govindarajulu Naidu MLV, C.S.Jayaraman
Kakkai Siraginile Chakradhari 1947 M.D.Parthasarathi V.Nagaiah
Kalviyil sirantha Vedhala Ulagam 1948 R.Sudarsanam T.R.Mahalingam
Kannan mana nilaiyai Ezhai pdum paadu 1950 S.M.Subbiah Naidu MLV
Katru Veliyidai Kappal ottiya Thamizhan 1961 G.Ramanathan P.Suseela, P.B.Srinivas
Kuyile unakku Manithan 1953 S.V.Venkatraman MLV
Madhar thammai Penn 1954 R.Sudarsanam T.A.Mothi
Manadhil urudhi vendum Kalvanin kathali 1955 Govindarajulu Naidu TMS
Mangiyathor nilavinile Pavai Vilakku 1960 K.V.Mahadevan C.S.Jayaraman
Nenjil uramum inri Kappal ottiya Thamizhan 1961 G.Ramanathan Sirgazhi Govindarajan
Nenju Porukkuthillaiye Parasakthi 1952 R.Sudarsanam C.S.Jayaraman
Oadi vilayadu papa Vadhala ulagam 1948 R.Sudarsanam T.S.Bhagavathi, M.S.Rajeswari
Oadi vilayadu papa Kappal ottiya Thamizhan 1961 G.Ramanathan Sirgazhi, Jamuna Rani
Parukkulle Nalla Naadu Kappal ottiya Thamizhan 1961 G.Ramanathan Sirgazhi Govindarajan
Senthamizh naadenum Raja Rajan 1957 K.V.Mahadevan U.Sarojini
Sindhu nadiyin misai Kai Kodutha Deivam 1964 MSV-TKR TMS, L.R.Easwari
Solai malar oliyo Naam Iruvar 1947 R.Sudarsanam T.R.Mahalingam, T.S.Bhagavathi
Solla Vallayo Kiliye Koondu Kili 1954 K.V.Mahadevan T.V.Rathinam
Thaneer vittom valarthom Kappal ottiya Thamizhan 1961 G.Ramanathan Tiruchi Loganathan
Thayin manikodi pareer Naam Iruvar 1947 R.Sudarsanam D.K.Pattammal
Theeradha vilayattu pillai Vedhala Ulagam 1948 R.Sudarsanam D.K.Pattammal
Thoondir puzhuvinai pol Vedhala Ulagam 1948 R.Sudarsanam D.K.Pattammal
Vande matharam enbom Kappal ottiya Thamizhan 1961 G.Ramanathan Sirgazhi Govindarajan
Vazhiya Senthamizh Naam Iruvar 1947 R.Sudarsanam Devanarayanan, T.S.Bhagavathi
Vellai kamalathile Gowri Kalyanam 1966 MSV Sulamangalam Rajalakshmi
Vellai thamarai Thai Ullam 1952 V.Nagaiah, A.Rama Rao MLV
Velli pani malai Kappal ottiya Thamizhan 1961 G.Ramanathan Sirgazhi, Tiruchi Loiganathan, L.R.Easwari
Vetri ettu thikkum etta Naam Iruvar 1947 R.Sudarsanam D.K.Pattammal
Viduthalai Viduthalai Naam Iruvar 1947 R.Sudarsanam T.R.Mahalingam

Kavimani Desiya Vinyagam Pillai had composed a song, ‘Paattukkoru pulavan Bharathiyada’, in honour of Bharathi which too had featured in the film ‘Paithiyakkaran’ (1947), composed by C.R.Subbaraman & M.S.Gnanamani.

Here below we are giving links to some of the videos containing Bharathiyar songs in films.

Chinnam chiru kiliye:

Engiruntho vandhan:

Katru veliyidai Kannamma:

Mangiyathor nilavinile:

Thirumanam

Song book of Thirumanam with the page containing the song MANGIYATHOR NILAVINILE PC: From the archives of TCRC

 

Parukkulle nalla nadu:

Theeratha vilayattu pillai:

Sindhu nadhiyin isai:

Kai Kodatha Deivam

Song book of Kai Kodutha Deivam with the page containing the song SINDHU NADHIYIN PC: From the archives of TCRC

Aaduvome pallu paduvome:

Naam Iruvar_SB

Song book of Naam Iruvar with the page containing the song AADUVOME PALLU PC: From the archives of TCRC

Nenju porukkuthillaiye:

Oadi vilaiyadu papa:

Suttum vizhi sudar thaan Kannamma:

These days, you hardly get to hear Bharathi’s lyrics in Tamil films. For that matter, you hardly even make out what the lyrics are, in most songs. Those were the times when lyrical beauty held a song close to your heart. This is the reason as to why we can still remember the words of the old film music. Gone are those days, now rhythm & tune override lyrics and if at all one could make them out in the whole din, they cannot live in your memory.