Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ritwik Ghatak - The Bengali Brecht

"Ritwik was one of the few truly original talents in the Cinema this country has produced" was how the great Satyajit Ray once described him. Though he has made only eight feature films ( and several documentaries) he is considered by many to be a master craftsman.

Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh , on 14th Nov ( Like Nehru) in 1925 his family moved to Calcutta to escape the horrors of the Famine of 1943-44 and the tragedy of partition that followed. But these must have become imprinted on such an impressionable mind that most of his films had these and the plight of the refugee as the theme.

He first wrote Plays and then associated with the IPTA - The Indian People's Theatre Association where he wrote, acted and directed several plays as well as translated works of Bertolt Brect and Gogol.

In 1950 , he made his debut in the Film Industry as an actor and assistant director with Nemai Ghosh's " Chinnamul". Ghataks first completed film was in 1952 - Nagarik. He combined a Theatrical style with Documentary Realism - to bring out his active political stance and served as a visual expression of his radical political thoughts.His best known films were "Meghe Dhaka Tara - 1960 , Komal Ghandhar - 1961 and Subarnalekha - 1962 , a Trilogy on the plight of the refugee in Kolkatta. In the mid 60s he moved to Pune to teach at the Film Institute , for just a year.

He was truly one of the boldest film makers who did not succumb to the pressures of commercialisation and continued to make movies that spoke his political, social and personal views on society and the establishment.Though his film preceeded Ray's by a good three years as one of Bengal's best in terms of realism - Ghatak never attained the level of International Popularity that Ray obtained for his films. Ray constantly promoted the films of Ghatak but still no avail.
Ghatak's most famous foray into commercial cinema that most non bengalis will recall was "Madhumati" - the classic film on re-incarnation for which he wrote the Screenplay.

Ghatak died in february 1976 - as a result of complications from his extreme alcoholism. His life too was as stark and bleak as his film's subjects - indeed an element of being autobiographical in his films is also there......A True master - but like most who are endowed with Genius - he had enough of the self destructive gene in him.........Maybe that is why he titled his Book on himself and his films as - Rows and Rows of fences....

Mehboob Khan

- An interesting Stamp with images from his most famous film -

Mehboob Khan , was also honoured by the Postal department....many may ask who is this person, we know Sharukh, Salman and Amir khan, even Irfan Khan but this name is not heard so much in Cinema Circles....especially amidst the South Indians....

Mehboob Khan was one of the true pioneers of Indian Film. He started as a bit player in the silent film Alibaba and the 40 thieves made in 1927 after he had run away from home , in Billimora, Gujarat. After a struggle he ultimately got the chance to Direct his film - for Sagar Movietone. He made Manmohan, Watan,We Three and Ek hi Rastha , which brought him fame and recognition as a Director of thought provoking films that dealt with several socially relevant problems. He then went on to make Aurat, Behen and Roti for National Studios. Aurat made in 1940 is considered by many as a pre cursor to his all time classic "Mother India"

He set up his own company Mehboob Productions when he made Najma and Anmol Ghadi ( 1946) - the music track for the latter by Naushad with Noorjehan and Suraiya singing is still considered by many to be a classic. He then made Andaz and Aan , to be followed by Mother India - the first Indian film to be nominated for an Oscar in the 1958 Foreign Film Category award.

Many attained stardom because of his movies....Dilip Kumar, Nargis, Sunil Dutt, Raj Kapoor , Raj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar to name a few. He was given the Padma Sri. He passed away on 28th May 1964.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

So many Chief Ministers on the same Dias -

My father V.P.Raman speaks - from left to right MGR ,
Mathiazhagan, Anna , Rajaji and Mu.Karunanidhi

That's Me - next to my dad....Rajaji lends a sympathetic ear to Anna.

In January 1968 - My father, Mr.V.P.Raman , organised a function to mark the 10th Death Anniversary of my grandfather Mr.A.V.Raman. This was a superbly organised , terrific function, I guess any son should be proud of doing this for his Parents. The memorable thing about this fuction was the presence of 4 Chief Ministers of Madras/Tamil Nadu. Present were C.Rajagopalachari -Rajaji , C.N.Annadurai ( Anna) the Chief Minister , Kalaignar Karunanidhi ( the CM after that and Today) and M.G.R ( the CM after Kalaignar). It must be noted that my father had left the Party and Politics at least a decade before - in Paper , for he continued to represent MGR,Kalaignar and even Bhaktavatsalam and Rajaji. There is one Photograph that I have not posted in Picasa or in this Blog - A lovely snap of me, my dad, Anna , kalaignar, MGR and Rajaji - that I have promised to a weekly magazine. Will post that after it has been published ( If). On the dias were also Sri Ananthanarayanan , Chief justice of madras and Sri "Chithra" Narayanaswami.

Just looking at these photographs makes me go back to those times ..... even the venue , Abbotsbury is no more there - however in the audience was Tarapore , who owned the property. I could also recognise Mr.K.Rajaram and Mr.Loganatha Mudaliar.

In fact when my grandfather passed away - My father who at that time was in the DMK Party refused to let any "orthodox" religious rituals be performed. My grandmother it is said went and cried to Rajaji , who in turn spoke to Anna - and Anna is reported to have told my dad , that he must not hurt his mother and yet do as his conscience commanded him to. Kamaraj , the CM then , is also said to have put pressure on my father - My grandmom must have really raised a hue and cry. To my knowledge my father did not budge.....
Funnily , he gave me specific instructions that nothing must be done for him when his time came. He told me - "I know , you have faith and belief in all this - dont do anything until you immerse my ashes - after that you are the head of the family , do as you please....I carried out his wishes to the T.....and continue to perform the rituals for him and my grandfather and my great grand father etc every Amavasya as well as the "thithi" - death anniversary as per the South Indian Calendar. Well , faith , is hard to shake....
My father stood firm on this much after he left the party - My wife ( ours was not an arranged marriage - but what is commonly called "Love Marriage"), wanted a traditional wedding with the whole works - my father refused to participate in the rituals and sat in the first row, waiting for us to finish with the rituals and then bless us.My mother's brother stood in for him and performed all the rituals. My father was very firm about his beliefs but never prevented others from following their's .He was NOT an atheist - but just against organised religion - especially the "money making" ritualistic part. He often said - I do not need a mediator between me and my God. He did go to Tirupathi , a trip that made him give up his extreme stand on God ( deserves a blog by itself - will post it soon ) and then later even to Puttaparthy.


Kavignar Kannadasan

From Left My father in law Dr.M.Ramachandran, Wife padma, Me, my Mom and Kavignar

Page 287 - In this Book he refers to himself as "avan" - in the third person

During the Wedding Reception - also in the Picture Mr.R.Krishnaswamy , Advocate

Page 341 of his Book - vanavasam.

I have been reading the book "Vanavasam" a biographical account of his years in the DMK by Kannadasan , the greatest lyricist , Tamil Cinema has ever produced, my view at any rate. There was many a time that I have met him, indeed it will not be incorrect to say that he, MGR, Kovai Chezhiyan, Sridhar ( Director) were all close friends of my dad - from the Entertainment Industry. I have consciously avoided mentioning Anna and kalaignar for we will, for this blog consider them as from the field of Politics.

Many are aware that Kannadasan went to my good friend G.Thyagarajan's recording (Moondram Pirai Producer) and Kanne Kalaimaane , a real beauty, turned out to be his last recorded song. Before going there that morning, around 8 AM , he landed up at home. I was downstairs and he asked me to call my Dad, who had probably not yet woken up or had just done so. It was the time when , they both had some tiff......they fought pretty often like Husband and wife - so close was their friendship.My dad came on the phone and told kavignar he will not see him, when Kavignar said that he was off to America and wanted to say bye....My dad told him to go there get well ( a euphemism for Kavignar to get rid of a few habits) and come back and that on their return My dad and he will share a drink - something they used to do on a daily basis , till this tiff. Kavignar put the Phone down, and told me - Bala ( thats how his friends called him) Kovichikittu irukkan, poittu varennu sollu.....I said seri Uncle and he was off......this was sometime in September 1981. He passed away that October 17th.

For A full ten years - till 1991 , when my Father passed away , almost daily , he used to lament - sollikittu poga vandhaan, paarka mattennu solli anuppittene.....I saw two references to my father in this book - which I have reproduced....The snaps with kavignar were taken during my wedding Reception - July 1979.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bimal Roy - The "Devdas Director"

BIMAL ROY (12th July 1909 - 7th Jan 1966)
Bimal Roy was born the seventh child of a landowning , affluent family from Suapur, a suburb of Dacca , then East Bengal.He completed his education at the Jagannath College in Dacca and joined as an assistant to the famous Cinematographer Nitin Bose. He soon became a famous Cinematographer and started to work in films like P.C.Barua's Mukti. Here he honed his craft and also became sensitised to the many socio-economic issues facing the People. He joined the IPTA ( Indian People's Theatre Association ) and made the path breaking film "Udayar Pathey".This film was against exploitation and served to inspire several young bengali film makers like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen.

Migrating to Bombay in 1950 he went on to make some of his classics like "Do Bigha Zameen", Bandini, Parineeta, Madhumati ,Sujatha and his classical version of Devdas. His films were artistically beautiful, sensitive and socially relevant as they captured the essence of human existence with all its melodrama, romance and pathos for all his films were firmly rooted in reality. His message though subtle often left a deep impact on the viewer. Especially those Musically inclined. Bimal roy mostly used Salil Choudhry or S.D.Burman and some of the classic songs as seen in his films are......

"Jalthey Hain Jiske Liye" from Sujatha (1959),music by S.D.Burman.
"Suhana Safar Aur Yeh Mausam Haseen" ,"Aaja Re Pardesi" ,"Ghadi Ghadi Mora Dil Dhadake" from Madhumathi (1958), music by Salil Chowdhury,
"O Sajana Barkha Bahaar" from Parakh (1960), music by Salil Chowdhury,
"O Jaanewale Ho Sake To Laut Ke Aana" from Bandhini (1963), music by S.D. Burman,
He was awarded the Filmfare award seven times as best director and Four times for best Picture, He also won the National Award for Do Bigha Zameen in 1953. He won the International Prize at Cannes for the same film , which was also nominated for the Grand Prize.This film was the first to pave the way for a parallel , new wave cinema to hit the country.
If some of these songs are familiar , now you know whom to thank......

Monday, September 7, 2009

Udumalai Narayana kavi -

This great Poet was born on 25.9.1899 in Poolavadi Village near Udumalpet.His early education was only till the 4th Standard and thereafter he learnt under Muthuswamy kavirayar. He later learnt the art of Harikathakalaksebam from the famed harikesanallur muthiah Nhagavathar.

Even as a young lad he was inspired to act and did so in several Plays.It was the time when the Freedom Movement was active and several young men were inspired to join the freedom struggle. He too went around the nearby Villages selling khadi products and singing nationalist songs. Some of these became very popular. His famous patriotic songs were sung by some of the most popular actors of that time - the early 1920s.

Cinema , entered the "Talkie" phase and the need for Actors/Singers and Poets was felt. He came into Cinema in 1933 - his association with N.S.Krishnan brought about several songs that were of great social relevance. His learning the art of harikatha obviously helped him when he wrote along with NSK , the satirical - Kindhanaar - based on the Nandhanaar story. His collaboration with NSK served to enhance the reputation of both. Along with Madhurai Bhaskara Das, Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram he dominated the lyrics department till the advent of Kannadasan the Poet. In the later years he wrote for MGR , with the Dravidian , Rationalist Philosophy in mind.....One of his greatest will probably be....the NSK song- Vingyanaththa Valarkka Poren dee......

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Film heritage buff and teacher ?

There were two articles one each in The Deccan Chronicle and the Hindu....which mentioned me as being a teacher and a Film heritage Buff....I am deeply indebted to the writers of both - whether I deserve this sobriquet or not, Time and the quality of my work shall determine.

The first article , though , carries a few small errors - I do not teach regularly at the St.Josephs College , but have addressed Students - in various educational Institutions like The Thyagarajar School of management- Madurai , Pearl Acadamy of fashion , Many Rotaract Seminars and seminars organised by the Symbiosis School -Pune. The second is a minor spelling mistake , it should read as ...I train them in Team Building and Not Corporate Building. These very minor things apart, it is good to be called a "Teacher". I thank the writer , for it feels good to be recognised in this manner.

The second article in the Hindu has a far greater import - The authority on anything on Madras City and its history is Mr. S.Muthiah . It was an honour that he was present for my lecture the other day at the Tag Centre. Randor Guy and Dr.S.Krishnaswamy, two other noted Film historians were there too , adding to my tensions as I spoke. When Mr. Muthiah has classified me as a FILM HERITAGE feels like I have been baptised , indeed , much like Vishvamithra after getting the nod of approval from Vasishta - I am indeed thankful to him for these kind words. I hope and pray that God grant me strength and wisdom to live up to these words

If in the process , we , are able to locate the site of "Tower House", on Miller's Road, Kilpauk then it will have really served the purpose. For that is the birth place of Cinema in the South.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

B.N.Reddi - film maker

First day cover

The Government marked this great producer/Director's centenary last year with a Stamp. Many have often confused him with his brother B.Nagi reddi.

This is Bommireddi Narasimha Reddi , born in Cuddapah District on the 16th of November 1908. After his Schooling in Prodattur, he came to Chennai, did not complete his graduation from Pachaiyappa's College , but joined a firm of auditors and Accountans. He was interested in Dramatics and used to act in many telugu plays staged by the Andhra Mahila Sabha. It is but natural that an artistic young man like him be drawn to the magical world of cinema , through the famed Director G.Ramabrahmam.

He started Rohini Pictures with that great director and "bheeshma of south indian cinema" H.M.Reddi. They made "grihalakshmi" in 1938 with P.Kannamba. The two seperated after this and BN went on to associate with two other brilliant men K.Ramnoth and A.K.Sekhar and promoted the historic Vauhini Pictures. He made several films like Vande matharam (1939) , Sumangali (1940) , and Devatha ( 1941) all of which established him as a producer/Director with great artistic sensitivity and also served to help the actor Chithoor V.Nagaiah , who played the Hero/Lead role in these. They stayed together as a team till 1942.

BN Reddi went on to make several films like "swarga Seema" in 1945and malleswari (1951). His last film was in the late 60s. He was honoured with a padma bhushan in 1974 and was the first South indian to be honoured with the dadasaheb Phalke award in 1975.

The Vijaya - Vauhini Studio's were taken over by his brother Nagi reddy and Chakrapani much earlier.

He passed away in 1977.

Uttam Kumar - Bengali Actor

The Government of India , Had honoured a few more film personalities with a Postage stamp , and I have been a bit irregular in reporting the same. Today , they have come out with a stamp to honour the famous actor Uttam Kumar , a legend in the Bengali Film world. Born as Arun Kumar Chatterjee on 3rd September 1926 he began acting in Plays at a young age and won many laurels. He completed his graduation and and worked at the Port Commisioners office.He , being a good singer also gave singing lessons. He was determined to make it in the Film world and after a struggle his first released film was "drishtidaan" and his breakthrough came with the film "Sare Chuyattor". He then never looked back and went on to become a producer and director as well. His foray into the hindi Film Industry was not very succesful but his contribution to the bengali film Industry is immense. He won the first ever national Award for best actor - for his performance in Satyajit Ray's "Chiriakhana" and the film "Antony Firingi" in 1967, the year the Awards were introduced. He achieved the dream of all Actors - to die working. He passed away of a massive heart attack while shooting for the film Ogo Bodhu Shudori in 1980 at the young age of 54.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.