Friday, July 27, 2012
THE SANDOW AND THE SUPERSTARS
“If Aradhana had flopped will you ask me to reduce my salary ? , No , Devar Ji , I will do the film in the salary we spoke , you even made full payment even before we started and showed your faith in me “ was “Superstar” Rajesh Khanna’s reply to Sandow M.M.A.Chinnappa Devar recalled R.Thyagarajan the son in law of Devar. The picture Haathi Mere Saathi came about in early 1969 as Devar , who was making a few small budget films without his usual “superstar” MGR , wanted to make a big film . MGR was busy with his political activity and could not accommodate dates. Director Sridhar, his neighbor and close friend suggested to Devar to make a Hindi Film.
Devar had earlier made a film “Deiva Cheyal” – the protagonist was a middle aged man who is helped by an elephant. This was reworked making the protagonist young and the first half had romance and action while the second half had its fair share of sentiment. Devar went to Bombay and narrated the script to Sanjiv Kumar , who immediately said that he may not be suitable for the first half of the film and suggested the name of a rising star – Rajesh Khanna. Upon hearing the script Rajesh who was shooting Aradhana immediately agreed and recommended two young boys to assist Devar in the script – Salim -Javed. Aradhana was a super hit and Rajesh Khanna’s salary had quadrupled , this prompted Devar to go back to Bombay and ask him if he wanted more money. Devar is said to have made the classic remark in his characteristic broken English to Rajesh Khanna as he handed over the entire amount – “Rate you – Date me” – meaning I have paid what you asked , now give me the dates that I want.
The shooting commenced in Vauhini Studios in early 1970 and the outdoor portion was shot in Ooty. The film was Directed by M.A.Thirumugam , Devar’s younger brother , a competent Director/Editor. They released the film in 26 Theatres in Delhi and its suburbs. The competition was “Maryada” with Raj Kumar and Rajesh Khanna. The results of the first few days was not encouraging and Devar was disappointed. Rajesh Khanna rang him up and told him not to lose hope and to come to Delhi via a few towns . By the time the group from Madras reached Delhi , the film had become a box office hit. Rajesh Khanna sent Devar a Telegram that said “Your and Our Lord Muruga has not let us down”. Rajesh Khanna and Shakthi Samantha formed a company called Sakthi Raj films , bought and released the film in Bombay where too , like the rest of India the film was a top grosser.
Devar had booked Shankar Jaikishen to do the Music for Haathi Mere Saathi. Director Sridhar adviced him to approach Laxmikanth Pyarelal as they were more suited to Devar’s quick style of functioning. When he approached they said they were too busy. During the meeting he recalled the mention of a “Party” and when he enquired he was told it was the first birthday of Laxmikanth ‘s child. He quickly went to Jewellery shop and purchased several Gold coins and uninvited went to the party. No one knew who the Dhoti clad simple man was , when he proceeded to shower the child with Gold. Mrs.Laxmikanth enquired and told her husband “You compose Music for all those who come home and drink at your expense and refuse the Man who showers our Child with Gold “? Needless to say the stratagem worked and the song “Chal Chal Chal mere Haathi” reverberated all across India – Composed by Laxmikanth Pyarelal. Mr.A.V.M.Saravanan recalls that Devar made it a practice to pay all money in 10 Rs notes – the logic was – “ it will appear as if I am giving a lot of money. “
Marudur Marudachalamurthy Ayyavoo Chinnappa Devar was born on the 28th of June 1915. His father was an agriculturist. Devar stopped with his 5th Standard and started to work. He was told that unless he had a good physique he could not enter the film world. To that end he proceeded to master the various forms of fighting and also improve his physique. He and his brother first acted in the 1940 film “Thilottama” , actually it was a fight sequence where only their Shadows were filmed fighting. Devar earned the title “Sandow” because of his well developed Body and skills in the Martial Arts.
He had started playing various small roles in the films shot in Coimbatore and in 1947 while acting in the film “Rajakumari” a deep and abiding friendship developed with the hero MGR. As a hero MGR too recommended Devar in all the films he worked. This went on till the mid 1950s when Devar started a Production company in Partnership with A.P.Nagarajan and two others. The film just about broke even and they all parted ways. Devar then asked his friend MGR , who readily agreed and they made “Thaikkupin Thaaram” in 1956. The film was a success and Devar was launched as a film maker. He had a policy of Muhurat shoot on a New Moon day ( Amavasya) and the picture will be released by the 3rd Amavasya. MGR had become busy with his own production “Nadodi Mannan” and Devar was forced to make a few small pictures.
Then in 1960 he started to record the music for his film “Thaai Sollai Thattadhe” where he cast Ashokan as the hero. When the recording was over he felt a hand pressing him on his shoulder , he turned and it was MGR . He heard the songs recorded and then asked for the story to be narrated. MGR then asked Devar to come to his house where in front of MGR’s mother’s picture he made a promise that he will adhere to all of Devar’s conditions and in return Devar should make films only with him. This “agreement” led to Devar making 16 films with him , the last being Nalla Neram in 1972 , the Tamil remake of “Haathi Mere Saathi”.
Devar had a penchant for using Animals in his films from Snakes to Goats to Elephants he used them. The elephants for Haathi Mere saathi were taken from the Great Oriental Circus and he housed them in a 2 ½ acre plot of land on Arcot Road. This used to belong to M G R and later to Venus Pictures. Later The Kothandapani Audio Studio was built by the singer S.P.Balasubramaniam on part of this plot.
“Devar was an ardent devotee of Lord Muruga . He used to donate 1 out of 5 Rs Profit to a Murugan Temple .The road to Marudamalai , The Prakhaaram at Thiruchendur and the main Hall in Vadapalani Temple are all his contribution. While Shooting if he wanted the Sun he will shout at the heavens and ask his Murugan to send the Sun out , for him everything was Murugan “recalls Film Producer A.V.M.Saravanan. Director SP.Muthuraman recalls visiting his set in Vauhini Studios when they were shooting the film “Muruhan Adimai”. They had lined up a complex shot of a Peacock , a Bird that just cannot be trained , flying through a series of Doors and reaching the idol of Lord Muruga in the sanctum sanctorum. Everyone was wondering if this would ever happen when Devar stood up Prayed to Lord Muruga and said – You make it happen , I don’t care ….and asked for the Cameras to roll and the peacock to be released. The peacock flew beautifully through the four or five doors and landed at the feet of the Idol . all of us were totally amazes not just at this but at the implicit faith Devar had in God.
In his later years with MGR getting more and more into active politics , Devar started to make films in the Socio –mythological Genre. They were films set in modern times with the Central theme that faith and belief in God will solve one’s problems. When The Paramacharya of Kanchi heard about Devar and the films promoting theism like “Thunaivan” , he sent word to Devar wanting to meet him. Devar was hesitant as he was shooting with MGR. When MGR heard about this he told Devar to immediately go and seek the blessings of the Sage and that he will personally supervise the Shooting of the next few days. Devar and his family rushed to Kalavai where the Paramacharya was camping. He blessed Devar and told him not to worry as Lord Muruga was the watchman in his house and the sage added “if possible put in a good word about me to him”. Devar broke down on hearing this from the Paramacharya .
When The Paramacharya of Kanchi heard about Devar and the films promoting theism like “Thunaivan” , he sent word to Devar through Mr.Lakshmana Iyer of Ananda Pictures wanting to meet him. Devar was hesitant as he was shooting with MGR. When MGR heard about this he told Devar to immediately go and seek the blessings of the Sage and that he will personally supervise the Shooting of the next few days. Devar and his family rushed to Kalavai where the Paramacharya was camping. He blessed Devar and told him not to worry as Lord Muruga was the watchman in his house and the sage added “if possible put in a good word about me to him”. Devar broke down on hearing this from the Paramacharya .
One day after performing the Kandha Sashti Pooja in Thiruchendur, Devar told those around him that he has been doing this for 12 Years and the next year they will all have to carry on the tradition. Those around him were taken aback and pooh poohed these remarks. Devar used to say that he will pass away on a “sashti” ( 6th day of the Moon) when the Star was Vishaka , considered to be very auspicious for Muruga , in fact he used to say if it were any other date he will go up and beat Muruga. As he desired he passed away on the 8 th of September 1978 – It was Vishaka and it was a Sashti.
He became what he was because of a “Superstar” – MGR , achieved National fame because of another Superstar – Rajesh Khanna. His Production house and family was given much timely help by the current “Superstar” Rajinikanth says his son in law. After Devar’s demise Rajesh Khanna and Rajinikanth did a Hindi film together for them in 1985 – Bewafai. The Sandow had not one but 3 superstars who loved and cherished him.
Posted by MOHAN V.RAMAN at 2:21 AM