Madras Week: Directors, technicians, actors get nostalgic, recall the romance of filmaking
Talking at Hotel Green Park about another age in the Kodambakkam studios, and about their experiences, were ten people closely associated with the film industry – Balraj, costume designer, Premkumar, cinematographer, Rajendran, make-up artiste, Jana, art director, Jananathan, film director, G. B. Vijay, film director and ad filmmaker, J. K., art director, Karthik Raghunath, film director, Ragavendra Rao, actor and lyricist, and Vasantha Anand, actor.
Ragavendra Rao started his career at the age of five and had worked with directors like Puttanna; he later turned lyricist. J. K. attended a screen test; people said he resembled kutti Sivaji, but he was turned down. He was the first in his family to enter films.
An emotional Karthik said he was born in cinema. He had told his mother soon after graduation that he wished to join the industry. Backed by her, the idea was put forward to his father, who said: “Understand cinema, and every aspect of it before you enter.” That was how he began assisting his father (T. R. Raghunath). Of course, he received offers from established companies, but he chose to remain in filmdom where his heart lay. Karthick also spoke of how great stars such as M.G.R and Sivaji would come home and how he grew up knowing nothing except cinema.
Balraj recalled how he was made to climb up a tree in Ooty’s cold, to portray an adivasi in a scene. That was when he decided to give up acting and moved to being a costume designer.
Vijay pointed out that where Hotel Green Park stood, was the canteen of Vauhini studios that served two idlis for five paise. He spoke of the thoughtfulness of the filmmakers of those days to provide excellent food at a subsidised rate.
Rajendran spoke of his struggles as a make-up man. He had to do odd jobs before eventually settling down. Jana mentioned how he was given no salary but Rs 2 daily with which he used to buy tea for 75 paise and a snack, enough to get back home.
Jananathan spoke of how actors, technicians and directors in those days allowed their protégés to grow. Vasanth narrated his theatre experiences in Singapore, as a young boy in a co-ed school. When once somebody called him the Sivaji Ganesan of Singapore, he replied that he hadn’t even risen to the actor's ankles.
J. K. also spoke of an instance when the assistant director was asked to stand on guard at the entrance and not to allow anyone inside. The art director's assistance themselves were denied entrance. Such was the devotion of assistants then, he said.
Picture shows ace storyteller Jeeva Raghunath introducing the panel (l-r): Balraj, costume designer, Premkumar, cinematographer, Rajendran, make-up artiste, Jana, art director, Jananathan, film director, G. B. Vijay, film director and ad film maker, J. K., art director, Karthik Raghunath, film director, Ragavendra Rao, actor and lyricist, and Vasantha Anand, actor; J.K. regales the audience; Karthick delves into the past; Mohan Raman points to the real heroes of cinema; and a view of the packed house.