Kotha Bangaru Lokam Copied Scenes




Telugu and Tamil cinema owes much to the talented threesome - Muthuswami Iyer, A.K. Sekhar and K. Ramnoth, who worked with untiring zeal and modest means to promote their venture, Karthikeya Studio.

NOT MANY are aware that there was another movie studio on Greenways Road, in Adyar, in late 1930-early 1940's but it did not survive long. During its short life it changed hands and names too. It was located near the Jiddu Krishnamurthy estate in what is now known as `Bishop's Gardens'. Tamil cinema owes much to a trio of enterprising men, Muthuswami Iyer, A. K. Sekhar, a brilliant art director, and K. Ramnoth, the forgotten genius of South Indian cinema.

Muthuswami Iyer was a journalist, magazine editor and publisher, adman, studio-owner and filmmaker. He directed many movies in Madras, Bombay and elsewhere. He along with Ramnoth and Sekhar, made a formidable threesome and a brilliant creative team in the early decades of Tamil cinema. At first, Iyer worked as a journalist with the now defunct, evening newspaper, The Mail. He reviewed English movies and nurtured an increasing interest in cinema as a medium of artistic expression. He gave up his job with The Mail and with limited finances promoted an English movie and fine arts monthly magazine, Sound and Shadow. His art designer and layout-man, was none other than Appakonam Kula Sekhar, who soon came to be known as A. K. Sekhar.

Shortly after the magazine was in circulation, a diminutive, modest, bespectacled young man, a B. A. degree-holder from Poojapura, Trivandrum, employed in Madras as an apprentice with the Kodak Company, knocked at the doors of Iyer's office, with an article on photography. It was so brilliant that Iyer not only accepted it but also offered the surprised young man a job with Sound and Shadow, which he accepted at once! His name was K. Ramnoth.

The Muthuswami Iyer- Ramnoth- Sekhar trio worked round-the-clock to make the magazine interesting and viable, not an easy task in the early 1930s. A rich impresario, lover of fine arts, talent scout and lawyer of Mylapore, G. K. Seshagiri, financially backed the magazine. One morning in 1933 a letter from distant Kolhapur, a Princely State then, arrived at the magazine office. The letter, which was to change the lives of the trio, and that of many others, was signed, `V. Shantaram', partner, `Prabhat Films'. Shantaram, one of the greatest filmmakers of the country, wrote to Sound and Shadow seeking help to make a Tamil film using the sets and props of his Hindi film, "Sairandhri'' (1933, India's first colour film). The film had not done well and the company was trying to cut its losses by launching ``Seetha Kalyanam''(1933) in Tamil.

Seshagiri, V. Sundaram Iyer, his children, S. Rajam, Jayalakshmi and seven-year-old prodigy, S. Balachandar, and members of an amateur drama troupe, boarded a train at Madras to Miraj (a railway junction) en route to Kolhapur. Also travelling with them was a lean, ascetic-looking but brilliant musician who had recently relocated in the city in search of greener pastures. He stayed with the lawyer and taught Carnatic music to Rajam and Jayalakshmi. He was to help them compose the music for the film. As the train chugged on to its destination, he was blissfully unaware that he was on his way to fame and fortune! His name was Papanasam Sivan!

The trio worked untiringly to promote their venture "Karthikeya Studios" at Adyar , with finance provided by a Nattukottai Nagarathar, popularly known as Nattukottai Chettiar. It was a modest enterprise, lacking even the barest of technical equipment such as a 35mm movie camera, required to run a movie studio. It was indeed a lucky break when the well-to-do auditor-turned-filmmaker, Bommireddi Narasimha Reddi, soon to create Telugu cinema history as B. N. Reddi, drove into the studio to meet the enterprising threesome. He had just incorporated his film production company under the name `Rohini Pictures' in association with the sadly neglected Grand Old Man of South Indian Cinema and a pioneer in Indian films, H. M. Reddi. The two had planned their maiden movie and were looking for a studio. Even at the first meeting BN (as he was familiarly known) was more than impressed by Ramnoth and Sekhar. The meeting had far reaching consequences not only in the lives of BN, Ramnoth and Sekhar but also in the history of South Indian cinema. BN hired the studio for a sum of Rs. 16,000. With disarming honesty and transparency, Ramnoth told BN that he needed the money in advance! BN's admiration and regard for that creative genius rose and he at once paid the full amount.

Ramnoth took the next train to Bombay and after a week returned to Madras with a used Mitchell 35-mm movie camera, some lights, and small items for the studio! And there was enough money left to run the studio! What charming times! Where have they vanished? Why? Today one cannot get even a tripod for that money! (The Telugu film that was produced at Karthikeya Studio by Rohini Pictures was the classic of the 1930s — "Grihalakshmi''(1938). The film had the brilliant actress Pasupuleti Kannamba in the title role. The multi-faceted film personality, Chittoor V. Nagaiah, took his bow in cinema in a minor role in this movie. "Grihalakshmi'' was a hit all over the South, even in areas where none spoke or understood a word of Telugu. Nagaiah attracted the attention of crowds and critics and stepped firmly on the rungs of the ladder to success...

In "Sundaramurthy Nayanar''(1938), also shot at their studio, Ramnoth created film history with a scene that stunned and thrilled moviegoers. In what was truly a miracle, a torrent of paddy fell over the parched, famine-stricken land! The audiences cheered wildly in the movie houses 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.

Art Director:

1. Chalaki Mogudu Chadastapu Pellam (1989) (as Sekhar A.K.)
2. Do Kaliyaan (1968) (as A.K. Sekar)
3. Athey Kangal (1967)
4. Bhakta Prahlada (1967/II)
5. Bangaru Panjaram (1965)
6. Pooja Ke Phool (1964)
7. Anarkali (1955)
8. Bangaru Papa (1954)
9. Peddamanushulu (1954)
10. Avvaiyyar (1953)
11. Malliswari (1951)
12. Swargaseema (1945)
13. Bhakta Potana (1942)
14. Devatha (1941)
15. Vande Mataram (1939)
16. Sasirekha Parinayam (1936)
17. Seeta Kalyanam (1934)

Production Designer:

1. Chandralekha (1948/I)
2. Chandralekha (1948/II)
3. Kalpana (1948)
4. Sumangali (1940)

Set Decorator:

1. Athey Kangal (1967)
2. Bhakta Prahlada (1967/II)


1. Sri Srikakula Andhra Mahavishnuvu Katha (1962)

Sound Department:

1. Vande Mataram (1939) (sound)

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