Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Might of the Modern Theatres.

     This blog already carries an article on the two grand old production houses, the Gemini Studios and the AVM Pictures and another on the Devar Films Unit. From the mid Nineteen Thirties,there existed another  film making  giant called The Modern Theatres. Unlike most other film production units that were based in the then Madras, this mighty film producing enterprise was located in Salem. This may be because its founder T.R.Sundaram hailed from Thiruchengodu near Salem and hence  proximity  and the natural beauty of Yercaud would  have been the governing factors for establishing the Studio at Yercaud Road in Salem, so that, out door shootings could be carried on without unnecessary expenses. Its founder T.R.Sundaram being a field-oriented dynamic individual, his business predictions proved him right. From the mid Nineteen Thirties, the Modern Theatres began to produce movies with a foremost thrust on the entertainment factor. Stories of crime, suspense,speed and adventure were the singular characteristics of the Modern Studios and with this consistent formula they ruled Tamil Cinema, successfully for more than four decades.The James Bond concept of detective fiction that became an exciting phenomenon in the English film world, was made an acceptable formula in Tamil and was executed effectively in Tamil movies, by the Modern Theatres.
   The might of Modern Theatres could be gauged from their choice of powerful actors like, P.U.Chinnappa, M.G.Ramachandran,Sivaji Ganesan,S.S.Rajendran,and later Jai Shankar and Ravichandran. Manonmani, the historic epic and Uthamaputhiran {Which was later remade by Venus Pictures  with Sivaji Ganesan in dual roles}were their earliest hits with P.U.Chinnappa as hero. With Uthamaputhiran, Modern Studios took the credit of taking the first Tamil film with  a hero playing dual roles. Mandhirikumari, Sarvadhikari  and Alibabavum Naarpadhu Thirudargalum were the fabulous  films of this film circuit, that increased the popularity of MGR as a budding mass hero and the third in the list became the first colour film in Tamil. [taken in Geva  colour]. 
   Sivaji Ganesan’s Thirumbipaar and Illarajothi were the most talked about films ,the first one showing Sivaji in a negative role after his debut film  Parasakth that portrayed him as an electrifying performer in a positive character.S.S.Rajendran’s Kumudham was an award winner and like Mandirikumari and, Alibabavum Naarpadhu Thirudargalum,Kumudham,was also considered to be a musical hit. SSR’s other films with this film house were, Petra Maganai Vitra Annai again known for a few melodious songs and Kattu Roja in which[ late] Padmini returned to acting after her marriage. Malayalam Hero Prem Nazir’s Vannakkili became a run away hit for the Modern Pictures, because of several great songs and R.S.Manohar’s impressive show of role play.
    R.S.Maonohar almost became a patronized member of the Modern Theatres family, after Vannakkili. Quite a lot of successful films like Kaidhi Kannaayiram,Vallavanukku Vallavan, Vallavan Oruvan, Iru Vallavargal, Chitrangi,Naangu Killadigal, Ethirigal Jaakikiradhai, Justice Viswanathan and Karundheil Kannaayiram, had Manohar playing the hero or second hero or villain. Similarly, from Iru Vallavargal Jai Shankar became close to the Modern Theatres doing hero in  the role of a Tamil James Bond in many films of which Vallavan Oruvan and CID Shankar need a special mention.If my memory is right Jaishankar's final innings with the modern theatres were Edhirigal Jakkiradhai and  Thedivandha Lakshmi. Ravichandran did a creditable film, Justice Viswanathan of the Modern Theatres. Among  the old movies, the other crowd pulling films of The Modern Theatres were, Aayiram Thalai Vaangiya Aboorva Chindhaamani,Thigambara Saamiyaar, Aaravalli,Engal Selvi, Sugam Enge and the fairly known Konjum Kumari that introduced the amazing comedienne Manorama as heroine.
    What made this film production unit hold its ground was its deep rooted understanding of the audience mood and its conviction in delivering the goods to match audience expectations. It might appear that the base of their film making process remained the same for most of their films. For that matter, every production house has certain well defined objectives and operational modalities towards forming a specific identity for them. Film making being another business, commercial  fundamentals become the pre-determiners in running the organization.
     The Modern Theatres, like the big AVM banner and the profit bound Devar films circuit, could sustain their victory march only because they could read before hand, the changing trends among Tamil film goers, who are always far ahead in making assessments about the quality of films released from time to time. The audience knew that if they went to the theatre to watch a film of the modern theatres, their time would be well spent, as far as entertainment aspects were concerned. It was known to them that exclusive family sentiment,heavy romantic element and a full time comedy show, would not be there in a film of the Modern Theatres. But they were sure that, no Modern Theatres’ film would disappoint them, as far as the action segment was concerned.
     Moreover , when compared to other production houses it was the modern theatres that  popularized the speed quotient in films so as to keep the audience not being bored. The detective element as a vital factor in arresting crime, was handled beautifully, in many a film of the modern theatres and Jai Shankar perfectly fitted into the role of a CID officer. There would be the  all pervading thriller feel,  duly supported by the chase and run scenic sequences. Romance and a little bit of family sentiment and comedy substance were adequately mixed, to make a film engaging and worth watching.
    The other wonderful feature of a Modern Theatres film, was its quality based music support effectively provided by eminent music directors like G.Ramanathan,K.V.Mahadevan and Vedha. The third name in the list owes his popularity with the Tamil music listeners chiefly through his tie up with the Modern Theatres. Valuable actors like S.V.Rengarao,M.N.Nambiyar, P.S.Veerappa, M.R.Radha, K.A.Thangavelu, A.Karunanidhi and graceful heroines like Madhuridevi,B.S.Saroja P.Banumathi,  Padmini,Savithri,Rajasulochana,Mainavadhi, Vijayakumari,L.Vijayalakshmi Pushpalatha and Lakshmi have all joined this banner at least once in their career to play a leading role.
    Personally, I would have seen not less than twenty films of the modern pictures and I continue to cherish in my memory  films such as the earliest Thigambara Saamiyar showing Nambiyar  as hero, Aaaravalli depicting a tale of gynocracy, the lengthiest movie both in title and duration, Aayiram Thalai Vaangiya Aboorva Chinthaamani and the old SSR film Petra Maganai Vitra Annai. Along with these films,the three MGR hits  and others like Vannakkili and Kaidhi Kannaayiram  were my childhood treats. Kumudham and Kaattu Roja became my teenage pet films. I have watched later all the Jai Shankar films as well as the A.V.Rajan and Pushpalatha starring  Chitraangi.
     My all time favourite songs of Modern theatre films are ‘Vaaraai Nee Vaaraai’ and ‘Ulavum Thenral Kaatrinile’{the amazing duets of Tiruchi Loganathan and Jikki from Mandhirikumari} ‘Maasilaa Unmai Kaadhale’ { in the melodious voice of A.M.Raja and P.Banumathi from Alibaabaavum Naarpadhu Thirudargalum}'Sithhaada Kattigittu' {The most popular group song of S.C.Krishnan and others from Vannakkili} ‘Oeraayiram Paarvaiyile’ {TMS  solo hit from Vallavanukku Vallavan}'Kallile Kalai Vannam Kandaan’{the solo  scintillating number of Sirkazhi Govindarajan}‘Ennai Vittu Oedipoega Mudiyuma’{the great duet of Govindarajan and P.Susheela} and 'Maamaa Maamaa Maamaa'{the eternally relevant TMS chorus},all from Kumudham,'Naan Maloroedu Vilaiyaada’{the lovely duet of TMS and P.Susheela from Iru Vallavargal} and Palingunaal Oru Maaligai. {the ever titillating melody of L.R.Eswari from Vallavan Oruvan.}The immortality of these songs is purely due to the excellent musical composition of  G.Ramanathan, S.Dakshinamurthy,K.V.Mahadevan and Vedha.
     Films that sustain in our memory are marvelous samples of creativity. Those who made such films deserve a distinct place in the hearts of the viewers.The Modern Theatres will ever remain as the most powerful film production house  with a kind of enchanting might of creativity. 

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