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Patriot and an idealist


D. Yoganand, who passed away recently, was a prolific, bilingual filmmaker.

AN ICONIC MOVIE: Bhanumati, MGR and Balaiah in the Yoganand-directed Madurai Veeran

Yoganand, the prolific, bilingual filmmaker who was most active from the 1950s to 1970s, passed away recently at his residence in Chennai. He was 85.

Tall, slim and handsome, he was a popular figure in the movie world of old Madras and much respected for his technical expertise.

He also had an excellent track record in Telugu and Tamil cinema.

He had the unique distinction of directing all the top stars of his time, both in Telugu and Tamil such as Sivaji Ganesan, M.G.Ramachandran, Gemini Ganesan, S.S. Rajendran, K. Balajee, N.T.Rama Rao, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, Relangi, P. Bhanumathi, Savithri, Padmini, Vyjayanthimala, Jayalalithaa, Pandari Bai, B. Saroja Devi and Devika.


D. Yoganand was born in 1922 into an affluent family in Andhra and was later given for adoption to a successful businessman dealing in photographic materials and who had his own studio.

This event in his life drew him to the art of photography and he learnt the tricks of the trade of still photography. Not surprisingly he felt drawn to cinema.

However, the call of the Indian Freedom Movement proved more powerful. He participated in the Quit India Movement of 1942 and came close to great Congress leaders like Rajaji, Tanguturi Prakasam and Bulusu Sambamurthi.

Inspired by the life of great Indian revolutionaries such as Bhagat Singh, he actively took part in cutting the wires of the electric trains plying between the Madras Beach and Tambaram stations.

Returns to old love

Realising that politics could not be his future, he went back to his old love photography and the movies.

He joined the technical unit of the celebrated filmmaker Gudavalli Ramabramham (`Mala Pilla,' and `Raithu Bidda' both cult movies of Telugu cinema), learnt film editing and worked as an assistant editor in Ramabramham's hit movie `Maya Lokam' (1945).

Later he joined the well-known cinematographer M. A. Rehman and worked as his assistant in many films.

He became friendly with all the prominent men of the Madras movie world of that era and got the break to direct the bi-lingual film,

`Marumagal/Ammalakkalu'(1953), for the dynamic, multilingual producer S.M.Letchumanan Chettiar (better known as `Lena Chettiar').

In a bold move, he cast N.T.Rama Rao and Padmini, who were making their way up in the film world.

This film took a good look at middle class family life at many levels.

In it, Yoganand created two mischief mongering female characters, who burned coals on dried cow-dung flat cakes as a symbol of setting fire to the happy families. An innovative and classic touch.

The metaphor made an impact and marked out Yoganand as a director certain to go places, and he did!

Both the versions were hits and some of the songs in the Telugu version became popular.

Rama Rao boldly engaged Yoganand to make his socially-relevant and meaningful Telugu movie, `Thodu Dhongalu' (1954), which had a strong Leftist tint in its thematic content and presentation.

That was the period when many young, idealistic filmmakers, who believed in Leftist philosophy had come into Telugu cinema and achieved success, such as L.V.Prasad, Tathineni Prakasha Rao, and Yoganand.

He became the in-house filmmaker for Lena Chettiar and his famed Krishna Pictures and made many box-office successes as well as the iconic film, `Madurai Veeran' (1956). The film sowed the seeds for MGR to be projected as more than a mere good-looking hero.

Some of Yoganand's memorable movies are `Kaveri' (1955, Sivaji Ganesan and Padmini), `Anbu Engey,' (Pandari Bai, S. S. Rajendran, K. Balajee, and Devika in a minor role), `Engal Selvi' (1960. A. Nageswara Rao and Anjali Devi) and `Parthibhan Kanavu' (1960, Gemini Ganesan, Vyjayanthimala, and B. Saroja Devi).

When L.V. Prasad planned to remake in Telugu the successful Tamil film `Ethirpaaraathathu,' he chose Yoganand to direct it.

`Ilavelpu,' a big hit, was remade in Hindi as `Sharada' (with Meena Kumari and Raj Kapoor) by Prasad.

Telugu films

Some of Yoganand's mention-worthy Telugu movies include `Ammalakkalu' (1954), `Thodu Dhongalu' (1955), `Jayasimha' (1956, the debut of Waheeda Rehman),`Pelli Sandhadi' (1960), `Vummadi Kutumbham' (1968), `Mooga Nomu' (1970) and `Vemulavada Bheemakavi' (1976).

A serious filmmaker, he worked hard on the screenplay in association with his writers and honed it to perfection before finalising the cast and planning the production.

With changing trends in Tamil and Telugu cinema, he found that it was no longer possible to work in his idealistic atmosphere and slowly moved away after his last movie, `Charithra Nayakan' (1984).

He leaves behind a large circle of friends, like this writer, not only in the world of movies but also in Telugu literature and politics and everyone will miss him.

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