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Filmmaking got a new definition with the arrival of Sridhar.

Photos: Chitrakala Sundararajan, Kalaniketan Balu and Special Arrangement.

NUGGETS: (Clockwise from top) At the puja for ‘Uthama Puthiran.’ The group (from left): V.C. Shanmugam, Ratnam Iyer, T. Govindarajan, A. Vincent, M.N. Nambiar, A.V. Subramaniam, Kamal Gosh, C.V. Sridhar, Tiruchi Arunachalam, Venus K. Murthi, T. Prakash Rao, K.A. Thangavelu, K.R. Shanmugam, Chitralaya Gopu, K.S. Gopalakrishnan and P.V. Sathyam. Raj Kapoor was a guest at the marriage reception of Sridhar and Devasena, Sridhar as chief guest in a stage show of Policekaran Magal presented by Kala Nilayam, a scene from the film.

“Nenjil Oru Alayam” was shot in a record time of four weeks. Sridhar thus proved that movies could be made with new faces, limited sets and low budgets if one had an interesting, emotionally rich story, tautly narrated on screen with pleasing music. The cast had Muthuraman, Kalyan Kumar (from Kannada cinema), Devika, ( not yet a star) and Nagesh then struggling for recognition. Besides the triangular love story it had excellent music by Viswanathan-Ramamurthi and the innovative cinematography of Aloysius Vincent who had a penchant for unusual angles, then a novelty in South Indian cinema.

This film was remade in Hindi, Telugu (“Manase Mandiram”) and also in Kannada (“Kunkuma Rakshe,” Rajinikanth in one of his early roles, directed by S.K.A. Chari).

Inspired by the success and innovative features of this film Sridhar wanted to enter it at the Cannes Film Festival and had the screenplay translated into French at great cost and sent his administrative manager, Sarma to Europe.

Not many are aware that a few years ago, California-based Indian filmmaker Jag Mundhra was keen on remaking “Dil Ek Mandir” in English and also Hindi, making some marginal changes in the film treatment. This writer took Jag to Sridhar and learnt that Sridhar had assigned it to a film financier for a paltry sum, for eternity. The assignee demanded an exorbitant fee for giving up the rights, which was almost 75 per cent of Jag’s budget!

Moving to Madras (from Maduranthakam, where he worked as a government servant) Sridhar made a name as a dialogue writer and worked on scripts for movies like “Maheswari” (1955, T.R. Sundaram- T.R. Raghunath), “Amara Deepam” (1956, T. Prakasha Rao), “Maadhar Kula Maanikkam” (1956, T. Prakasha Rao), “Enga Veetu Mahalakshmi” (1957, Adurthi Subba Rao) and “Uthama Puthiran” (1958, T. Prakasha Rao. A Venus Picture production in which Sridhar was also a partner).

Disciplined life

Somewhat shy and retiring by nature, Sridhar had no airs and led a disciplined life with his regular evening Marina Beach drives in his open maroon Standard Herald car with ‘Chithralaya’ Gopu seated beside him. He ran his office on systematic lines something unheard of in film companies of that era. Files were maintained meticulously and he had Film News Anandan as his PRO and no letter addressed to him or his company went without a reply.

Not many are aware that he launched a film with MGR, “Andru Sindhiya Ratham” and after some reels were shot, differences of opinion arose and the production was closed. Soon it took a fresh avatar as “Sivandha Mann’ with Sivaji Ganesan in the lead. It was mainly shot abroad and a major success, remade in Hindi as “Dharthi” with Rajendra Kumar in the lead.

As star maker he gave breaks to many aspiring and talented new faces which include Muthuraman, Jayalalithaa, Srikkanth, Major Sundararajan, ‘Vennira Aadai’ Murthi, ‘Vennira Aadai’ Nirmala and brought talented actors, such as Kalyana Kumar from Kannada.

What was his impression of working with top stars, MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesh? He told this writer that he loved working with Gemini Ganesh because of the top star’s sophisticated, educated middle class background, whereas he did not enjoy that freedom with the other stars for whom, of course, he had great respect. GG was his favourite hero and worked with him in many films.

Sridhar’s wife Devasena is from the famed political family of Nellore district and closely related to the Congress leader Bezawada Gopala Reddi and much respected Justice Party leader Bezawada Ramachandra Reddi.

Tamil Cinema has never witnessed a multitalented filmmaker like Sridhar and the void is most unlikely to be filled in the years to come.

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