Sunday, November 13, 2005

Chittoor (Vuppaladadiyam) Nagiah

One of the greatest Indian Actors

Vuppaladadiyam Nagiah, traditionally known as Chittoor V. Nagiah was a wide-ranging celebrity of the South Indian Cinema who was called as the 'actor saint' was well liked as an avid performer, refined music composer, incomparable musician, vocalist, filmmaker and director. He was the first person who got the respect not only from the Telugu film industry as well as the Tamil film industry. He was extremely civilized and sympathetic towards his fellow beings. His life personified like an ocean current, which sprang up out of the blue and fell down instantly.

Nagiah was born on 28th March 1904 in a Telugu Brahmin family at Repalle in Guntur District, in 1904 to the blessed couple Sri Ramalinga Sarma and Smt.Venkata Lakshmamba. Nagiah's ancestors used to be very rich and the family comprised more of Pandits who accomplished Yagas. His parents thought that Nagiah was born by the blessings of the Snake God, Nageswara Swami and named him as 'Nageswaram' but affectionately called him 'Nagu'. At the time when Nagiah was born, his family devolved into very misfortunate circumstances. As there were a lot of hazards in his family, he was taken to Gogunur and from there to Kuppam and again to Thirupathi. There he studied with the help of scholarship provided by the Thirupathi Devasthanam during 1918. He couldn't extend for higher studies as he drew rather more interest in music and stage plays. He completed his B. A. Degree at Chittoor. He worked as a clerk in a local government office and as a news reporter for the new paper 'Andhra Patrika' in Chittoor for a short while but soon he found the was work would not suit him and dropped out.

Nagiah was intensely motivated by the principles of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru. He partook in the Indian Freedom struggle namely Salt Sathyagraha, and went behind the bars for about 18 months. Time and again he wielded as an unpaid worker for the Congress party. He entered into an amateur theatre in the company of R. B. Ramakrishna Raju – a political leader and a successful lawyer. Nagiah even assisted the gramophone companies like Hutchins, Twin etc., as the domesticated musician. He brought down many assorted gramophone records just as Classical and light music and some of them were of the great legendary saint and musician, Thyagaraja Swami. Even at that period he brought in some tryouts to bring in the English wordses like 'My lovely lalanaa', 'I love you heart of hearts, sweet heart' and such in Telugu songs. The notorious personages like Musiri Subramania Iyer, and G. N. Balasubramaniam trained him in the Carnatic music. He met all the king pins of music over there and among them was a girl of 11 years who was singing Carnatic music astoundingly… the girl is the music empress M. S. Subbu Lakshmi! Nagiah was not only hallowed with singing potentialities but was also with high-quality composing attainments and gracious looks. He once accorded the Gowhathi Congress conferences with S. Srinivasa Iyyengar, who was a famous advocate in Madras and on their way back, they stayed at Allahabad for a few days. There they stayed at Mothilal Nehruji's Anand Bhavan. He met with a massive assemblage over there. He also saw Kamala Nehru. A young girl with a beautiful complexion and speaking fluent English was loitering among the majestic masters of politics. She used to keenly observe and probed questions at Nagiah while he was singing songs in Tamil and Telugu. The girl was none other than Indira Gandhi who became a distinguished politician in the world.

He later pulled in by stage appearances and worked with 'Rama Vilasa Sabha' a cultural association in Chittoor. He playacted in several stage shows like 'Sarangadhara', 'Viswamithra Chitra Nilayam', 'Savitri', 'Bruhannala' and 'Ramadasu' and represented as Pothana, Vemana, Rama Dasu and Thyagiah. He got gold medal for his female role as 'Chitrangi', in the play 'Sarangadhara'. During that period he was married to Vijaya Lakshmi, but she demised when she was giving birth to a girl child an year after. The incident kept Nagiah shattered for a long time. Later he was constrained to marry Girija, to look after his daughter. Fatefully his daughter deceased of ill health later. Destiny played a worse tragedy with Nagiah as Girija also departed the world when she incurred a miscarriage at eighth month. The blow of Girija's demise drove his father insane and he also dropped dead later. All these sufferings contrived Nagiah severely and he endeavoured for self-annihilation but as luck would have it rescued by his friends. Nagiah lost interest in life at some point, he exited away and stayed at Ramana Maharshi's Ashram and lived like a saint for sometime.

He did work for the Chennapuri Andhra Maha Sabha (CAMS) a popular cultural Association of Andhras in Madras. On that point, Nagiah acquired a conversance with an affluent auditor Bommi Reddy Narasimha Reddy who had a panache in fine arts. Later they both suited chummy friends. The auditor was none other than B. N. Reddy who became one of the leading filmmakers of India. At that time the grand old man of South Indian cinema - H. M. Reddy, arrived at Madras from Kolhapur and formed called Rohini Pictures with the association of B.N. Reddy. The firm started its first venture in Telugu through the film 'Gruhalakshmi' in 1938. At that time Nagiah happened to saw B.N. Reddy at Rohini Pictures and obviously he got of course a petite role (of Gopinath, Kannamba's brother) as a patriot in that film. His payment for that film was Rs. 750. Since the film was a big hit all over South India it fetched Nagiah an ample notice as his traits, skills and phonation overwhelmed the spectators. The song 'Kallu Maanandoi Baboo Kallu Theravandoi' in that film, which was sung by Nagiah, became very popular in those days. Due to many reasons B.N. Reddy separated from H.M. Reddy and elevated the firm Vahini Pictures, where Nagaiah took part in that worked solemnly for its growth.

'Vande Matharam' (1939) was another hit in which Nagiah played as hero. The film gained him remarkable praises and made him a star hero. As the films 'Sumangali' (1940), 'Devata' (1941), 'Bhakta Potana' (1942), 'Swarga Seema' (1945), 'Thygayya' (1946), 'Yogivemana' (1947) were huge hits he started getting offers from the Telugu and Tamil film industries equally Nagiah became the highest paid actor by the time he was doing the film 'Beedalapatlu'. His performance in the film 'Yogi Vemana' influenced a boy who later turned into a saint and became popular as 'Balayogi'. During 'Devatha' he married Jaya Lakshmi. The film 'Thyagiah' was released in the year 1946 was a fabulous classic film of the South Indian film history (some months ago the Vintage Heritage screened the film and it becharmed remarkable crowds). Nagiah was the producer, director, music director and actor for the film 'Thyagiah'. 'Thyagiah' was again a reverberant hit. After that he made films 'Naa Illu' in 1953 and 'Bhakta Ramadas' in 1964 which turned out to be a droop and Nagiah lost his wealth. Another musical hit of Nagaiah, was the Gemini Studio production, 'Chakradhari', in 1948 based on the story of the Maharashtrian potter-saint Gora Kumbhar, in the film Nagiah played the title role. Nagiah became very famous for his songs in this film.

He once flourished with five houses 2-3 cars, and with large crowds of people around him at that time. His remuneration in those days was one lakh rupees for a film. He used to offer a lions share out of his earnings to the Congress Party and wared a lot for politicians and their families. His generosities lead him down resulting to turn a loss. To make both ends meet, the grand artiste had no other pick than to play even cowboy roles in substandard films. Once Nagiah said about the state of affairs to his friend Bhashyam (an extremely famous Tamil author with the pen name 'Sandilyan') 'Udhara nimiththam bahukrutha vesham!' which meant for the sake of the stomach, one has to play many roles, the dialogue left his friend with tears. As an established star and talented actor Nagaiah was in demand to do character roles in several Tamil and Telugu Films. Nagiah played the lead role of Jean Val Jean and composed music along with A. Rama Rao, in the film 'Ezhai Padum Paadu' (based on the famous French classic Victor Hugo's 'Les Miserables') in early 1950's, which was made by K. Ramnoth of Vahini Studios in Coimbattore. The film remained a classic in the South Indian film history. This film was also done in Telugu and later in Hindi. Later Nagiah produced and acted in the film 'Bhagyalakshmi' in 1943, which was directed by P.Pulliah in Telugu.

Nagiah was distinctive in his approach towards mankind. He always used to salute every traffic constable while traveling in car and he felt it as an accolade he is offering to them who stands under the sun only to help and guide the people. He was far famed for his hospitality. His unselfishness surpassed the limits and was root cause for his fiscal devastation. He treated everybody as true friend and admitted everyone to take total advantage of his benevolence. Most of the times he went out of the way to expend money only to give pleasures and happiness to people irrespective of their little acquaintance. He had no children of his own yet he was called as 'naannagaaru' (father) by most of the people in film industry as he treated everybody as his own children. Nagiah was a man of Old World values and culture. Yet he fought a gallant battle.

Woefully after his demise he was blanked out by the unthankful world. However a few old friends like Inturi Venkateswara Rao (the Telugu film journalist and scholar), struggled to erect a statue of Nagaiah at Chennai (in Panagal Park, T. Nagar), where he lived most of his life. The notorious Indian film journalist and the editor of 'Film India', Baburao Patel, described Nagiah as 'The Paul Muni of India'. Nagiah acted in about 160 Tamil films, and 200 films in Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi films in his 30 years of film career. He was the first South Indian who got the title 'Padma Sri' by the Government of India. Regarding this Nagiah remarked, "I have only 'Padmam' but no Sri'!' intended that he had only fame but not fortune. Andhra Film Journalists Association selected him as the 'Best Actor' in Film Ballet in the year 1939. The acutely etched out incident in his life was the honour extended by the Mysore and Thiruvankore Maharajas. The Thiruvankur Maharaja ennobled him in the middle of great pandits, royal veterans and amidst the glissando of Nadaswarm. The Maharaja himself made Nagiah to sit beside him on his throne and tendered 'Padapuja' (worshipping the feet). He honoured Nagiah with the title 'Abhinava Thyagaraju'. The Mysore Maharaja awarded him with 101 silver plates, which consisted masses of gold coins. In addition, he bestowed him with a gold chain, which had a pendant of Lord Sri Rama. Was this kind of tending proffered to any other actor in the Indian Film History?

He passed away in Madras on 30th December 1973 at the age of 72. He remained one of the greatest actors that Indian Cinema has seen since it began to talk in 1931.

Nagiah was an everlasting phenomenon.
`Never believe people blindfolded… save your earnings for yourself first and then think about the others.' Nagiah well advised out of is appalling.

Another Article.. Thanks to Randor Guy
Balaa pasupu kumkumaa……"… "Aaada brathukey madhuram….." ("Sumangali", Telugu, 1940)…. "Ennalundina ihasukamulalo…."…. " Raavey raaavey bangaru paapaa….." ("Devatha", Telugu, 1941)… " Oooo.....ohohohoho...pavuramaa…" ("Swargaseema", Telugu, 1945)…. "Vadhalajaalaaraa….."… " Andhalu chindheyte naa Jyotheee…." ("Yogi Vemana," Telugu, 1947) "Vidhiyin vilaivaal anaadhai….")…. " Kanivudan thirumbhiye paarum…." … "Bhum chicka bhum…." ("Ezhai Padum Paadu," Tamil, 1950)…
All the above are some of the songs which were popular hits of Tamil and Telugu Cinema of 1940- 1950’s. Some of them are evergreen in public memory and still being hummed by many to this day. What do they have in common? All the songs were composed by the multi -faceted personality of South Indian Cinema, Chittoor V. Nagaiah. And many of them he sang himself besides composing.
Brilliant actor, talented music composer, trained musician and singer, filmmaker and above all a highly cultured wonderful man with the milk of human kindness filled to the brim in his heart. That was Nagaiah. One of the greatest character actors that Indian Cinema has seen since it began to speak in 1931. .

The stormy petrel of Indian film journalism, Baburao Patel, the editor of the leading magazine of yesteryears, ' Filmindia’ described him as ' the Paul Muni of India’.
He received training in Classical Carnatic music under legendary figures like Musiri Subramania Iyer, and G. N. Balasubramaniam. His life was one of various vicissitudes and adversity was his constant companion. Yet he fought a valiant battle winning laurels and lollipops. Some of the characters he created on screen during his long innings have achieved immortality and are still talked about to this day reverentially as models of perfect screen acting. Pothana.... Thyagaiah…Yogi Vemana and others. Such a performing artiste was Nagaiah.
Vuppalajadiyam Nagaiah popularly known as Chittoor V. Nagaiah was born in a Telugu- speaking Brahmin family in Repalle the heartland of Andhra in 1904. Due to many mishaps in the family he was taken away to Chittoor by his uncle where he studied with zeal and took his B. A. Degree. Blessed with good looks he also had a melodious voice and an inborn talent for music and theater. For a short while he worked as a clerk in a local government office in Chittoor but soon he gave it up as he found himself the proverbial square peg in a round hole. It was also the period of the Indian Freedom Movement and inspired by the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and other he took part in the Movement. As a disciple of local Congress leaders like C. Duraiswamy Ayyangar, Madabhushi Ananthasayanam Ayyangar and others he worked as volunteer for the Congress party in many of its conferences and meetings. With his flair for music and theatre he took part in amateur theatre associating himself with the political leader R. B. Ramakrishna Raju, a successful lawyer and interested in theatre. (Later Raju became the Chairman of the Madras Legislative Council during late 1940’s.)
Tragedy seems to have been Nagaiah’s bed-fellow and early in life he was widowed and found life lonely, grief-stricken and he wished to give up the game called life. Often he thought of becoming a sanyasi….
However to make both ends meet he began to work for gramophone companies like Hutchins, Twin and others. For a period he is believed to have worked in the Bangalore office of Hutchins as in -house music composer. He cut several gramophone records both Classical and also light music. Some were classical compositions of Saint Thyagaraja Swamigal like, "sItApatE nA manasunA…."…."nannu brOva nIku…" Even in those days he made experiments in music bringing in English lyrics in Telugu songs. One such disc,' marubAri...' became popular and the song had English lines like ‘My lovely Lalana...’ I love you heart of hearts, sweetheart…!" and such.
He also played roles in drama -sets of gramophone records like 'Tulasidas' and others. Anxious to improve himself and climb up the ladder he visited the provincial capital Madras often taking part in Telugu plays staged at the Chennapuri Andhra Maha Sabha (CAMS). CAMS, a popular cultural Association of Andhras in Madras had been staging Telugu plays frequently with great success. CAMS then functioned - and still does - at the famous Victoria Public Hall, Park Town, Madras which was then a hive of Telugu cultural activity. Nagaiah was part of the scene and thanks to the association with that cultural unit he developed acquaintance with a well- to- do auditor with a flair for fine arts. These meetings he had would prove a turning point in his life later opening the doors for his entry into Cinema. The auditor with artistic ambitions was Bommireddi Narasimha Reddi destined to become one of the leading Indian filmmakers under his professional name B. N. Reddi!
‘The Grand Old Man of South Indian Cinema,’ H. M. Reddi came down to Madras shifting his operations from Kolhapur and in association with ‘BN’, he formed Rohini Pictures. Its first venture in Telugu was " Grihalakshmi" (1938, a family melodrama built around traditional family values and their destruction by alcohol and extramarital relationships.) Nagaiah had earlier visited the Rohini Pictures office in the city and while he waited in reception hall to meet H. M. Reddi, much to his surprise his CAMS- friend BN walked in. Nagaiah had no idea that BN had entered films. However the accidental meeting between the two old friends led to Nagaiah getting a break in films with a small role in the movie. Earlier he had made a several attempts in the city to break into films with no success and thanks to his old friend the tide turned at last….
In "Grihalakshmi" Nagaiah played a minor role of the Gandhian social worker running a home for the poor and destitute to which the heroine (Pasupuleti Kannamba)) abandoned by her husband sought refuge, solace and security. The film turned out to be a fine success even in non—Telugu- speaking areas of South India and the newcomer in the small role attracted considerable attention. His personality, acting talents, melodious voice and singing skills impressed moviegoers. A song by him preaching Prohibition, '' lendu bhArata vIrulArA…. nIdura lEvanDOy……!".! (‘Arise! Indian brave men! Awake from your slumber!’) became a rage all over Andhra and even elsewhere. Indeed it was sung with gusto if out of tune even by reeling drunkards staggering home late at night!
(The tune was ‘inspired’ by the famous hit song by the popular ‘Blind Singer of Bengal’ and noted music composer, K. C. Dey, '' Manki ankhen khol babaaa….!")
The success of " Grihalakshmi ‘‘ separated the two Reddis, HM and BN for many reasons and BN in association with the brilliant ‘twins’ of South Indian Cinema, K. Ramnoth and A. K. Sekhar promoted the historic Vauhini Pictures. Nagaiah was by now an intimate pal of BN and involved himself in the new company heart, soul, mind and body.
BN cast Nagaiah as hero in his first directorial venture " Vande Matharam" (1939). Scripted by Ramnoth based on an unpublished novel by BN, "Vande Matharam" dealt with rural poverty, unemployment among the educated and such socially relevant issues. BN sincerely believed that every film should carry a message of social significance and his first film was molded accordingly. Ironically the title of the film had nothing to do with the story. The expression synonymous with the Indian Freedom Movement is used only once in the movie when Nagaiah buys a Derby Lottery(which he wins!) from a Madras City street vendor. When asked by him in whose name the ticket is to be issued Nagaiah replies, ‘Vande Matharam.’ Interestingly the British Indian Film Censors objected to the title and as a compromise BN added a word, ‘Mangalasutram’ under the main title making it clear that the film was only an emotional family drama and not a political patriotic tract opposed to the British then ruling India.

Vande Matharam" was a big success and Nagaiah came in for high praise both by crowds and critics and he was hailed as the new hero on the Telugu film horizon... The Vauhini unit worked as a family with everyone contributing to the production.
Even though Nagaiah was the hero of the film he did not hesitate to push the camera trolley. When the film was released he went along with the print as the producer's representative. Such were his spirit and involvement, quite common in those happy days gone by. Today one cannot even dream of such things happening in the dog-eat-its own tail- film world.
When BN made in his next film '' Sumangali '' (1940) much to the surprise of many he cast Nagaiah not as hero but as an elderly silver -haired social reformer fighting for the uplift of women, especially widows. The character was broadly inspired by the well-known social reformer of his daily, Kandukuri Veeresalingam Panthulu who sacrificed his life for the betterment of women and fought a hard battle for the re--marriage of widows. Nagaiah accepted the role, without a murmur for such was his passion and devotion to work. BN imported a silk wig all the way from Paris and to fit it properly Nagaiah had to shave some of his hair in front, which he did, again without a murmur!
His fine performance in this minor role attracted great attention in spite of the failure of the film. It was while reviewing the film that Baburao Patel remarked that Nagaiah was 'the Indian Paul Muni.'
(Paul Muni was one of the greatest actors of Hollywood during its Golden Age and he created many immortal roles playing real life characters like Louis Pasteur, Juarez, Emile Zola and many others. "The Good Earth '' in which he played a Chinese farmer, is considered as one of his finest performances and the movie is a Hollywood classic. It was based on the famous novel by Pearl S. Buck. He was so popular and enjoyed so much respect and regard that he was the only Hollywood actor whose name appeared in the credit titles as ' Mr. Paul Muni '. This recognition has not been given to any other actor in the history of American Cinema to this day.)
Besides acting Nagaiah composed melodious music in "Sumangali" and many of the songs not only became hits in spite of the failure of the film but to this day they are remembered and hummed the by old timers and film music buffs. The song " Balaa…pasupu kunkumaaa----" had powerful lyrics espousing the birthright of women to have the 'kunkum' mark on the forehead. The song fights for women's rights frankly stating that society; tradition, rules, orthodoxy and all were created by man to keep women in bondage. These lyrics were considered bold sixty odd years ago when the issue of the re-marriage of widows was hotly discussed in Hindu society and the right to remarry was denied to the unfortunate widow. In this film the heroine is married off as a child and loses her boy husband almost immediately thereafter and she was so young that she does not even the remember her marriage! When she wants to marry a man she loves she is reminded to her utter shock that she is a widow. This song was written by the brilliant scholar and lyricist Samudrala Raghavacharya at the request BN and Nagaiah. Both had reformist views and attitudes far ahead of the times. The melody enhanced its appeal and the song became an instant hit not only in the Telugu -speaking districts but also elsewhere in the Presidency.
Many other songs too in the film like " Aaada brathuke mathuram … '' also became popular. Interestingly Nagaiah too like many others film music composers of the period adapted the popular tunes of Hindi films. Even in films for which the legendary Papanasam Sivan was the composer, they adapted Hindi film tunes without bothering about the laws of copyright.
Undaunted by the financial failure of " Sumangali '' BN immediately launched his next film, ''Devatha (1941). Indeed BN took a daring issue as the basic theme, pre-marital sex, and unwed. motherhood. Subjects which few filmmakers would have dared even to think of sixty years ago. BN brought back Nagaiah as hero and the film was a major hit all over South India even in areas of Kerala of today where nobody knew Telugu. . Nagaiah played a '' London -returned '' Barrister who also composed the music as before. Many songs of this film became popular, like " Mogavaareeni….. ''… "Ennalundina…." … " Raave raave bangaru papaa…" … " Adigo andhiyala….." … " and " Lokamantha lobulaa…..….."
The last mentioned song became a super hit and was sung for many years afterwards by beggars seeking arms and money in running trains and other places in the Telugu -speaking districts of the Presidency. Most of the songs are still remembered by old-timers even after sixty long years.
In 1945 BN made and other film '' Swargaseema '' which created history in many ways. BN had been greatly impressed by a Hollywood film of 1941'' Blood and Sand '' based on the well-known novel by Vincente Blasco Ibanez and directed one of the all-time greats of Hollywood cinema, Rouben Mamoulian. Its main stars were the legendary Rita Hayworth, and Tyrone Power and supported by Linda Darnell and a then not so well known Anthony Quinn. Inspired by the character of played by Rita, BN worked on the storyline introducing the plot elements of George Bernard Shah's famous play ' Pygmalion '. A rustic illiterate girl becomes a sophisticated dame and dancer into whose life a happily married man gets entangled abandoning his wife and children. Nagaiah was cast as the married man while the rustic girl was played by P. Bhanumathi who rose to stardom with this film..
BN, Nagaiah , Bhanumathi, and others saw '' Blood and Sand '' then running in the city, more than once and they were impressed by a melodious humming done by Rita Hayworth in the movie. BN was keen on adapting it in his film and he began to work on it accordingly. At first BN thought that Bhanumathi could hum it too but the melody and tune developed by Nagaiah were so fascinating that BN decided to have a full three minutes song. An All India Radio executive, Rajanikantha Rao wrote the lyrics for the song. Recorded at the Newtone Studio, Madras by the noted audiographer Dinshaw K. Teherani, who gave it a special effect by hanging a hollow metal dome above the mike. Bhanumathi was asked to sing into it. Those were the days there were no high-tech equipment and film technicians had to rely on their ingenuity and creative juices to produce such special effects. Pioneers always work under difficult and trying circumstances and Dinshaw was one such pioneer of Indian Cinema.
The song ''ooooo…. Ooooooo…ohohohoho….pavuramaaa….! '' set South India on fire and became a rage and one of the all -time film hits. Indeed Bhanumathi sang her way to stardom with this song in " Swargaseema". Ironically she had just then married and was expecting her only child and had thought seriously of bidding goodbye and all that to cinema and settling down to a life of happy domesticity with her film technician husband P.S. Ramakrishna Rao. However Dame Destiny had other plans for her . As they say, inscrutable are the ways of Providence...

One of the classics of South Indian Cinema which Nagaiah created in Telugu was his own production '' Thyagaiah '' (1946). Earlier a Tamil version was made based on the life of the legendary Carnatic Music composer and cult figure Saint Thyagaraja Swamigal (the lead role in this version was played by Madhirimangalam Natesa Iyer.) While the film was in Tamil all the songs were of course and had to be in Telugu. Some critics consider that this version is the best, music-wise. The Telugu version was the second, directed by Nagaiah who played the title role too.
To make this film Nagaiah worked against many hurdles, hassles and problems but nothing could deter his ambition and desire to make it work. He spent a long time in visiting the various places associated with the celebrated musical savant and took copious notes. He incorporated as many songs as possible in the film.
He struggled with one song which the Saint composed on his visit to the famous Varadarajaswami temple in Kanchipuram. '' varadarAja ninnE kOri vaccitira."
(Nagaiah took a paternal interest in this writer when he was a kid and active on Telugu stage under his stage name, 'Master M. R. Dorai'. Years later he told him about the interest and pains he took to sing this particular song. Nagaiah approached the immortal GNB who taught him how to sing it perfectly. The legendary Classical Carnatic musician had sung it as a gramophone record in the early years of his career. " My dear boy… I sang it more than twenty times at the studios before the recording was okayed but even then I was not satisfied. Only then I thought and finally realised that I could never sing it like GNB even after one thousand and one times. I gave up trying and went on to sing other songs. I am only Chittoor Nagaiah and not GNB! '' He said with his characteristic smile of humility.)"Thyagaiah" not only turned out to be a ringing success but also attained the status of a classic in South Indian cinema.
(Some months ago the film was screened by the Vintage Heritage and it attracted unusually large crowds.)
Years later the life of the saint was made again, this time in color by the noted creative artist and serious filmmaker Bapu. J. V. Somayajulu who made a splash in '' Sankarabharanam" played the title role supported the by the multi- lingual star K. R. Vijaya. In spite of them all the film did not generate interest mainly because of the lasting impression the earlier version had created decades ago.
As an established star and talented actor Nagaiah was in demand to do character roles in several Tamil and Telugu Films. During early 1950's his old Vauhini friend K. Ramnoth made a film in Coimbatore, '' Ezhai Padum Paadu '' (1950) based on the famous French classic Victor Hugo's 'Les Miserables'. Ramnoth. cast Nagaiah in the lead role of Jean Val Jean and he made this role one of the most memorable in South Indian Cinema. His splendid performance contributed much to the success of the film, which is today considered as a classic.
Besides doing the lead role he also composed the music along with A. Rama Rao. Many songs in this film became popular and are remembered to this day. Mention must be made of some of them... "Ennaasai papa…."(Nagaiah)..... "Kanivudan…" (P.A. Periyanayaki)…. "Vidhyin vilaivaal…."(Jayalakshmi). The song '' Vidhiyin….. '' was picturised by the genius of Cinema, Ramnoth in a single shot without a cut, the camera moving all the time through various locations. This is technically a feat even by today's standards and Ramnoth did it half century ago with primitive equipment. It's a matter of deep regret and shame that this brilliant movie wizard has been forgotten today. This film was also done in Telugu and later in Hindi. Not many are aware that the Tamil version was released on Deepavali day, 1950 at Casino cinema, Madras which was till then screening only English movies. Another film Nagaiah acted for his old friend Ramnoth was " Viduthalai" '' (1954) produced by the master filmmaker himself. An adaptation of a play by the leading English writer John Galsworthy, Nagaiah played the lead role of a smart and ambitious lawyer who sends his innocent brother to jail. Technically superb and well acted the film failed the box-office landing Ramnoth in mighty deep waters.
V Nagaiah in En Veedu
Another interesting film Nagaiah produced and played the hero in was "Bhagyalakshmi ''. It was his first production and directed by P. Pullaiah in Telugu and released in 1943. Besides him the popular comedy pair of Tamil Cinema N. S. Krishnan - T. A. Mathuram appeared for the first time in a Telugu film. The film was a success and one song, a folk melody, '' Thinney meedha sinnoda…!" rendered by the noted actress and singer R. Balasaraswathi proved to be one of the most popular hits of early Telugu cinema. BNR composed the music.
Another hit of Nagaiah, a musical, was the Gemini Studio production, '' Chakradhari '' (1948). The story of the Maharashtrian potter-saint Gora Kumbhar he played the saint and the songs of the film proved a major attraction contributing to the success. Music was composed by the Gemini team, Rajeswara Rao and M. D. Parthasarathy. Some of the songs rendered by Nagaiah became very famous, like " Unakkum enakkum enna…."... "Kaakkai siraginiley…." "Ninainthu urugum…."Pushpavalli and her sister Suryaprabha played the hero's two wives. The later day superstar of Tamil cinema Gemini Ganesh played a minor role as Lord Krishna. He was then on the staff of Gemini Studio handling the Casting Department.
During his heyday Nagaiah was a legendary figure. In his later years he found himself facing severe financial difficulties and faced many hardships. He had to sell most of his assets and he found life harsh and hard. Because of advancing age the great actor had no option than to play even cowboy roles in third-rate 'curry western' Telugu films. So sad indeed…
The famous Tamil writer 'Sandilyan' (real name -Bhashyam) was associated with him intimately during the B. N. Reddi-Vauhini days. He went to meet his old friend in a city studio. The famed writer was shocked to see his old pal dressed in a bizarre and outlandish cowboy costume and holding a rifle made of bamboo. He sat under a tree waiting for the shot and when the writer met him and expressed his anguish about the sad state of affairs, Nagaiah replied, " Bhashyam...udhara nimittham bahukrutha vesham!" (A Sanskrit proverb which means that, for the sake of the stomach, one has to play many roles.) Sandilyan had tears in his eyes when he narrated this incident to this writer many years later.
The Indian Government bestowed on Nagaiah the 'Padma Sri' award. When this writer called on him to offer his congratulations, Nagaiah remarked, " My dear boy... I have only 'Padmam' and no Sri'! '' He meant that he had only fame but not fortune.One time this writer went to meet him along with a friend who was a great admirer of the star. After some small talk the friend told the great man that he had never witnessed a film -shooting. Nagaiah took down his name and address in some corner of the city. Months later this writer was astonished when the friend told him over the phone that one morning Nagaiah came to his house in a hired vehicle and took the entire family to watch a shooting. At that time he was down and out facing many hardships in life. Yet he went out to of the way at much expense to make a casual acquaintance happy. Such men are rare and perhaps exist only in the pages of fiction. But Nagaiah was a real man of Old World values and culture…
Nagaiah had many human qualities rarely seen in human beings in this world. He had the habit of saluting every traffic constable he came across while going in his car. When he was asked about it he replied, " these people stand all day under the hot sun only to help us and guide us to drive safely… we do not pay or even tip them and the least we could do is to salute them." Such was his kind heart and concern for his fellow human beings
Nagaiah maintained an open house and all 'comers-and goers' took full advantage of his hospitality. His generosity often exceeding the limits was one of the causes for his financial ruin. He did not also know who his real friends were and many took full advantage of his goodness. If the great actor and adorable man died in penury one of the many causes was the person himself. Sadly after his demise he was forgotten by the ungrateful world but a few old friends and admirers led by the veteran Telugu film journalist and scholar Inturi Venkateswara Rao succeeded after much struggle to erect a statue of Nagaiah inside the Paanagal Park, T. Nagar Madras, the area where he lived most of his life in the city
This writer owes a lot to this great soul. He can never forget the lessons he taught him in acting and also filmmaking when he was still a kid in half pants who had absolutely no idea that he would one day land in the world of lens and lights! That's the way for the ball bounces in life, as they say...Here was a man, when comes such another!


charan said...

nice info as it is difficult to find by googling on Chittoor Nagiah..

Ashok Kumar said...

Great amount of info on Thyagaiah..and Nagaiah......One of the finest movies i had ever seen was Tyagaiah...Probably none will beat that ...such a great devotee..Thyagaraja such meaningful and melodious music story...such a great actor...All combined to give a taste of a typical south indian's devotion to God. I went running around shops for this movie..and people gave me blank stares...but as this log emphasises...True it is indeed a marvellous creation to be cherished by every south indian..This blog is great....Keep going . we are with you....i am Ashok Kumar Reddy ...My blog