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Sunday, August 1, 2021

when was NSK awarded Kalaivanar title ??

History is always interesting !  .. .. often, we would not know the history behind buildings, institutions and others – though they are close to us.  Zambazaar is a marketing hub near Triplicane and there are many small lanes winding away or leading to the more famous Pycrofts Road – now Barathiyar Salai. 

All of us who watch Cinema know that the comedian Vivek  who passed away recently was fondly as known as ‘Chinna kalaivanar’ .. .. in case you have a doubt on who was the original Kalaivanar (lover of arts) – then one needs to travel back to 1950s to read about a famous comedian of that era ?

.. .. and it is unlikely that one would know why he was called so ?  -  In Madras Musings - Vol. XXXI No. 7 – July 16-31-2021 issue appears this interesting article “When NSK was awarded the Kalaivanar title” – written by Mr Karthik Bhatt. 

Nagercoil Sudalaimuthu Krishnan, or N.S. Krishnan as he was popularly known was Tamil cinema’s first superstar of the comedy genre. Born in 1908 in Ozhuginassery in Nagercoil, he made his debut in the movie Menaka in 1935, which was touted to be the first social in Tamil cinema. He was paid a princely sum of Rs 600 for his appearance. Over the course of the next two decades, he would go on to reign supreme as the lead comedian of several movies, almost always pairing up with his wife T.A. Madhuram. The success or failure of many a movie hinged on the couple, whose presence was specially advertised in movie posters on par with the lead actors, an indicator of their immense popularity. N.S. Krishnan’s brand of humor stood out for its ability to convey social messages in a simple manner. Social evils such as drinking, gambling, black-marketing and untouchability were regular targets of his wit.

Despite his tremendous success as an actor, N.S. Krishnan’s life was clouded by controversy arising from one of the most sensational murder cases in 20th Century Madras. In November 1944, Lakshmikanthan, the editor of Indu Nesan, a yellow journal that pried into the private lives of film and other celebrities, was stabbed fatally in General Collins Road in Vepery. Based on a statement by Lakshmikanthan’s bodyguard, the police made a series of arrests, which included N.S. Krishnan and the reigning superstar of Tamil cinema, M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar. The court held them guilty and sentenced them to imprisonment. However, on appeal to the Privy Council, they were acquitted in April 1947, by which time they had spent nearly two and a half years in prison. Post their release, their careers went conflicting ways. While Bhagavathar never regained the heights of his pre-incarceration popularity, N.S. Krishnan was more successful, acting for nearly a decade, with a few movies being released even after his death in 1957. That his popularity had not dimmed despite his time in prison is borne out by the fact that soon after his release, he was awarded the title of Kalaivanar, the name by which he would readily be known thereafter.

Recently, a photograph of the function in which the title was awarded was unearthed from a souvenir published on the occasion of a drama festival held to commemorate the birth centenaries of Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar, C. Cunniah and V.G. Surayanarayana Sastriar in 1973. It is seen that the title was awarded by an organisation in Triplicane, the Natarajar Kalvi Kazhagam at a function held on July 27, 1947. Not much is known about this institution or its founder C. Nataraja Mudaliar, a philanthropist from Kanchipuram belonging to the Sengunthar Mudaliar community. Nataraja Mudaliar is credited with being one of the founders of the Annapoorani Middle School in Saidapet and the Saidapet Co-operative Primary Land Development Bank. The Natarajar Kalvi Kazhagam runs a reading room even today in Mallan Ponnappan Street in Triplicane. Interestingly, the land on which it stands belongs to the nearby Karpaga Vinayakar Sivasubramania Swamy Temple, whose address is given as ‘Senguntha Kottam’, thereby denoting a connect.

The title was conferred by the doyen of Tamil theatre, Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar. It was in a way befitting,  .. .. ..

~ and in the first page of the Magazine – there is a prelude to the article with the caption “When Reading Rooms were the rage”.

Karthik Bhatt has written an article on When NSK was awarded the Kalaivanar title. The event took place he says in a reading room in Thiruvallikeni and we thank Sampathkumar Srinivasan for identifying the place and sending us photographs of it as it appears today. These are published alongside.

Like clock towers, reading rooms were at one time all the rage in the city. In an era when like time pieces, reading material was not accessible to many, these served a useful purpose. It was perhaps Raja Sir Savalai Ramaswami Mudaliar who began the trend of the influential people of Madras perpetuating their memory by endowing various parts of the city with reading rooms. Most, like the clock towers, still survive. Only unlike the clock towers, they are not as visible. What purpose do they serve now?

The reference here is one of happiness .. .. .. .. my name and a photo taken by me has been published in Madras Musings (first page)  - many thanks to Mr Karthick Bhatt and Historian V Sriram

Madras Musings is a fortnightly newsmagazine,  devoted to the preservation of the heritage and environment of the city of Madras that is Chennai.  In its print avatar,Madras Musings is mailed to subscribers across the country  - and the magazine can be downloaded in its e-Paper form from Over more than 17 years of publication, Madras Musings has carved a niche for itself in the hearts of city lovers for its ardent focus on civic and heritage issues that the city faces, and the passion with which it espouses its causes.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
30th July 2021. 

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