Romancing the reel for over six decades
By Express News Service | Published: 25th August 2012 11:10 AM |
For over six decades in Chennai, the name ‘AVM’ has penetrated deep into the collective consciousness of the city. It continues to be a symbol of where the grand old city’s creative geniuses found profound expression.
Be it the legendary Tamil actor Sivaji Ganesan, who began his celluloid career with Parasakthi (1952) in the AVM Studio [co-produced by Perumal Mudaliar], or the 2007 Rajini starrer Sivaji, the banner ‘AVM’ is behind several successful Tamil movies. And not only Tamil films, the film house has a huge list of successful films made in several other languages including Hindi, Kannada and Telugu. Iconic Kanada actor Rajkumar’s debut film Bedara Kannappa (1954), or NT Rama Rao’s Bookailash (1958), or Hindi movies like Bahaar (1950), Main Chup Rahungi (1962) and Main Sunder Hoon (1967), the production house has to its credit several landmarks in the history of Indian films.
AVM Productions and Studios, founded by the iconic filmmaker AV Meiyappa Chettiar, went on to produce 176 films. The start of the studio is itself an interesting tale. It was set up in 1945 in a rented house in Santhome. AV Meiyappan could not set up a full fledged studio in Chennai due shortage of electricity triggered by the second World War, among other things. He had to move to his hometown Karaikudi and there he produced films like Naam Iruvar (1947) and Vethala Ulagam (1948)’, which ran to packed houses for many, many weeks.
When the Devakottai Zamindar, in whose site in Karaikudi the studio was functioning, demanded exorbitant rent following the success of films made there, Meiyappan began looking for a suitable site in Chennai. It was early 1949, and the country was still witnessing the pangs of partition. A Muslim, who was running a leather tannery in his 10-acre property on Arcot Road, migrated to Pakistan and Meiyappan bought it for `37,500, a princely sum in those days.
In his memoir, Enathu Vaazhkai Anubavangal, Meiyappan says he dismantled the ‘set property’ in Karaikudi and brought it to Chennai on a truck. Refurbishing the old tannery building, he converted the 120’ x 60 ft floor put up for Vethala Ulagam as the first floor of the new studio in Chennai.
The first film produced in the new AVM Studios was the 1949-blockbuster ‘Vaazhkkai’, starring Vijayanthimala. Directed by AV Meiyappan, the film ran for 25 weeks and was subsequently remade as Bahaar in Hindi and Jeevitham in Telugu.
The success of its films put AVM on a high pedestal. With his hardwork and business acumen, Meiyappan churned out many noteworthy hits, including Sivaji Ganesan’s Pachai Vilakku, Uyarntha Manithan and MGR’s Anbe Va. The songs in these films, like Naan Parthathille, and Olimayamana Ethirkalam, echoed across Tamil Nadu and continue to hold sway among the audience.
The illustrious filmmaker’s sons Murugan, Kumaran and Balasubramanian followed his footsteps and went on to produce a lot of superhits, including Rajini’s Murattu Kalai, Kamal Hasan’s Sagalakala Vallavan and Bagyaraj’s Muthanai Mudichu. In AV Meiyappan’s birth centenary year of 2007, the veteran filmmakers produced the blockbuster Rajini-starrer Sivaji.