The Twins-Jupiter Somu And Mohideen, Who Were On A Winning Spree

Jupiter Pictures is among the six companies which created the path for Tamil cinema. The founders, Somasundaram and S.K.Mohideen had an interesting start. Somasundaram or Somu hailed from a mercantile family in Tirupur and his family had been running a prosperous venture. Mohideen known as SK hailed from Keeranur near Madurai. SK, worked in the venture which belonged to the family of Somu and both of them became good friends. They went on to create history by establishing Jupiter Pictures and were therefore known as the ‘Jupiter Twins’.
Somu was a good businessman and began to act as a commission agent who supplied grains to a merchant. The same merchant was also dealing with Mohideen ! Both of them decided to work together and became successful. The year 1933 was a landmark for them. They started a rice mill and it was the first of its kind in Tirupur. The other venture was the ‘Ripon Soda Factory’. Additionally, the friends put up an electrical goods supplying store. It was the electrical business which brought them in close contact with Nawab Rajamanickkam, an icon of Tamil Theatre. During 1934, P.Ramaswami produced the movie ‘Bhaktha Ramdas’ based on the play of Nawab Rajamanickkam. Somu and SK developed a good friendship with Ramaswami of Parameswari Sound Pictures. Thanks to Nawab Rajamanickkam, the two laid a foundation for entry into the world of cinema.
Somu watched the play ‘Menaka’ by the TKS Brothers at Chennai in the year 1935. The TKS Brothers used to stage plays all over the Madras Presidency. The four of them Sankaran, Muthuswamy, Shanmugham and Bhagavathi were the sons of T.Kannuswami Pillai a stage actor. Of course T.K.Bhagavathi became a legend in his life time. One of their popular hits was the famous Tamil detective fiction by the writer Vaduvoor Duraiswamy Iyengar. It had been his novel, that had been adapted into a play. In fact the TKS Brothers staged their plays in Malaysia, Sri Lanka etc., They would stage them even in small towns like Gobi and it was based on the money that could be raised through the sale of tickets. Somu and SK used to visit Gobi often in order to see the plays. This gave them an opportunity to develop an intimate friendship with the TKS Brothers. This friendship was to create several positive ripples in the world of Tamil cinema.
Somasundaram got into an agreement with the TKS Brothers. They agreed to let him make the play into a movie and they received Rs.16000 as professional charges. This was to include the story, stage play and the services of the members belonging to the drama troupe. The comedian N.S.Krishnan (NSK) was hired for Rs.600 separately. He had earlier been associated with the troupe. The popular silent movie hero ‘Raja Sandow’ was the Director for ‘Menaka’, which was made at Ranjit Studio at Mumbai. Raja Sandow was a film hero, technician known for his flair for gymnastics, body building, wrestling and other forms of martial arts.
His stunning physique amazed people and the gymnasium founded by him was a success. His real name was P.K.Nagalingam and he hailed from Pudukottai. Raja Sandow became very popular after B.G.Horniman of Bombay Chronicle published a picture of him along with a write up. Raja Sandow got a number of invites to colleges thereafter. Lady Willingdon, the wife of the Viceroy attended one of his programmes and expressed her admiration. Raja Sandow began his film career in the year 1922. He was paid Rs.101 for acting in ‘Bhaktha Bhodhana’ and movie was a success. It was simply because Raja Sandow took his work seriously. He began to receive letters from fans in Hindi, English, Marathi and Gujarati.
Raja Sandow was an excellent stunt man and believed in doing all the stunts himself. In one of the stunt shots at Mumbai, he carried an infant and jumped over roof tops while being chased by some ‘baddies’. The two camera operators had a tough time recording the stunt while a huge crowd was watching the stunt. The Editor and Publisher (T.V.Ramnath) of ‘Pesum Padam’ wrote a book in Tamil on Raja Sandow at the time of the Second World War. Raja Sandow passed away in the year 1943 and many years later, the ‘Raja Sandow’ award was given by M.G.Ramachandran, the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu. MGR had known about Raja Sandow and included an incident based on his life in one of his movies.
The screenplay for ‘Menaka’ was written by M.Kandaswamy Mudaliar (known as Vadhiyar), a noted drama director and father of film hero M.K.Radha. It was the story of a loving couple who get separated due to evil designs of some. They reunite after much agony. Raja Sandow was of the opinion that movies should be more than mere entertainment. Therefore he used to adapt stories from epics and make them contemporary. He used to add value by bringing in some social relevance. He was thus the father of the Tamil social film. Raja Sandow successfully conveyed the social purpose behind the movie. T.K.Shanmugham and M.S.Vijayal acted in the movie along with N.S. Krishnan.
Raja Sandow was a no nonsense director and he expected the stars to do his bidding. He was tough guy at all times. He was the one who introduced intimate love scenes in Tamil cinema. The actor had to do an intimate part in the movie. It was a tough act for T.K.Shanmugham and he had to simply follow the instructions. Somu and SK played minor roles in the film. The film ‘Menaka’ was released in the year 1935 and was a big hit. The film won the State Award and it was the first ‘talking’ Tamil movie with a contemporary theme. The role played by N.S.Krishnan marked the beginning of ‘Glorious Tamil Comedy’. Somu and SK produced a number of movies thereafter. A movie book and museum on ‘Coimbatore and the World of Cinema’ is required urgently. The Jupiter twins founded ‘Jupiter Pictures Limited’ and did much work in Coimbatore from Central Studios.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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