Aryamala, The Maiden Venture of ‘Movie Moghul’ S M Sriramulu Naidu

The Central Studios Limited was purchased from R.K.Ramakrishnan Chettiar in the year 1940 by B.Rangaswamy Naidu of Rajalakshmi Mills. He was the only son of R.Bhima Naidu, a leading agriculturist and mill owner. The guarantees of R.Bhima Naidu and B.Rangaswamy Naidu brought in a number of ventures in Coimbatore. Their contribution to the textile industry and the world of cinema is immeasurable. B.Rangaswamy Naidu had got the studio at an attractive price and he put in S.M.Sriramulu Naidu as the Administrator. Dr.S.Srihari, the son of S.M. Sriramulu Naidu used to visit the residence of B.Rangaswamy in order to spend the weekends as a child. Dr.S.Srihari was supposed to study ‘cinema’ from Hollywood but he became a doctor. He went to the United Kingdom and was to become the first neuro physician in Coimbatore. Fortunately Dr.S.Srihari has preserved all the archives connected with his father, the movie ‘Moghul’ S.M.Sriramulu Naidu. Munuswamy Naidu had been a rich person and used to own ten houses.
The studio had to generate a steady income for its owner and therefore a plan was put in by S.M.Sriramulu Naidu. He was a dynamic person and he took the help of his close friend and guide K.S. Narayana Iyengar of Narayanan & Company and Pakshiraja Films. These businesses were actually managed by Sriramulu Naidu. B.Rangaswamy Naidu had purchased a lot of film in order to make movies and this came in handy. Therefore ‘Aryamala’ could be launched by Sriramulu Naidu with the backing of Iyengar. In fact, one more producer had announced a movie with the same title and it was decided in favour of Sriramulu Naidu by the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce (estd in the year 1937).
The title does not mention Sriramulu Naidu as the director. It goes without saying that he was the person responsible for the making of the movie. Krishnan was involved with the movie and he hailed from Coimbatore. Fortunately for Sriramulu Naidu, the Coimbatore based C.K.Sachi, who had served as an assistant of Ellis. R.Dungan and had undergone training in movie production at England lent his study material. Sriramulu Naidu studied things carefully and picked up the subject really well. Krishnan had directed a couple of movies during those formative years of cinema.
‘Aryamala’ was done with a number of actors and it included P.U.Chinnappa who had joined under T.R.Sundaram of Modern Theatres to do the ‘Uthamaputhiran’. He was part of the Tamil theatre earlier and he was an expert in both silambam and wrestling. P.U.Chinnappa (1916 – 1951) had done about 24 movies and at one time used to own more than 20 houses and farms in Pudukottai. He began in 1936 and finished off by the year 1951. He was next only to M.K.Thyagaraja Bhagavathar. His parents were Ulaganathan Pillai and Meenakshi Ammal while his wife was A.Sakunthala and son was P.U.C. Raja Bahadur.
The actors M.S.Sarojini, M.R.Santhanalakshmi, N.S.Krishnan and T.A.Madhuram were part of the film. The movie was a great box office success and it established P.U.Chinnappa as a box office hero. Thus Coimbatore had contributed one more big star. The story was written by T.C.Vadivelu Naicker and the music was by G.Ramanathan. S.Surya had edited the movie and it was distributed by Narayanan & Company. The same story was produced under the title ‘Kathavarayan’ starring Sivaji Ganesan in the year 1958.
Lord Shiva creates a third son Kathavarayan who is brought up by hunters. He falls in love with Ilankanni and tries to make out with her. She drowns herself and is born as Aryamala – a princess. He takes many forms and goes to her palace. She likes his parrot form and he takes his original form while Aryamala sleeps. He ties the knot and she gets shocked. She tries to drown again and Lord Vishnu saves her and turns her into a stone. Later, Kathavarayan touches her and Aryamala regains her form. However, Kathavarayan is imprisoned by the king and Lord Vishnu’s intervention settles everything amicably. Both, Aryamala and Kathavarayan live happlly ever after. Kathavarayan had been brought up by hunters and protected by Parvathi.
S.M.Sriramulu Naidu was a hard working and creative producer cum director. He used to buy a number of books and magazines on cinema and fashion. Naidu was a good baker and carpenter. He was involved with Davey & Co, a bakery which used to be located opposite to the Railway Station. A number of artists and crew members used to be taken by him to Srinivas Theatre in order to inculcate some good aspects of English cinema in them. The enterprising Naidu used to get ideas while sleeping and he used to suddenly get up and make a note of the idea instantly. Sriramulu Naidu was an excellent studio administrator and was the only Indian who had been involved with the construction of three studios – Central Studios, Pakshiraja Studios and Chamundeshwari Studios (Bengaluru).
The movie was shot at Central Studios but it was produced by Pakshiraja Films. The lyrics were done by C.A.Lakshmana Das. M.S.Janakiram was the Art Director. Cinematography was by Rustom.M.Irani and the camera tricks were done by V.Krishnan, the songs are – Aaravalliye Neeyum: N.S.Krishnan & T.A.Madhuram, Aananda Rubiniye Aryamala by P.U.Chinnappa, Siva Kribaiyil by P.U.Chinnappa, Srimadhiye Unnai Naan by P.U.Chinnappa, Valaiyal Nalla Valayal by P.U.Chinnappa and Nimmathiye also by P.U.Chinnappa. The other actors were Vasudeva Rao, Krishna Sastri, V.V.S.Mani, Nagaraja Iyer, Kolathu Mani, Sivan, N.Thyagarajan and B.Rajagopala Iyer .
P.U.Chinnappa scaled heights after this movie and did quite a few later. He impressed the public with his flamboyant appearance and some critics felt that he was even better than M.K.Thyagaraja Bhagavathar due to his acting and stunt skills. S.M.Sriramulu Naidu evolved with the movie while also making a big sum as profits. These profits were to help him during his good and difficult times.
M.S.Sarojini was known as M.S.Saroja and she was the younger sister of actor M.S.Mohanambal. She used to just act in the productions of S.M.Sriramulu Naidu and no one else for years. Her role was much appreciated by the critics who simply loved the role and action of P.U.Chinnappa.
‘Aryamala’ was another great hit from Coimbatore. The moving of Jupiter Pictures to Chennai left just S.M.Sriramulu Naidu in Coimbatore. The Telugu cinema world found it convenient to work in Chennai. Plus the connectivity in Chennai was better. All these reasons took away the world of cinema to Chennai for good. Coimbatore was however a great seed which took Tamil cinema to great heights. We can definitely state that the ‘World of Tamil Cinema’ flowered because of the magnanimous and creative outlook of the Coimbatorea technical guys and the entrepreneurs of the day. The movie chronicles of Coimbatore will forever stay in hearts of the cinemagoers.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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