(April 20, 1904 - April 7,1971)

Subrahmanyam was born on April 20, 1904 as the eldest son of the well known lawyer and educationist C.S.Krishnaswami Iyer and Venkalakshmi of Papanasam village in Kumbakonam Taluk of Tanjavur District in Tamilnadu. Even as a little boy, he showed keen interest in extra curricular activities, particularly the Boys' Scout movement. It is relevant to mention that much later in 1942, Jagadguru Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal, the 68th Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam narrated to Subrahmanyam's family - how the little boy Scout managed to negotiate with the Muslim community in the neighbouring village to accord a respectful welcome to the Sankarachaya and also got their co - operation to retrieve the idol stolen from the nearby village temple and thus averted a religious clash. There was an aesthetic urge in him. The traditional dance drama "Bhagavata Mela Natya Nataka" attracted the boy who started learning it seriously. But as his father was anxious that his mother - less son should not be diverted from his general education, he had to discontinue his training in Bhagavata Mela. In 1920, Subrahmanyam (16) got married to Meenakshi (9), grand daughter of Rao Bahadur K.S. Venkatrama Iyer of Nagapattinam and grand niece of Justice V. Krishnaswamy Iyer.

In deference to his father's wish, he graduated from Kumbakonam College, which was known as the Oxford University of South India. Later, he completed his Law course in Madras Law College and became a lawyer like his father. But soon, he found that the lawyer had to defend not only right deeds but also wrong ones quite often.

His artistic core drew him into the infant film industry in early thirties. He joined the well known Film Director Raja Sandow as assistant director for a couple of silent movies. Later, he blossomed as a pioneer Film Producer - Director with nationalistic outlook and social consciousness. He brought a host of technicians from Bengal (for Cinematography, Sound Recording, Processing, Make - up etc., and started in Chennai:

1) Meenakshi Cinetone Studio ( later known as Neptune Studio which later became M.G. Ramachandran 's Sathya Studio)
2) Motion Pictures Producers' (later known as Gemini Studio).

He thus became a father - figure for the growing South Indian Cinema. Apart from scilent films, he made several movies in Tamil and also a few in Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada. He was the first South Indian to produce a film in Hindi "Prem Sagar". He was also the first Indian to direct a Sinhalese film. He was Known as a Star- maker and was instrumental in bringing S.S. Vasan into the film industry by giving distribution rights of his (Subrahmanyam's) films to the new Gemini Pictures Circuit.

Subrahmanyam's Madras United Artistes' Corporation (MUAC), Kalaivani Films and later Morak Pvt. Ltd., were fore - runners in producing socially thought provoking films. He always had a firm conviction that the film medium cannot function purely as a mercenary commercial seller, without social values and responsibility, particularly in a populous developing country like India. He agreed that the film should be entertaining, but it should also be ennobling, with decent family values with social and national harmony and respect for the country. He proved this by his films produced till 1957 after which he decided to retire from production, as film finance became more and more divorced from decency, straight - forwardness and aesthetic excellence. He felt sad that the industry, which he reared like his child, was going into wrong ways.

"Pavalakkodi" (Mythological) - brought out the capability of women to manage affairs and even rule the country. It features M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavatar and S.S. Subbulakshmi ( who later became Subrahmanyam's partner in life and business).

"Naveena Sarangadara" (Fiction) - depicted the emotional problems of a young lady compelled to marry an aged King. It featured M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavatar and S.D. Subbulakshmi.

"Bala Yogini" (Social) - depicted the complex of the foreign educated youth and the corrosive influence of Western education and culture on Indian family life. It featured Baby Saroja, the child artist who was described as the South Indian Shirley Temple.

"Sava Sadan" (Social) - portrayed the injustice of an old man marring a young girl and her getting out of the shackles by taking to music as her profession. It was in this film that M.S. Subbulakshmi(who later shot up as the Nightingale of India and Bharat Ratna) was introduced.

"Thyaga Bhoomi"(Social) - depicts false values in foreign education and ill treatment of a daughter - in - law who later teaches a lesson to her husband. It was the first film to run in more than one theatre in the city and simultaneously. It was also the only Indian Film, which was banned by the British for openly anticipating and advocating the Quit India Movement. It featured S.D. Subbulakshmi, Papanasam Sivan and Baby Saroja.

"Bhakta Cheta"(Mythological) - stressed that there is no backward community in the eyes of god and advocated Harijan entry into temples. It featured Papanasam Sivan and G. Subbulakshmi. For making this film, Subrahmanyam was excommunicated by a group of fanatic Brahmins in his home district.

"Bhakta Kuchela" (Mythological) - depicted the strength of friendship irrespective of years of seperation and difference in status. This film made history by featuring the well-known star S.D. Subbulakshmi as lord Krishna (the first lady where a lady was made to act as a male and also do double role acting as BhaktaKuchela's wife Susheela). It also featured Papanasam Sivan.

"Gokula Dasi" (Mythological) - alsi potrayed Padmini as Lord Krishna.

"Kacha Devayani"( Mythological) - saw the introduction of T.R.Rajakumari who rocketed to fame in this very first film.

"Maana Samrakshanam" (Social) - was supposed to be a war propoganda film in support of the British; but its dialogues had a clear double meaning asking the foreigners to quit India. It featured S.D. Subbulakshmi and a host of child artists, many of whom became leading stars later.

"Ananthasayanam" - which traced the origin of the Anantha Padmanabhaswami Temple at Thiruvanantapuram. He himself acted as Divakara Muni who came down from Gujarath to Kerala as a Krishna Bhakta. The Heroines included S.D. Subbulakshmi, M.V.Rajamma and V.N.Janaki( who later married Bharat Ratna Dr.M.G. Ramachandran, Former Chief Minister of Tamilnadu.

"Ammanji" - (featuring G Pattu Iyer),"Vichitra Vanitha" ( featuring B.S. Saroja) and "Vikata Yogi" ( featuring P.U.Chinnappa & T.R. Rajakumari) were his hilarious comedy films and healthy entertainers.

"Geeta Gandhi"(Social) - stressed the importance of joint family system and also frankly warned selfish politicians that people cannot be taken for granted. It featured B.S. Saroja, Lalitha, Padmini, M. Palaniyandi( who later became President of Tamilnadu Congress Committee and also Member of Parliament) and his own youngest daughter Padma(presently the well known dancer and research scholar Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam) as a child artist.

"Pandithevan" (Social - was against the anti - national rich and vested interests against national projects. It featured B.S. Saroja, Rajasulochana, Ragini, Chandrababu, M.G. Chakrapani, S.V. Sahasranamam, T.K.Bhagavathi, T.K. Balachandran and others.

" Prem Sagar" ( Hindi).

"Bhakta Prahalada" (Malayalam) - In this film Subrahmanyam introduced Kathakali Guru Gopinath and his wife Thangamani, who later shot to international fame in the dance field.

"Stree Ratna" (Kannada) - featured Ashwath as hero and Sandhya (mother of Dr. J. Jayalalitha, Hon'ble Chief Minister of Tamilnadu) as heroine and also the vetran comedians of the Tamil screen Kalaivanar N.S.Krishnan, T.A. Madhuram and Kuladeivam Rajagopal.

"Krishna Sudhama" ( Kannada) - featured Jayamma, the great actress, singer and Harikatha artiste and wife of Gubbi Veeranna.

"Kacha Devayani" (reshot in Kannada) - saw the introduction of B. Saroja Devi to the film world.

The several stars introduced to the screen by Subrahmanyam included M.K.Thyagaraja Bhagavatar, S.D. Subbulakshmi, M.S. Subbulakshmi, T.R.Rajakumari, Lalitha, Padmini, Ragini, Baby Saroja, B.S. Saroja, M.V.Rajamma, V.N.Janaki, G.Subbulakshmi, Papanasam Sivan, K.J.Mahadevan, T.K. Balachandran and B. Saroja Devi.

Apart from his role in the film industry, subrahmanyam had a solid social commitment in life. He was masterly in orginisational work, whether it was the mammoth Mahamagam Exhibition at Kumbakonam (1933), or the INA Relief Exhibition at Chennai (1946) where he was able to collect and donate a sum of Rs 40,000/=(quite sizeable at that time) for the INA. To rehabilitate1000 Jawans of the INA (Indian National Army of Subash Chandra Bose), Subrahmanyam cleaned up a large area in erstwhile Mount Road in Madras (now called Congress Grounds) and organized the first ever exhibition and erected a stage to conduct dramas and Dances daily for a month. The entire physical labour was that of the INA refugees and the proceeds of the performances went to them. The programmes included those of prominent dancers and also dramas by Nawab Rajamanickam Pillai, TKS Brothers, Kalaivanar N.S.Krishnan, Sivaji Ganesan, M.N.Nambiar, S.V.Sahasranamam and others. It was a fusion of the work of artists for the welfare of army men. He subsequently managed to get employment to all the 1000 refugees. He even hosted a group of refugees from Poland for a month in Madras during the time of World War II. Any individual or organisation who sought his help did not go back empty handed. Subrahmanyam was the first link between social and aesthetic consciousness.

Even as a student he was in the national movement and a member of the Indian National Congress. But he resigned his membership of the Congress after Independence. He was an active unofficial adviser to the Ministries of Information and Broadcasting, Education and Culture. The Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had such great personal regard for Subrahmanyam, that he even offered him the position of I&B Minister in his Cabinet, which he respectfully and gratefully declined; he told Punditji that he could serve the country better by remaining out of politics.


* Subrahmanyam was the Founder - Member and later President of the South Indian Film Chambers of Commerce.

* He played a vital role in the formation of:

Film Finance Corporation,
Childrens' Film Society,
National Film Development Corporation,
The Film Institute in Pune and Chennai
The National film Archives in Pune,
Film Federation of India,
Central and State Sangeet Natak Academies etc.,
* He was the founder of several important organisations including:
South Indian Artists' Association(Thennindia Nadigar Sangam),
Indo - Soviet Cultural association,
Nataka Kazhagam,
Nadaswara Vidwans'Association and
Nrithyodaya(School of Dance and Music).
*He was te first Vice - Chairman of the State Sangeeta Nataka Sangam ( now Tamilnadu Eyal Isai Nataka Mandram)
*He was also the Chairman of the Tamilnadu Film Institute.

* Having learnt the traditional Bhagavata Mela Nataka and Carnatic Music in his boyhood, he patronized traditional drama and also folk theatre.
* Being the All India President of IPTA (Indian People's Theatre Association), he organized All India Folk Dance & Music Festival as early as 1952 on his own in Tamilnadu.
* The Inter-State cultural exchange programme of Govt. of India was another brainchild of Subrahmanyam. He himself led and received many such delegations and enabled not only mere performances but also inter-mingling of artistes to appreciate each other.
* He formulated the scheme for Railway Concession with one-way fare and double journey for performing artistes to travel and contribute towards National Integration. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Hon'ble Prime Minister of India, implemented this scheme. In 1971, when Smt. IndiraGandhi, Hon'ble Prime Minister of India, cancelled this scheme, Subrahmanyam gave a letter-telegram from his deathbed requesting this to be revived soon after his death.
* He patronized many dancers and musicians, recommending and introducing to foreign dignitaries and impresarios.
* He organized a show involving top dancers including Vyjayanthimala, Kumari Kamala and the Travancore Sisters (Lalitha, Padmini and Ragini) on the same stage; Dr. S. Radhakrishnan (the then Vice-President of India) presided over the function.
Subrahmanyam not only founded Nrithyodaya oin 1942, but also financially and morally supported Dr. Rukmini Devi when she founded Kalakshetra in1930s and continued to be her friend to the last day of his life. The first two Russion students were enrolled in Kalakshetra for learning Bharatanatyam as early as mid 1950s through his efforts. In this manner, he helped several such cultural organizations.

Even in the fifties and the sixties, he had widely traveled to UK., USA., USSR., East and West Germany, Poland, Japan, Mongolia and Srilanka. He visited Kodak factories in UK and USA and even discussed possibilities of collaboration in the manufacture of raw films in India. He was warmly received at MGM Studios and the Universal Studios. He met stalwarts like Walt Disney who showed him around the Disney Land, which was under construction.

Subrahmanyam was the only Indian film director to be honored by both Moscow Film Studio, USSR and the Hollywood Screen Directors' Guild, USA. He was also the recipient of the Golden Key to the Warner Brothers Company in USA.

He was nominated by the UNESCO as the Honorary Adviser to its International Films and Television Council for India and Far East. The Government of Tamilnadu nominated him as Honorary State Liaison Officer for UNESCO in Tamilnadu in which capacity, he was instrumental in getting a substantial aid for the renovation of Srirangam Temple.

In 1942, Subrahmanyam's interest in fine arts inspired him to start "Nrithyodaya", a school to provide free training in dance and music to deserving poor students, as he realised that these arts had become costly even then. It was the first such dance school to train students on a pan - Indian level with Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Manipuri and folk dances. Teachers of repute in the respective styles were attached to this institution, which has produced leading artists, teachers and choreographers in the last sixty years. Students included daughters of bus conducters, drivers, postmen, masons and even from the tribal community. Nithyodaya was also functioning as UESCO Information Center till 1972. It is recognised by the department of Culture, Govt. of Idia, ICCR, Sangeet Natak Academi, Govt. of Tamilnadu ad the Tamilnadu Eyal Isai Natak Mandram. Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam is the Director of Nrithyodaya since 1961 and V. Balakrishnan(eldest son of Subrahmanyam a reputed Documentary Film Producer) is its President since his father's demise in 1971. Nrithyodaya celebrated its Diamond Jubilee (60years) in 2003, which coincided with the Golden Jubilee (50years) of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam's Dance Career

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