Tuesday, June 10, 2008


(I recently finished reading AVM Saravanan's Autobiography. Fascinating book. Here is an "interesting" excerpt from this very good book. Read it and you'll know why I say this particular excerpt is interesting. All copyrights/credit rests with AVM Saravanan. The book was written in Thamizh and I translated this small segment into English.)

"Why not produce our own movie?" we thought aloud. My brothers agreed. While I had been helping my father for years with several aspects of movie production, I hadn't produced my own movie end-to-end. We then approached my mother and communicated our wishes to her. She was happy to hear this. However, Appachi had to approve this. Mother, on our behalf, sought appachi's permission. "Why not? Let them do it" he said and we were overjoyed. 'Maanam Periyathu' was the first story we discussed. But it did not shape up well. We didn't want to do a half-baked story as our first movie. So I continued searching. Vellaisaami, our ex-employee and faithful friend, informed me that Jaavar Seetharaman had been discussing a story with appachi. We inquired further and understood that Jaavar had been discussing a story called 'pattuvum kittuvum' with father. However, appachi had told him that while the story was good, AVM could not do that movie. When we learned that Jaavar was in discussions with another studio, we ran to appachi and told him that we were interested in Jaavar's story. We were in for a lucky break. He informed us that Jaavar was visiting him that afternoon. That afternoon - the moment Jaavar found out we were interested, he gladly gave the story to us. The story 'Pattuvum Kittuvum' was made into the movie ......

"Why Prakash Rao?" they asked. I was impressed with the work Prakash Rao had done in 'Amara Deepam' and 'Utthama Puthiran'. But Prakash Rao was an outsider. AVM had its own team of directors. I was asked why we should look outside and call Prakash Rao. We paid our directors Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000. But Prakash Rao asked for Rs 40,000. We discussed this with appachi. He didn't want to stand in the way of my enthusiasm and approved. At that time 'Daisy Rani' was a child artist who had impressed everyone with her role in 'Yaar Paiyan'. We thought of casting her for the movie ....

One day, when all this was hapening, Dr. Sara Ramachandran visited my house. She had brought along a small kid with her. He was probably three and a half or four years old. Dr. Sara visited my mother frequently and we had not seen this kid with her before. While she was talking to my mother, this small boy was sitting outside with his hands tied around his knees. He had a grumpy, sad face. When my mother came out, she asked Dr. Sara, "Why is this boy so sad?" Dr. Sara looked at the boy and said, "oh! I just brought him along. I sort of know this boy. Once he knew I was coming here, he just joined me. He said he really wanted to see AVM Chettiyar. He just accompanied me. I had no choice." Dr. Sara then informed us regarding the boy's sad face, "he is angry because we have been here for some time and I have not properly introduced him."

"He would like to act," she said as a matter of fact.

Then the small boy sang a few songs. It was afternoon then. Appachi had a habit of having a small post-lunch siesta. He rang the bell when he woke up. This was the signal for the domestic help to serve coffee for appachi. This was his routine. The bell rang at that moment. 'Show him to your appachi' said mother. I took him along. Appachi had the habit of switching on the bed side table lamp during the day. He also had a strange habit of turning the lamp upwards towards the ceiling. The light focused on a spot in the ceiling and gave a pleasant glow to the room. When he saw the boy with me, he asked "who is this boy?" I introduced this boy to Appachi - "Appachi, this boy wants to act. A short while ago, when we were downstairs, he sang the Hindi song 'chalti ka naam gaadi' and some other hindi songs". Appachi looked at the boy and asked him "can you act like Daisy Rani?". The boy nodded and said "I can". As the boy began to act, appachi turned the glare of the table lamp on his face.

Kamal Hassan was in the spotlight for the first time in his life.

"Show this boy to the director and Gemini Ganesan," said appachi. I coldn't help but ask, "for what role?". Appachi replied, "the role that you have booked Daisy Rani for". I protested, "Daisy Rani is popular. She has earned some fame after acting in 'yaar paiyan'. She is also acting in Hindi movies. We have already booked her for Kalathur Kannama and paid Rs 10,000 advance..." My protest was in vain. Appachi had already decided, "I think this boy would do better than her. He is fresh and bright. I think it would serve us better if we cast him".

Director Prakash Rao, Gemini Ganesan and Savithri liked Kamal Hasan at first sight. The Make-up test was done and okay'ed soon. I escorted Kamal Hassan to the shooting spot. The song was 'kangalil vaarthaigal puriyatho'. This was first cinema shooting that Kamal Hassan saw. We had already shot the song sequence.We were reshooting some parts of the song. The first time we shot the song sequence, we had mango trees in the background. Then, we were in the middle of the mango season. So we had shot most of the footage with real mangos in the background. When we realized that we had to reshoot parts of the song, the mango season was long over. So we had fake paper mangoes hanging from the trees. Kamal Hassan was a kid and did not understand that the mangoes were duplicate ones. He asked Gemini Ganesan "I want that mango". Gemini played a prank and gave Kamal Hassan a fake mago. Kamal bit the mango, spat out saying "aiyai...yai ...dupe maangai" and threw it away. We then proceeded to shoot a scene that was supposed to take place in a house. This was the first time Kamal was seeing a set of a house and cried "aiyai...yai ...dupe house". I liked the innocence. And then things became interesting. Kamal Hassan's first shot in front of the camera was a scene where Savithri feeds him 'upma'. Kamal held on to the upma in his mouth until the shot was done. He had not swallowed it. After the shot, he ran out and spat the upma and said 'ayaiyai... dupe upma'. He refused to believe that the upma was real. Only after assistant director S.P Muthuraman ate the upma, did he believe it.

Kamal Hassan was a naughty kid. Sometimes in the middle of the shoot, he would disappear. We would find him in the A/C room with appachi. Sometimes he would climb the guava trees and not come down. We still have not cut down the Guava tree. We have retained it in memory of Kamal Hassan's childhood.

The viswaroopam that Kamal Hassan has taken today has both stunned and pleased me.

--- As written by AVM Saravanam in his autobiography '60 Years of AVM Cinema'


Venkat said...

dai, next time i come home, i will borrom this book.

Anonymous said...

Now that you are impressed with this book, is AVM Saravanan duped??
I think you are majorly biased towards Kamalhassan. Even his sneeze is musical to you.

Pradeep Kumar said...

I hope whoever called you biased did not say so based on this post!

Pradeep Kumar said...

Interesting read BTW.

Anonymous said...

"Now that you are impressed with this book, is AVM Saravanan duped??
Impressive comment, anon
- another anon

Anupadmaja said...

"Now that you are impressed with this book, is AVM Saravanan duped??
Impressive comment, anon

Please explain why its impressive. I did not get it.

Mahesh said...


Is this the stupidest anon you have ever got or is this a freakish anon who is not aware of the retail store 30-day return policy.

Sometimes i am scared after reading your comments section. I get disoriented.

Hawkeye said...


You should benefit from stupids. Don't mend them.

Put a grinder stone in a Sony TV box, seal it and sell it to anon. His 'magathaana' policy will not let him ask for money back after he is duped

Mahesh said...

I can so see the anon refusing to buy the display piece and ask for a sealed box, so that he won't get duped.


Murugan said...

ROFL. I couldn't resist commenting.

Somewhere there is a father of a transexual who is waiting to marry his "daughter" off to anon. Anon will then write a book on how he lived happily ever after even though he got duped.


Hawkeye said...


Enough of this. I am planning to delete off-the-topic comments. I'd rather have no comments than this.

Friendly Stranger said...

Simply awesome....
I don't know much about south indian film industry but this excerpt pleased me. I felt like I was witnessing the birth of a star....
waiting for dasavtharam though!
Keep blogging and visiting my blog....

anantha said...

heh... post oda comments sooper ;)

Madras Chick said...

Recently watched Kalathur Kannamma for the first time, on SunTV's late night segment. Kamal in that character, looked just sooo cute. I can understand why AVM Chettiar couldn't resist casting that cute little boy, back then. Appadi oru paal vadiyum face.

Kamal looked like he could've been 4 or max 5 and was saying all those lengthy dialogues and of course lip synching that Ammavum Neeye song with that much precision. Marvellous!

"Ai..yoh.. Dupe Uppuma.."
How innocent of that age :-)

kalyan said...

good job bro,

i remember reading this article in the mid nineties in the tamil weekly "kalki" where AVM saravanan was writing his biography on a weekly basis. got transported to those good old days [:)]

one small correction i wud be glad to suggest. the name of the other child artist mentioned is "Daisy Irani" (Iranis migrated to India from Iran in the 18-19th centuries, as opposed to the Parsis of Bombay, who had migrated to india on 8th-9th century from Iran), and not "Daisy Rani" as mentioned in the translation.

cheers for a happy weekend.!

Anonymous said...

"Now that you are impressed with this book, is AVM Saravanan duped??
Impressive comment, anon

Please explain why its impressive. I did not get it."
Anubhavikkanum, aaraya koodahdu

Arunram said...

Bharath, Nice work of translation. Thanks for sharing.

I feel most of the (auto)biographies are inspiring. It give a lot of real life situations where the person is faced with lot of challenges and explains how he overcomes / succumbs to those. It motivates us to think of all possible moves that we could have made if we ever had to be in those situations.

I will catch hold of this book soon.


The Talkative Man said...

Remba interesting write-up...danks pa.

So it was Daisy Irani is it? Now I recollect her being a regular in mid 80s Sat/Sun DD serials..primarily Annu Kapoor's Kabhi Kabhi on Sat afternoons(1986).

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