MK Kamalam, the heroine of the first Malayalam talkie film ‘Balan’ died on the 20th of this month. She was 87. The report about her demise mentioned that ‘Balan’ was produced at Modern Theaters Ltd.,
That reminded me of two things. One was of driving past the studio long ago on the way to visit my children who were studying at Sacred Hearts, Yercaud (SHY). The other was an old photo of my brother-in-law P Thomas Abraham and some of his
The actors, Rod Cameron, Cesar Romero and Marie Windsor who had come down for shooting the movie ‘The Jungle’. It was a joint venture by TR Sundaram, Voltaire Productions Inc., and Robert M. Lippert. The distributors were Lippert Pictures, Inc.
Thomas was kind enough to search out the photo and send it to me. It is reproduced below.
The story thread of ‘The Jungle’ went something like this: There were several wild animal stampedes in an Indian jungle in which several people in the nearby villages died. The local princess took a great white hunter into the forest to investigate the incidents. They discovered that some prehistoric mammoths caused terror among the wild animals. The great white hunter handles the situation.
‘The Jungle’, directed by William Berke, was released on August 1, 1952. It was a success internationally but did not do too well in
Probably that was the only English movie shot at Modern Theaters Ltd.,
The man of vision who created Modern Theatres was Thiruchengodu Ramalingam Sundaram (TRS). He was born in a family of yarn merchants and textile mill owners, in 1907. He was sent to
Back home TRS worked for some time in the family business and then followed his own dream. He turned to the cinema field and started Angel Films in
Thus Modern Theaters Ltd. was born. That, I think, was
The first film to roll out of the new studio was `Sathi Ahalya' in 1937. The dream run continued for 45 years and ended in 1982 with `Vetri Namathe'. Many of the 117 films (some sources say over 150) produced there were hits. They covered many genres. Mythology was there of course. Other themes included folklore, comedies, classics, mysteries and original stories.
As the name suggests, Modern Theaters Ltd was a Joint Stock Company and was operated on modern business lines by TRS. There was an efficient production schedule covering two or three movies a year and tight budget controls. This resulted in new attractive products being supplied to the market at regular intervals.
TR Sundaram who had an eye for talent operated the studio on the old
Those introduced by TRS include MR Radha, SV Ranga Rao and Anjali Devi. Mention must also be made of the American, Ellis R. Duncan who successfully directed several films made at Modern Theatres. TRS paid all his people well and without delay.
The first South Indian colour film ‘Alibabavam 40 Thirudargalum’ (1955) was made at Modern Theatres. The MG Ramachandran and P Bhanumathi movie was a big hit. In Malayalam also the first colour film ‘Kandam Becha Coat’ (1961) came out of this
TR Sundaram died in 1963.
But tragedy struck the family again. A few years later R. Sundaram also died prematurely. With that activities at Modern Theaters ground to a halt. Later the property changed hands. It is now a prestigious housing area.
I wonder how many people are there in the history of world cinema industry comparable to TR Sundaram. He was a one man institution – studio owner, producer, director, financier, company chief, talent scout, inspirational presence. He is a cinema legend that
Perhaps the present crop of producers who complain so vehemently about high cost of cinema making can possibly learn a thing or two by studying the operational techniques of TR Sundaram.