- Avichi Meiyappa Chettiar
bgcolour = silver
name = Avichi Meiyappa Chettiar
imagesize = 140px
birthdate = birth date|1907|6|28|mf=y
Karaikudi, Madras Presidency, India
deathdate = death date and age|1979|8|12|1907|6|28|mf=y
yearsactive = 1934-1973
Avichi Meiyappa Chettiar(Tamil:அவிச்சி மெய்யப்ப செட்டியார்) (
June 28 1907– August 12 1979), also known as A. V. Meiyappan or AVM was an Indian film producer, director and philantropistwho established the AVM Productionsin Vadapalani, Chennai. He is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of Tamil cinema,cite news | last=Guy | first=Randor | title= AVM, the adventurer | date= July 28, 2006| url =http://www.hindu.com/fr/2006/07/28/stories/2006072802680100.htm | work =The Hindu: Friday Review | accessdate = 2008-04-13] and one of three movie mogulsof the South Indian film industry along with S. S. Vasanand L. V. Prasadcite news | last= | first= | title= The Stamp of Honour | date= July 10, 2000| url=http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/2000/07/10/stories/09100224.htm | work =The Hindu: Friday Review | accessdate = 2008-04-13] . His production company AVM Productionsis the only production company in Kollywood(The Tamil film industry) to run successfully for five decades and three generations.
AVM was born in
Karaikudiin a well-to-do Nagaratharfamily. He moved to Chennai (then known as Madras) at an early age and established "Saraswathi Stores" which sold gramophone records. Subsequently, he entered the film industry and started directing his own films. After some initial setbacks, AVM delivered a string of hits in the early 1940s. Following the immense success of his 1947 film " Nam Iruvar", AVM moved to film production and established AVM Productionsin Chennai, first at Santhomeand then at Kodambakkam. In 1951, AVM entered the Hindi film industry with the film "Bahar" starring Vyjayanthimala. By the time he died in 1979, he had produced 167 films in all Indian languages.
Some of the greatest hits produced by AVM Productions are "
Vazhkai", "Parasakthi", " Hum Panchi Ek Dal Ke", " Bhookailash", " Kalathur Kannamma", " Server Sundaram" and " Major Chandrakanth". AVM also directed a number of films in the 1930s and 1940s, the notable ones being " Alli Arjuna", " Bhookailash", "Sabapathy", " Sri Valli" and " Nam Iruvar".
AVM was born in
Karaikudion June 28, 1907Cite web|url=http://www.upperstall.com/people/avmeiyappan.html|title=Biography of AVM|accessdate=2008-04-13] to father Avichi Chettiar and mother Lakshmi Achi. Avichi Chettiar owned a department store called AV & Sons which sold gramophone records.Cite web|url=http://chennaionline.com/film/News/2006/07avm.asp|title=A.V. Meiyappa Chettiar Birth Centenary|accessdate=2008-04-13] AVM was born in the aristocratic Nagaratharcommunity whose members had gained a fine reputation in the mercantile and money-lending business in the later half of the 19th century and early years of the 20th century. At an early age, AVM envisioned better prospects in the trade of manufacturing records than simply selling them.cite news | last= | first= | title= Saga of a Legend | date= August 15, 2003| url =http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/fr/2003/08/15/stories/2003081501440200.htm | work =The Hindu | accessdate = 2008-04-13] Hence, he moved to Madras with his friends K.S.Narayana Iyengar and Subbaiah Chettiar and established a new firm called "Saraswathi Stores" on September 9, 1932. This new firm also manufactured gramophone records apart from selling them. In this new venture, he got excellent support from the manager K.P.Varadachari and his lawyer friend Thoothukudi Govindachari Raghavachari.Some of AVM's early productions comprised of dramas on mythological subjects like " Ramayanam".
Early film career
With the dawn of the
talkies, AVM established the "Saraswathi Sound Productions". In 1935, AVM made his debut as a producer with the Tamil film "Alli Arjuna" which performed miserably at the box-office. His next venture "Ratnavali" was another failure. He then teamed up with Jayanthilal, a cinema house owner and promoted a new company, Pragati Pictures Ltd.
In 1938, AVM bought the rights for the Tamil remake of a Marathi film on the boyhood of
Lord Krishna. This film "Nandakumar" was an average grosser. AVM introduced a 14-year old boy, T. R. Mahalingam,Cite web|url=http://www.tfmpage.com/my/mani/trm.html|title=Detailed biography of T.R.Mahalingam|accessdate=2008-04-14] Cite web|url=http://www.indolink.com/tamil/cinema/Memories/98/fna/fna2.htm|title=Tamil Cinema History - The Early Days.Part II:1937-1944|accessdate=2008-04-16] for the part of the young Lord Krishna. This young boy would later become an efficient singer turning in a number of melodious hits. Lalitha Venkataraman sang for the character Devaki making "Nandakumar" the first film to introduce the concept of playback singingin the Tamil film industry. Nandakumar was also one of the first Tamil movies to be shot on location as AVM leased the Club House off Mount Road in Chennai to shoot scenes without erecting sets.
AVM started his own studios in 1940 and named it "Pragathi Studios".In the same year, AVM produced "Bhoo Kailash" which became one of the most popular film versions of the
Ramayana. The film was made in Telugu, its lead actors were from Kannada cinemaand it was directed by Sundar Rao Nadkarni, a Mangalorean who had received his training in Bombay. AVM's comedy flick "Sabapathy"(1941) starring T.R. Ramachandran, K. Sarangapani and Kali N. Ratnam was a runaway hit as also "Poli Panchali", another comedy. "Sabapathy" eventually emerged as one of the greatest comedy films of the era. He followed this with another hit "En Manaivi".
In 1943, he produced the film "Harischandra" in
Kannadabased on the legend of a king who attempted to kill his own son to defend justice. The next year, the film was dubbed into Tamil making it the first Indian film to be dubbed from one language to another. During the making of "Sri Valli" in 1945, he employed singer Periyanayaki to sing for actress Rukmini. This was AVM's second film to make use of playback. Pragati technicians worked round the clock to synchronise voice and lip. Reels were shipped back and forth in cars and trains between Madras and Karaikkudito ensure good quality.
November 14 1945, riding on the phenomenal success of his first few films, AVM established his new production company, AVM Productionsat Santhome, Chennai. He wanted to start his studio in Kodambakkambut was unable to, due to the acute power shortage during the Second World War. Left with no other choice, AVM established his studio at his hometown of Karaikudi. AVM's first film under the banner of "AVM Productions" was "Vedala Ulagam".
In 1947, AVM produced the film "
Nam Iruvar" based on Sahasranamam's play of the same name.Cite web|url=http://www.indiafilm.com/lm.htm|title=Landmarks in Tamil cinema|accessdate=2008-04-16] Reflecting the intense patriotic fervour and hope which engulfed the newborn nation, the film released in January 1947 after six months of shooting and was "a thundering success".cite news | last= | first= | title= From Naam Iruvar to Sivaji | date= August 15, 2007| url =http://www.blonnet.com/2007/08/15/stories/2007081552860200.htm | work =The Hindu:Business Line | accessdate = 2008-04-16] The story begins with a Subramania Bharatianniversary and ends with Gandhi's 77th birthday celebrations. The success of "Naam Iruvar" was followed by the success of "Vedala Ulagam" in 1948 and "Vazhkai" in 1949. "Vazhkai" saw the introduction of Vyjayanthimalawho would later emerge as one of the top film stars of India.cite news | last=Umashankar | first=Sudha | title= Bali Uncensored | date= April 29, 2001| url =http://www.hinduonnet.com/2001/04/19/stories/13190782.htm | work =The Hindu | accessdate = 2008-04-14] The film ran for 25 weeks and was released as "Jeevitham"(1949) in TeluguCite web|url=http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0240631/|title=Entry for "Jeevitham" in IMDB |accessdate=2008-04-16|publisher=IMDB] and "Bahar" in Hindi. With the success of "Vazhkai", AVM Productions began to produce films in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali and even Sinhalese. Following India's independence, the power shortages had been met and AVM studios shifted to the sprawling location in Kodambakkam chosen by AVM, in the year 1948.
The decade of 1950s was a honeymoon period for AVM Productions which turned out a series of hits. The early years were marked by AVM's attempts to conquer the Hindi film industry.
In 1952, AVM's Tamil film "Parasakthi" released in theatres all over
Madrasand was an instant success. With a powerful storyline and fiery dialogues by a future Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi, the film preached social revolution and questioned the authority of Hindu temple priests. Sivaji Ganesan, then a new-comer, was cast in the lead role.cite news | last= Guy | first= Randor| title= Talent,charisma and much more | date= July 27, 2001| url =http://www.hinduonnet.com/2001/07/27/stories/09270225.htm | work =The Hindu | accessdate = 2008-04-16] By the mid-1950s, he had emerged as one of the top-stars in Kollywood. [Cite web|url=http://chennaionline.com/events/news/sivaji.asp|title=The rise of a colossus |accessdate=2008-04-16|publisher=chennaionline.com|author=R. Rangaraj] [ [http://www.indiaheritage.org/perform/cinema/person/stars/sivaji.htm Personalities of Indian cinema -- Stars:Sivaji Ganesan] ]
Sivaji also starred in AVM's next Tamil film "Andha Naal" (1954) directed by
Sundaram Balachander.Cite web|url=http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0154153/|title=Entry for "Andha Naal" in IMDB |accessdate=2008-04-16|publisher=IMDB] The film, the first film without any songs to be released in any Indian language, [Cite web|url=http://www.culturopedia.com/Cinema/tamil_cinema.html|title=History of Tamil cinema|accessdate=2008-04-16|publisher=culturopedia.com] was about a radio engineer who intrigues with the invading Japanese during the Second World War and is eventually killed by his wife. [http://www.nadigarthilagam.com/filmanalysis/andhanaal.htm Review of film "Andha Naal"] ] The style of narration had been heavily borrowed from Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon.
In 1953, AVM produced the Kannada film "Jatakaphala" which was dubbed into "Jatakaphalam" in Tamil and Telugu. [http://imdb.com/title/tt0263486/ IMDB entry for "Jatakaphalam"] ] cite news | last= | first= | title= Yesteryear actress Kamala Bai in coma | date=
November 21, 1998| url =http://www.expressindia.com/news/ie/daily/19981122/32650154p.html | work =The Indian Express News Service | accessdate = 2008-04-16] In 1958, AVM made "Bhookailas" in Telugu, [http://www.cinegoer.com/bhookailas.htm AVM's Bhookailas (1958) film review from "cinegoer.com"] ] which triggered the "golden age of Telugu cinema". It was subsequently remade as "Bhakta Ravana" in Tamil and "Bhakti Mahima" in Hindi. [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0262281/ IMDB entry for "Bhookailash"] ]
In 1961, AVM produced the Telugu film "Papa Pariharam" [ [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0156868/ IMDB entry for "Papa Pariharam"] ] which was a remake of the Tamil film "Pavamanippu" [ [http://www.citwf.com/film265200.htm "Pavamanippu" from the "Complete Index to World Film" datbase] ] which released in the same year. Both were directed by eminent director
A. Bhimsinghand starred Shivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan, Savitri and Devika. Like most of AVM's early films, "Pavamanippu" too had a storyline based on the Second World War.
Kalathur Kannamma" in 1960 saw the introduction of another star in Tamil cinema, the thespian Kamal Hassancite news | last= Ashok Kumar | first= S. R. | title= 'AVM brings family entertainment' | date= May 11, 2004| url =http://www.hindu.com/lf/2004/05/11/stories/2004051110550200.htm | work =The Hindu | accessdate = 2008-04-17] [http://www.telugucinema.com/c/publish/starsprofile/kamalprofile_printer.php Profile of Kamal Hassan from "telugucinema.com"] ] who played a unforgettable supporting role as a young orphan. He was barely six years old at the time.
His next Tamil venture "Server Sundaram" (1964) featuring
Nagesh, who was a budding comedian then and debutant Major Sundarrajan was a roaring success. "Server Sundaram" was one of Nagesh's early hits which set the pace for an illustrious career. [ [http://www.chennaibest.com/cityresources/entertainment/movies/features01.asp Landmarks in Tamil cinema, from "chennaibest.com"] ] It also launched Major Sundarrajan as a character actor in the Tamil film industry. [cite news | last= Guy | first= Randor | title= Dialogue delivery set him apart | date= March 7, 2003| url =http://www.hinduonnet.com/fr/2003/03/07/stories/2003030701070300.htm | work =The Hindu | accessdate = 2008-04-19] Sundarrajan's second hit, "Major Chandrakanth" where his famous portrayal of title role earned him the screen name "Major" Sundarrajan was also produced by AVM.
"Pavithra Prema", "Penchina Prema", "Naadi Aada Janme", "Chitti Chellelu", "Letha Manasulu" and "Mooga Nomu" were some good Telugu films which were produced by AVM during the period. However, AVM's greatest success of the 1960s was "Bhakta Prahalada" which was produced in Telugu and subsequently dubbed into Tamil and Hindi. The film was based on the story of
Narasimhaavatar from Hindu mythology. It was directed by Chitrapu Narayana Murthy and starred S. V. Ranga Raoas "Hiranyakasyapu" and Baby Rojaramani as "Prahlada". [http://www.cinegoer.com/bhaktaprahladaeng.htm Review of Bhakta Prahlada (1967) from "cinegoer.com"] ] Narayanmurthy had earlier directed a black-and-white version of Bhakta Prahlada in 1942 which had failed at the box-office. However, the colour version which was produced a quarter of a century later under the banner of AVM Productions was a resounding success. Of the 10 different filmized versions of the "Prahlada" story, the 1967 colour version remains the most famous and remembered.
Another successful film by AVM in the 1960s was the 1966 film "Anbe Vaa" featuring the legendary
M. G. Ramachandran, Saroja Deviand NageshCite web|url=http://123indianonline.com/movies/anbe-vaa-1966/|title=Anbe Vaa - 1966|accessdate=2008-05-14|publisher=123indiaonline.com] . The film was a major success and the song "Rajavin Paarvai" topped the charts for a long time. In 1970, AVM produced "Enga Mama" featuring Sivaji Ganesan. '"Enga Mama" was a Tamil remake of the Hindi film "Brahmachari" produced by G. P. Sippyand performed moderately at the box-office.
Films in Hindi
From the initial phase of his career, AVM was associated with a number of producers and directors from North India. His 1938 film "Nandakumar" was the Tamil remake of a Marathi film. His 1940 film "Bhookailash" was directed by Sundar Rao Nadkarni who had received his training in Bombay.
In 1951, AVM made his entry into the Hindi film industry with "Bahar". Starring Karan Dewan, Vyjayanthimala, Padmini, Pran, Om Prakash and
Tabassum, it was a remake of the 1948 Tamil film "Vazhkai". Apart from being AVM's first film in Hindi, it also marked the launch of Vyjayanthimala in the Hindi film industry. In 1954, he made "Ladki", his second film in Hindi, with Vyjayanthimala again in the lead. Both these films were directed by M. V. Raman.
After enjoying moderate successes in his first two films in Hindi which went unnoticed, AVM ascended the heights of Bollywood with the third one "Hum Panchi Ek Daal Ke"(1955). It was a children's film based on the theme of national integration and won him the Prime Minister's gold medal. After the phenomenal success of "Hum Panchi Ek Dal Ke", AVM produced some good films like "Bhai Bhai"(1956), which was popular for the song "Mera Naam Abdul Rehman" sung by
Kishore KumarCite web|url=http://www.musicindiaonline.com/music/hindi_bollywood/s/producer.167/|title=AVM|accessdate=2008-05-10|publisher=musicindiaonline.com] and "Miss Mary"(1957), the dubbed version of the Tamil film "Missiamma".cite news | last= | first= | title= No more Tamil films, says AVM Studios | date= | url =http://www.deccanherald.com/archives/july292004/n2.asp | work =Deccan Herald | accessdate = 2008-05-10] "Bhabhi" featured comedianJagdeep as the hero. This was Jagdeep's first film in a romantic role.cite news | last=Srinivasan | first= V.S. | title= Meet Soorma Bhopali | date= July 14, 1998| url =http://www.rediff.com/entertai/1998/jul/14jag.htm | work =rediff.com | accessdate = 2008-05-10] Jagdeep also acted in other films produced by AVM as "Hum Panchi Ek Dal Ke" and "Barkha".
The Hindi films "Miss Mary", "Bhakti Mahima" and "Bhakt Prahlad" were dubbed versions of AVM's Tamil or Telugu hits.
The 1961 film "Chhaya" won
Nirupa Roy, the Filmfare Award for the Best Actress in a Supporting Role.Cite web|url=http://www.bollywoodsoundtracks.com/html/filmfareawardbestsupportingactress.htm|title=Filmfare Award Best Supporting Actress - Complete Winners List |accessdate=2008-05-10|publisher=bollywoordsoundtracks.com] Other notable Hindi films made by AVM during the 1960s were "Man Mauji", "Main Chup Rahungi", "Pooja Ke Phool" and "Mehrban".
AVM's last Hindi film was "Jaise Ko Taisa" directed by Krishnan-Panju in 1973.
Later Years and Death
With dawn of the 1970s, production had slowed down considerably. This was due to the fact that AVM himself was ageing. Moreover, the AVM family chose to focus their attention upon social activities other than filming. AVM Productions produced not more than four films during the decade: "Bomma Borusa","Dil Ka Raja","Akka Thamudu" and "Jaise Ko Taisa". "Bomma Borusa" made in Telugu by
K. Balachanderwas an average grosser as was the Hindi film "Dil Ka Raja" which released in 1972. "Akka Thamudu" directed by the successful partnership of Krishnan-Panju was AVM's last film in Telugu. It was also AVM's only Telugu film featuring Jayalalithaa. In 1973, AVM produced his last film "Jaise Ko Taisa" starring Jitendra in the lead role.
AVM did not produce any more movies following "Jaise Ko Taisa" in 1973. He spent his time on social activities and the charitable instituitions he had built as well as looking after his massive business empire.
During a career spanning four decades, AVM had produced 167 movies in all Indian languages.Cite web|url=http://www.cinegoer.com/titbitsarchives/janmar2006.htm|title=AVM Productions Began As Saraswati Sound Productions|accessdate=2008-05-11|publisher=cinegoer.com] He also directed most of his early movies. He is credited with having introduced
Kollywood's first playback singers, made India's first dubbed film and Kollywood's first film shot on location. He has also had the distinction of having had five chief ministers work in his films - C. N. Annaduraiwrote the script for AVM's "Ore Iravu", M. Karunanidhiscripted the dialogues for "Parasakthi", M. G. Ramachandranplayed the hero in "Anbe Vaa", J. Jayalalithaawas the heroine in AVM's "Major Chandrakanth" and "Akka Thamudu" and N. T. Rama Raostarred in AVM's "Jeevitham", "Ramu" and "Bhookailash". During his four decades in the Indian film industry, he also introduced actors as T. R. Mahalingam, Vyjayanthimala, Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Hassanand Major Sundarrajan who later became top stars in Kollywood. But his greatest achievement is undoubtedly his massive business empire which comprises a production company, a movie theatre, a movie studio and a string of educational instituitions and charities.
Of AVM's creations, AVM Productions is the most prominent. The production company is into its sixty second year with three generations of the AVM family into the film production business. After AVM's death, the company passed into the hands of his sons M. Balasubramanian and
M. Saravanan. Under the able leadership of M. Saravanan, AVM Productions has continued producing hits as " Murattu Kalai" (which launched Rajnikanthinto superstardom), "Samsaram Adhu Minsaram" (1989), "Minsara Kanavu" (1997), "Gemini" (2002), and "Perazhagan" (2004). In 2007 (which was also AVM's birth centenary year), AVM Productions released "Sivaji the Boss" starring Rajnikanthand Shreya.Cite web|url=http://www.buzz18.com/news/movies/rajini-lucky-mascot-for-avm-prod/21541/0|title=Rajini: Lucky mascot for AVM Prod|accessdate=2008-05-13|publisher=Galatta.com ] Made at enormous cost of Rs. 60 to 96 crores (15 to 20 million dollars), it is the costliest Tamil film made to date and had earned a critical reception worldwide.Cite web|url=http://archie.lipsmusic.net/archives/2007/06/14/moviez/sivaji-in-bay-area/|title=Sivaji in Bay area|accessdate=2008-05-13] In recent times, AVM Productions has significant lessened film production making only one or two films a year.. Instead, the production house is concentrating on making tele serialsand documentariesCurrently, Saravanan's son M. S. Guhanand Balasubramanian's son, B. Gurunath are also into show business forming the family's third generation in the business.
In 1955, AVM won the President's gold medal for the Hindi film "Hum Panchi Ek Dal Ke". In 2006, the Government of India issued a stamp commemorating the achievements of AVM.Cite web|url=http://www.indiapicks.com/stamps/Films/Film_Main.htm|title=Cinema on Indian Stamps|accessdate=2008-05-11|publisher=indiapicks.com] On the 24th death anniversary of Avichi Meiyappa Chettiar, in 2003, AVM Productions released a VCD on the life of its founder. Starting with his early childhood in Karaikudi, the 2-hour long documentary told the story of AVM's entry into the film industry and his rise to greatness.
July 30 2006, in commemoration of AVM's centenary year, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhiunveiled a statue of A. V. Meiyappan at the campus of the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce.cite news | last= | first= | title= Tributes paid to A.V. Meiyappan | date= July 30, 2006| url =http://www.thehindu.com/2006/07/31/stories/2006073117370600.htm | work =The Hindu | accessdate = 2008-05-12]
Apart from his contributions to the growth of motion picture industry in Tamil Nadu, AVM has also donated extensively for charitable causes. The charitable activities of the AVM group were channeled through an organization called AVM Charities established at
Mylaporein Chennai.Cite web|url=http://www.jimyellowpages.com/companies/348/347967.htm|title=A V M Charities, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, From Jimy Yellow Pages.|accessdate=2008-05-13] This trust has been managed by the descendants of AVM since his death in 1979. The AVM Charities had provided land for old age homesCite web|url=http://chennaionline.com/society/vishranthi.asp|title=A Heavenly abode for the Aged|accessdate=2008-05-13] and organizing social events. The AVM family also owns a marriage hall, AVM Rajeswari Kalyana Mandapam which is generally rented for Hindu marriages.Cite web|url=http://www.chennaiatlas.com/matrimonial/marriagehalls.php|title=Marriage Halls in Chennai|accessdate=2008-05-13|publisher=chennaiatlas.com] This marriage hall is controlled by the AVM family through AVM Charities.Cite web|url=http://www.madrasspca.org/events.htm|title=Humane Education|accessdate=2008-05-13] Following the astounding success of the 2007 Tamil film "Sivaji", AVM Productions declared publicly that it would offer 25% of the revenues from the film as charity.
The AVM Group owns a string of educational institutions all over Chennai. On
June 10 1963, AVM inaugurated "Avichi School" in Virugambakkamin memory of his father Avichi Chettiar. The motive behind the founding was to provide good quality education to the poorer sections of society. A number of schools have been established since the creation of "Avichi School". In 1994, AVM's son Kumaran established the "Avichi High School for girls". This was followed by the establishment of AVM Rajeswari Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Virugambakkam in 1995. These schools which are run by the AVM Group as a part of AVM Charities are regarded as some of the best in Chennai.
* "Enatu Valkkai Anuppavangal" (English: My Experiences in Life), Autobiography by A. V. Meiyappan.ta icon
* [http://www.avm.in/ Website of AVM Productions]
* [http://www.avmrajeswari.in/ Website of AVM Rajeswari School]
* [http://www.avichigirls.in/ Website of "Avichi Higher Secondary School for girls"]
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