S Rajam

Last month saw the centenary celebrations of S. Rajam, a great personality in the field of fine arts. He was a painter, a singer, a teacher, a scholar, and a fine human being. The Man from Madras Musings was lucky to have been a close associate for the last decade of this wonderful person’s life. And so, when events were organised to commemorate his 100th year, there was none happier than MMM.

Now it appears that this excitement had somehow managed to penetrate journalistic circles and someone decided that this was newsworthy. They also decided that this is where the young trainee, whom none had any idea as to what to do with, could be of some use. They gave her the name of the artiste and told her that she ought to do some research and come up with a suitable piece. And in case she had any doubts she could always call MMM, who, no doubt in the mind of whoever it was that set up the trainee for this article, was quite jobless and so could be ‘mined’ for assistance, with the bait of a sound byte.

These days research largely means reading Wikipedia and sure enough the young trainee struck gold, or at least what she thought were precious nuggets of information. But then the entry had just one paragraph, which was not enough and so she decided to rope MMM in on the project. A call was made and went like this:

Trainee (T) : Sir (if she had said uncle MMM would have ended the call then and there which would probably have been better for everyone), I am looking for some information on Sundaram Rajam and thought you could help.

Now, MMM had always thought of Rajam as Rajam and the prefix had him confused. (He later discovered that Wikipedia had the name as Sundaram Rajam and so that was where the young lady was coming from).

MMM: I am sorry, I have no idea as to who this is.

T: But sir, they told me you would know. And it is his centenary.

MMM: Do you mean S. Rajam?

T: Yes sir, Sundaram Rajam.

MMM: Will you tell me what you know about him so that I don’t repeat the same information?

T: Sir, he was a great actor. And also a singer and painter.

Opinion is sharply divided on whether MMM ought to have told the Trainee to do her homework before calling and cut the call. MMM still believes he was correct in doing so. Not so said his good lady, when MMM, who has no secrets from her (she would find out anyway), duly related the story to her. What got MMM’s goat was the listing of actor before singer and painter. Rajam acted in just three films and while they were early, and therefore pioneering movies, they do not make him a superstar who also sang and painted. It was only later that MMM read the Wikipedia entry and it listed Rajam as Actor, Painter and Singer, in that order. Meanwhile, the Trainee is yet to return with her homework done. The centenary celebrations went off well and are no doubt no longer newsworthy.

If you thought the troubles of The Man from Madras Musings as regards that centenary had ended with that call you are grossly mistaken. The next caller, another journalist, asked MMM his view of the centenary. MMM said he was delighted. The man at the other end was clearly disappointed. He asked MMM if he, MMM was really delighted. When MMM said yes, the journalist asked MMM as to why he, MMM, was delighted. To this MMM did not reply. He sensed that the caller was fishing for a controversy where none existed. No doubt it would have suited the journalist if MMM had spewed venom on the events. And so that ended yet another conversation.