The iconic Vani Mahal in T Nagar turned 75 last year. The grand celebrations planned had to be curtailed owning to You Know What but nevertheless they had a small set of live events in early January to commemorate the anniversary. When asked to give a talk I suggested I be allowed to speak on the veteran actor Chittoor V Nagaiah. He was after all the founder of the Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha and he, along with a few others had ensured that it had the land and also built Vani Mahal on the space within a couple of years of the founding.
This was readily agreed to and I then prepared for the talk. I was greatly assisted by KNT Sastry’s book The Life and Times of Chittoor V Nagaiah. I also referred to Randor Guy’s Starlight Starbright, the Early Decades of Tamil Cinema. My regular chats with VAK Ranga Rao were also of immense benefit. I have also acknowledged others at the end of the talk, which can be seen in full on YouTube at this link – https://youtu.be/zMPwTKVxzY4
I had KNT Sastry’s book with me, courtesy VAK Ranga Rao for several years and I had read it once earlier. It was only when I read it again, for this presentation, that the multifarious aspects of Nagaiah’s personality made themselves manifest. No longer was he just the old man in numerous films, always buffeted by fate and shedding tears. That was partially Nagaiah’s fault but more so that of the producers and directors who never in my view made full use of his talents. For Nagaiah was actor, musician, music director, producer, stage artiste, freedom fighter, and above all, a fine human being.
Not many will be aware that his statue stands outside Panagal Park. The pedestal says it all.
I must add that owing to oversight I left out any reference to Nagaiah’s Na Illu (En Veedu), a fine film that sadly did not do well. The fault was mine.