Sunday 26 May 2013

A studio lost in a maze of history

Many have heard of Premier Studio in Mysore and they are also aware of the fire accident that occurred in the studio during the filming of the mega tele serial, “The Sword of Tipu Sultan”, by Sanjay Khan.
The devastating fire on the sets killed 62 film artistes, technicians and workers, some of them leading personalities in their field. The fire which occurred in 1989 almost sounded the death knell of the studio which was founded in 1954 by M.N. Basavarajaiah on 10 acres of land.
However, very few people are aware that there was one more film studio in Mysore and that predated Premier by several years. This was the Navajyoti Studio.  
The studio existed in the very compound where the JSS School stands in Saraswathipuram, a locality in Mysore, today. The studio was started by G.R. Ramaiah, an industrialist and transport company owner, in 1946.
Ramaiah was a partner in building Prabha cinema theatre in Mysore. He became a film producer and shot his films in Pakshiraja Studios in Coimbatore. However,  he was piqued by stepmotherly treatment meted out to Kannada film producers there and he decided to build his own studio in Mysore.
When Navajyoti opened, it was the first full fledged sound film studio (with RCA Sound recording facility) in the state.
During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Navajyothi was the nerve centre of film activities in Kannada. A little known fact about the studio is that it was here under the arc lights that a young artiste called Muthuraj faced the camera for the first time. He later metamorphosed into Rajkumar with the launch of Bedara Kannappa in 1954 and till his death he continued to remain an icon for millions of Kannadigas the world over.
One of the many films that were shot in Navajyoti was the Kannada  classic Bharathi in 1949. It starred M.V. Krishnaswamy, who was better known as MVK. This was a Kannada film where MVK, the lead, was a Professor of English in Mysore University. The film also starred Soorya Kumari, dancer Padmini and yet another superb dancer Sampath.
The film was directed by  R.M. Veerabhadrayya and was released in Salem of Tamil Nadu. It had 13 songs.
Another iconic film shot here was Maruthanaatu Ilavarasi in  1950.  Maruthanaatu Ilavarsi 1950- starring MGR, V.N. Janki, M.G. Chakrapani and others attained cult status for it was during this movie that both MGR and Janki fell in love and subsequently married. This film was written by Karunanidhi. By the way, this was the first film in which Karunanidhi’s name appeared in the credits as a writer.
However, mounting production costs and falling number of films forced the closure of  Navajyoti, leading film makers to make a beeline to Madras. As the studio also lacked all the facilities for producing films, most of the producers had to go to Madras for producing their films. Madras was then a famous centre for film production having a large number of film artistes and facilities. It was the headquarters for films in south India.This state of affairs continued till the Premier studio was opened.
Incidentally, a Mysore sculptor, art director and background artiste for many Kannada films, Rajanna of N.R. Mohalla, who died in Bangalore on June 22, 2011, was one of the directors of Navajyoti.   
Rajanna was associated with Kannada films like Gandada Gudi, Kadina Rahasya, Sthree Rathna, Soubhagya Lakshmi and he had  created scenes like gardens, forest, temples, palaces for some films.
Another tidbit about Navajyoti is that Mahatma pictures which was set up by D. Shankar Singh (father of Rajendra Singh Babu, the film maker) and B. Vittalacharya in 1946, shot almost all its Kannada films in Navajyoti.  Infact, Dr. Rajkumar  made his d├ębut under this banner when in 1952 he was given a small roll in Srinivasa Kalyana, which was directed by Vittalacharya. This film was shot much earlier than Bedara Kannappa.
Comedian Varadaraj, singer P. Kalingarao, music director P. Shyamanna, melody duo Rajan-Nagendra, artiste T.N. Balakrishna, lyricist-director Hunsur Krishnamurthy and many others were part of the films that were shot at Navajyoti.
One of Kannada’s best known directors, Siddalingaiah, was a floor boy at Navajyoti. He went on to become an assistant director to Shankar Singh before branching out on his own with Mayor Muthanna.  
Today, Navajyoti is no more but its legacy survives in the form of  the JSS institution which is set amidst mango groves and coconut trees. However, the studio's contribution to Kannada cinema remains lost or rather obscured in the annals of history.  

1 comment:

  1. Good info about the lost era of the film industry. In fact, I am a student of JSS institution way back in 1977. When I met my friends of JSS today, they told me that our institution was a film studio, which prompted me to search and find this interesting article.

    Good research...