Thursday, March 6, 2014

M.N.Nambiar - remembering him on his 95th Birthday

I wrote a piece on him in The Hindu in November 2010. This is the unedited version of the article.The snaps are courtesy his family. The Photograph with Kalaignar , MGR and MY FATHER was taken during the Nadodi Mannan 100th day Celebrations where my father was the Chief Guest. The Colour Photograph with me is from the Serial "Oviyam" made by G.N.Dhinesh Kumar in 1996 and is the only serial Nambiar acted in. I had the honour of playing his son.

MK speaks. Dad and MGR together
With MNN in Oviyam

He has acted in more films with Sivaji than MGR

The Classic VILLAIN. 

M.N.Nambiar - The Good , The Bad and the Holy.

About 20 Kms from Coorg is the Village Cherupazhasi whose chieftain was part of the Pazhasi Raja family. A descendant of this family was destined to achieve fame in the film industry. He was Manjeri Narayanan Nambiar. M N Nambiar was born on 7th of march 1919 to Kelu Nambiar and Lakshmi. His father passed away when he was a little boy and the family wealth was all gone. Nambiar went away to Ooty to live with his brother. At the Ooty Municipal High School he studied up to the 3rd Form (present 8th Standard.) .
In 1934 , the famous dramatist, “Nawab” Rajamanickam was performing in Ooty. His brother’s business ran into problems and the family could no longer afford to educate him. Nambiar used to watch the plays and admired the discipline of the boys in the troupe – getting up early and performing Suryanamaskar, exercise , pooja and when an opportunity came up he joined Nawab’s troupe. The Drama Company travelled to Salem and Mysore. Nambiar started helping out in the Kitchen and graduated to assisting in the Pooja Room but he was not asked to act. Finally  he was given the role of a lady Judge in a play –“Nachchu Poigai” written by Kovai Ayyamuthu. Nambiar was all ready to go on stage  but the British Government , banned the Play.
In 1935 , their Play “Ramadasu” was to be filmed in Maharashtra and Nambiar went with the troupe. He played the role of a Comic with T.K.Sampangi. The pair was called Akkanna – Madanna. He was paid Rs. 40 for this. He spent half the amount in buying a harmonium, which is still there in his house. In a years’ time the chief Comedian of the troupe K.Sarangapani left and Nambiar took his place and became a huge hit with the audience. Even today “Nawab” Rajamanickam’s picture adorns a prominent place in the Pooja room of Nambiar’s House.
Whenever I worked with Nambiar he used to keep us in stitches  with his comic remarks as the cast sat down to play cards during the breaks in Film shooting .  Some were said with such a dead pan face that it would have been the envy of Buster Keaton. Suddenly his normal face will transform to the Villain with his trade mark scowl, arched eye brows and imperious look – if you looked around you will find some fans coming ti to see him. After  they left he will look normal and smile. I asked him why he did this and his characteristic reply was – Avanga indha Nambiar a thaan parka varanga – they have come only to see this ( the Villain) Nambiar and smile….
 In 1937 he shot for the film “Inbasagaran” which was never released as the film was burnt in a fire. Nambiar made steady progress and then joined the “Sakthi Nadaga Sabha” . In 1944  he essayed the role of the “Rajaguru” in the Play – Kaviyin Kanavu  written by S.D.Sundaram to such perfection that his reputation as a villain , was well established. Nambiar soon signed up with Jupiter Films as a Studio Artiste and played a comedian in the film “Vidyapathi “ – 1946. He married Rukmani the same year.
 This was followed by A.S.A.Sami’s  “Rajakumari” - 1947 , which featured his friend M.G.Ramachandran, acting for the first time as the hero. Nambiar then played the lead male role (along with S.V.Subbiah)  in the film Kanjan – 1947. Then followed Abhimanyu, Mohini and Velaikkari. The 1950 Modern Theatre Production “Dhigambara Samiyar” was a high point in his career as he donned 12 roles. This was written by Vaduvur Doraiswamy Iyengar and directed by T.R.Sundaram. Nambiar the Villain was well and truly established.
MGR who was elder to him by 4 years considered Nambiar his senior in the Profession. Their friendship which dates back to the early Jupiter Films days is well known. In fact Director Pa. Neelakantan once asked Nambiar as to why he never stood up when MGR entered the set ( everybody did) – Nambiar’s answer was – “He is my friend , why should I stand up when a friend walks in ?”. Pa neelakantan went and reported the conversation to MGR who asked him “Why do you go and ask him all this? “. MGR was the best man ( Mappillai Thozhan) in Nambiar’s wedding and carried nambiar’s first born Sukumaran on his shoulders up the Palani Hills for the boy’s Annaprashanam in 1948.  
Nambiar steadily rose and became the Industry’s “Bad” man , his roles in Enga veettu Pillay , Aayiraththil Oruvan, Kuditirundha Kovil, Raman Ethanai Ramanadi, Padagotti, Then Nilavu, His Dual role of a Good man and bad man in Rahasiya Police 115, the suave and sophisticated Villain in Annayin Aanai readily come to mind. During this time he also essayed Character roles like in films like  Pasa malar  . We must remember that Nambiar had stiff competition from the likes of P.S.Veerappa, S.A.Ashokan, R.S.Manohar and a host of others and yet managed to retain his place.
His role as the  100 year old man in Sridhar’s Nenjam Marappadhillai is a classic. When shooting the scene where he chases the lead pair in a horse drawn carriage , the wheel of the carriage suddenly came off , the driver panicked but Nambiar asked him to drive on and as the carriage over turns jumped out, took aim and shot. This was not a planned stunt but an accident that Nambiar, the consummate professional used to the film’s advantage. Nambiar with his years of Physical training in the Drama troupe ( he practiced Yoga and played badminton in a court built in his house) , regular classes in Sword fighting and the other Indian Martial arts was fully equipped to handle the rigours of getting bashed up by the hero.
Nambiar was a very loving family man and all through his career he spent six weeks with his family in Ooty for the summer. He would refuse any assignment that called him away during this time. In a few exceptional cases he asked the producer to shoot his scenes in Ooty. He abstained from Alcohol, Tobacco and led a disciplined life. In fact he always chastised us for slouching in a chair and asked us to sit erect with our back straight. I had the privilege of acting with him in what was probably his only Television serial – Oviyam , where he played a Zamindar , my father.
Baghyaraj in his film Thooral Ninnu Pochchu ( 1982) paid his respects to a practice that Nambiar always followed. In the title shot – An old man will mix the rice and take the first handful to feed his wife. Nambiar always gave the first mouthful of food to his wife and in her absence in Sabarimala to his sons. All through his professional life he only ate food prepared by his wife – who accompanied him everywhere. Even the water he drank was specially double boiled by her. He held on to this practice till his final film “Sudesi” in 2006 with Vijayakanth.
Nambiar first went to Sabari Mala , with his Guru Nawab Rajamanickam in 1942 and thereafter made more than 55 pilgrimages. One can say he was to a large extent Instrumental in popularizing the Temple , as he was the “Guru Swamy” for many popular film stars, Industrialists and so on.  His group was close to 200 strong. There was perfect equality and discipline as both the rich and poor were treated alike. This earned him the sobriquet – Swami.

After a career spanning 71 years of acting in films , probably a record he passed away on the 19th of November 2008 and will be remembered for being the Good man , who was Bad on screen and Holy in real life.


Ajith Kumar D said...

Excellent and Crisp Blog about a legend!!
Nice Work Sir!! Expecting more from you about others as well. :)

வெங்கட் நாகராஜ் said...

Excellent Article.....

Thanks for sharing.....

LT Groups said...

pls note MGR is 2 years older than M.N.Nambiar . you mentioned wrongly that as 4 years . Mgr born 17 January 1917 and M.N.Nambiar born March 7, 1919 . At the time of Rajakumari Mgr acted more than 15 films and for M.N.Nambiar it is his 3rd film.

Kumar Yagnaraman said...

Funny and irony of life. No one seem to appreciate the villains. I dont see any comment. Thanks for the note Mohan thats a good one. But if you see, the bad guys in films always turn out to be just the opposite in real life.

Unknown said...

Thanx sir for ur write up on the great M.N.Nambiar. Can you give me some details about an old actor Singam Krishnamurthy who has acted in films such as Thirumbi Paar, NALLA Thambi etc.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.