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Upperstall Profile



Memorable films

SS Vasan

 

Upperstall profile by: Karan Bali aka TheThirdMan

SS Vasan was a true showman in every sense. Born Thiruthuraipoondi Subramanya Srinivasan Iyer in 1903, he hailed from Thiruthuraipoondi in Tamil Nadu, South India. He came to Madras (now Chennai) to study and then started an Advertising Agency. With the revenue he earned, he bought a small printing press and launched Anandavikatan, a popular weekly in Tamil Nadu even today. He got involved with films when his novel Sati Leelavati was made into a film in 1936.

In 1938 he took over distribution of films of the Madras United Artists Corporation. In 1941 there was a fire in the studio of the Motion Picture Producers Combine. Like most studios in India it was uninsured because no insurance company would take the risk. The partners, by now at odds with each other, decided to sell the charred premises. Vasan bought them, did some rebuilding, and launched the production company Gemini Studios. During the war the firm dabbled in a variety of films including a mythological, a stunt film and a love story or two - Films like Mangamma Sapatham (1943), Kannamma En Kadhali (1945), Miss Malini (1947) and Apoorva Sahodarargal (1949).

However, Vasan was really preparing his big post-independence break. He entered the Hindi market with Chandralekha (1948) a spectacle. Its drum dance is remembered even today! 603 prints of Chandralekha were made and the film was even released in the United States as Chandra with English subtitles! Vasan believed that films were meant to entertain and were meant to be catered to the ordinary man. Colossal production values, huge sets, mammoth dances, thousands of extras were his hallmark. Thus his films were more akin to variety entertain-ment programmes rather than true cinema.

In the 1950s, Gemini Pictures came out with films both in Tamil and Hindi. Popular Hindi films include Mr Sampat (1952), Insaniyat (1955), Raj Tilak (1958) and Paigam (1959). In 1958 he established Gemini Colour Laboratories and believed in establishing the Film Trade on professional lines.

Vasan was the President of the Film Federation of India for two terms and was even nominated to the Rajya Sabha. He was the given the Padma Bhusan by the Government of India in 1969, the year of his death. Gemini Pictures declined in the 1970s although it has remained successful as a studio and equipment rental business.


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