Devi Talkies and Rangaraja Talkies were the only two cinemas that existed in Srirangam for a long time, at least I knew of them from my boyhood days. I have quite vivid memories of watching some classic yesteryear films with my parents in these two places during Summer breaks in school, when I visited my grandparents in Srirangam,.
On my last ‘nostalgic’ trip out there though, I went a little beyond my boyhood experience. Having heard the connection between T.A.Madhuram, one of the famous comedy duo, of course the other being N.S.Krishnan (NSK), and Sathara Veedhi(street), I went down that narrow but very popular street in Srirangam, looking for signs. After many tries, a man gave pointer to Rangaraja Talkies.
Devi Talkies, which I believe was once owned by the theatre doyen of those days, Nawab Rajamanickam Pillai, was non-operational and under litigation for long, and has recently been converted into a wedding Hall. An old-dust-covered-projector was still lying in the upper projector room when I paid a ‘final’ visit there. I recall in these ‘talkies’, there used to be 3 breaks during one screening because of projector-limitations and during those breaks, the tea/coffee/snack vendors would buzz in, setting a sudden commotion in the otherwise quiet hall a second ago, thus making it look like a disturbed bee-hive.
On to our mission, one afternoon I walked into Rangaraja Talkies, which looked not a block of brick changed since my boyhood visits (again under litigation). It was break during a matinee-show, a few were stretching their muscle while others crowded near a small tea-stall. There were two middle-aged ladies busy serving tea and I was told by a cinema-goer that they were the ones I was looking for. After the show resumed and the scene outside settled, I walked into the stall and was received with suspicious eyes. On making them comfortable, expressing my interest in yesteryear films and personalities, I was offered a seat and even a cup of tea. I learnt the two women were Maduram’s niece. Then our conversation lasted for almost an hour or so. Here’s a gist of that interaction as far as I could recall –
Madhuram bought this cinema for his brother some 70 years ago and she did support her siblings well – whatever the properties bought in Srirangam were named as “Krishna Bavanam” while the ones in Nagarkoil, the native town of N.S.Krishnan were named as “Madura Bavanam” – NSK’s first wife’s children are more into politics today, while Madhuram did not have any children, her sister’s children (NSK married Madhuram’s sister too) are well-educated and settled – NSK respected scholarly people as he would engage them in discussion and that helped gather material for his scenes, as observed by these ladies themselves – these ladies had lived in NSK-Maduram’s Venkatraman street house in T.Nagar and while NSK-Madhuram lived on the upper floor, Madhuram’s brother and all NSK’s children lived at the lower level – Drinking played a part in both their lives and their end – It was in Srirangam house NSK vomited blood before taken to hospital in Madras where he passed on while Maduram was taken care by NSK’s brother till her end – NSK’s Srirangam house was sold to offset the legal expenses of the murder case both he and MKT were involved in – MKT had easier time in terms of financing the court case as he was co-accused and since NSK’s party including Maduram spent lot of money in trying to free NSK
here’s clip of NSK and T.A.Madhuram –