Kothamangalam Subbu

10 Nov 1910
15 Feb 1974
Film Industry
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Kothamangalam Subbu (born Kothamangalam Subramanian, 10 November 1910 – 15 February 1974) was a poet, lyricist, author, actor and film director from Tamil Nadu, India. He wrote the cult classic Tamil novel Thillana Mohanambal and was awarded the Padma Shri. According to novelist Ashokamitran’s memoirs, Subbu functioned as the No. 2 of the giant Gemini Studios of Chennai (formerly Madras), South India for over three decades and was a close associate of movie mogul S. S. Vasan, who established those studios and published the popular Tamil weekly Ananda Vikatan.

Subbu’s natural name was Subramanian. He was born in the village of Kannariyenthal, near Pattukkottai, Tamil Nadu. His parents were Mahalingam Iyer and Kangammal. After losing his mother when he was young, Subbu received patronage from his younger aunt. He could continue his studies only up to 8th grade. After marrying a kin, Subbu settled in Kothamangalam and worked as an accountant in a business concern. However, his interests shifted towards Tamil drama, acting, singing and composing songs. By the late 1930s, Subbu received opportunities for acting in the then blossoming Tamil movies in Madras.

Subbu directed the epic film Avvaiyar in which the great artiste of those days Smt K. B. Sundarambal played the lead role. Ashokamitran had profiled humorously how this film took shape in the Gemini Studios. Subbu, with his wife Sundari Bai, played a minor role in the movie as the husband of an incorrigible lady who refuses to serve Avvaiyar food. Subbu also directed Kannamma En Kadhali, that featured his wife Sundari Bai. Furthermore, Subbu acted as a hero in Miss Malini that was remade in Hindi as Mr. Sampath. Miss Malini was an adaptation of RK Narayan novel Mr Sampath. Dasi Aparanji was another movie in which Subbu and Sundari Bai played the leads. In addition, Subbu has acted in Tamil movies Thiruneelakantar and Pava Mannippu.

As a writer Subbu’s most well-known work is Thillana Mohanambal that was transformed into a popularly and critically successful Tamil movie, starring Sivaji Ganesan and Padmini. Subbu was awarded the Padma Shri for authoring this novel, which originally appeared as a weekly serial in the Anantha Vikatan. Respected for his encyclopedic knowledge of music and satirical writing style, Subbu’s tongue-in-cheek writing won the appreciation of many. He authored Rao Bahadur Singaram, Bandanallur Bama, Ponnivanathu Poonguyil, Miss Radha, and Manju Virattu (a collection of short stories)

Kothamangalam Subbu has written several novels using the pen name of Kalaimani and penned Gandhi Mahan Kathai narrating the life of Mahatma Gandhi in folklore form.

Ananda Vikatan magazine is currently republishing the works of this writer, lyricist, director and actor. As an exponent of the traditional folk form of narrating stories in Tamil Nadu, the Villu Pattu, Kothamangalam Subbu popularised the lives of many Indian luminaries using the Villu Paatu..

Subbu’s wife, Sundari Bai, was a popular actor, known for her versatility in playing character roles in movies such as Kannamma En Kadhali, Sumathy En Sundari, Chandralekha, Bama Rukmani and Avvaiyar.

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