Theatrical release poster
A. V. Meiyappan
|Written by||K. Balachander|
|Based on||Server Sundaram
by K. Balachander
K. R. Vijaya
|Cinematography||S. Maruthi Rao|
|Edited by||S. Panjabi
|11 December 1964|
Server Sundaram (English: Waiter Sundaram) is a 1964 Indian Tamil language comedy-drama film directed and co-produced by Krishnan-Panju with A. V. Meiyappan. The film stars Nagesh as the titular character. R. Muthuraman and K. R. Vijaya play the other lead roles while S. N. Lakshmi and Major Sundarrajan play supporting roles. The story focuses on the life of a hotel waiter and how he strives to reach greater heights after he becomes an actor to attain the love of his restaurateur's daughter.
The film was adapted from a play of the same name written by K. Balachander, with the play also featuring Nagesh himself in the titular role along with Major Sundarrajan and S. N. Lakshmi who reprised their roles in the film. Balachander also wrote the screenplay and dialogues for the film. Viswanathan–Ramamoorthy composed the film's soundtrack and background music, while Kannadasan and Vaali wrote the lyrics for the soundtrack's songs.
Released on 11 December 1964 with the release prints being 4,535 m (14,879 ft) long, Server Sundaram earned positive critical feedback and went on to became a commercial success. At the 12th National Film Awards, it won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil under the Certificate of Merit category and a Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Film.
Server Sundaram earned Nagesh and Balachander their breakthrough in Tamil cinema and led to a lot of successful collaborations between the two. It became the first Tamil film to show numerous behind-the-scenes looks at various processes involved in film-making such as the studio interiors and song recording. It was remade into Hindi as Main Sunder Hoon (1971) with Mehmood Ali and Kannada as Server Somanna (1993) with Jaggesh.
Sundaram (Nagesh), a poor man, comes to Madras with aspirations of becoming a film actor. However, he ends up getting a job in a restaurant called Greenlands Hotel as a waiter. While catering for a group of people who go on an excursion to Mahabalipuram, he meets Radha (K. R. Vijaya), the daughter of his restaurateur, Chakravarthy (Major Sundarrajan). He misinterprets her friendly nature as love and falls in love with her. In the meantime, Sundaram happens to meet his friend Raghavan (R. Muthuraman), an influential businessman, in the restaurant. During their subsequent meetings, Sundaram tells Raghavan about his ambition to become an actor as well as about his love for Radha, without mentioning her name. Raghavan genuinely believes that the girl reciprocates Sundaram's feelings and motivates Sundaram to express his love.
When Raghavan is about to leave his house for a marriage proposal, Sundaram comes there and describes the girl he was talking about to Raghavan. Raghavan realises that Radha, whom he intends to marry, is the same girl Sundaram is in love with. Raghavan, believing that Radha loves Sundaram, decides to help Sundaram attain his love and get a chance to act in films, which he does successfully. Sundaram becomes a star after his debut film Appavi Kanavan (English: Innocent Husband) becomes a hit and believes that his stardom and popularity will help him in attaining his love. When Radha comes to Sundaram's house to congratulate him, he introduces her to Raghavan, who is present at that time. As Sundaram goes to prepare snacks for the two, Radha asks Raghavan why he did not show up for the marriage proposal. Raghavan states that he thought Radha loved Sundaram. Shocked, Radha informs Raghavan that she likes Sundaram for his innocence, although she does not love him. Raghavan is pleasantly surprised, but to ensure that Sundaram's film career does not suffer from discovering the truth, he asks Radha to keep it a secret.
Sundaram's mother (S. N. Lakshmi) is pleased with her son's popularity but misses his presence due to Sundaram's busy acting career. She expresses to Sundaram her desire that she should die in his arms. When Raghavan believes that Sundaram will gradually forget Radha so that he and Radha can get married, he finds out that Sundaram's love for Radha has grown stronger. Raghavan then informs Radha that she should marry Sundaram, as Raghavan doesn't want to backstab his friend. Radha instead decides to personally express her feelings to Sundaram. When Sundaram expresses his love to Radha, she tells him that she never imagined that he would assume her friendly affection towards him as love and that Raghavan is her fiancé. Sundaram, shattered on losing his love, is also happy on hearing that Raghavan would marry her and congratulates Raghavan.
While Sundaram is busy shooting for the climax scene of a film, his mother falls down the footsteps of her home and is badly wounded. Sundaram's manager, Manickam (S. Ramarao) tries to convey the news to Sundaram, but is blocked by the studio authorities who inform him that the director has instructed them not to allow anyone into the studio. After finishing his shot, Sundaram hears of the news about his mother and rushes home to find out that she is no more. At last realising the happiness he enjoyed as a waiter, Sundaram dons his hotel uniform again. He explains to Raghavan that the waiter’s job is permanent, while the actor’s was only temporary.
- Male actors
- Nagesh as Sundaram
- R. Muthuraman as Raghavan
- S. Ramarao as Manickam
- S. V. Ranga Rao (Guest appearance)
- Major Sundarrajan as Chakravarthy
- Female actors
Server Sundaram was based on a play of the same name that was written by K. Balachander, who was then a playwright. Director duo Krishnan-Panju had earlier made Nallathambi (1949), which featured comedian N. S. Krishnan in the lead role, and wanted to make another film with a comedian as the protagonist. Hence they chose Nagesh for the job by informing him of their wish while travelling with Nagesh from Salem to Tiruppur. After returning from Tiruppur, Krishnan-Panju and Nagesh met Balachander and the trio asked Balachander to write a stage play for Nagesh. Balachander agreed. Krishnan-Panju also offered to produce a film adaptation of the play if it became a success.
The play had Nagesh himself in the titular role, along with Major Sundarrajan and S. N. Lakshmi who reprised their roles in the film. Before the play was staged for the first time, Nagesh became popular with films like Nenjil Or Aalayam (1962) and Kadhalikka Neramillai (1964), leading to Balachander to have concerns about whether a play with a serious theme could work with a now-famous comedian. However, Nagesh was confident that the play would be successful. The play did indeed become a success and was staged many times.
A. V. Meiyappan acquired the rights to the play and also shared Krishnan-Panju's wish to make a film based on it. Balachander was recruited as the film's screenplay and dialogue writer. Krishnan-Panju, in addition to being a co-producer, directed the film, although Balachander had shown a keen interest in directing it himself. Meiyappan accepted the inclusion of Nagesh in the film after watching the latter's performance in the play. Nagesh, who in turn was impressed with S. N. Lakshmi's performance in the play, asked Balachander to have Meiyappan include her in the film.
Server Sundaram was the first Tamil film to show numerous behind-the-scenes looks at the various processes involved in film-making such as the studio interiors, song recording, horse riding scenes and rain scenes. It was also notable for not featuring an antagonist. In one sequence, S. V. Ranga Rao and Manorama are seen as actors performing a scene for a film, using the concept of film within a film. The bond between mother and son, which according to historian S. Theodore Baskaran was "a persistent theme in Tamil cinema", was shown in the film. Server Sundaram was also considered a biography of Nagesh's own life. Nagesh was not convinced about having the song "Avalukkena" immediately after the film's intermission. Krishnan-Panju insisted and shot the song. Nagesh did not cooperate much during the song's filming. However, after seeing the positive feedback the song received, Nagesh admitted his mistake to Krishnan-Panju.
|Soundtrack album by
|Genre||Feature film soundtrack|
Philips performed the guitar portions for the song "Avalukkenna". The music troupe for the song consisted of Noel Grant (drums), Mangalamurthy (accordion), Nanjappa (flute), Fobes (violin), Henry Daniel and Joseph Krishna. According to Gopal Krishnan, in his book, Chords & Raaga, "Avalukkenna" involved a "complicated arrangement of mambo and bossa nova." T. M. Soundarajan was not convinced about whether the song "Avalukkenna" should be shot with Nagesh, feeling that the audience would not sit and watch a comedian singing. The producers took it as a challenge and came up with the idea of showing how a song is recorded and shot with "Avalukkenna" being played in the backdrop. Krishnan-Panju liked the idea and made use of it. Soundararajan admitted his mistake after the film's release and seeing the impact the song created.
The soundtrack received positive reviews, with "Avalukkenna" being particularly well received. Film producer and writer G. Dhananjayan mentions in his book Pride of Tamil Cinema - 1931 to 2013 that the songs were immensely popular and contributed to the film's success. Pradeep Madhavan of The Hindu states that "Avalukkenna" "brought out Nagesh's dancing potential onscreen." Radio Mirchi wrote, ""Avalukkenna" provided a new concept to Tamil cinema in terms of lyrics, music and dance."
|1.||"Avalukkenna"||Vaali||T. M. Soundararajan, L. R. Eswari||05:17|
|2.||"Silai Edutthan"||Kannadasan||P. Susheela||05:16|
|3.||"Poga Poga Theriyum"||Kannadasan||P. B. Sreenivas, P. Susheela||04:27|
|4.||"Thattai Nenjam"||Kannadasan||P. Susheela, A. L. Raghavan||04:02|
|5.||"Pattondru Tharuvaar"||Kannadasan||P. Susheela, L. R. Eswari||04:46|
Server Sundaram was released on 11 December 1964 with the release prints being 4,535 m (14,879 ft) long. The film became a critical and commercial success and completed a theatrical run of 100 days. Its success led to a Telugu-dubbed version. Server Sundaram was remade in Hindi as Main Sunder Hoon (1971) with Mehmood Ali, and in Kannada as Server Somanna (1993) with Jaggesh.
On 18 April 2010, the film was screened at the South Indian Film Chamber Theatre for the Dignity Film Festival held in Chennai; other films also screened included Madhumati (1958), Kadhalikka Neramillai (1964), Anbe Vaa (1966) and Thillana Mohanambal (1968).
The film received critical acclaim, with positive comments directed mainly at Nagesh's performance as Sundaram and Balachander's screenplay and dialogues. S. Theodore Baskaran, Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen, and Baradwaj Rangan noted similarities between Nagesh and Charlie Chaplin. It is also believed to be Nagesh's breakthrough role as an actor and Balachander's first success in Tamil cinema.
Dhananjayan described the film as "a realistic portrayal of how a hotel waiter achieves stardom for the sake of love". Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan, in its original review of the film dated 20 December 1964, mentioned that "the highlight of the film was Nagesh's outstanding acting and the film gave the experience of chatting and enjoying with friends in a car journey without living much impact".
On the scene where Nagesh auditions in front of the film producers introduced to him by Muthuraman, Baradwaj Rangan, writing for The New Indian Express, said, "Audiences that grew up with Nagesh will cotton on to the slyness of this apparently ungrateful gesture as the most identifiably Nagesh-like among everything that's transpired during these five minutes of Server Sundaram", whilst also stating the actor's comedy potential to be "his great arsenal". In 2014, at the fiftieth-year celebrations of the film, Pradeep Madhavan of The Hindu called the film a "trendsetter" in Tamil cinema for showcasing scenes involved in filmmaking and believed that Nagesh "lived the role of Sundaram". Behindwoods labelled S. N. Lakshmi's role in the film as "iconic".
|National Film Awards||12th National Film Awards||Certificate of Merit||A. V. Meiyappan (producer)
|Filmfare Awards South||12th Filmfare Awards South||Best Tamil Film||A. V. Meiyappan||Won|
|“||He would think through me, and I would act through him.||”|
—Balachander on his collaborations with Nagesh.
Server Sundaram became a trendsetter for those films where the plot focused on the life of a film artiste. Other films which followed the trend include Raman Ethanai Ramanadi (1970), Yenipadigal (1979), Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal (1989) and Uttama Villain (2015). Its success led to many collaborations between Nagesh and Balachander, notable of which include Neerkumizhi (1965), Major Chandrakanth (1966), Ethir Neechal (1968) and Apoorva Raagangal (1975). According to actor and film historian Mohan V. Raman: "By casting him [Nagesh] in Server Sundaram, Neerkumizhi, Ethir Neechal and Major Chandrakanth, he [Balachander] made the comedian a serious actor." The film also became noted for introducing the anti-hero to Tamil cinema as well as the style of delivering short and fast-paced dialogues. A dialogue spoken by Nagesh in the film, "Long, long ago... so long ago, nobody knows how long ago" became popular. Balachander mentions the dialogue in Uttama Villain as a build-up to the film his character directs. Actor Appukutty worked in several hotels and restaurants as a cleaner and server before making his acting debut with Azhagarsamiyin Kuthirai (2011) which fetched him the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor; Daily News and Analysis compared this to the plot of Server Sundaram.
Director Radha Mohan expressed a desire to remake the film but decided against it: "If there is one film I want to remake, this [Server Sundaram] will be the one, but I know I will not, because I believe classics should be left alone." Prabhu Deva ranked Server Sundaram among his favourite films. A restaurant named "Hotel Server Sundaram" is located in the Thuraipakkam area of Chennai. In December 2014, G. Babu Jayakumar of The New Indian Express included the film in his list of Balachander's noted films. Clips from Server Sundaram were screened along with clips from other films such as Iru Kodugal (1969), Arangetram (1973), Aval Oru Thodar Kathai (1974), Avargal (1977) and Azhagan (1991) at a function held in Balachander's honour at Tiruchirappalli in January 2015, a month after his death.
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