An actor, a thespian and a writer all rolled into one, famous Tamil theatre artist ‘Vietnam Veedu’ Sundaram breathed his last on Saturday morning.
Sundaram's claim to fame came in the 1960s with his first play titled 'Vietnam Veedu'. The play starring then superstar and a powerhouse performer Sivaji Ganesan was an instant hit. Sivaji then christened Sundaram as 'Vietnam Veedu' Sundaram. Sivaji played the role of Prestige Padmanabha Iyer and it was such a roaring success that it was staged more than 1000 times in Tamil Nadu.
He stepped into the world of drama only to emerge with a hat trick - three prominent dramas ‘Vietnam Veedu', ‘Gnana Oli' and ‘Gowravam' made him a star.
Sundaram was also the brainchild of social mythology - a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone, especially embodying the ideas and institutions of a segment of society. Namma Veetu Deivam”, was a first in Tamil cinema that furthered this concept, and was remade into Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada. That set the social mythology trend in films and television. He had directed more than a dozen films and was well known for family-themed dramas. Moving from the world of theatrics and film, he had turned actor on the small screen, and has to his credit a few television serials. He however didn’t fade into oblivion, having written for M. G. Ramachandran, Sivaji Ganesan, Rajinikanth, Kamal Hassan, K. R. Vijaya, Sathyaraj and Karthik Muthuraman in his hey day.
In a profile of Sundaram by Gopal Ethiraj for the Asian Tribune, he described Sundaram as someone who adapted well with the changing writing scene in Tamil cinema. Ethiraj wrote, "Those who were well-versed in the old form of writing (dialogue) only fell through when the trend changed. Only a few survived the sea change, Sundaram is one among them."
His shift to the silver screen didn’t go unnoticed - Sundaram became an instant success as an actor in his very first TV serial. He chose a role that captured the heart of the children in Sun TV titled “My Dear Bhootham,” which was written and acted by him and directed by B. R. Vijayalakshmi. The role he played? A grandfather ghost who stays in spirit with his grandson. He earned another name for it – “Bhootham Thatha”
His closing words to Ethiraj? “When the curtain falls on the stage or films, the curtain should raise in the minds of the audience. This proves the success of the writer. As the holder of a pen, that is his only duty.”