His story of how the name “Film News Anandan” stuck itself is a tale of its own.

When I met Film News Anandan Unmatchable conversations with the walking encyclopediaImage: News7/Youtube
news Blog Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - 10:22

March 21, 2016, will be remembered as the day a tiny yet irreplaceable part of Tamil cinema was lost forever. Film News Anandan, aged 88, notable photographer, historian and actor passed away afte in Chennai.

A 'walking encyclopedia' as they called him, he had every single fact about the seven decades of Tamil cinema at his very fingertips, and age played a small a number to him for a long time.

A meeting with him in June 2015 over a curious picture of J Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi posing together in their younger years got us talking at his Chennai residence. This picture was doing the rounds on social media, and no one really had an idea where and when it was taken. As he got talking on one of his favourite topics - Jayalalithaa (whom he knew since her childhood days), the man’s knowledge and keen sense despite his failing vision was astonishing.

I’m sure the who’s who of Tamil cinema know the story of this man, but for others, Film News Anandan was a person who made his own career using cameras, pictures and archives. Chronicling Tamil cinema, one movie at a time, his house itself is a miniature museum.

His sense of humor was unmissable. I got a camera, it was a box type camera when I was a young boy, he said. “My fellow students in school hated me. I was the only one who knew how to use this camera. And every time, there was a school event, I would be freely roaming taking pictures whereas they had to sit in one place,” he said with a chuckle.

His story of how the name “Film News Anandan” stuck itself is a tale of its own. Named Mani when he was born, he not only made his own career, he practically chose his own name when he uttered the name “Anandakrishnan” to the school principal he was joining when asked for it. Since then on, the name has made many modifications: from Anandakrishnan to PG Anandan to Film News Anandan. It was when his photographs of movies were published first in a magazine “Film News” that the credits for it “Film News Anandan” stuck. Believe it or not, “I had a tough time with my name,” he then said. The phone directory people didn’t let him use his now popular name – Film News Anandan.

He remembered an incident in the early 1970s where Jayalalithaa was fiercely questioned by Kannadigas like it was yesterday. “They were yelling all kinds of abusive chants and every one of them carried a weapon of some sort,” talking about an incident during which the then blooming actress attracted the wrath of some activists over her comments. A story he narrated admiring her boldness in the face of adversity, he went on to work as a press relations officer for thousands of films.

From 1954, he began collecting working stills of movies and filmographies. So much so that his room has stacks of drawers perfectly labelled and chronically ordered for him to access. Whether it’s Jayalalithaa’s first movie Epistle (which was in English), or whether it was a 1980s movie, one could ask him anything. He collected working stills of each movie, with their filmography from the year 1931 onwards. “Sometimes, I would pay money from my own pocket to collect all details regarding a movie,” he had said.

Imagine a time without the Internet. Imagine you didn’t have a mobile phone to check who directed the 1973 Tamil remake of a Kannada movie “Ganga Gowri”? Well, to be honest there are a lot of things still not on the Wikipedia that Film News Anandan had ready for anyone waiting for him. And when anyone wanted to know anything accurate about the Tamil cinema history, it was him they all turned to.

I’m sure many people, senior and accomplished, searching for information have met with Anandan over his life but probably none of them would have gone back unsatisfied. If you sit next to him, you would not leave without him coming up with a quirky story involving Tamil Nadu’s many film stars. He even told me a story of how former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi once called him on his landline number, and he failed to recognize his voice. I couldn’t believe it, he said amused. Imagine the mortification.

My story that day might not have been about him, but seeing all his work, seeing his room filled with records of all films, black and white pictures of all heroes and heroines, with details that no one else would remember any more, it was something nobody else would probably ever have.

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