CV Sridhar was an extremely successful director in both Tamil and Hindi cinema, besides directing films in Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu as well. He is known for breathing freshness into Tamil cinema with his treatment of romance and dialogue right from his directorial debut, Kalyana Parisu (1959). He made several films on the eternal triangle, a plot device often used in his films.
Sridhar was born on July 22, 1933 in Chengalpattu district of Tamil Nadu studying at St Joseph’s school there. Before becoming a director, he first made it as a successful writer. “He wrote very interesting stage plays when we were in school,” according to Chitralaya Gopu, a classmate, close friend and colleague. He came into notice for his writing skills first with a play of his – Rathapasam. Theatre personality TK Shanmugam was very impressed with this production and ensured that the play was staged at all major sabhas in the city. Following the success of the play, Sridhar began receiving offers to write for Tamil films.
Among others, Sridhar scripted the extremely successful Sivaji Ganesan – Padmini starrer Ethirparadathu (1954). The film, directed by Chitrapu Narayanamurthy looks at Sunder (Sivaji Ganesan) who is the only son of a rich man in Madurai, Dayaparar (Chittor V Nagiah). A student, he stays in Madras with Sumathi (Padmini) and her father. Sumathi’s brother Doctor Gopu (SV Sahasranamam) has left the house with his wife, Nalini (S Varalakshmi) to live in Bangalore. Sunder leaves for USA and is thought to be dead in the plane crash. He survives, is resued by tribals and is blind. Gopu and Nalini return heavily in debt. To settle her brother’s debts, Sumathi marries Dayaparar not knowing he is Sunder’s father. The film was the inspiration for the LV Prasad directed Raj Kapoor-Meena Kumari-Shyama starrer Sharada (1957).
Anohter mega-hit that Sridhar scripted was Amaradeepam (1956). The film starring Sivaji Ganesan, Padmini and Savithri. In trying to rescue the woman he loves, Aruna (Savithri), from her kidnappers, Ashok (Sivaji Ganesan) gets hit by a car and loses his memory. As he wanders around, he joins a group of nomads. Rupa (Padmini), the gypsy in the group, falls in love with him. Eventually, Ashok does regain his memory and is reunited with Aruna. It is also revealed that Rupa is in fact Aruna’s sister and was kidnapped as an infant. Rupa dies saving Ashok from the villain. The film’s Hindi version, Amar Deep (1958), was produced by Ganesan and starred Dev Anand and Vyjayanthimala with Padmini playing her original role.
From writing, directing was the next logical step for Sridhar. He made a major impact on the Tamil film industry with his first film, Kalyana Parisu, itself. In the film, Baskar (Gemini Ganesh) and Vasanthi (B Saroja Devi) are college mates who are in love. Vasanthi’s elder sister, Geetha, supports the family by stitching clothes. Baskar rents the room upstairs in their house. He falls ill and in nursing him, Geetha falls in love with him. She confides her love to Vasanthi who decides to sacrifice her love for her the sake of her sister and convinces Baskar to marry Geetha. A few years later Geetha dies leaving Baskar alone to bring up thier child. Baskar learns of Vasanthi’s impanding marriage to her former boss Raghu (A Nageshwara Rao). He reaches there by the time Vasanthi and Raghu are married. He hands over his child to Vasanthi as a wedding gift and walks away… The film, one of Gemini Ganesh’s most popular films, was the breakthrough film for B Saroja Devi and singer AM Rajah, who composed its superhit music. The success of its songs made P Susheela the leading female playback singer of Tamil cinema. Sridhar would go on to make a highly successful remake, Pelli Kanuka (1960) as well.
With Kalyana Parisu‘s success, Sridhar launched his own production company, Chitralaya Pictures. The first film to come out from the banner was Then Nilavu (1961), starring Vyjayanthimala and Gemini Ganesh. The love story, a rare Tamil outing for Vyjayanthimala, was known for its lilting music by AM Rajah and was among the earliest Tamil films to be shot in Kashmir.
Sridhar entered Hindi cinema with Nazrana (1961), a re-make of Kalyana Parisu with Raj Kapoor and Vyjayanthimala taking on the Gemini Ganesha and Saroja Devi roles. While the film was a faithful enough copy, the melodrama is somewhat toned down in this version, in particular, in the performances of Raj Kapoor and Usha Kiron as the elder sister. Consequently, the film has held up better cinematically today even if unable to achieve the cult status of the original. It did win Sridhar a Filmfare Award for Best Story though.
Sridhar would go on to re-make two of his most famous films in Hindi as well. Nenjil Oru Alayam (1962), another love triangle and one of his most successful films that he made without stars was re-made into the equally successful Dil Ek Mandir (1963), this time with big stars like Meena Kumari, Rajendra Kumar and Raaj Kumar. The outstanding comedy Kadallika Neramillai (1964) found its Hindi avatar in Pyar Kiye Jaa (1966). If Mehmood narrating his ‘film story’ to Om Prakash was a highlight of the latter film, Tamil fans swear by the original where Nagesh ‘narrates to TS Balaiah. Both versions proved to be extremely successful at the box office.
Mention must be made of two films that Sridhar did with Sivaji Ganesan in this period – Ooty Varai Uravu (1967) and Sivadha Mann (1969). Both were immensely successful films. The Hindu, in its review, praised the script in the former, highlighting the fact that in spite of a massive cast, equal justice was done to each and every character. The latter, co-starring Kanchana, was an early Tamil film shot abroad in various countries across Europe. However, its Hindi remake, Dharti (1970), also directed by Sridhar and starring Rajendra Kumar and Waheeda Rehman, did not do well at the box office.
While Sridhar launched stars like Devika, Jayalalithaa and Ravichandran, he also turned down a young Hema Malini for a Tamil film he was making when she was still in her teens. Years later, when the same Hema became the queen of Hindi cinema, the same Sridhar worked with her in Gehri Chaal (1973)!
Sridhar continued making successful films right through the 1970s and 1980s. Some of his memorable films in this period include Seeta Geeta Datithe (1977), Ilamai Unchaladugirathu (1978), Azhage Unnai Aarathikkirean (1979), Prema Sangamam (1984) and Yaro Ezhuthia Kavithai (1986).
Sridhar, ailing for sometime and confined to a wheelchair, passed away due to cardiac arrest in Chennai on October 20, 2008.