(Last Updated on : 28/01/2009)
Kandaswamy Mudaliar was a well known Tamil dramatist and stage actor. He was born in Madras and belonged to a conservative middle-class Mudaliar family. His full name was Madaras (Madras in Tamil) Kandaswamy Mudaliar.
Earlier, Tamil theatre was looked down upon by respectable folks like the intellectual elites of the society. But it was very much liked by the common people. At that time Sankara Das Swamigal, the founding father of the Renaissance of Tamil Theatre, came up with a bold step and the Tamil Theatre Movement known as 'Boys Company' was set up. In these troupes, only the boys in their teens played all the big and small, male and female, young and old rules. These brought a historic theatre movement and these performers later became well know faces in Tamil cinema.
Kandaswamy Mudaliar lived in the crowded George Town area of the city. He took his BA degree from the Madras University. He was an expert of English literature. He had good knowledge of William Shakespeare, and even Continental playwrights like Ibsen, Moliere, Strindberg, and Chekov. He loved the writings of Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Dickens and such all time greats.
Kandaswamy Mudaliar was a brilliant stage actor both in English and Tamil. He was also a popular Tamil playwright play producer and director of theatre. In those days, a man with so much of talents was respectfully called Vadhiyaar (teacher in Tamil). His idol was the two founding fathers of Tamil Theater, Sankara Das Swamigal, and Pammal Sambandham Mudaliar.
Kandaswamy Mudaliar had his education in the famous Madras Christian College and Reverend Miller. He was a favorite disciple of his Principal Dr. Miller. At that time, he was one of the most famous professors of English and it was considered something great, and exclusive to be his student. Mudaliar used to take part in the Shakespearean plays in English staged by his College under the personal supervision and direction of the great principal himself.
During the late 19th century, another founding father of the renaissance of Tamil Theatre, Pammal Sambandham Mudaliar founded the famous 'Suguna Vilas Sabha'. Kandaswamy Mudaliar became a member of it and also played a leading role in the running of the Sabha. He started writing plays apart from supporting his guru Sam-bandham Mudaliar in the theatre activities of the Sabha. He also played the main roles in many of the plays of the Sabha in Tamil. The most successful play of the Sabha was 'Manoham', which was written by Sambandham Mudaliar in which Kandaswamy Mudaliar played the role of the devious seductress Vasanthasena, which was praised by all.
Kandaswamy Mudaliar's wife died early keeping a son named M K Radha. He did not marry again as he wanted to initiate his son into the world of Tamil theatre. So, he registered his son to one of the Boys' Company troupes, when the child was only six or seven years old. He nurtured and trained the boy so nicely and later Radha became one of the top stars of Tamil theatre of that era. His son Radha studied in a school in Georgr Town area where the language of instruction was Telugu and not Tamil. Later, he dropped out of the school, as theatre became his entire world. Kandaswamy used to take his son to watch English movies regularly almost every week and sometimes more often. He used to give him teachings on the cinema hall itself about acting in cinema, explaining to him how cinema acting was different from acting in theatre.
In the later life, Radha became a successful film star with his debut in Ellis R. Dungan's Sathi Leelavathi (1936). The critics could analyse his style of acting being very cinematic and not the exaggerated overblown Tamil theatre style of performing. This credit goes to his father great Kandaswamy Mudaliar. Then, Kandaswamy started writing plays actively and looked around for novels not only in English but Tamil.
Kandaswamy Mudaliar wrote plays based on the storyline of Vaduvur K. Duraiswamy Ayyangar, who was one of the noted writers in Tamil and was extremely popular for his detective fiction. Some of them include 'Menaka' and 'Vidyasagarar'. He wrote a play based on the novel by a wealthy American lady Mrs. Henry Woods, who was one of the leading fiction writers of the early 1900s. It was based on the theme of the evils of drinking, called Danbury House. He made a play in Tamil on the novel and the Boys' Company known as the Madurai Original Boys Company with which he was then associated with staged it. The play was instant hit and a movie was also made on it in Tamil. The film was titled 'Sathi Leelavathi' and was released in 1936. It was a huge success in the Box office. But unfortunately, no print of the film is known to exist today.
Kandaswamy Mudaliar died in early 1940s. Unfortunately, he could not live to see his son playing the hero in the Gemini Studio's Chandralekha in 1948. It is very regrettable that the current generation of Tamil theatre folks has almost forgotten Mudaliar and his outstanding contribution to the growth of Tamil theatre.