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No Padma Award for this tall, versatile leader

15 August 1975. The Chennai TV station was inaugurated by V C Shukla, Minister of Information & Broadcasting. TN Governor, K K Shah, was another important guest.

It was the height of Indira Gandhi’s emergency. Tamil Nadu was sheltering several leaders opposed to the emergency. Leaders of the ruling DMK were arrested under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). Then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi was not invited for the function despite the state providing prime land at the heart of the city. Deputy Director General and Head of the Chennai Doordarshan, P V Krishnamoorthy (PVK) was concerned and took bold to cover the chief minister’s address at the flag hoisting function that morning. There was the expectation of the chief minister turning up. Shukla and Shah quietly bolted soon after the inauguration. Karunanidhi did not attend, though.

A couple of years later after emergency was lifted, Karunanidhi, now not in power, presided over a Kavi Arangam. In his characteristic humour, he stated: ‘thoo thoo enru thurathiya doordarshan, vaa vaa endru ennai azhaithathu’ (Doordarshan that chased me away in the past, is now welcoming me to participate in this programme), recalled senior television journalist D Sampath Kumar. Krishnamoorthy died at the ripe age of 98 on 16
October 2019.

A yen for spotting talent

It is difficult to recall another tall, versatile broadcaster who served as the Director, AIR in all the four metros as also in Cuttack and Kozhikode, headed TV stations in metros and was the first Director General of Doordarshan. He embellished each one of the postings, brought out the best of the culture and traditions of the region. In that process, he spotted talent in a large number of artistes in music, dance and a variety of folk arts. Connoisseur of art and journalist Leela Venkataraman quotes him: “I don’t have to go looking for greatness in persons. I smell greatness, an ability God has given me.”

Kelucharan Mohapatra, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Akshay Kumar Mohanty, Smita Patil and Sikander Alam are some of the artistes he spotted, recognised and promoted.

SITE, his magnum opus

PVK used effectively the broadcast/telecast media. This pioneer of Indian television firmly believed in using these powerful media for not just entertainment, but more for education. He was closely involved in several major internationally funded projects: the Ford-funded School TV and the UNESCO-sponsored school education through Delhi TV. I consider the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) his magnum opus. In an interview to Doordarshan, he graphically described to interviewer, Leela Venkataraman, the magnitude of the challenge: “I was directed to proceed at short notice to Cape Canaveral in the US to discuss the project with American experts for reaching out to villages in four states. The task was to produce 1320 hours of programmes of relevance in four languages for 2400 remote villages from three makeshift studios. The SITE was the largest and the most ambitious of rural communication projects ever attempted. The programme was telecast in Hindi, Kannada, Odiya and Telugu.”
PVK ensured its full impact. Sadly, the satellite slot was available just for one year. There was demand by thousands of villagers in the four states to continue with the programme.

Even while PVK excelled in using television for the spread of education, economic development and social amelioration, in his tenures at Mumbai and Delhi he produced a number of entertainment classics through TV serials.

PVK was born and spent his early years in Burma. The family had in abundance the genes of music and other arts. His elder brother P V Subramanyam, known as Subbudu, was one of the best art critics of India.

A composer of merit

PVK had great credentials as a composer and has to his credit compositions in Odiya, Bengali and Malayalam. In his postings, he strove hard in bringing out the best of folk arts of the region. Leela Venkataraman refers to his musical acumen that created the scores for many a lyric. Great singers like Talat Mahmood, Meena Kapoor… sang his lyrics.

PVK was selected Vice Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi and later a Fellow of the akademi and was a media consultant for UNICEF for nearly a decade. He also served in several important committees connected with art, culture and mass media.

I share the sadness and disappointment of Leela Venkataraman: “the person (PVK) who was most deserving of the highest of state awards had died quietly with no all- India recognition – even while lesser talents are being decorated all the time.”

When financial engineering earned more profits for Maruti…

In the early 1980s Maruti Udyog Ltd heralded a game-change in the engineering sector in India. True to its name, it was a Hanuman jump in technology, in vendor development, in marketing and human relations…. V Krishnamurthy, with his earlier rich experience at BHEL and as Secretary, Heavy Industry, chiselled the structure to perfection from day one. A major focus area of his was also to hand-pick brilliant professionals that included R C Bhargava, S Natarajan (SN)…. Bhargava continues as a non-executive Chairman of Maruti Suzuki; SN had retired.

A post-graduate in Chemistry, SN served for a couple of years as a lecturer in Loyola College. I had the fortune of having him as my teacher while studying intermediate and benefitted from his great qualities as a teacher. SN joined the Indian Audit & Accounts Service and gained proficiency in finance management. VK drafted him for BHEL and thence to Maruti Udyog.

Look at the great silent work of SN in ensuring profitabi-lity of Maruti almost from day one. There was great demand for the Maruti 800 right at its launch. When the company opened for registration with a deposit of Rs 10,000 per car with the promise of interest at 7 per cent p.a. till delivery, around 140,000 registrations flowed in quick time. The company got Rs 140 crore. This was repeated again; when the company offered the Maruti Omni another Rs 140 crore was collected. It reached a crescendo a few years later, when the company introduced the Maruti 1000 cc car: 250,000 applications were received, each with a deposit of Rs 25,000 that amounted to a whopping Rs 625 crore!
SN’s genius lay in investing the huge amounts in other public sector organisations like BHEL at interest of around 15 per cent. One thus witnessed an ingenious finance engineering which earned for the company perhaps more profits than those got from the thin margins on sales!

SN continued with his brilliant financial acumen by managing the foreign exchange transactions. In the initial years Maruti was importing sizeable volumes of engines and other components to meet the massive growth in demand. SN carefully hedged foreign exchange fluctuations and protected the company from the steep depreciation of the rupee suffered in the late 1980s.

Deeply religious SN and his wife Sarada were closely involved with the Sankara Mutt and in the administration of the Kamakshi temple in South Delhi. Mrs. Natarajan was one of the earliest to do the parikrama at Manasarovar. Their abode in Delhi was also the home for several artistes from Tamil Nadu like Umayalpuram Sivaraman. Both the children of SN, Padma and Sriram, inherited the genes of SN. Padma, a scholar in French, has been actively engaged in French literary and cultural activities in Delhi. Sriram promoted the Indalia Medical Devices Pvt Ltd at Goa which has been flourishing in the medical equipment business.

SN and his family have been liberally supporting several religious and educational activities.

SN expired on 12 October on a visit to Pune to attend the board meeting of a company. IE offers its condolences to his family.

A doyen of social service…. 

Period: the 1950s. Place: West Mambalam. This part of the city then was still littered with agricultural fields with poor civic infrastructure, no drainage, open lavatories with manual scavenging and a predominantly lower middle class population. T S Krishnamurthy (TSK) working as an assistant in the Joint Chief Controller’s office was keen to do his mite. Along with another friend Ramachandran, he founded the Social Service Centre (SSC). He persuaded the American service organisation, CARE, to donate milk powder to be recombined into liquid milk. TSK organised a group of young men to distribute milk daily, rain or shine, at five different centres of Mambalam, serving at the peak 1500 beneficiaries. His band of colleagues, (including self), expanded the activities to cover a wide range of civic services. These included street cleaning in slum areas, public meetings addressed by celebrities like C N Annadurai, Ma Po Si, P Jeevanandham, Kothamangalam Subbu…. literary activities, a tailoring school for women, music classes…

Self-effacing TSK, attracted dozens of young men and women to expand social welfare activities. TSK took care of collecting the needed funds through the publication of an annual souvenir. SSC’s peak was reached when it staged a variety entertainment programme in 1962 that helped buy two grounds of precious land at the heart of Mambalam. When the young team dispersed with advancements in their careers, the land was donated to the Public Health Centre.

A true Gandhian, TSK, who motivated dozens to do social service, died on 8 October.

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