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A couple made for each other

For someone who has so strikingly documented 5000 years of Indian history, 500 years of medieval India, 50 years of independence and 5 years of liberalisation in the documentary 5555, talking of seven decades of his life should be easy.

The innovative S Krishnaswamy (Babu) combined this autobiography with the biography of his equally illustrious spouse, Mohana, in his book, An unlikely chemistry. The book describes the exciting journey of Krishnaswamy Associates Pvt Ltd. and the life and times of this illustrious couple.

The Celebrated Babu

Since the 1970s, Krishnaswamy has produced 325 industrial, corporate, educational, training, motivational, biopics, historical, and journalistic documentaries, including advertising films. Many of these charted new paths like the documentary Long Term Agricultural Development Programme for Madras Fertilizers on the impact of fertilizer use; and the one for Tamil Nadu Newsprint & Papers Ltd on the innovative bagasse-based newsprint and paper. (TNPL pioneered large scale production of newsprint from bagasse under the lead of SPB’s S Viswanathan; it was the pet project of MGR, that was opposed by the bureaucracy, but received a $100 billion loan from the World Bank!)
Son of the illustrious film magnate K Subrahmanyam, Babu was born with a silver spoon. He graphically describes his early, affluent life filled with celebrity contacts. The entire narration relates to society, customs and practices of those times.
Pursuing higher studies in the US, Babu grabbed the opportunity to shift from Los Angeles to Columbia University. The move groomed him into an astute thinker, researcher and presenter of social and cultural issues. Along with his teacher Erik Barnouw, he wrote a book on Indian Cinema. Struck by his sharp visual presentations, I once asked him why he would not make feature films like his father’s epic Thyaga Bhoomi. He instantly replied: “would you switch to writing short stories instead of economic issues?”

His magnum opus

With great passion and struggle Babu laboured through his magnum opus, a four-hour long documentary, Indus Valley to Indira Gandhi, a comprehensive presentation on 5000 years of Indian civilisation. It was the first of its kind! This was bought by Warner Brothers!
Babu cultivated friendships with famous political leaders like C Subramaniam, R Venkataraman, G K Mooppanar,
I K Gujral…

The Tamil in him

For most Tamils their ‘historians’ were popular novelists like ‘Kalki’, Chandilyan, Karunanidhi, MaPoSi, Balakumaran… who lavished enviable attributes on their characters with rich imagination! Worried over the lack of sense of history, Babu produced the TV serial, Ezhu Thalaimurai Ezhuchi, which depicted the apprisings of the Tamils over seven generations. For this he drew upon the genius of the famous Tamil literateurs Jayakanthan and M P Sivagnam. The Dravida Kazhagam leader K Veeramani, filed a case against the content and sought to disrupt the serial. Babu fought hard and won the case. But sadly it killed his yen for historical research on Tamils.
Right through the book Babu focuses on the reverse discrimination of Brahmins that caused endless distress to the community. It was particularly harsh on Mohana: she shifted to Chennai from Hyderabad hoping to continue her MBBS studies; but the reservation system would not allow it. The book also refers to several other instances that affected Mohana’s research pursuits. The scars were deep, but the loss to science became the gain for media and communications!
Mohana’s passion for medical research, particularly in ayurveda, which garnered global recognition, was as fiery as Babu’s passion for historical research and documentary films. He graphically describes how Mohana was later drawn to his, and eventually became chairperson of the company. The Operation Blue Star, the documentary on IPKF, for which he visited LTTE leader Prabhakaran’s headquarters, biopics on Ramana Maharishi, R Venkataraman and C Subramaniam are amongst their prized contributions.
Impressed by the BJP and Narendra Modi, Mohana and Krishnaswamy have become members of the BJP. They however express concern over the divisive nature of the Indian polity. The concluding chapter ends in a philosophical vein and talks of social harmony.
Mohana and Babu have provided a lucid account of not just their evolution, but of India’s too through seven decades. – SV

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