Bhanumathi Ramakrishna, the multifaceted genius of South Indian cinema, was a redoubtable personality who commanded respect from her peers and rivals in the film industry.
A singer, music director, script writer, producer, a studio owner and a great philanthropist, Dr. Bhanumathi Ramakrishna was a strong willed, independent and dominant lady.
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December 24th, 2019, happens to be Dr. Bhanumathi’s 14th remembrance day and we look at five special facets of this great legend.
- A woman who danced to her own tune
Dr. Bhanumathi was bold and candid in her speech and deeds. One example of this nature is her marriage to P. Ramakrishna, the great director. Dr. Bhanumathi fell in love with him when she was a big star and he was an associate director. She secretly married him, much to the dismay of her father and then convinced her father about her decision being right in every sense. Such was her individuality.
- The artist who stood apart from the rest
Dr. Bhanumathi entered the film industry in 1939, when she was 14. She was many years senior to the main heroes of Tollywood, A. Nageswara Rao and N.T. Rama Rao. She always maintained an awe and respect among her peers. In fact, people used to be surprised to see M.G. Ramachandran, the number one hero of Tamil cinema, get up from his seat whenever Dr. Bhanumathi entered the set, even in the middle of a shot featuring them. He was her admirer and made her the director of the Tamil Nadu Government Music College as he was confident of her administrative abilities.
- A no nonsense person
The film industry is filled with politically correct people, but Dr. Bhanumathi was a straightforward speaker who spoke her mind. She managed a huge studio, Bharani Studios and never allowed any gossipmonger journalist to even approach her for an interview. She used to keenly check the bonafides of every journalist and then give a nod. Her frankness with any journalist was legendary and she never suffered fools.
- A favourite of politicians
Dr. Bhanumathi was commended for her scholarship in music and the art of filmmaking by the top leaders of the South, including Tamil icon C.N. Annadurai. He was the one who gave her the title of ‘the actress who is a dictionary of performance.’ Similarly, her association with M.G. Ramachandran is legendary. It is a strange coincidence Dr. Bhanumathi passed away on the same date as M.G. Ramachandran—December 24th. He passed away in 1987 and she, in 2005.
Indira Gandhi was another admirer who came all the way from her place at the Rashtrapati Bhavan to greet Dr. Bhanumathi when the latter was conferred with the Padma Shri in 1966.
- A lucky mascot
Dr. Bhanumathi was considered a lucky mascot by many producers. The first color film in South India, Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum, was shot in Salem, far away from Madras (Chennai,) in 1955. The producer made special arrangements for Dr. Bhanumathi and her staff and gave away his own bunglow to be used by her for the entire shoot. Such was the respect she demanded in the film industry.
These are just some facets of Dr. Bhanumathi Ramakrishna. There is no personality in Indian cinema who excelled equally in as many fields as different as music, writing, acting, direction and producing movies.
We miss you, Dr. Bhanumathi and you are an irreplaceable icon!