Dear Meenakshi Mukeherjee,

I read with great your book review in the Economic and Political Weekly for June 2-8 2007 on A.K.Chettiar’s reminiscences of making a documentary on Mahatama Gandhi. In fact, the late A.K.Chettiar was my long time friend and mentor. I knew him for a fairly long time, since my college days in Chennai to his last years. He helped me in writing and also to get to know people at all sorts of places and countries. When I went to Santiniketan for the first time when I was hardly eighteen or so, he gave me a letter of introduction to some friend who came to receive me at the Howrah railway station! Such was his habit that whenever I sought his help there he was. He knew so many people, big and small and Issued to be amazed at his capacity to strike friendships that lasted his lifetime. He brought his unique personal charm and charisma and that you used to find in his friends too.

He was in his prime the most celebrated writer of a translucent Tamil prose style and he was the pioneer in Tamil travel writing. His books sold in thousands in those days and one classic was called, “A Tamil who is a wanderer in the world”. This narrated the worldwide admiration the Gandhi name enjoyed even long before India got freedom. He must have met almost all the Gandhi contemporaries, from Gandhi’s South African colleagues to such names like Romain Rolland and Subash Bose in Vienna and each of such encounters he brought to life in his sensitive portraits in the Tamil language.

He published his famous monthly, Kumari Malar which itself had some unique achievements. He unearthed the long forgotten writings of the famed Tamil poet, Subramany a Bahrati, before others came in the trail. Mr.A.R.Venkatachalapathy whom I know well is the latest such rare researcher who brought to light rare manuscripts and printed and published magazines of Bharati.

I have so much to narrate on the life and qualities of Chettiar’s mind and his innate humanity. The subject deserves a full-length biography and also much other recognitions.
As for the Gandhi film, he was the true great achiever. I know some details about how the Gandhi smarak Nidhi let him down and also how the friends of Gandhi including Rajajai were so unhelpful in the matter of preserving the Gandhi film. He wanted to sell the film to the Gandhi nidhi but there was no one to buy, I know. Chettiar was a sad man and yet it was his nature he never let others know his personal disappointments.

May be the disappointment with the Gandhi trustees( I know personally how Rajaji and Devadas Gandhi didn’t come forward to help him, they didn’t show enough interest to save his project by purchasing the film) had also led to the film getting lost. How the film got lost is not made known to us, Chettiar’s close friends, though he used to promise us once to screen for us the film in some theatre. This also never came though. The man lost the film, he also lost interest in pursuing any other career as such except lead a routine and retired life by editing the small circulation monthly, Kumari Malar. The magazine saw its glory in its initial years, long ago. I used to call on him at his modest office on the Mowbrys Road, Royappettah, he shared the office with one fellow companion, Mr.Gopalan. The two kept company with each other and there always used to be callers from all walks of life. He used to travel often to district towns, Madurai and Coimbatore where he was my guest often. The last good friend whose company and hospitality he enjoyed is the devoted couple, Gnanalaya Krishnamurthy and Mrs. Dorathy Krishnamurthy of Pudukottai. They run perhaps the state’s only privately-run library of rare Tamil books.

Surely he was a man from another era.

I treasure his memory as the most valuable in my life and also the many small little helps and timely advice at different stages of my life.

Anyway, I appreciate you are able to construct a picture of the man as he lived, he was extremely unwilling to talk of his personal life, though he comes from a community of money lenders(to which the present Finance Minister P.Chidambaram belongs) and most of his community men were so money-minded and here was a man from such a community who never sought money for himself or identified himself with money-minded people.

Of course he had plenty of friends who were always at his service and every one of us who enjoyed his friendship and affection would always remember what they all gained by his personal example.

Vadamalai Media Group

Reply from Ms.Meenakshi Mukeherjee

Dear Mr. Isvarmurti,  Thank you so much for taking the trouble to write. I read your letter with keen interest because after reading the Mahatma book in Eng trans. I am fascinated by the the author. I am from outside Tamil culture and did not know much about Mr. Chettiar before reading this book.I am glad I have not gone off the markin assessing the man or the book. . The loss of such a valuable film seems  inexplicable to me. If you can  write a letter to EPW relating whatever you know on the subject , it would indeed be a useful service .

With warm regards,

Meenakshi Mukherjee,

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9 Thoughts on “AK.Chettiar, the man to make the first documentary film on Mahatama Gandhi when Gandhi was very much alive!

  1. c.rajesh on June 30, 2007 at 3:14 pm said:


    it’s the first time , i got to know of chettiar and his gandhi film direction .
    it;s good.

  2. Deepthi Prabhakar on July 17, 2007 at 3:17 pm said:

    Dear Sri Isvarmurti

    Is there any way to obtain this film Sir? I have been looking for this movie (“Mahatma Gandhi: the 20th century prophet” ) for a long time now. I will be extremely grateful if you can let me know where i can purchase the film. Am a student of Gandhiji and in Bangalore.

  3. A.Annamalai on January 26, 2008 at 4:24 pm said:

    Dear Sir

    We have the copy of the A.K.Chettiar’s “Mahatma Gandhi : 20th Centuray Prophet. Gandhi Study Centre, Chennai is screening this movie to all over tamilnadu. If anybody is interested kindly let me know. Ph:9444183198 (A.Annamalai, Director, Gandhi Study Centre, 58 Venkatanarayana Road, T.Nagar, Chennai 600 017)

  4. Chinnasamy Radhakrishnan on April 14, 2009 at 4:46 pm said:

    Dear Sir,
    Indeed, I am so surprised to read an article on Mr.A.K.Chettiar, that too it is written by his long time friend and Shishiar.
    I am very much happy to read about Mr.A.K.Chettiar. It is a great pleasure to share and proud to say that Mr.A.K.Chettiar visited our school (Sri Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya High School, Coimbatore) in 1968, when I was stuying sixth standard. At the time, our respected Ayya (T.S.Avinashilingam Chettiyar) was with us.
    Mr.A.K.Chettiar stayed with us for about 10 days in the school, gave speeches on our great leader Mahatma Gandhi and Travel experiences of his own. He was very happy always and makes us laugh on his jokes. I had a great chance to serve him as his secretary during his stay.
    He presented a book ‘MALEYA MUDHAL CANADA VARAI’ (From Malaya to Canada) written by him to me. It is one of a great gift for me in my life and I am still preserving the book with great care.
    I would like contact with you by mail or phone, if you wouldn’t mind and share our good time had with Mr.A.K.Chettiar.
    Moreover, I am very much interested to read all the books wrote by Mr.A.K.Chettiar. I would be grateful if you could kindly advice me on where these books are available.
    Thanks with regards

  5. P. S. SESHADRI on May 21, 2009 at 12:47 pm said:

    Is there any way to buy a copy of the DVD? I bought both Tamil and English language versions of the book on Mr A. K. Chettiar after reading about him in the Hindu.

  6. gregshilpa on February 20, 2010 at 12:23 pm said:

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  7. karthik on November 25, 2010 at 7:22 pm said:

    Recently I had a chance to read tamil version of the book called “Annal Adichuvatil”. Chettiar took the hard task, making documentry film of British’s first enemy “Mahatma” during British rule is incredible . I trust, Chettiar became most influenced person in the world because of the noble cause. I cannot tolerate knowing that film has been lost.

    We post independence generation simply selfish. I can put it as, Pre independence people had unique goal “Independence”, had unique force “Mahatma”.
    But today independent self-driven people ended in selfish…………

  8. Jeyaprakash on January 18, 2013 at 5:07 pm said:

    Where we can get his books, I searched for it in Chennai Book Fair, not able get any? Pls help.

  9. A.K.Chettiar’s “Mahatma Gandhi : 20th Century Prophet will be screened for public on 30th January 2015 at India International Centre, New Delhi at 5.00 pm on behalf of the National Gandhi Museum and Sarvodaya International Trust.

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