Saturday, the 29th of October 2011 was a day of dark clouds, heavy downpour and water clogged roads in Chennai but none of it had apparently dampened the spirits of the ‘Sankara Ratna Award’ function at the AVM Rajeswari Kalyana Mandapam. The Sankara Nethralaya family had chosen to honour one of its most illustrious members with a rare distinction and the bad weather was of no significance to its ‘rearing to go’ members. Volunteer teams formed for the occasion and SWAN volunteers took their strategic positions at the pre-decided spots at the venue like men of a disciplined army 2 hours before commencement of the function.
The venue wore a gaily look and the artistry of Shri Sankardas and his team were evident right at the entrance. Sankara Nethralaya and SWAN volunteers engaged in the process of giving the last minute touches to the function were pleasantly surprised at the sight of a familiar figure in spotless white working feverishly along side them, AVM Rajeswari was after all his home turf and there was no way this incorrigible workaholic could be kept confined to his allotted chamber. The only difference was that the man in white happened to be the ‘Man of the evening’ Shri SP.Muthuraman on whom the award would soon be conferred upon. He was typically unmindful of this fact and was going around instructing his men and making sure that everything was going the way they it should, something he had been doing for ages.
Ace compeer Shri Nellai Jayantha got the evening started in his inimitable racy style at the stroke of 6:00pm, the proceedings started on an auspicious note with the playing of the Tamil Thai Vazthu followed by Shrimathi Vani Jayaram’s melodious invocation song.
Shri Sugalchand Jain, Honorary Treasurer, Sankara Nethralaya, delivered the welcome address followed by an introduction of the Chief guest Shri RM.Veerappan by Dr SS.Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya. He recounted Shri RM. Veerappan’s deep devotion to Kanchi Mahaperiyaval and quoted the rich complements made by eminent people on him.
Dr Tarun Sharma gave an eloquent audio-visual account of Sankara Nethralaya from its inception to its present stature for the benefit of the audience, highlighting Shri SP.Muthuraman’s long and fruitful association with it. He underlined Shri Muthuraman’s association with the institution honouring him with the closing remark that even the presentation he was making was directed by him, drawing instant applause from the gathering.
Dr TS. Surendran introduced the award winner who had already won the hearts of everybody at Sankara Nethralaya and the Film world, his emotional tie with Sankara Nethralaya and long service to it. This was followed by a wonderful rendition of Kaviperarasar’s Citation of the awardee by the Nightingale of Sankara Nethralaya Dr. S. Meenakshi.
If Sankara Nethralaya had chosen to honour a man with a close emotional bonding to it for his contribution to its growth, it found wholehearted support from the film fraternity and the literary world whose stalwarts had made their presence to make common cause with it. Praise, adulation and gratitude for the Sankara Ratna awardee flowed free in the speeches made by his contemporaries, mentors and those whom he had identified and groomed to their present stature. Speaker after speaker recalled interesting anecdotes, real life events and hitherto unknown facts that highlighted his sterling qualities of hard work, sacrifice, honesty, charity and simplicity driving home the point that Shri SP.Muthuraman richly deserved the Sankara Ratna award and more in the coming years.
Shri SP.Muthuraman thanked Dr SS.Badrinath and Sankara Nethralaya for the rare distinction bestowed on him and for placing him on par with illustrious predecessors like Shri Ratan Tata. He thanked the esteemed dignitaries for their presence and complements, the men and women from Sankara Nethralaya and AVM Rajeswari for their efforts in making this programme a great success. He closed his speech with a poignant account of Sankara Nethralaya’s philosophy, service to the poor, work ethics, and caliber and made a fervent appeal to all those assembled to contribute their mite for its noble mission.
The surprise element of the evening was the unexpected and electrifying appearance of Superstar Rajnikant, a name conspicuously absent in the invite. A man known to value old friends and associates he made his appearance for one of his old mentors who had helped to carve his career and the man who had the distinction of making the most number (25) films with him in the lead role. Shri Rajnikanth’s first appearance after a long health imposed sabbatical added a new dimension to the function and put an end to all speculation about his health and came as a huge relief to anxious fans around the world.
The Superstar is known for his sharp observation and crisp comments, his remark that he wanted to make his reappearance after a long gap on a very special and noble occasion and that there could not have been a more appropriate function than the ‘Sankara Ratna’ award being conferred on Shri SP.Muthuraman, summed up the essence of the evening in one strong line.
Dr S.Bhaskaran, Chairman, Sankara Nethralaya proposed the vote of thanks and concluded the function.
Titans of film world shower praise on veteran director