Krishnaswamy Associates P Ltd celebrated its 60th anniversary (Diamond Jubilee) on 12th February 2024 with Thiru La. Ganesan, Hon’ble Governor of Nagaland as the Chief Guest and Thiru T.S. Tirumurti, Former Indian Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Sudha Seshayyan, Former Vice Chancellor, The Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University, Thiru N. Sugalchand Jain, Mentor, Sugal Group and Thiru Nawabzada Mohammed Asif Ali as Guests of Honor.
Great Indians like Sw. Vivekananda put Hinduism, Indian spirituality and values on the world map, great emperors in India like the cholas left their lasting imprint on other countries particularly on S E Asia. Indian knowledge ethics culture architecture and art spread to many corners of the globe over the centuries but all this needed the remarkable couple- the Krishnaswamy’s to capture these facets of our civilisation visually on the screen as well as capture those defining moments and leaders in our history. They have not only helped Indians understand India but also helped diplomats like me take India to the world stage.
Dr. Sudha Seshayyan
In 60 years they have produced various kinds of documentaries, industrial films, Docudramas, Tv serials all belonging to different genre. But they all had one common base, the Indianness, the underlying motivation that we have to do something for our country. This was evident in all the works of Krishnaswamy associates.
Shri. Sugal Chand Jain
Dr Krishnaswamy is a genius in producing audio visuals that educates, informs and pleases the viewers. My association with them goes back to several years.
Nawabzada Mohammed Asif Ali
Some of their films have been shot at Amir Mahal. We were honoured to have them. I request you to make Documentaries on the aspect where you promote that there is only God and that God had made all of us. Our children should be taught to make friends not based on what faith they come from but based on their character.
Shri. Ela Ganesan
When my office showed me the invite, I said I know Dr. Krishnaswamy very well. But only after reading further details about their works I realised I was wrong, and actually didn’t know anything about him. I come from the generation of “Indira valley to Indira Gandhi” They are a made for each couple working towards the same goal and are a standing example of how a couple should be.
There is a necessity now to nurture the thoughts of freedom like we did in the 40s. There were patriots who went to the gallows surrendering their lives to the country, many of them may have been reborn today and be amongst us. There were times in between when freedom was just winning the cricket match against Pakistan, but now it is no longer so. Now no one needs to go to the gallows for the nation, one must simply do good for the country. Like how we got to see these films of Krishnaswamy associates and get inspired, these films must be shown now in all schools and colleges to inspire and instil a sense of patriotism amongst our current generation.
Dr. S. Krishnaswamy
Even as I was writing a film column in The Illustrated Weekly of India, I decided to make my own films in the manner I deem fit. That resulted in the birth of Krishnaswamy Associates in 1963. After making a few films sponsored by the private and public sector, I dared to make my first unsponsored film at my own risk.
This film called ‘I’, (first person singular) which talked about an Indian born in several births over a period of a few thousand years as man or woman and has experienced what india was over the several eras. It won the Special National Award as the best short film made in India in the first 25 years of Independence.
Former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral commented: ‘I feel prouder to be an Indian after seeing this film.’
Although I had the background of my father being a pioneer of South Indian cinema – often referred to as The Father of Tamil Cinema, I was attracted by the non-fiction format.
I was adamant about making a long film on 5000 years of Indian history – a promise I made to myself and to my motherland in New York before I returned to India. But unfortunately, due to ideological differences, some of my colleagues in the new enterprise left the company. It became very difficult to become a single soldier to run the company.
This is when my wife Mohana who was doing her master’s degree in Biochemistry, extended her hand of cooperation in realising my dream.
I started producing my dream film on 5000 years of Indian history titled Indus Valley to Indira Gandhi. I burnt my boat to make this film because it was an uphill task to get any financiers for the film.
The film became successful as a result of my hard efforts to sell it to a Hollywood company, Warner Bros. who distributed it in a successful fashion.
It attracted a huge audience in India, and I managed to sell it to a few other countries making it a new phenomenon of a private documentary being released theatrically in India. Many of you of the older generation may have seen it.
I made strong efforts to sell the television rights to Govt. of India for almost a year, but in vain. It was only several weeks after the film was released in cinema halls and gained international importance that the Government came forward to buy the television rights for Asia.
There was a move in the Parliament to ban the film because there was an impression in some members that it was a propaganda film for the emergency declared by Mrs. Indira Gandhi.
I will be failing in my duty if I don’t mention that the revered leader Mr. L.K. Advani, Information Minister in Morarji Desai Government came to my rescue. Mr. Advani took the initiative to see the film along with his friends at a special screening and began to like it.
At the end of the show, he commented ‘you have made a very great film with a very bad title’.
I respected Mr. Advani’s views.
But further developments of a political nature changed that and stopped the repeat telecast of the film over these 4 decades.
About fifteen years ago, I made a TV serial called Indian Imprints on the impact of ancient India on Southeast Asia – a project which got its approval for telecast on Doordarshan when Mrs. Sushma Swaraj was the Information Minister. This 18-episode serial shot in Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam has been very successful, gathering a large audience to understand India’s relationship with rest of Asia over the centuries – a history chapter which has not been included in our school/college syllabus and hence became a revealing aspect of history.
Dr. Mohana Krishnaswamy
The philosophy of the company from its inception ‘we film to build bridges of brotherhood; we shoot to destroy walls of prejudice’ has not been a mere slogan at any time. We have been following it with a missionary zeal. While documentary in the Indian context at that time meant giving a visual representation to concepts of a sponsor more often the Government and sometimes the corporate sector.
Our philosophy has been that we make films we get interested and involved in. The idea originates from us and takes shape sometimes within weeks, sometimes within decades depending on the magnitude of the work involved and the involvement of sponsors in our concept.
On a few occasions, such as the production of a film on 5000 years of history with the working title ‘Where Centuries Co-exist’ eventually released under the title Indus Valley to Indira Gandhi, he took very high risks of investing borrowed money. With regard to our passion for expressing ourselves through our films with God’s grace, I would say we have been immensely successful in spite of facing many tough times.
I learnt the art of making documentaries in a fast track and my first attempt to direct a film on the status of women in Tamil Nadu titled How they left hell behind got me an International Award at Helsinki.
We adapted the famous Tamil comedy novel Thuppariyum Sambu written by Devan to the Hindi belt. We brought the oldest extant Tamil twin-epics Silapathigaram and Manimegalai to the national audience in Hindi.
We produced a 52-episode TV serial on the life of Swami Vivekananda to celebrate our Golden Jubilee which got telecast in 2013 and had a repeat telecast in 2019 and now we are ready with the Hindi version for telecast during our Diamond Jubilee celebrations. We very earnestly request Doordarshan to telecast on the National Network and ensure that it reaches the worldwide audience. After all the Tamil soil facilitated Vivekananda to go abroad and make a mark of universal spiritual message in the world map.
We refused to accept assignments for production which we considered anti-social such as our scraping the contract of producing a series of films on cigarette promotion when the World Health Organization declared for the first time that ‘Smoking was injurious to Health’.
This philosophy of adhering to the truth while running a company was described by a foreign friend as ‘Krishnaswamy’s company is a non-profit organization although not by intention’.
We have not merely survived but also thrived for six decades now and today we are celebrating this moral success.
We believed in the German philosopher Schumacher’s statement ‘Small is beautiful’ and we continue to remain as a small company.
We at KAPL will continue to strive towards creating content not just to impress but make an impact to the society.
Krishnaswamy Associates (P) Ltd., Chennai happens to be the oldest extant, non-governmental documentary film production house in India. Dr. Krishnaswamy on his return from USA after studying Mass Media and film production wrote the book Indian Film in collaboration with Prof. Erik Barnouw, the most sought-after reference book on the history of Indian Cinema, published by Columbia University Press, 1963. He started his company for production of documentary films in an atmosphere when documentaries meant only Government propaganda films. Independent documentary films – made rarely – had no avenues to release them except through the Films Division. There was no television network in India until 1960 except in the Delhi region.
Hence Krishnaswamy’s audacity to make documentaries on his own initiative was swimming against the current. He made films for the private sector and the public sector depending on their needs and he then decided to make films on his own and find a market for them. One such film titled ‘I’ won the Special National Award as the Best Short Film in India in the first 25 years of Indian Independence. Krishnaswamy took a bold decision to launch a massive project on the 5000 years of Indian History which he titled Indus Valley to Indira Gandhi to describe the historic period. This 4-hour documentary which he found very difficult to distribute in India and found it very difficult to market in most countries of the world but eventually acquired by Warner Brothers of Hollywood and created history by becoming the first Indian documentary released under a Hollywood banner.
In India, it did very well beyond expectation running even for 10 or more weeks in some cinemas. But just a few months after the film was released the Government announced a ‘state of emergency.’
Although the filmmaker had titled it and announced it much earlier, there was a controversy about the title of the film which included a discussion in the Parliament. Shri L.K. Advani, who was the Minister for Information and Broadcasting in the cabinet of Morarji Desai saw the film for himself and declared ‘It is a very great film with a very bad title’. The film fared very well wherever it was screened in India and abroad.
Krishnaswamy Associates produced several films on a variety of topics related to India from ancient times to the present on their own initiative which have won awards in different festivals.
In 2009, the Government of India honoured him with the Padmashri Award when the Congress was in power. In 2020, under the BJP Government, he won the Dr. V. Shantaram Lifetime Achievement Award for his documentaries at the Mumbai International Film Festival organised by the Govt. of India.
He considers their 18-episode TV Serial Indian Imprints on the influence of ancient India on Southeast Asia, produced in 2007 and first telecast on Doordarshan, as his most important contribution to documentary films.
Dr. Mohana Krishnaswamy, an award-winning scientist and Managing Director of the company, has been the producer for all their documentaries and TV Serials for the last 4 decades.
Ms. Latha Krishna has taken over as the Executive Director to take it to the next generation. She has won several awards for her short films. Latha’s international recognitions include the Best Research Award for her film Vedic-GPS made for Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi at the First Hermetic International Film Festival, Venice in 2021, Cannes Corporate Media and TV Award for her film ‘A Different Language’ made for Dr. MGR Home and Higher Secondary School for the Speech and Hearing impaired, Chennai in 2018 and a nomination for Best Drama for her film ‘My Dream’ at the Cannes shorts in 2022.