Late Sri S Maruthi Rao was born in Thanjavur on 25-04-1921. Right from his school days he was interested in photography. He would carry his camera to school and capture whatever images of interest that he saw.

Impressed by his interest in photography, his neighbour, Sri NC Pillai, Editor of Flash magazine enquired whether he would be interested in joining movies. With the permission of his parents, he enlisted as an apprentice in Pragajothi Films in 1940 for the Telugu film “Choodamani” where the heroine was Pushpavalli, mother of Hindi film actress Rekha. The producer of the film was Raja Sandow and the cinematographer was Mama Shinde.

His next film was “Kavi Kalamegam,” where the hero was Nadaswaram Vidvan Sri Rajarathnam Pillai, directed by Ellis R Dungan and WJ Moylam. The cinematographer was Sri MA Rehman. He also worked as assistant under the eminent cinematographer Marcus Bartley. He thereafter moved to Vel Pictures studio in Guindy and worked for the film “Bhakthi Mala” where the heroine was Banumathi. The cinematographer who was from Bombay was so impressed with Rao’s work that he took him on as First Assistant and gave him the responsibility of handling the Mitchell camera.

Then came the World War and Maruthi Rao returned to his native place for a while. When he returned, he joined Pragathi Studio and was the still photographer for the film “Sri Valli” produced by AVM. When AVM moved to Karaikudi, Rao got the opportunity to work as still photographer and First Photographer for the film “Mahathma Kabir” directed by the late Sri RN Nagendra Rao. Luck favored him as the German photographer left for home and he got the opportunity to finish the film.

When AVM returned from Karaikudi, Rao got the chance to work as Second Photographer and also as in-charge of the still department. Then came the production of “Or Iravu” and Rao took over for the first time as cinematographer for the film. Directed by P Neelakandan, the film’s cinematography won wide acclaim and thus began his illustrious career. He went on to work in as many as 60 films, Tamil 34, Hindi 13, Kannada 8 and Telugu 5.

He was specially commended for his lighting skills in such challenging movies such as the B/W films – “Or Iravu,” “Andha Naal,” “Parasakthi,” “Major Chandrakant” and color movies “Anbe Vaa,” “Adhey Kanngal,” and “Ranganayagi” (Kannada). He has had the distinction of working with 3 CMs of Tamilnadu, viz, M Karunanidhi, MGR and J Jayalalithaa. He was also the make-up test photographer for Sivaji Ganesan, SV Subbiah, Vyjayanthimala, Hema Malini and many others before they could enter cinema.

He has served as Honorary Member of TNPSC , Selection Committee Chairman for Film Institute and in other capacities as well.


25-04-1921 : Born in Thanjavur, Tamilnadu
Matriculated at Madras

1939- 40 : Enlisted as an apprentice in camera department in
Pragajothi Films the Telugu film “Choodamani” Directed by Raja Sandow, cinematographer Mama Shinde.

1941- 42 : Joined Vel Pictures studio in Guindy as Paid Camera
Assistant, Worked under Sri MA Rehman. for the film “Bhakthi Mala”, Director Hari Bhai Desai

1946 : Joined Ganesh Pictures as Operative Cameraman.with
additional charge of still photography. First Photographer for the film “Mahathma Kabir” directed by the late Sri RN Nagendra Rao.

1949 : Joined AVM Studios and worked there from 1949 – 69.
Was Director of Photography for Or Iravu, Tamil film.


1952 : “Parasakthi,” Tamil and Telugu versions,
Silver Jubilee hits. First picture of thespian Sivaji Ganesan

1953 : “Bedara Kannappa,” Kannada, first movie of Rajkumar
“Kalahasthi Mahathyam,” Telugu

1954 : “Shiva Bhaktha,” Hindi
“Andha Naal,” Tamil , won Central Govt Award.

1956 : “Kuladeivam,” Tamil Silver Jubilee hit
“Hum Paanch Ek Dal Ke,” Hindi, President’s Award winner

1957 : “Bhabhi,” Hindi, Golden Jubilee hit
“Bharkha,” Hindi

1958 : “Ungal Nanban,” Tamil, “Police,” – Outstanding documentary

1959 : “Maamiyar Mechiya Marumagal,” Tamil

1960 : “Deiva Piravi,” Tamil, Central Govt Award

1961 : “Shaadi,” “Suhaag Sindoor,” at Bombay

1962 : “Annai,” Tamil, Central Govt Award

1963 : “Kungumam,” Tamil

1964 : “Vaazhkai Vaazhvadharke,” “Server Sundaram,” Tamil

1965 : “Kuzhandaiyum Deivamum,” Tamil, Central Govt Award,
“Major Chandrakant,” Tamil Superhit

1966 : “Anbe Vaa,” Tamil, First color picture of AVM, Silver Jubilee,
“Main Sundar Hoon,” “Man Mouji,” Hindi

1967 : “Adhe Kanngal,” Tamil, color
“Ave Kallu,” Telugu, color

1968 : “Do Kaliyaan,” Hindi
“Anadhai Anandan,” Tamil

1970 : “Enga Mama,” “Engal Thangam”

1971 ` : “Pudiya Vaazhkai,” “Irulum Oliyum,” “Rangaraattinam,” Tamil
“Iddaru Ammayilu,” Telugu

1972 : “Thanga Durai,” Tamil,
“Puttinillu Mettinillu,” Telugu

1973 : “Ponnoonjal,” Tamil

1974 : “Pathu Maadha Bandham,” “Kaliyuga Kannan,” Tamil

1975 : “Kaarotti Kannan,” Tamil,
“Nomu,” Telugu, Silver Jubilee, “Pooja,” Telugu

1976 : “Jaise Ko Taisa,” “Shaandaar,” Hindi
“Vazhndhu Kaatugiren,” “Vaazhvu yen Pakkam,” Tamil

1977 :: “Per Solla Oru Pillai,” “Ilaya Thalaimurai,” “Yenna Thavam
Seidhen,” Tamil

1978 “ “Chakravarthi,” “”
“Paduvaralli Pandavaru,” Kannada

1979 : “Dharma Serai,” Kannada

1980 : “Vadamaalai,” Photography and Direction. TN Best Picture

1982 : “Ranganayaki” Kannada Cinemascope

1983 : “Runa Mukthalu,” Kannada

1986 : “Bal Ondhu Viyali,” Kannada

1987 : “Thaaye Neeye Thunai,” Kaadhal Yenbadhu Yedhuvarai, Tamil

1989 : “Masanadha Hoovu,” Kannada, State Award for Best

1990 : “Siraiyil Pootha Chinna Malar,” Tamil

1995 : “Nilam Paarkkum Nila,” “Paaraattu Vizha,” Tamil

Countries visited

East Germany : Liepzig Fair, visited Orwo factory as govt. guest

UK : Kodak and Harrow film factories, London on their invitation
Arthur Rank and Cinecita Studios, London

Italy : Technicolor Corporation

Europe : Paris – France, Geneva – Switzerland, Hamburg, Frankfurt and
Berlin – W Germany

Other places : Cairo and Beirut

TV Serials as Director of Photography

Andhappuram – Historical,
Mariyadhai Raman, Anbulla Amma,
Arumbugal & Windows – Telefilms for DD,
Working Woman (Sumaithangigal),
Chinna Sambu, Nijamaana Uyarangal, Tamil serials
Kaadu Sollum Kadhaigal – Documentary on Social Forestry – production, direction, photography,
Aquaculture – 50 min documentary for Central Institute of Brackish Water

Other activities : Member, Madras Amateur Photography Society since 1937
Won several awards for still photography