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Sunday, 02 June 2013 | Pioneer | in Foray

Gurunath Meiyappan hit headlines for the first time when he married India Cements’ owner N Srinivasan’s daughter Rupa. The highly respected AVM family, from which Gurunath hails, has always stayed away from media glare even though they are one of the biggest dream merchants in Asia who have launched a galaxy of superstars and mega hit films under their banner.

The AVM Studios was launched in 1946 by AV Meiyappan Chettiyar, a Karaikudi-born businessman. The Chettiyars of Karaikudi are known to do everything in style. Meiyappan Chettiyar was no exception. All films produced under his banner, whether in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada or Hindi, stand out for their opulence.

Chettiyar’s four sons by his second wife Rajeswari — Murugan, Kumaran, Saravanan and Balasubramanian — maintain low profiles though they have always made films with superstars. The stars hogged all the limelight while the AVM scions remained happy to be in the backdrop.

The AVM tagline stands for Avichi Meiyappan and is a brand name commanding immense respect in the film and television industry. Since its inception in 1945 by Avichi Meiyappan Chettiyar, the production company has been a towering name. All these years, the Rs3,000-crore company has made only big films.

It has played a major role in launching the careers of five top personalities — CN Annadurai, Muthuvelar Karunanidhi, M G Ramachandran, NT Rama Rao and J Jayalalithaa. While Annadurai and Karunanidhi scripted for AVM movies, stars like MGR, NTR, Sivaji Ganesan and Jayalalithaa got their big breaks through AVM.

Parasakthi, penned by Karunanidhi, made Sivaji Ganesan an overnight sensation in Tamil Nadu. Life was not the same for MGR after starring in Anpe Vaa.Vaijanthimala, Chennai-born actress, got her break through AVM films both in Tamil and Hindi. Kamal Haasan was introduced to films by AVM through Kulathur Kannamma in 1960. Bhabhi, Chhaya and Hum Paanchi Ek Daal Ke are some of the Hindi superhits from the AVM stable.

AV Meiyappan and his sons have kept away from controversies. But Gurunath, the third generation Meiyappan, broke this tradition. While his father Balasubramanian declined to speak about the saga Gurunath is currently caught in, family insiders tell you that all members of the AVM Group are united in helping Gurunath to come out of the imbroglio.

People in Kollywood speak of Balasubramanian’s son Gurunath hanging around the sets of AVM Productions. Gurunath was the first from the House of AVM to court the media, initially because of his high-profile marriage to Rupa and then due to his playboy image and late-night partying.

Rupa and Gurunath were schoolmates who made a strange match! She an Iyer, hails from a family of industrialists and is an MBA graduate from one of the leading business schools in Chennai. Gurunath, a Chettiyar, dumped his textbooks immediately after school.

What firmed up ties between Srinivasan and Gurunath was their passion for golf. Both are avid golf players and it is said that the plush Chennai Cosmopolitan Golf Course played a major role in subduing whatever reservations the two communities, and Srinivasan, had against the alliance.

Gurunath is also known to be a racing enthusiast and an avid collector of SUVs. It was after his marriage to Rupa that he increased his collection of BMWs, Audis, Land Cruisers and Land Rovers. On Sunday mornings, he was often seen setting fire to the East Coast Road connecting Chennai and Pudussery, with his latest addition to the garage.

The second time Gurunath’s name appeared in city tabloids after his marriage to Rupa was during the launch of the Indian Premier League in 2008. It was Gurunath who announced that south Indian mega stars Nayanthara and Vijay would be the brand ambassadors for the Chennai Super Kings owned by India Cements.

The glamorous Nayanthara waxed eloquent on Gurunath for hiring her as the team’s brand ambassador. But within weeks, India Cements issued a one-line Press release stating that CSK had terminated the contract with Nayanthara. Till date, no official reason has been given for this abrupt parting of ways between the diva and the CSK. Nayanthara told a film magazine that she had got the job at the instance of Gurunath Meiyyappan. “Their decision of dropping me has been hasty and highly unethical,” she said. There was no shortage of reports about the entire saga which the Srinivasan clan would not have liked.

Gurunath has also been a regular in the cocktail circuit of Chennai. Scribes interacting with him say that there is nothing special or unique about this man other than his umbilical cord to the AVM family and marriage into the Srinivasan household.

“The marriage has done a lot of good to him. People question if he would have been able to add these many expensive SUVs and sports cars to his fleet without a farther-in-law like Srinivasan,” a source close to the India Cements family said.

With Srinivasan’s only son Ashwin being estranged from the family, Gurunath’s stars rose. Though he may still not be on the Board of India Cements, the day is not far off when he will walk into the boardroom as both Srinivasan and Rupa need a male member from the family to take care of their vested interests in these days of hostile takeovers and corporate wars,” Srinivasan’s close friend, not willing to be named, said.

As for the charges of betting and spot fixing against Gurunath, Ashwin himself had come out openly against his brother-in-law. “But for this match fixing and betting, Gurunath Meiyyappan would have remained merely one of the playboys of Chennai’s night life,” his family friend said.

The biggest knot which Srinivasan and Gurunath have to untie in the days to come is the impropriety in them owning Chennai Super Kings, with the former occupying the post of the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Betting syndicates are run by people without identities. But Gurunath, who is said to have staked millions for and against his own team, will have a lot of explaining to do to authorities. And only then will he be able to return to Cenotaph Road, an exclusive residential area in Chennai, where lives next door to M K Stalin and in the company of a fleet of Austin Martin, BMW, Audi, Land Crusier, Discovery and, of course, the good old Bentley.

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