Director Virendra Desai, also known as V C Desai, is known for films such as Nirdosh (1942), Sadhana (1939) and Sri Thyagaraja (1937). Son of film studio co-owner, Chimanalal Desai, he is also credited with convincing Nalini Jaywant’s father to allow her to act in films; they would later marry and found Nalini Pictures, making Gunjan (1948) under their film banner.
Born on 12 October 1913 in Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India, he was the second son of Nandgauri and studio owner Chimanlal Desai. Along with Dr Ambalal Patel, Chimanlal Desai owned Sagar Movietone. Virendra Desai studied in Bharuch before shifting to Bangalore. He later came to Bombay and joined Sagar Movietone.
He made his debut with the early devotional Tamil film Sri Thyagaraja, also known as Sri Thyagaraja Saritham in 1937. Produced by the Bombay-based popular movie unit of the day, Sagar Movietone, on account of Desai’s lack of familiarity with Tamil, he was assisted by T P Kalyanarama Sastry, a lawyer involved in Tamil cinema. Written by a popular Madras attorney, M P Sundararajan, the film captured famous incidents in the iconic music composer Saint Thyagaraja’s life. These included the parting of the curtain at the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord Venkateswara temple at Tirupathi after he sang the well-liked Thera theeyaga raadha (raga Gowlipanthu, and the episode of Rama and Lakshman appearing as bodyguards to save the saint from thieves when he was travelling in a palanquin in the middle of the woods. Mundhu venuka, the song composed by Thyagaraja in praise of Rama and Lakshman, in raga Durbar, is reportedly popular at concerts till today. The film had 32 songs, most of which were composed by Saint Thyagaraja, rendered in Telugu by singer-actor Mathirimangalam Natesa Iyer. The film was shot on several actual locations including the Tirupathi temple. The music of the film, understandably, played a large part in its success.
Gramophone Singer, his directorial of 1938, was co-directed by Ramchandra Thakur. A musical, it revolved around a love triangle involving a famous gramophone singer Sundardas (Surendra) who is happily married to Mohini (Prabha), and the even more popular singer Tilottama (Bibbo). Tilottama falls in love with Sundardas' voice and wants them to sing a duet and have an affair.
In 1939, he directed the film Sadhana, along with M Thakore, which starred Shobhana Samarth, Bibbo, and Prem Adib, followed by Sanskar in 1940, starring Rose, with which he made his debut as a solo director.
He is credited with convincing the teenaged Nalini Jaywant's father to allow her to act in his directorial Radhika (1941). The film starred Kanhaiyalal Chaturvedi, Harish, and Nalini Jaywant. The film, a social drama, explored the frustration and fulfillment of love.
Desai and Jaywant later got married.
In 1941, he directed Nirdosh (1941) starring Nalini Jaywant, Mukesh and Satish. Mukesh, who would go on to become one of the most famous Indian singers of Hindi films, had made his debut with this film, in which he sang as well as acted.
In 1942, he directed Savera, starring Arun, Nirmala Devi, and Kesari. It was followed by Adab Arz in 1943, starring Nalini Jaywant and Mukesh. The film was produced by Amar Pictures, and starred Nalini Jaywant, Karan Dewan, Mukesh, and Dulari. The music was composed by Gyan Dutt and the lyricists were Rammurti Chaturvedi, Pandit Indra and Kailash Matwala.
Although Desai and Jaywant later joined Filmistan, they were unhappy and left to form Nalini Pictures. The first film under the banner was Gunjan (1948). The film starred David Abraham, Nalini Jaywant, Trilok Kapoor, and Balraj Sahni.
He later fell on hard times and was forced to live in a caravan. He spent his last days in Bangalore. Virendra Desai passed away on 1 July 1970.